Putin’s invasion of Ukraine: Did NATO make him do it?

by Ilya Matveev

Sections of the Western left have developed a narrative according to which Russia has been gradually surrounded by NATO and that supposedly “provoked” Putin. It’s increasingly difficult to sustain the notion that Russia is simply “defending itself” after 24 February 2022, but the thing is – the invasion did not come out of the blue. One needs a different narrative to understand what Russia actually is: an aggressive imperialist power alongside other imperialisms.

So, a different narrative:

  • 1994: Russia, with US support, acquires Ukrainian nuclear arsenal in exchange for the assurances to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity
  • 1997: Russia acquires the Sevastopol naval base and almost all of the ships (82%, to be exact)… in exchange for the assurances to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity!
  • 2004: Russia meddles in Ukrainian presidential elections, fighting hard to force an undemocratic fraudulent outcome, but fails
  • Mid-to-late 2000s: As punishment for Ukraine electing Yushchenko, Russia uses energy blackmail, a form of economic coercion not very different from the IMF and World Bank lending and conditionality
  • 2008: NATO refuses to adopt a roadmap towards Ukraine’s membership and in effect postpones the decision indefinitely. Ukraine’s security is in no way guaranteed, while Russia has already demonstrated the propensity to use coercion to force Ukraine to do its bidding
  • 2009: Dmitry Medvedev, then president, writes to Yushchenko that “Russia does not pose and cannot pose any kind of threat to Ukraine”, so seeking NATO membership is stupid. Yea, sure
  • 2014: Russia, which “does not pose and cannot pose a threat to Ukraine”… annexes Crimea. Really, Dima?? I thought you were for real??
    Of course, by annexing Crimea Russia not only makes all the previous statements that it “can never pose a threat to Ukraine” a ridiculous lie; it also breaks the 1994 memorandum and the 1997 treaty. “We are the Kremlin. Our word is worth nothing.
  • Crimea’s annexation provokes armed separatism in Donbas that Russia supports and coordinates, including direct military command and control, and then completely subordinates Donbas “authorities”, in effect occupying the region
  • Ukraine’s still not in NATO, its security is still in no way guaranteed, and the supplies of US weapons only begin in 2018. They are kept to a minimum… out of fear of provoking Russia!
  • Nevertheless, on 24 February 2022 Russia launches a full-scale invasion to establish 100% control over all of Ukraine in one way or another. There is literally no military development on the ground that could have provoked the invasion. On Russia’s part, it’s a war of choice in exactly the same way the invasion of Iraq was a war of choice for the US in 2003.

Now, this is only the general outline. One should add Russia’s drowning of Ukraine with spies and agents of influence, money to corrupt Ukrainian politicians and massive acquisition of Ukrainian assets to impose economic and political dependency.

These are well-known facts, but so many on the left refuse to see the story behind them. It’s a story of decades of imperialist aggression, culminating in a war that cost 150,000 lives in 2022 alone. Any discussion of left-wing internationalism should begin with recognizing the reality of what Russia is and what it did.

Oaklandsocialist adds: Two points should be made:
First is that this list proves the complete unreality (or hypocrisy) of those who call for a negotiated settlement with Putin. Even if he were to negotiate a settlement with Ukraine, he’ll only break his agreement the very moment he feels it is in his interest.

Second is that to this list should be added the Putin regime’s annexaton of part of Moldova and the formation of “Transniestra” (1990); its crushing of the Chechens

Grozny, destroyed by Russian imperialism, just as Russian imperialism is trying to destroy Ukraine today

in 1994-200, which included the virtual destruction of Grozny; its interventions in Georgia (2008); and its bombing of the Syrian people as it helped prop up the fascist-like Assad regime (2015 onwards). Putin apologists will inevitably cry, “oh yeah, how about US imperialism?” That is like defending the Nazi invasions of the 1940s on the grounds that French, British and US imperialism have invaded other countries.

Categories: Europe, war

4 replies »

  1. and before the decades of imperialist aggression there were centuries of imperialist aggression. thank you for this article. i wonder why it is that some on the left are open to this and others, unfortunately the majority i think, are completely closed to this and can only say

  2. Being a historian, political/economist buff for more than 70 years, the information given in this article, is the complete success of the capitalists in “bamboozling” the public. From my knowledge, the statements given here are almost all the fairy stories of the CIA and all proponents of the greed-inculcated people who put profit and wealth ahead of people — which is now destroying people, the environiment and the world. This is because the ruling class has sown up every corner of society with propaganda while censoring views to the public. Hence, the views displayed by the Oakland Socialist, is the result of pure propaganda and the lack of critical examination of the facts. The real story, of capitalism and the US, is revealed in my book, Capitalism, World’s Greatest Fraud — because the system is solely to make profit for businesses, which eventually impoverishes the people, destroys the environment and even human life of Earth. The injustices and inequality of capitalism is now coming to an end — and we could expect poverty in capitalist countries to revert back the Victorian age in Britain, or conditions in the United States prior to WWII. This time, with the enormous power of the military, fascist rule is soon to come, and will last for decades.
    JJRousso, Capitalism, World’s Greatest Fraud.

    • Normally, we do not allow comments of the Putinized “left” on this blog, but I am allowing this one because it perfectly illustrates a point: The Putin apologists make all these generalized claims and attacks – “fairy stories of the CIA” “pure propaganda”, etc. On and on they go. What they don’t do – as this comment from Rosso exemplifies – is dispute the actual facts. Ilya Matveev simply gave a series of historical facts. None of that is in dispute. The Putinized left therefore resorts to what amounts to slander, leaving it at that.

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