In a moment of candor, Joe Biden has revealed why the U.S. needed the Russian invasion and why it needs it to continue, writes Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
The U.S. got its war in Ukraine. Without it, Washington could not attempt to destroy Russia’s economy, orchestrate worldwide condemnation and lead an insurgency to bleed Russia, all part of an attempt to bring down its government. Joe Biden has now left no doubt that it’s true.
The president of the United States has confirmed what Consortium News and others have been reporting since the beginnings of Russsiagate in 2016, that the ultimate U.S. aim is to overthrow the government of Vladimir Putin.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said on Saturday at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The White House and the State Dept. have been scrambling to explain away Biden’s remark.
But it is too late.
“The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” a White House official said. “He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “As you know, and as you have heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia, or anywhere else, for that matter,” the last words inserted for comic relief.
Biden first gave the game away at his Feb. 24 White House press conference — the first day of the invasion. He was asked why he thought new sanctions would work when the earlier sanctions had not prevented Russia’s invasion. Biden said the sanctions were never designed to prevent Russia’s intervention but to punish it afterward. Therefore the U.S. needed Russia to invade.
“No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening,” Biden said. “That has to sh- — this is going to take time. And we have to show resolve so he knows what’s coming and so the people of Russia know what he’s brought on them. That’s what this is all about.” It is all about the Russian people turning on Putin to overthrow him, which would explain Russia’s crackdown on anti-war protestors and the media.
It was no slip of the tongue. Biden repeated himself in Brussels on Thursday: “Let’s get something straight … I did not say that in fact the sanctions would deter him. Sanctions never deter. You keep talking about that. Sanctions never deter. The maintenance of sanctions — the maintenance of sanctions, the increasing the pain … we will sustain what we’re doing not just next month, the following month, but for the remainder of this entire year. That’s what will stop him.”
It was the second time that Biden confirmed that the purpose of the draconian U.S. sanctions on Russia was never to prevent the invasion of Ukraine, which the U.S. desperately needed to activate its plans, but to punish Russia and get its people to rise up against Putin and ultimately restore a Yeltsin-like puppet to Moscow. Without a cause those sanctions could never have been imposed. The cause was Russia’s invasion.
Regime Change in Moscow
Once hidden in studies such as this 2019 RAND study, the desire to overthrow the government in Moscow is now out in the open.
One of the earliest threats came from Carl Gersham, the long-time director of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Gershman, wrote in 2013, before the Kiev coup: “Ukraine is the biggest prize.” If it could be pulled away from Russia and into the West, then “Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
David Ignatius wrote in The Washington Post in 1999 that the NED could now practice regime change out in the open, rather than covertly as the C.I.A. had done.
The RAND Corporation on March 18 then published an article titled, “If Regime Change Should Come to Moscow,” the U.S. should be ready for it. Michael McFaul, the hawkish former U.S. ambassador to Russia, has been calling for regime change in Russia for some time. He tried to finesse Biden’s words by tweeting:
On Putin, Biden expressed what billions around the world and millions inside Russia also believe. He did not say that the US should remove him from power. There is a difference.
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) March 27, 2022
On March 1, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said the sanctions on Russia “we are introducing, that large parts of the world are introducing, are to bring down the Putin regime.” No. 10 tried to walk that back but two days earlier James Heappey, minister for the armed forces, wrote in The Daily Telegraph:
“His failure must be complete; Ukrainian sovereignty must be restored, and the Russian people empowered to see how little he cares for them. In showing them that, Putin’s days as President will surely be numbered and so too will those of the kleptocratic elite that surround him. He’ll lose power and he won’t get to choose his successor.”
After the fall of the Soviet Union and throughout the 1990s Wall Street and the U.S. government dominated Boris Yeltsin’s Russia, asset-stripping former state-owned industries to enrich themselves and a new class of oligarchs, while impoverishing the Russian people. Putin came to power on New Year’s Eve 1999 and started restoring Russia’s sovereignty. His 2007 Munich Security Conference speech, in which he blasted Washington’s aggressive unilateralism, alarmed the U.S., which clearly wants a Yeltsin-like figure to return. The 2014 U.S.-backed coup in Kiev was a first step. Russiagate was another.
Back in 2017, Consortium News saw Russiagate as a prelude to regime change in Moscow. That year I wrote:
“The Russia-gate story fits neatly into a geopolitical strategy that long predates the 2016 election. Since Wall Street and the U.S. government lost the dominant position in Russia that existed under the pliable President Boris Yeltsin, the strategy has been to put pressure on getting rid of Putin to restore a U.S. friendly leader in Moscow. There is substance to Russia’s concerns about American designs for ‘regime change’ in the Kremlin.
Moscow sees an aggressive America expanding NATO and putting 30,000 NATO troops on its borders; trying to overthrow a secular ally in Syria with terrorists who threaten Russia itself; backing a coup in Ukraine as a possible prelude to moves against Russia; and using American NGOs to foment unrest inside Russia before they were forced to register as foreign agents.”
JUST NOW: ""I think Ukrainians were waiting for a long time for such a statement. I think this statement is absolutely correct."
–Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on President Biden's controversial statement about Putin's removal.pic.twitter.com/6ucqdJS0oM
— John Berman (@JohnBerman) March 28, 2022
The Invasion Was Necessary
The United States could have easily prevented Russia’s military action. It could have stopped Russia’s intervention in Ukraine’s civil war from happening by doing three things: forcing implementation of the 8-year old Minsk peace accords, dissolving extreme right Ukrainian militias and engaging Russia in serious negotiations about a new security architecture in Europe.
But it didn’t.
The U.S. can still end this war through serious diplomacy with Russia. But it won’t. Blinken has refused to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Instead, Biden announced on March 16 another $800 million in military aid for Ukraine on the same day it was revealed Russia and Ukraine have been working on a 15-point peace plan. It has never been clearer that the U.S. wanted this war and wants it to continue.
NATO troops and missiles in Eastern Europe were evidently so vital to U.S. plans that it would not discuss removing them to stop Russia’s troops from crossing into Ukraine. Russia had threatened a “technical/military” response if NATO and the U.S. did not take seriously Russia’s security interests, presented in December in the form of treaty proposals.
The U.S. knew what would happen if it rejected those proposals calling for Ukraine not to join NATO, for missiles in Poland and Romania to be removed and NATO troops in Eastern Europe withdrawn. That’s why it started screaming about an invasion in December. The U.S. refused to move the missiles and provocatively sent even more NATO forces to Eastern Europe.
MSNBC ran an article on March 4, titled, “Russia’s Ukraine invasion may have been preventable: The U.S. refused to reconsider Ukraine’s NATO status as Putin threatened war. Experts say that was a huge mistake.” The article said:
“The abundance of evidence that NATO was a sustained source of anxiety for Moscow raises the question of whether the United States’ strategic posture was not just imprudent but negligent.”
Senator Joe Biden knew as far back as 1997 that NATO expansion, which he supported, could eventually lead to a hostile Russian reaction.
Biden in 1997 saying that the only thing that could provoke a "vigorous and hostile" Russian response would be if NATO expanded as far as the Baltic states pic.twitter.com/i0yfEgIGZA
— . (@ImReadinHere) March 7, 2022
The Excised Background to the Invasion
It is vital to recall the events of 2014 in Ukraine and what has followed until now because it is routinely whitewashed from Western media coverage. Without that context, it is impossible to understand what is happening in Ukraine.
Both Donetsk and Lugansk had voted for independence from Ukraine in 2014 after a U.S.-backed coup overthrew the democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovych. The new, U.S.-installed Ukrainian government then launched a war against the provinces to crush their resistance to the coup and their bid for independence, a war that is still going on eight years later at the cost of thousands of lives with U.S. support. It is this war that Russia has entered.
Neo-Nazi groups, such as Right Sector and the Azov Battalion, who revere the World War II Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Bandera, took part in the coup as well as in the ongoing violence against Lugansk and Donetsk.
Despite reporting in the BBC, the NYT, the Daily Telegraph and CNN on the neo-Nazis at the time, their role in the story is now excised by Western media, reducing Putin to a madman hellbent on conquest without reason. As though he woke up one morning and looked at a map to decide what country he would invade next.
The public has been induced to embrace the Western narrative, while being kept in the dark about Washington’s ulterior motives.
#Russia co-existed with #Ukraine until the 2014 US-backed coup and Kiev's war against ethnic Russians who resisted it. Everything goes back to 2014–a now 8-year civil war. Airbrushing that out of the story, as Western media does, amounts to deliberate deception.
— Joe Lauria (@unjoe) March 1, 2022
The Traps Set for Russia
Six weeks ago, on Feb. 4, I wrote an article, “What a US Trap for Russia in Ukraine Might Look Like,” in which I laid out a scenario in which Ukraine would begin an offensive against ethnic Russian civilians in Donbass, forcing Russia to decide whether to abandon them or to intervene to save them.
If Russia intervened with regular army units, I argued, this would be the “Invasion!” the U.S. needed to attack Russia’s economy, turn the world against Moscow and end Putin’s rule.
In the third week of February, Ukrainian government shelling of Donbass dramatically increased, according to the OSCE, with what appeared to be the new offensive. Russia was forced to make its decision.
It first recognized the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, a move it put off for eight years. And then on Feb. 24 President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine to “demilitarize” and “denazify” the country.
Russia stepped into a trap, which grows more perilous by the day as Russia’s military intervention continues with a second trap in sight. From Moscow’s perspective, the stakes were too high not to intervene. And if it can induce Kiev to accept a settlement, it might escape the clutches of the United States.
A Planned Insurgency
The examples of previous U.S. traps that I gave in the Feb. 4 piece were the U.S. telling Saddam Hussein in 1990 that it would not interfere in its dispute with Kuwait, opening the trap to Iraq’s invasion, allowing the U.S. to destroy Baghdad’s military. The second example is most relevant.
In a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted that the C.I.A. set a trap four decades ago for Moscow by arming mujahiddin to fight the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan and bring down the Soviet government, much as the U.S. wants today to bring down Putin. He said:
“According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the mujahideen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
He then explained that the reason for the trap was to bring down the Soviet Union. Brzezinski said:
“That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.’ Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime, a conflict that bought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”
Brzezinski said he had no regrets that financing the mujahideen spawned terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?,” he asked. The U.S. today is likewise gambling with the world economy and further instability in Europe with its tolerance of neo-Nazism in Ukraine.
In his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Brzezinski wrote:
“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state.”
Thus U.S. “primacy,” or world dominance, which still drives Washington, is not possible without control of Eurasia, as Brzezinski argued, and that’s not possible without control of Ukraine by pushing Russia out (U.S. takeover of Ukraine in the 2014 coup) and controlling the governments in Moscow and Beijing. What Brzezinski and U.S. leaders still view as Russia’s “imperial ambitions” are in Moscow seen as imperative defensive measures against an aggressive West.
Without the Russian invasion the second trap the U.S. is planning would not be possible: an insurgency meant to bog Russia down and give it its “Vietnam.” Europe and the U.S. are flooding more arms into Ukraine, and Kiev has called for volunteer fighters. The way jihadists flocked to Afghanistan, white supremacists from around Europe are traveling to Ukraine to become insurgents.
Just as the Afghanistan insurgency helped bring down the Soviet Union, the insurgency is meant to topple Putin’s Russia.
An article in Foreign Affairs entitled “The Coming Ukrainian Insurgency” was published Feb. 25, just one day after Russia’s intervention, indicating advanced planning that was dependent on an invasion. The article had to be written and edited before Russia crossed into Ukraine and was published as soon as it did. It said:
“If Russia limits its offensive to the east and south of Ukraine, a sovereign Ukrainian government will not stop fighting. It will enjoy reliable military and economic support from abroad and the backing of a united population. But if Russia pushes on to occupy much of the country and install a Kremlin-appointed puppet regime in Kyiv, a more protracted and thorny conflagration will begin. Putin will face a long, bloody insurgency that could spread across multiple borders, perhaps even reaching into Belarus to challenge Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Putin’s stalwart ally. Widening unrest could destabilize other countries in Russia’s orbit, such as Kazakhstan, and even spill into Russia itself. When conflicts begin, unpredictable and unimaginable outcomes can become all too real. Putin may not be prepared for the insurgency—or insurgencies—to come.
Many a great power has waged war against a weaker one, only to get bogged down as a result of its failure to have a well-considered end game. This lack of foresight has been especially palpable in troubled occupations. It was one thing for the United States to invade Vietnam in 1965, Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003; likewise for the Soviet Union to enter Afghanistan in 1979. It was an altogether more difficult task to persevere in those countries in the face of stubborn insurgencies. … As the United States learned in Vietnam and Afghanistan, an insurgency that has reliable supply lines, ample reserves of fighters, and sanctuary over the border can sustain itself indefinitely, sap an occupying army’s will to fight, and exhaust political support for the occupation at home.'”
As far back as Jan. 14, Yahoo! News reported:
“The CIA is overseeing a secret intensive training program in the U.S. for elite Ukrainian special operations forces and other intelligence personnel, according to five former intelligence and national security officials familiar with the initiative. The program, which started in 2015, is based at an undisclosed facility in the Southern U.S., according to some of those officials.
The CIA-trained forces could soon play a critical role on Ukraine’s eastern border, where Russian troops have massed in what many fear is preparation for an invasion. …
The program has involved ‘very specific training on skills that would enhance’ the Ukrainians’ ‘ability to push back against the Russians,’ said the former senior intelligence official.
The training, which has included ‘tactical stuff,’ is “going to start looking pretty offensive if Russians invade Ukraine,’ said the former official.
One person familiar with the program put it more bluntly. ‘The United States is training an insurgency,’ said a former CIA official, adding that the program has taught the Ukrainians how ‘to kill Russians.’”
In his Warsaw speech, Biden tipped his hand about an insurgency to come. He said nothing about peace talks. Instead he said: “In this battle, we need to be clear-eyed. This battle will not be won in days or months either. We need to steel ourselves of a long fight ahead.”
Hillary Clinton laid it all out on Feb. 28, just four days into Russia’s operation. She brought up the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, saying “it didn’t end well for Russia” and that in Ukraine “this is the model that people are looking at … that can stymie Russia.”
"Remember, the Russians invaded Afghanistan back in 1980," Hillary Clinton says. "It didn't end well for the Russians…but the fact is, that a very motivated, and then funded, and armed insurgency basically drove the Russians out of Afghanistan." pic.twitter.com/iirtXI4vz4
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 1, 2022
What neither Maddow nor Clinton mentioned when discussing volunteers going to fight for Ukraine is what The New York Times reported on Feb. 25, a day after the invasion, and before their interview: “Far-right militias in Europe plan to confront Russian forces.”
The Economic War
Along with the quagmire, are the raft of profound economic sanctions on Russia designed to collapse its economy and drive Putin from power.
These are the harshest sanctions the U.S. and Europe have ever imposed on any nation. Sanctions against Russia’s Central Bank sanctions are the most serious, as they were intended to destroy the value of the ruble. One U.S. dollar was worth 85 rubles on Feb. 24, the day of the invasion and soared to 154 per dollar on March 7. However the Russian currency strengthened to 101 on Friday.
Putin and other Russian leaders were personally sanctioned, as were Russia’s largest banks. Most Russian transactions are no longer allowed to be settled through the SWIFT international payment system. The German-Russia Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was closed down and become bankrupt.
The U.S. blocked imports of Russian oil, which was about 5 percent of U.S. supply. BP and Shell pulled out of Russian partnerships. European and U.S. airspace for Russian commercial liners was closed. Europe, which depends on Russia gas, is still importing it, and is so far rebuffing U.S. pressure to stop buying Russian oil.
A raft of voluntary sanctions followed: PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and McDonalds have been shut down in Russia. Coca-cola will stop sales to the country. U.S. news organizations have left, Russian artists in the West have been fired and even Russian cats are banned.
It also gave an opportunity for U.S. cable providers to get RT America shut down. Other Russia media has been de-platformed and Russian government websites hacked. A Yale University professor has drawn up a list to shame U.S. companies that are still operating in Russia.
Russian exports of wheat and fertilizer have been banned, driving up the price of food in the West. Biden admitted as much on Thursday:
“With regard to food shortage … it’s going to be real. The price of these sanctions is not just imposed upon Russia, it’s imposed upon an awful lot of countries as well, including European countries and our country as well. And — because both Russia and Ukraine have been the breadbasket of Europe in terms of wheat, for example — just to give you one example.”
The aim is clear: “asphyxiating Russia’s economy”, as French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian put it, even if it damages the West.
"We are going to wage a total economic and financial war on Russia" declared Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of the Economy and Finance today.
"We will therefore cause the collapse of the Russian economy" until "Putin returns to better intentions in Ukraine" https://t.co/IWuGeZRSWX
— Aki Heikkinen (@akihheikkinen) March 1, 2022
The question is whether Russia can extricate itself from the U.S. strategy of insurgency and economic war.
To be continued: How Russia Can Escape the US Traps.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe