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Conflict in Ukraine: America First or Empire First?

American war hawks are once again clamoring for aggressive action in a far away land. This time, their eyes are set on Russia. The American Empire seems to have forgotten that the Cold War ended thirty years ago. Regardless, to understand the current "crisis" one must first understand portions of Cold War history.

1950s Political Cartoon

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed in 1949 as an alliance between twelve countries, largely created as a shield for those nations against military action by the Soviet Union. Alliances are intended to deter warfare from breaking out, but they also increase the number of nations involved in a war once one breaks out - this is what expanded the First World War to a global scale from a war between two small nations.

Likewise, expanding a military alliance can be perceived as an act of aggression. West Germany's addition into NATO in 1955 saw the creation of the rival Warsaw Pact a mere five days later. These rival alliances never came into conflict directly, but they did contribute to multiple proxy wars – most notably in Vietnam and Korea. In this way, NATO, an organization created to prevent wars from breaking out, actually caused wars.

NATO expansion has ramped up since the Cold War. During the nearly half-century-long tension, only five nations were added: Greece and Turkey in 1952, West Germany in 1955, Spain in 1982, and East Germany in 1990 due to its reunification with West Germany. Just before the German reunification, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker promised Soviet President Gorbachev that NATO would move "not one inch eastward" only to promptly disregard that promise. Since the Cold War ended with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and break-up of the Soviet Union thirty years ago, fourteen more nations have joined NATO. Of those fourteen, three were part of the Soviet Union until its collapse. Every non-Soviet nation that was ever part of the Warsaw Pact is now a member of NATO.

An animated map of the expansion of the intergovernmental military alliance NATO from its founding to 2020. Copyright (C) 2000,2001,2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Perhaps the best way to truly perceive how much NATO has expanded is to find a map and look at how far the membership has expanded East. In his speech from 2020, Scott Horton, director of The Libertarian Institute and editorial director of, put it bluntly:

The U.S used to draw the line at the Elbe River halfway across Germany. The threat was that if the Soviets invaded West Germany, threatening France, the Netherlands, and other Western democracies, we would go to war to stop them. Now America has moved that line 1,200 miles to the east ... if Russia did decide to reconquer Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia, our politicians have signed us up to defend them from a power that could in fact destroy our entire civilization permanently in one afternoon if it came down to it.

This short history provides enough of a preface to the current situation, as Ukraine has been trying to join NATO since 2008. Russia perceives this as not only a threat but an act of aggression on behalf of NATO. Many pundits claim that NATO is not directed specifically against Russia, but this is clearly not true. The Soviet Union tried to join twice, once in 1954 (the year before it signed the Warsaw Pact) and again in 1990 while Gorbachev was negotiating German reunification.

After Russia's creation as an independent State, its first president, Boris Yeltsin, again requested to join in 1992. Two years later Russia signed NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP), which President Clinton characterized in a meeting with leaders of the Czech Republic as "a track that will lead to NATO membership." Both Russia and the Czech Republic joined the PfP in the same year. The Czech Republic accepted its invitation into NATO five years later; Russia was not given the same choice. It is unlikely today that Russia would be willing to join, as Putin seems to want to reunify Russia with some former Soviet States, rendering that window of opportunity shut.

Credit: European Union External Action

In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, which had been technically part of Ukraine since the dissolution of the Soviet Union but largely remained autonomous. While Crimea was not exactly taken from Ukraine by Russian conquest, that description is not far off. Putin sent troops and intelligence operations into Crimea in February of that year, including into the Crimean Parliament to force a vote in favor of Russian annexation. Following this, a very dubious referendum of Crimeans supposedly resulted in a nearly 97 percent vote in favor of joining Russia.

It is highly unlikely that the results of this election were legitimate, but some supporters of the United States regime do not seem to have a problem with that. Journalist Ilya Somin writes that “the annexation of Crimea by Russia would be indefensible even if it did enjoy the support of the majority of the local population.” It seems that Somin is fine with rigging that election, he just wants it rigged in the other direction. This article was published by The Washington Post, a left-leaning newspaper bearing the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” though Somin is a libertarian affiliated with the CATO Institute.

The United States opposed Russia's annexation of Crimea and President Obama put sanctions on Russia. Senator John McCain, Obama’s Republican opponent from the 2008 election, said that the President was not being tough enough against Russia. McCain demanded that arms be sent to Ukraine and proposed a bill that would force the president's hand if he refused.

The current Ukraine situation differs significantly from the Crimean annexation in several ways. Namely, Crimea was an island, technically affiliated with the Ukrainian government but nearly autonomous. A pro-Russian separatist had been elected president of Crimea in the past. It was barely part of Ukraine, and on its own it would have been a very small country. Furthermore, a majority of Crimean citizens are ethnic Russians with a smaller number of ethnic Ukrainians mixed in. The opposite is the case in Ukraine. If Puerto Rico was composed primarily of Dominicans, and the Dominican Republic sent some soldiers in to rig a vote to rejoin the Dominican Republic, it would not be the same as Chinese tanks rolling into Texas.

If the goal of foreign policy in this case is to prevent invasions by tyrants, it does not matter whether Crimea “should” belong to Russia or not. Russia will not give Crimea up regardless of what we do; Crimea cannot be given back to Ukraine. It does not matter whether NATO is hostile toward Russia. It does not even matter whether the U.S. perceives an extension of NATO as an aggression. The only thing that matters is if Russia perceives it that way. In 2008, the same year that NATO promised Ukraine would eventually become a member, Moscow relayed a classified message to NATO that was later leaked, titled "Nyet Means Nyet: Russia's NATO Enlargement Redlines." In this message, Russia states that "Russia would view further eastward expansion as a potential military threat." In the message, Moscow cites new "establishment of U.S. operating locations" as a reason why NATO could be lying when they say their intention is not to create a bulwark against Russia.

For much of America's early history, her foreign policy was defined by the Monroe Doctrine. The United States promised to leave Europe alone as long as Europe stayed out of the Western Hemisphere, aside from colonies a nation already controlled. If a nation did try to military interfere, the United States vowed to stop them. Could Russia possibly feel the same way about the areas near them, particularly those that they used to share a nation with, as America did during the days of the Monroe Doctrine?

This doctrine's day ended a long time ago. Now the U.S. Regime does not only seem to feel protective of the region near us, it thinks it should control the entire world. President George H.W. Bush demonstrated this in his "New World Order" speech from 1990. Without a hint of irony, Bush condemns Iraq for "intimidat[ing] and coerc[ing] its neighbors." Iraq should not do this, of course, but neither should the U.S. Regime. This speech was followed by Operation Desert Storm, a good candidate for both the most decisive military victory in modern history and the strongest argument for interventionism. However, this military operation was followed by far more carnage, death, and destruction in Iraq than it possibly could have prevented in Kuwait. Every president since Bush Sr. has bombed Iraq and the U.S. invasion of Iraq caused at least 1.4 million deaths.

The title referenced comes from an earlier passage in the speech, defining an additional objective of Desert Storm: "A new world order can emerge. A new era, freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony." Given the consequences of the last three decades of U.S. military action, Bush's statement is reminiscent of John Cena's character, Peacemaker: "I cherish peace with all my heart. I don't care how many men, women, and children I have to kill to get it."

John Cena in HBO Max's Peacemaker, image credit
Official photograph of U.S. President George H.W. Bush. Credit US Library of Congress.

H.W. Bush's statements are not just presented to show that the United States has moved beyond the Monroe Doctrine; the situation in the Middle East is relevant to Ukraine. Regime pundits regularly claim that Middle Eastern governments such as Iran are threats to America. How could Iran be a threat to America? What these pundits implicitly mean is that Iran is a threat to the United States' ability to control Iran. American statesmen have not only ceased to treat America as their top priority - they largely use the term "America" to refer to American interests, and they define any region that could tangentially affect America through the butterfly effect as an "American interest." These pundits profess that America has rightful ownership of the entire world.

There is a reason that the Cold War stayed cold. If the United States cannot win the War in Afghanistan over twenty years, surely America cannot afford to start a war with Russia. Courting war with Russia is courting death.

Possibly preventing Russia from annexing Ukraine is not worth a bloody war between two of the largest and most powerful nations in the world. NATO membership must not be extended to Ukraine. American troops must not antagonize Russia.

America must be put first, not the empire. //

Joe Esoteric


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