OPINION: Russia’s main concern is NATO’s encroachment right up to its borders, and the prospect that it could one day be faced with NATO military bases in Ukraine, with missiles pointed in its direction. At the end of the day this is where Russia draws a line in the sand, and can we say we blame them? writes Shannon Ebrahim.
Media in the West were categorical just a week ago that a Russian attack on Ukraine was imminent, and the world was staring into an abyss. Oil surged towards $100 (R1 507.71) a barrel and the markets were on tenterhooks. The public pronouncements of Russia itself, however, were largely ignored. Russia had repeatedly said that it had no intention to attack Ukraine, but that it expected the West to address its security demands.
But the hysteria about the supposed likelihood of a Russian military incursion into Ukraine was fanned by the US administration, which repeatedly stated that intelligence reports suggested a Russian attack was imminent.
Just as the world had waited for the weapons of mass destruction to be discovered in Iraq in 2003, so the world waited all week for Russia’s blitzkrieg in Ukraine, but nothing of the sort happened. Once again, US policy-makers sold faulty intelligence to the world in the hope of creating a situation of its own making.
The media was stirred into a frenzy with statements about a crisis of catastrophic proportions, which seemed to paint Russian President Vladimir Putin as an uncontrollable aggressor, ready to invade European countries at will. The media swallowed the war propaganda hook line and sinker, with Bloomberg even putting out a false headline: “Russia Invades Ukraine.”
It became increasingly obvious that Russia was being goaded into war, whether it wanted to play the role of a protagonist or not. The White House spokesperson Jen Psaki insisted that a Russian invasion was imminent, while US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan claimed that a Russian invasion could “happen at any time… Even tomorrow”. The US was looking a little too eager to see the major conflagration launched as it had predicted, but the question is why?
The typical arguments about the interests of the military industrial conflict in a protracted war in Eastern Europe were too simplistic. But as most serious political analysts contend, one should nevertheless follow the money, as well as the geopolitical implications linked to long-term hegemonic ambitions.
This time the US didn’t go to great lengths to hide its other agenda – that being to halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from commencing operations. The US believes that the pipeline poses a potential threat to its national interests as it would see inexpensive gas being transported from Russia to Germany, and other parts of Europe, making Germany increasingly dependent on Russia for their energy needs, and leaving the US out in the cold.
Deepening trade relations with Russia would likely lead to warmer political relations over time, and eventually the rationale for NATO and the expansion of its military bases would seem like wasted expenditure. This would of course not be in the interests of the military industrial complex.
In order to continue its encirclement of both Russia and China, the US needs to keep up the pretext of a threat posed by Russia to the West, and ensure political commitments across Europe to maintain robust NATO forces and capabilities.
If Russia comes to be seen as a reliable economic partner with whom Europe can do business, the image of an evil empire also crumbles. This could ultimately lead to transactions for oil and gas being paid for in deutschmarks as opposed to dollars at some point in the future, and this would have serious implications for the value of the US dollar.
At the core of the matter is that the US cannot afford for Nord Stream 2 to become operational. That explains why Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, said in a State Department media briefing on January 2, “If Russia invades Ukraine one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.” In a recent media briefing Biden reiterated this stance saying, “If Russia invades… There will no longer (be) a Nord Stream 2… We will bring an end to it.”
But at the end of the day surely it is the German regulators who will decide whether Nord Stream 2 comes online, not US policy-makers?
The irony in the whole saga is that since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has not made it a habit to engage in military adventurism to overthrow foreign governments or to occupy foreign lands. It does not have a web of military bases in the US sphere of influence or in other regions around the world. By contrast, the US maintains over 800 military bases globally, and has orchestrated regime change in countless countries in recent decades.
Russia’s main concern is NATO’s encroachment right up to its borders, and the prospect that it could one day be faced with NATO military bases in Ukraine, with missiles pointed in its direction. At the end of the day this is where Russia draws a line in the sand, and can we say we blame them?
* Shannon Ebrahim is the Group Foreign Editor at Independent Media.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.