By B. Kyle Robles
In recent weeks, tensions between Washington and Moscow have reached heights not witnessed since the peak of the Cold War. Western media propagates the narrative that Russian president Vladimir Putin is playing a sort of fourth-dimensional chess and seeks to invade Ukraine. Like all significant developments, the current Russo-Ukrainian Crisis did not arise from a vacuum; there is an important historical context that helps us understand current events and dispels the disingenuous Western narratives and dangerous calls for war.
Since 1823, when U.S. President James Monroe articulated a foreign policy doctrine asserting that the Western Hemisphere is the rightful sphere of influence of the United States and no other power, our country has on multiple occasions reiterated its calling of dibs on political influence in the Americas. After the Spanish-American War at the turn of the twentieth century, President Theodore Roosevelt issued a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, warning European states not to challenge U.S. hegemony in “our” hemisphere ever again.
In 1958, the Cuban people overthrew their U.S.-backed military dictator Fulgencio Batista established a new socialist government. Two years later, the U.S. promptly sanctioned the Cuban people, enacting a virtual blockade of the country, denying it of food sources, medical supplies, mechanical parts, and other necessities of modern life. Made a pariah, Cuba’s only foreign assistance came from the Soviet Union, the U.S.’s Cold-War adversary.
In late October 1962, Washington feared that the USSR might place nuclear missiles in Cuba closeby the U.S. mainland, and the world approached mere seconds to midnight in an event known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Thirty years later, the Soviet Union had been thoroughly dismantled, and talking heads in the Beltway declared the “end of history” and the triumph of capitalism over socialism.
But the USSR would not go gentle into that good night. During the Second World War, Nazi Germany invaded eastward through Ukraine. During that war, upwards of twenty-seven million Soviets died, fifteen million of which were Russians. This experience understandably left the people of the former Soviet Union wary of any kind of eastward expansion by other powers.
In 1990, then-U.S. Secretary of State James Baker assured Premier Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—a Cold War military alliance created to counter the USSR-led Warsaw Pact Alliance— would expand “not one inch” eastward.
Since the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, NATO has not kept that promise. In fact, it has more than doubled in size and has incorporated three former Soviet Republics and multiple former Warsaw Pact states.
In 2014, the corrupt though democratically elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted via a U.S.-backed coup that mobilized far-right and neo-nazi paramilitaries. Weeks after, the new government attempted to ban the Russian language, which thirty percent of Ukrainians speak as a first language.
Two historically and ethnically Russian regions of the modern Ukrainian state, Crimea and Donbas, have produced violent separatist movements composed of ethnic Russians who oppose the U.S.-backed government that is hostile to their existence and which backs neofascists.
Today, we hear that Russia has amassed 100,00 troops along its border with Ukraine. What is often neglected is that not only is Russia exercising its sovereignty by stationing troops within its own borders, but also that even Kyiv echoes the Kremlin’s insistence that an invasion by Russia is not imminent.
Moscow demands that Ukraine not be integrated into NATO and that NATO weapons stationed within close proximity of Russia be removed. Instead of meeting these reasonable security demands, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to them as a “non-starter.”
If Russia had orchestrated a coup d’état in Canada, installed a vehemently anti-American government in Ottawa, and attempted to incorporate it into its sphere of influence, I doubt that Washington would welcome such a development with open arms. Does not the United States have the right to station troops anywhere within its own borders? The Pentagon certainly thinks so. In fact, there are some 800 U.S. military bases located in other countries, outside our borders—far more than than any other country, including Russia.
Although both the U.S. and Russia claim defensive postures, it is clear that there is only one aggressor: the United States of America. The eastward expansion of NATO reveals Washington’s contentment with breaking promises made to foreign entities and exposes the U.S.’s hypocrisy regarding a nation’s right to self-determination, given its long history of asserting uncontested hemispheric hegemony.
Threatening sanctions and armed retaliation for a manufactured and non-immanent Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration is barreling head-first toward major power conflict. If it continues down the warpath, mutually assured nuclear annihilation could follow.
For the sake of humanity and peace, the New Cold War with Russia, and with China for that matter, must end immediately, and cooler heads must prevail. When two nuclear states wage hot war, there are no winners. There are eight billion losers.
B. Kyle Robles
My name is Kyle Robles. I am a graduate student at UM.