Watch now (14 mins) | Our call this week will be at its regular time, Friday at Noon EST. Our guest will be Eric Alterman, who teaches at Brooklyn College, was for many years a columnist at The Nation and is author of the new book, We Are Not One: A History of America’s Fight over Israel
Amazing how someone who is so good at cutting through all the propaganda to get directly at what truly matters when it comes to the Israel/Palestine question can be so far off when it comes to what truly matters regarding America's role in the Russia/Ukraine war.
The only thing that matters now is not who started it, but how to stop the war. Yes, Russia was provoked. Everyone knows that. I wont list the provocations. I'm sure you are well aware of them. Yes, Russia's invasion was unjustified and illegal under existing international law. Everyone knows that as well. What you should have addressed but didn't mention is what the United States is doing to expedite a cease fire followed by legitimate negotiations to bring an end to the death and destruction that has been going on for more than a year now with no end in sight. Simply arming Ukraine to the teeth won't do anything to end the war. It can only escalate the violence which has a real possibility of becoming a nuclear war.
"I think in general, Americans should be very skeptical when the government says ‘We’re going to fight wars on the other side of the world and spend tens of billions of dollars in military aid to spread democracy.’ The US government doesn’t actually care about spreading democracy. Many of its closest allies in the world have always been some of the world’s most despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. All the US government cares about is whether these regimes serve US interests. …If you want to believe the fairy tale that the US government goes to war to spread democracy, then Ukraine is not the place for you. You mentioned the argument that ‘Zelensky is in war, he has to curb liberty’, but go back to 2021, a year before Russia invaded and you’ll find articles where he shut down opposition television stations and shut down opposition political parties (which is) the hallmark of what every tyrant or despot does….and that was true even before Russia invaded.”
I don't see any evidence of competence in the Biden Administration's Ukraine policy - just the usual militarized statecraft devoid of any Plan B which wrecks client states in pursuit of U.S. foreign policy objectives of global dominance. The wreckage includes Europe, presently being deindustrialized or did I misinterpret the point of the U.S. blowing up the Nordstream pipelines?
Ukraine lost its sovereignty in 2014 when a U.S. backed putsch overthrew the democratically elected government and installed an ultranationalist, anti-Russian government with substantial Neo-Nazi elements which putsch triggered a civil war in the Donbass where Russian speaking Ukrainians repudiated the legitimacy of the coup government and were persecuted for it. Since the Maidan Coup, NATO led by the U.S. trained, armed, equipped, and exponentially expanded the AFU from a few thousand troops which posed no military threat to Russia to a few hundred thousand which are being destroyed in the current war. Its economy having collapsed, Ukraine is now a failed state, completely dependent on U.S. financial support for its government and military.
The argument that Russia bears the blame for the ongoing catastrophe ignores several very inconvenient facts. Most notable, the U.S. and NATO provoked this war by intentionally creating a major national security threat on Russia's borders by expanding a hostile military alliance to Russia's borders and arming a hostile power. Encirclement appears to be the goal just as it is with China. No serious effort was made to enforce the Minsk II Agreement which was endorsed by the U.N Security Council after bad faith negotiations by Ukraine, Germany, and France. And the U.S. sabotaged peace talks at the beginning of the war and has exhibited zero serious interest in pursuing a diplomatic resolution.
There's little or no evidence that the US government is conducting its war against Russia for the benefit of the working class of Ukraine, Russia or anywhere else. Strangely, none on the US side is quoting Vladimir Ilyich Lenin on Ukrainian self-determination:
"The C.C., R.C.P.(B.), having discussed the question of relations with the working people of the Ukraine now being liberated from the temporary conquest of Denikin’s bands, is pursuing persistently the principle of the self-determination of nations and deems it essential to again affirm that the R.C.P. holds consistently to the view that the independence of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic be recognized... We Great-Russian Communists must repress with the utmost severity the slightest manifestation in our midst of Great-Russian nationalism, for such manifestations, which are a betrayal of communism in general, cause the gravest harm by dividing us from our Ukrainian comrades and thus playing into the hands of Denikin and his regime."
(November 1919 draft resolution of the central committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik))
Given that the immediate response of the US and UK to the October Revolution - which led to the end of Ukraine's incorporation as vassal of the Russian Empire - was to invade Russia to restore the former regime, I doubt the motives of such ardent American imperialists as Joe Biden as well as those of the leader of Russia's oligarchs, Vladimir Putin who refers fondly to the feudalistic Great Power era of the Tsars.
No cheers at all for Biden or Putin. Three cheers for the international working class's own self-determination.
"I also think that for people who are on the left and who care about international law, this is a clear violation of international law. It was a clear violation of Ukrainian self-determination...this is a war about Ukraine wanting genuine independence, and self-determination, and not wanting to be part of the Russian Empire. And I think those are the kinds of instincts, political instincts, that people on the left rightly tend to support. So, that frames my general belief that the United States was right to support Ukraine, has been right to support Ukraine in the in this war."
Sounds like those people on the left need to read Peter Beinart, because he'll tell you that There Is No Right To A State.
Reading Beinart will teach you that Ukrainians do not have the right to a state of their own, and that the only way to respect both the Ukrainian and Russian rights to national self-determination is to define that right as autonomy, not sovereignty, and therefore a binational state would be better than the current, bigoted, status quo.
The principle of supporting Ukrainian political independence and sovereignty free from external threats against their territorial integrity from Russian aggression is straightforward enough.
However one has to consider the likely means by and outcomes from which US policy will be crafted to do so. It will necessarily empower interventionist ideologues in our own foreign policy establishment who are feverishly setting a cold-war narrative and it will obscenely enrich our domestic defense industry.
That conflict of interest among those most engaged in the domestic debate gives me pause. Frankly, every time I hear gleeful noise about the opportunity for this proxy war to permanently damage Russia I want to head for the exits immediately. As Andrew Sullivan recently noted, all the off-ramps to deeper and more contracted direct conflict are being destroyed.
I’ve supported US-backing of Ukraine for the same reasons I opposed the Iraq War. But I can’t help but notice that most of the publicly outspoken Ukraine advocates in the domestic US debate were also advocates for the Iraq War and permanent war in the Middle East. Ending conflicts and limiting the scope of US involvement therein in a timely manner hasn’t been something there are interested in. Adding to the pro-Ukraine chorus now makes me feel like I’m aiding-and-abetting what in 10 years will likely be another interventionist disaster. Libya comes to mind.
The establishment claim of supporting Ukraine based on the sanctity of international law feels like a very superficial and insincere one.
Americans have no understanding of the enduring historical links between Russian and Ukraine (political, cultural, linguistic); nor are we encouraged to consider how daily life would be different on the ground under Ukrainian v. Russian control (in terms of opportunities for education, employment, religious freedom, etc). That is not part of the daily barrage of media coverage because it would muddy the focus on our high-minded moral posturing. We are reminded every day of the extraordinary courage and nationalist fervor of Ukrainians, military and civilian (and I don't want to discredit that), but I just don't know how many Ukrainian victims of this terrible war would have chosen to die rather than to endure life under Russian occupation.
Contrary to Peter B, I see nothing competent about Biden and his neocon foreign policy team.
The whole story has been a catalog of hubris, wishful thinking and self-deception from the start, building on a progression of foreign policy blunders over the past three decades. They have greatly exacerbated a growing split not just of NATO versus the BRICS but more broadly the West versus the Rest, with the latter increasingly eclipsing the former. Unfortunately, there appears to be no accountability, so these people can continue to wreak havoc.
1. For almost 25 years after the break-up of the Soviet Union and the independence of Ukraine, there was a political equilibrium in Ukraine between northwestern, ethnic-Galician Ukrainians and southeastern ethnic-Russian Ukrainians.
2. Then, in 2014, the US supported (and, by some accounts, helped organize) a coup in Kyiv, which drew its domestic support primarily from the former group, against a democratically-elected president (Yanukovych) who leaned toward the latter.
3. Following the coup in Kyiv, a civil war broke out, with Russians bringing some support to the ethnic-Russian side, including recognizing the independence of the overwhelmingy ethnic-Russian autonomous region of Crimea and its subsequent accession to the Russian Federation.
4. Instead of outright independence, ethnic Russians in the eastern Donbas oblasts of Ukraine sought to establish some degree of autonomy within a federalized Ukraine. This was the basis of the Minsk Agreements, specifically Minsk 2 which was adopted into international law as United Nations Security Council Resolution 2202 of 2015.
5. Despite signing Minsk 2, the first elected president (Poroshenko) of what remained of Ukraine equivocated on implementing it, declared the autonomists to be "terrorists", and began to build up his military with the help of the US and some other NATO countries toward NATO interoperability. The European guarantors of Minsk 2, former Chancellor Merkel of Germany and former President Hollande of France, have also both recently stated that they did not expect Minsk 2 to be implemented, but that it was a way to "buy time" for the Kyiv government to re-arm and presumably re-take the Donbas by force at some point.
5. Western politicians, the mainstream media and many other political commentators identify "Ukraine" solely with the predominantly ethnic-Galician state established in Kyiv after the 2014 coup.
6. Peace in Ukraine could have been established (and, with a lot of luck. might still be established) by returning to international law, i.e. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2202 of 2015 or something like it.
I wish you had a bigger platform, so many Americans need the information and insight you provide.
I agree with many of the commenters here. End this war, now, and stop the manufactured propaganda on the mainstream news channels. I also want to point out that US mega capitalists and all the people in the department of war and strategy (they are employed with good salaries) are all benefitting from this drawn out proxie war. Should countries and lives be destroyed so that Americans can make money? The Washington Examiner ran a story, “Zelensky announces alliance with BlackRock for reconstruction of Ukraine”. CNBC reported that “Ukraine plots post-war rebuilding effort with JP Morgan Chase as economic adviser”. That a boy, Volodomir! Zelensky understands the “democracy” promoted by the US.
Your information is excellent and presented in a manner that I am informed and aware. It will help me to make coherent conversation about the US involvement. Being aware of our entire affairs world wide makes us educated not just opinionated. Thank you
The problem with US involvement in Ukraine is that it's very clearly made up as it goes along. Look at how weaponry is dispensed, with an initial period where the US claims that it's not going to provide rocket artillery, or tanks, or (maybe) F-16 fighter jets only to reverse itself.
This is clearly a violation of the Powell doctrine, which dictates no military involvement without clear and achievable goals. What is the end game in the Ukraine? Is it to bleed Russia a bit before a final capitulation? Is it to regain territory? If so does that include the Crimea? The Biden Administration deserves every bit of the criticism that it is receiving because it refuses to explicate its objectives.
At first, I was hoping this was going to be an insightful commentary about American support for Ukraine. But, what I expected, in fact, turned out to be the case. It was another opportunity for Peter to blame Israel. The reason Asian countries are not more openly against Russia is because they see America’s support for Israel as hypocritical. The reason Russia can’t be brought before the international court is because Israel is defended by America against unfair prosecution.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing for Peter, for a change, to challenge the Palestinian narrative? Are there any Palestinians he could interview who advocate for two states for two people with no “right of return“ nonsense that the Palestinians use to reject peace; that want the corrupt Palestinian leaders removed from office; that are against terror attacks, car rammings, stabbings, shootings of innocent Israelis; that want textbooks to stop using examples that teach children to hate Israel?
The answer is no, perhaps because there are no such Palestinians who would go on record for fear of their own safety, but more likely because Peter’s audience pays him to be the court Jew to to do the dirty work for them and continually blame Israel. Shameful.
Only one comment, I am mystified by your support for Biden's role in the Ukraine proxy war. Really, everyone who reads anything other than the mainstream media knows he deliberately provoked this war, is orchestrating deadly escalation that could lead to wider conflicts, he engaged in international terrorism by blowing up Nordstream, and he has backed the West into a corner by denying it all. Please, take a closer look - off handed comments supporting Biden are so off center!
I couldn't disagree more about Biden. He is grandstanding as the LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD in a new cold war scenario which is only contributing to Putin's popularity in Russia. Yes NATO needed to help Ukraine but this began essentially as a European land grab. For the sake of Europe and many Russian speakers in Ukraine Putin should go, but the total humiliation of Russia should not be an option. It is not so long ago that we were talking about systemic corruption in Ukraine and the legitimate rights of Russian speakers there. Just an added thought...historical comparisons are dangerous. Putin may in some ways resemble Hitler but Russia is definitely not Nazi Germany.