US Reaping What It Sowed in Ukraine

Unanswered questions about Biden’s role in the 2014 coup in Kiev have become more urgent and troubling, write Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies.

Dec. 7, 2015: U.S. Vice President Biden meets with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev. (U.S. Embassy Kyiv, Flickr)

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies
Common Dreams

So, what are Americans to believe about the rising tensions over Ukraine? The United States and Russia both claim their escalations are defensive, responding to threats and escalations by the other side, but the resulting spiral of escalation can only make war more likely. Ukrainian President Zelensky is warning that “panic” by U.S. and Western leaders is already causing economic destabilization in Ukraine.

U.S. allies do not all support the current U.S. policy. Germany is wisely refusing to funnel more weapons into Ukraine, in keeping with its long-standing policy of not sending weapons into conflict zones. Ralf Stegner, a senior member of parliament for Germany’s ruling Social Democrats, told the BBC on Jan. 25 that the Minsk-Normandy process agreed to by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in 2015 is still the right framework for ending the civil war.

“The Minsk Agreement hasn’t been applied by both sides,” Stegner explained, “and it just doesn’t make any sense to think that forcing up the military possibilities would make it better. Rather, I think it’s the hour of diplomacy.”

By contrast, most American politicians and corporate media have fallen in line with a one-sided narrative that paints Russia as the aggressor in Ukraine and support sending more and more weapons to Ukrainian government forces. After decades of U.S. military disasters based on such one-sided narratives, Americans should know better by now. But what is it that our leaders and the corporate media are not telling us this time?

The most critical events that have been airbrushed out of the West’s political narrative are the violation of agreements Western leaders made at the end of the Cold War not to expand NATO into Eastern Europe, and the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in February 2014. 

Western mainstream media accounts date the crisis in Ukraine back to Russia’s 2014 reintegration of Crimea, and the decision by ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine to secede from Ukraine as the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. 

US-Backed Coup

Feb. 18, 2014: Protesters throwing pieces of brick pavement at Ukrainian troops obscured by the smoke of burning tires in Kiev. (Mstyslav Chernov, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

But these were not unprovoked actions. They were responses to the U.S.-backed coup, in which an armed mob led by the neo-Nazi Right Sector militia stormed the Ukrainian parliament, forcing the elected President Viktor Yanukovich and members of his party to flee for their lives. After the events of Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, that should now be easier for Americans to understand. 

The remaining members of parliament voted to form a new government, subverting the political transition and plans for a new election that Yanukovich had publicly agreed to the day before, after meetings with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland.

The U.S. role in managing the coup was exposed by a leaked 2014 audio recording of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt working on their plans, which included sidelining the European Union (“Fuck the EU,” as Nuland put it) and shoehorning in U.S. protege Arseniy Yatsenyuk (“Yats”) as prime minister. 

At the end of the call, Ambassador Pyatt told Nuland, “…we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing.”

Nuland replied (verbatim),

“So on that piece Geoff, when I wrote the note, [Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake] Sullivan’s come back to me VFR [very quickly?], saying you need [Vice President] Biden and I said probably tomorrow for an atta-boy and to get the deets [details?] to stick. So Biden’s willing.”

It has never been explained why two senior State Department officials who were plotting a regime change in Ukraine looked to Vice President Joe Biden to “midwife this thing,” instead of to their own boss, Secretary of State John Kerry.

Oct. 8, 2014: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, left, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at a Ukrainian State Border Guard Service Base in Kiev. (U.S. Embassy Kyiv, Flickr)

Now that the crisis over Ukraine has blown up with a vengeance during Biden’s first year as president, such unanswered questions about his role in the 2014 coup have become more urgent and troubling. And why did President Biden appoint Nuland to the No. 4 position at the State Department, despite (or was it because of?) her critical role in triggering the disintegration of Ukraine and an eight-year-long civil war that has so far killed at least 14,000 people?

Post-Coup Government

Both of Nuland’s hand-picked puppets in Ukraine, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and President Petro Poroshenko, were soon mired in corruption scandals. Yatsenyuk was forced to resign after two years and Poroshenko was outed in a tax evasion scandal revealed in the Panama Papers. Post-coup, war-torn Ukraine remains the poorest country in Europe and one of the most corrupt.

The Ukrainian military had little enthusiasm for a civil war against its own people in eastern Ukraine, so the post-coup government formed new “National Guard” units to assault the separatist People’s Republics. The infamous Azov Battalion drew its first recruits from the Right Sector militia and openly displays neo-Nazi symbols, yet it has kept receiving U.S. arms and training, even after Congress explicitly cut off its U.S. funding in the FY2018 Defense Appropriation bill.

In 2015, the Minsk and Normandy negotiations led to a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from a buffer zone around the separatist-held areas. Ukraine agreed to grant greater autonomy to Donetsk, Luhansk and other ethnically Russian areas of Ukraine, but it has failed to follow through on that.

A federal system, with some powers devolved to individual provinces or regions, could help to resolve the all-or-nothing power struggle between Ukrainian nationalists and Ukraine’s traditional ties to Russia that has dogged its politics since independence in 1991.

But the U.S. and NATO’s interest in Ukraine is not really about resolving its regional differences, but about something else altogether. The U.S. coup was calculated to put Russia in an impossible position. If Russia did nothing, post-coup Ukraine would sooner or later join NATO, as NATO members already agreed to in principle in 2008. NATO forces would advance right up to Russia’s border and Russia’s important naval base at Sevastopol in the Crimea would fall under NATO control.

On the other hand, if Russia had responded to the coup by invading Ukraine, there would have been no turning back from a disastrous new Cold War with the West. To Washington’s frustration, Russia found a middle path out of this dilemma, by accepting the result of Crimea’s referendum to rejoin Russia, but only giving covert support to the separatists in the East.

In 2021, with Nuland once again installed in a corner office at the State Department, the Biden administration quickly cooked up a plan to put Russia in a new pickle. The United States had already given Ukraine $2 billion in military aid since 2014, and Biden has added another $650 million to that, along with deployments of U.S. and NATO military trainers.

Minsk-Normandy Process Abandoned

Jan. 16, 2017: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden traveling to Kiev. (U.S. Embassy Kyiv, Flickr)

Ukraine has still not implemented the constitutional changes called for in the Minsk agreements, and the unconditional military support the United States and NATO have provided has encouraged Ukraine’s leaders to effectively abandon the Minsk-Normandy process and simply reassert sovereignty over all of Ukraine’s territory, including Crimea.

In practice, Ukraine could only recover those territories by a major escalation of the civil war, and that was exactly what Ukraine and its NATO backers appeared to be preparing for in March 2021. But that prompted Russia to begin moving troops and conducting military exercises, within its own territory (including Crimea), but close enough to Ukraine to deter a new offensive by Ukrainian government forces.

In October, Ukraine launched new attacks in Donbass. Russia, which still had about 100,000 troops stationed near Ukraine, responded with new troop movements and military exercises. U.S. officials launched an information warfare campaign to frame Russia’s troop movements as an unprovoked threat to invade Ukraine, concealing their own role in fueling the threatened Ukrainian escalation that Russia is responding to. U.S. propaganda has gone so far as to preemptively dismiss any actual new Ukrainian assault in the East as a Russian false-flag operation.

Underlying all these tensions is NATO’s expansion through Eastern Europe to the borders of Russia, in violation of commitments Western officials made at the end of the Cold War. The U.S. and NATO’s refusal to acknowledge that they have violated those commitments or to negotiate a diplomatic resolution with the Russians is a central factor in the breakdown of U.S.-Russian relations.

While U.S. officials and corporate media are scaring the pants off Americans and Europeans with tales of an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian officials are warning that U.S.-Russian relations are close to the breaking point. If the United States and NATO are not prepared to negotiate new disarmament treaties, remove U.S. missiles from countries bordering Russia and dial back NATO expansion, Russian officials say they will have no option but to respond with “appropriate military-technical reciprocal measures.” 

This expression may not refer to an invasion of Ukraine, as most Western commentators have assumed, but to a broader strategy that could include actions that hit much closer to home for Western leaders. 

For example, Russia could place short-range nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad (between Lithuania and Poland), within range of European capitals; it could establish military bases in Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and other friendly countries; and it could deploy submarines armed with hypersonic nuclear missiles to the Western Atlantic, from where they could destroy Washington, D.C., in a matter of minutes.

It has long been a common refrain among American activists to point to the 800 or so U.S. military bases all over the world and ask, “How would Americans like it if Russia or China built military bases in Mexico or Cuba?” Well, we may be about to find out.

Hypersonic nuclear missiles off the U.S. East Coast would put the United States in a similar position to that in which NATO has placed the Russians. China could adopt a similar strategy in the Pacific to respond to U.S. military bases and deployments around its coast.

So the revived Cold War that U.S. officials and corporate media hacks have been mindlessly cheering on could very quickly turn into one in which the United States would find itself just as encircled and endangered as its enemies.

Will the prospect of such a 21st century Cuban Missile Crisis be enough to bring America’s irresponsible leaders to their senses and back to the negotiating table, to start unwinding the suicidal mess they have blundered into? We certainly hope so.
Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace and the author of numerous books including  Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection  and Inside Iran: the Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK, and the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

This article is from Common Dreams.

The views expressed are solely those of the authors and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


16 comments for “US Reaping What It Sowed in Ukraine

  1. Robert Emmett
    February 3, 2022 at 18:46

    It’s as if…

    They’ve bound themselves to polish this turd
    until it gleams; even if all the world screams no,
    they are driven so mad in the glare of their machines,
    in the nightmare of their dreams
    so as to turn blind eyes
    unrelenting, unrepenting*
    upon their own destruction.

    It’s a reboot to the max,
    a shock ‘n awe set-up
    (only shockier & aweier)
    if you can believe it.

    *thanks to the Beach Boys for “Sail On Sailor”

  2. hans-juergen Golieberzuch
    February 3, 2022 at 14:46

    exellent analyses. Don’t know when or if Berlin and Bruessels wake up.
    Guess all Germans who are not infected by the Media are fed up with the anti- russian propaganda.
    Our fathers and Grandfathers fought in June 1941 the second time in Ukraine and Russia after 1914-1918, where the
    British and French managed to pull the Czar on their side to encircle Germany to crush it with Versailles-Treaty ( with US-help),
    which led to the second World War. We where in Western Germany thankful to the US despite the ruins of our cities.
    But what we see since the Unification of Germany with Nato-Expansion to the doorsteps of Mother Russia goes too far.
    No-one should expect that we are going to fight a third war against Russia, after we have killed some 25 Million in Russia
    from 1941-1944, not even a limited one for Ukraine! It could be the last war! US should not underestimate Moskau!
    Who stops the war mongers in Washington? The American People!? NO2 should go ahead despite pressure from all sides.
    Best regards
    Hans-Juergen Golieberzuch

  3. Skip Edwards
    February 3, 2022 at 12:18

    “Where have all the flowers gone”! Do we sit here in our homes awaiting our fate; or, is there still hope that aging flower children can bring sanity to a world gone mad? Human Caused Climate Change is our true enemy, not our family of humanity. We, at least, have an obligation to all the other life on Earth to stop the insanity. To use the Nuland term, “Fuck” Biden and Putin if they can’t hands in cooperation to quit bickering and get to work on Climate Change!

    • Skip Edwards
      February 3, 2022 at 12:21

      join “hands”

  4. Ed Rickert
    February 3, 2022 at 11:46

    Benjamin and Davies’ concise summary of the actual events about Ukrainian and US actions following the 2014 coup are appreciated. If we had a free press, this knowledge would be available to every American. Instead we are exposed to endless drivel, fear mongering, and lies masquerading as news by the corporate media. Apparently, they have learned nothing from their promoting previous lies about Iraq, Libya, and Syria
    My thanks to Consortiumnews for its practice of real journalism.

  5. Jeff Harrison
    February 3, 2022 at 11:26

    Good piece. I would like to object that the Ukrainians are not NEO- Nazis. Neo meaning new because they are old school, WWII, Stephan Bandaras, no shit Nazis. Not only is everything you mentioned on the table but Russia may tag team with China on those Belt and Road initiatives of theirs and one has to consider that China has won two trade cases against the US wherein the WTO said they could impose countervailing duties and the US has yet to stop its illegal behavior. Maybe they could put countervailing duties on rare earth exports…..

  6. mgr
    February 3, 2022 at 06:34

    Spot on. Excellent summary.

    For myself, I always assumed that Biden in 2020 was in fact a Trojan horse for HRC. Whether that is true or not, it is certainly effectively true. And with Biden, HRC still has all her operatives in the game with Nuland, Blinken, etc. Even when she is not out front, the harm continues, competence only in destruction. In any case, we now see the disaster HRC presented in 2016, it’s just coming four years later. This of course is all brought to you, with a vengeance, by the ironically named “Democratic Party.”

    Bush brought the neoconservatives into power and Obama normalized them. Biden is just more of the same. If the GOP wins the mid-terms, which seems likely, perhaps they will impeach Biden. Certainly not for what he deserves to be impeached for but nonetheless anything to get him out and the sooner the better.

    Biden has betrayed the world on mitigating climate change. He had no plan and no intention of one. That’s because the only plan that will make a difference is to cut emissions by 50% by 2030 and keep fossil fuels in the ground. Instead, we have window dressing, with Kerry traveling around the world trying to get other countries to do what America will not. “America is back” is a catastrophe. Biden’s plan is to do nothing while preserving America’s own fossil fuel industries and giving cover to the rest of the banal block (UK, et all) to do nothing too.

    But not only has Biden done nothing except run out the clock, he has made the situation far worst. Instead of leading the way to the international cooperation that is absolutely necessary to give the world a chance to survive our looming climate epoch, the Biden admin has done everything in its power to make that cooperation impossible, literally dooming us all while bequeathing the horror of a new Cold War on generations (if there are any) to come. That is the cherry on top, the crowning achievement in a long and banal career. How would you define crimes against humanity? In a rational country, this is what would be impeachable. In a rational world, America would be shunned and isolated.

    • Realist
      February 4, 2022 at 13:03

      HRC and her nominal husband Slick Johnson were never really Democrats but rather they infiltrated the Democratic Party and re-imaged it as a right-wing enabler of the Goldwater faction of the GOP. If you accept that you can understand why Goldwasser himself was such a supporter of the Moist One during his many scandals while in office. It also helps one understand why he became as thick as fleas with Bushdaddy, apparently CIA Head for life. Slick’s most lasting impactful acts in office were what? Bombing Bosnia and later Serbia, followed by the Monica Wars, which made bin Laden a star player again, to ensure the fragmentation of Yugoslavia. Bushdaddy started the forever wars in the Middle East by luring Saddam into a trap the spook patrol had laid for him in Kuwait and sprung by Ambassador April Glaspie. Reagan got the “credit” for the “civil wars” in Centro America but that and the snow storm that enveloped LA for years as collateral damage was eventually understood as another masterpiece by Mr. “Out-of-the-loop.” Those were the people that HRC ran with since her “Goldwater Girls” days and have always represented the bloodthirsty monsters from her Id. I’m curious to know why she is so much healthier these days than she was during her last presidential campaign when she had trouble remaining conscious and keeping the brown stains less conspicuous on her derriere. If Madame Secretary Not-Tammy Wynette runs again for the big white house in 2024 as champion of the Neoconservative Democratic Anti-Labor Party (Use the full descriptor!) who thinks she won’t shatter Demento Joe’s all time record for votes received? And will Chelsea Mezvinsky or Michelle Obama become the 48th president in 2033, assuming the Dems cannot find a suitable candidate in their mid-to-late 80’s?

  7. TP Graf
    February 3, 2022 at 06:12

    Certainly some good context is offered in this Benjamin/Davies post. I’ve read several other references as well to the notion that Russia might begin setting up bases in friendly countries. I have to think the odds are long for this to come about. Both Russia and China have to see how costly it is to span oneself militarily around the globe. As the new silk road initiative shows, better to woo foreign leaders with infrastructure and economic promise than build a bunch of sitting-duck bases. They will be forceful, no doubt, but I believe both Russia and China will use their goodwill towards each other to move strategically in a judicious use of their resources–something we have long proved unwilling and/or incapable of doing.

    Erdogan is headed to Ukraine today. This seems a very interesting move. Certainly this president of a very long-standing NATO member, who regularly thumbs his nose at the US and who plays well in the sand box with Russia, isn’t going to Kiev to hard sell American interests. Which leads to my final point on the strategic failure in thinking about NATO expansion. The more members brought in, the more discord and lack of consensus there will be in the final analysis when the rubber hits the road on actual military action and sanctions. We are certainly seeing this now, and I hope it only gets more apparent as the days and weeks pass. NATO member discord is the best possibility of cutting the US legs out from under Biden, and their ridiculous meddling in Ukraine.

    • Danny Miskinis
      February 3, 2022 at 11:17

      I hope you are right concerning Erdogan. Although he is a terrible leader of his nation,almost as terrible as the ones we put in charge of Ukraine, he does have a strong sense for self-preservation. I think Zelensky is just over his head, as almost anyone would be, if faced with such an intolerable situation as our actions have created for his nation. I have great sympathy for him.

  8. Leo
    February 3, 2022 at 04:22

    Although this piece pictures a clear historical overview, it does not live up to its promise of providing more insight into Biden’s role. Please follow up on that.

  9. Realist
    February 3, 2022 at 04:14

    Good rejoinder to all the lies spread about this showdown portrayed in the corporate mainstream media as Russian aggression against Ukraine when it’s really all about American aggression against Russia. It’s quite a twist of reality to read or listen to how the mad communist dictator in Russia has run roughshod over Ukraine and plans to invade and annex even more of that country which America will simply have to defend against because no one else in the “free world” can stop those sinister Russkies. If we don’t stop them in freedom-loving Ukraine we will have to fight them here in the streets of American cities.

    Everybody seems to hate communism but no one can seem to stop it except we exceptional Americans. It’s our mission from “God.” And to think, it is so transparently simple how the rotten process begins its course of infestation: those vile Russians dare to sell us their natural resources, like natural gas and crude oil, and their next insidious step is to try to buy some of our manufactured products like semi-conductors and cell phones. Outrageous, I tell you! The “Greatest Generation” had it right when they said “Better dead than red!” back in the 50’s.

  10. robert e williamson jr
    February 2, 2022 at 23:05

    It appears that John Kerry has been “hung out” again. I know nothing of the particulars here, John Kerry is different, he has a genuine sense of duty I believe. I have read his report on International Organized Crime and Terrorism. I’m also of the opinion the he served admirably while in Vietnam.

    Biden, on the other hand, does not, never has struck me as being driven in a similar manner.

    What I really don’t understand is Biden pulling the stunts he has with the Ukraine Government from 2014 forward.

    I think he compromised himself and unless he and the democrats can take all of Congress in 2022 he will be a two year lame duck. If Trump isn’t in prison he will try and run or spoil the 2024 election. Justice seems very elusive at this point!

    No matter Biden might be well advisedto pull William Cohen out of retirement to talk some sense into the State Department Officials or replace them.

  11. gcw919
    February 2, 2022 at 21:31

    Its a closely guarded secret (in the American mass media, anyway) that the US sponsored the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in 2014. (You can see Victoria Nuland gloating about this here: hxxps://

    And yet, weren’t the Democrats apoplectic about the Russians supposedly interfering in the last US presidential election? Only in a country where critical thinking has been replaced by the inane, vapid likes of Tik Tok, etc., can our “leaders” get away with such blatant hypocrisy.

  12. Lowell Googins
    February 2, 2022 at 20:01

    Excellent piece and some very profound questions. “Hypersonic nuclear missiles off the US east coast”.

  13. renate
    February 2, 2022 at 19:19

    We need competent statesmen/women with integrity, they are nowhere to be seen. What we have are people no more trustworthy than used car dealers were years ago. This is not to offend the people selling used cars now. They are better than our elite leadership.

Comments are closed.