A version of this feature will appear in the forthcoming volume Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks Global War, edited by Stephen Lendman and to be issued by Clarity Press. As more information becomes available it will be posted at Stephen Lendman’s website.
With almost 1,500 miles of land and sea connecting the two nations, the border with Ukraine is the longest along the western frontier of Russia, with that of Finland next in length.
Until the end of the Cold War only one member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization directly adjoined Russia: Norway, and that for only 135 miles, land and sea. (Though Turkey bordered other Soviet republics.)
The decade of NATO expansion beginning in 1999 brought four new members of the U.S.-dominated military bloc directly up to Russia territory: Estonia and Latvia to northwestern Russia proper and Poland and Lithuania to the non-contiguous Kaliningrad Oblast.
The acquisition of Ukraine as a full NATO member or even as it now is, a partner lending its territory, troops and general military assets to the alliance, would, with the likely prospect of Finland being enlisted in tow, cover the entire western flank of Russia from the Arctic Ocean and Barents Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south with NATO air bases, naval docking facilities, firing ranges and training grounds, airfields, radar installations, storage compounds, cyber warfare centers, interceptor missile batteries, armored vehicles, troops and tactical nuclear weapons.
Ukraine is and for decades has been seen as the decisive linchpin in plans by the U.S. and its NATO allies to effect a military cordon sanitaire severing Russia from Europe.
In 1995, just four years after the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Ukraine became the first member of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States to join NATO’s mechanism for the eventual absorption of all of Europe and the rest of former Soviet space not already in the bloc, the Partnership for Peace. The twelve Eastern European nations that joined NATO in 1999, 2004 and 2009 are all graduates of that program. (Waiting in the wings are 22 more members of the transitional program for military integration and full NATO membership; all fourteen European countries not already members, except for Russia, the three former Soviet republics in the South Caucasus and the five in Central Asia.)
Two years later the military alliance established the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, out of which was created the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which is active to this day; in fact more so than ever before since the violent coup d’état in Ukraine in February of this year.
In December of 2008, four months after the Georgian government of Mikheil Saakashvili invaded South Ossetia and thereby triggered a five-day war with Russia, Ukraine and Georgia were both made the recipients of the first-ever Annual National Programs crafted by NATO. Earlier in the year, at the alliance summit in Bucharest, Romania, it was announced that, although the last stage before full NATO accession – the Membership Action Plan – would not immediately be granted to the two former Soviet republics, NATO was nevertheless committed to their eventual membership. One of the Ukrainian public officials pushing for a Membership Action Plan was then-chairman of the nation’s parliament, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, now the U.S.-selected (indeed, the U.S.-imposed) prime minister and effective head of the ruling junta.
In fact, the parliamentary opposition blocked the functioning of the Verkhovna Rada from January to March of 2008 – ahead of the NATO summit in early April of that year – in protest against the nation being dragged into the bloc. The main effort domestically to expedite the incorporation of Ukraine into NATO emanated from the duarchy emerging from the 2004-2005 “Orange Revolution,” President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Indeed, Washington and its European allies supported and directed the second so-called color revolution (after that in Georgia the preceding year) with just that intended effect in mind.
Ahead of the Bucharest summit President George W. Bush, fellow Republican and at the time candidate for his party’s presidential nomination (which he later secured) John McCain, and Democratic rivals for their party’s nomination, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, all fulsomely endorsed full NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.
A year ahead of the “Orange Revolution,” Yushchenko’s predecessor, Leonid Kuchma, had attempted to appease the U.S. and NATO by providing 1,650 troops for the NATO-supported Multi-National Force – Iraq. A nominal contingent of Ukrainian troops has also been assigned to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, part of an over 50-nation integrated command. But as not only Kuchma has learned, total subservience, abject submission alone are accepted by NATO “partners” in Washington and Brussels.
Georgia would later supply 2,000 (the third largest deployment after those of the U.S. and Britain at the time), which were airlifted home by American aircraft during the August 2008 war with Russia. The “orange” regime of Viktor Yushchenko was accused of surreptitiously shipping weapons and allowing if not organizing the deployment of military and extremist nationalist paramilitary forces to Georgia during the fighting.
Immediately after the South Caucasus war ended, Yushchenko flew into the Georgian capital to join a rally with (and for) President Saakashvili and immediately upon returning to Kiev signed a decree demanding Russia notify his government of – in essence seek its authorization for – naval and air deployments from the Black Sea Fleet base in Sebastopol. He reserved the right to prevent Russian vessels from departing and returning to the complex; that is, a de facto selective blockade.
Starting no later than 2006, at first covertly and then quite flagrantly, directors and other officials of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency visited Ukraine to discuss the stationing of interceptor missile components in the country, part of an initiative that has subsequently been embraced by all 28 members of NATO under the Barack Obama administration’s European Phased Adaptive Approach land- and sea-based missile shield being deployed along Russia’s western (and later southern) border.
Annual U.S.-led NATO Partnership for Peace military exercises code-named Sea Breeze have been held in Ukraine every year since 1996 – in the Crimea, near the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet – except in 2006 when they were cancelled because of local protests.
Led by U.S. European Command, yearly Rapid Trident military exercises are also held in Ukraine with U.S., NATO and Partnership for Peace forces. In the words of U.S. Army Europe’s account of last year’s iteration, Rapid Trident “helps prepare participants to operate successfully in a joint, multinational, integrated environment with host-nation support…designed to enhance joint combined interoperability with allied and partner nations” as well as “support[ing] Ukraine’s Annual National Program to achieve interoperability with NATO and commitments made in the annual NATO-Ukraine work plan.”
In the same month as NATO initiated its Annual National Program with Ukraine, December of 2008, Washington launched the United States-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership, the founding document of which asserts and identifies among other objectives:
“Deepening Ukraine’s integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions is a mutual priority. We plan to undertake a program of enhanced security cooperation intended to increase Ukrainian capabilities and to strengthen Ukraine’s candidacy for NATO membership.
“Guided by the April 3, 2008 Bucharest Summit Declaration of the NATO North Atlantic Council and the April 4, 2008 Joint Statement of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which affirmed that Ukraine will become a member of NATO.
“Recognizing the persistence of threats to global peace and stability, the United States and Ukraine intend to expand the scope of their ongoing programs of cooperation and assistance on defense and security issues to defeat these threats and to promote peace and stability. A defense and security cooperation partnership between the United States and Ukraine is of benefit to both nations and the region.
“Working within the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, our goal is to gain agreement on a structured plan to increase interoperability and coordination of capabilities between NATO and Ukraine, including via enhanced training and equipment for Ukrainian armed forces.”
In 2010 Ukraine became the first NATO partner state to provide a warship for the alliance’s Operation Active Endeavor, a permanent naval surveillance and interdiction campaign throughout the entire Mediterranean Sea inaugurated in 2001 with the activation of NATO’s Article 5 mutual military assistance provision.
In 2013 Ukraine complemented the above contribution by becoming the first NATO partner to assign a warship to the bloc’s Operation Ocean Shield, a now five-year-old (and also intended to be indefinite) maritime mission off the Horn of Africa in the Arabian Sea and further into the Indian Ocean.
Before the onset of civil unrest in the country last November, NATO was already touting Ukraine as one of four partners to join the global NATO Response Force. (The other three being Georgia, Finland and Sweden.)
Now with a U.S.-NATO proxy regime in place in Kiev, the prospects for Ukraine being turned into a veritable gargantuan forward base for the Pentagon’s and NATO’s inexorable, now generation-long, drive to the east, overrun with Western military advisers and intelligence agents and hosting warplanes, warships, armor, troops and missiles, are being entertained by Western leaders with a degree of ambitiousness and recklessness surpassing anything hitherto contemplated.