zelensky poke bear russia ukraine political cartoon
© David Parkins/The Globe and Mail/2014
Over the last year the US and NATO countries have undertaken no effort to convince Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to begin talks with Putin, despite: the death of more than half a million Ukrainians; the destruction of much of Ukraine's economy, finances, physical infrastructure, human capital, civil society; and the West's inability to sustain financial and military support even as Ukraine loses the war when said support was at its height. The West's war strategy now seems to be to prolong a 'long war' in the hope either that the war begins to affect Russia and Putin's standing there or that Putin's health wanes and his system destabilizes. All this and much more written below raises suspicions the West intentionally, maybe even 'subconsciously' - the actions of small policy victories won in order to 'confront Putin' by competing elements within it, especially inside Washington - drew Russia into the NATO-Russia Ukrainian War. Aside from the background cause and main driver of this decision - NATO expansion - and more immediate precipitants of Putin's decision in mid- to late February 2022, what efforts, of any, did the West undertake perhaps intentionally to drive this decision?

If we look at the course of events in reverse chronological order it seems to me even more glaringly so that the West sought this war and indeed drew Russia into it intentionally with the the strategy of using the war to weaken Russia's economic and political stability. The strategic goal is the reinforcement of US hegemony and power maximalization by achieving two long-standing, interrelated sub-goals: (1) NATO expansion and (2) the removal from power of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Let's reverse engineer the course of events.

Moving back to the beginning of Russia's 'special military operation' (SMO), normal diplomatic practice should have prompted the West to consider and then pursue the possibility that Putin was engaging in coercive diplomacy in the last months prior to and first moths after initiating the SMO into Ukraine.
On the second day of the SMO a Russian delegation arrived in Gomel, Belarus to host a Ukrainian delegation for negotiations but the latter never arrived. Once the Ukrainians engaged in the Gomel process in March 2022 — which soon relocated to Istanbul, Turkey under the aegis of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the West initially was cold to the Russo-Ukrainian negotiations, ignoring them. As they neared success in late March, NATO countries began pouring weapons into Ukraine, and US President Joe Biden traveled to Poland, calling for Putin's removal from power. The West then directly blocked talks on a draft Russo-Ukrainan treaty based on a preliminary agreement and initialed by both sides in early April 2022.

After rejecting Moscow's December 2021 treaty proposals (see below) and during the runup to the war in January 2022, the West's political leaders and various intelligence agencies repeatedly warned of a Russian invasion while offering no diplomatic solution. There was a nearly daily drum beat of warnings of Putin's invasion being imminent, yet the West undertook no diplomatic outreach to Moscow, nor did it encourage Kiev to do so. It is as if the West was hoping to provoke Kiev into taking some action to spark Putin's invasion. Indeed, Zelenskiy repeatedly scoffed at the prospect of a Russian invasion but at the same time declared that Kiev was preparing to withdraw form the Budapest Memorandum, an agreement that secured Ukraine's relinquishing of Soviet nuclear weapons based on its territory and Kiev's commitment not to develop nuclear weapons. It was around this time, mid- to late February, that Putin decided to give the order to initiate the SMO.

In December 2021 Russia proposed to the West talks on the failed Minsk process for Ukraine as well as on a framework draft treaty for a new European security architecture. In December 2021 Russia proposed to the West talks on the failed Minsk process for Ukraine as well as on a framework draft treaty for a new European security architecture. On December 21st, Putin told an expanded meeting of his Defence Ministry's Board that it was
"extremely alarming that elements of the US global defence system are being deployed near Russia...If this infrastructure continues to move forward, and if US and NATO military systems are deployed in Ukraine, their flight time to Moscow will be only 7- 10 minutes, or even five minutes for hypersonic systems".
The Russian security proposals included a commitment by Russia and the US not to deploy ground-based missiles which were banned under the now-defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty "outside their national territories, as well as in areas of their national territories from which such weapons can attack targets in the national territory of the other Party". The West gave Putin's proposals scant, if any attention and then rejected them out of hand. This came on the background of war scares sounded in Western capitols rang by governments and media alike six months earlier in April when Russia was reported to have begun building up forces along its border with Ukraine. Given this concern, why not take up Putin's proposals more seriously or at least pretend to be doing so? The logical reaction to the April scare would be to step up diplomacy. Instead, Putin's proposals were virtually ignored; they were accepted for review and quickly rejected. And this was done precisely because Moscow's proposals required an end to NATO expansion.
© WikipediaFormer Ukrainian presidential adviser Aleksey Arestovich
In late 2022 then Ukrainian presidential advisor and unofficial spokesman Oleksiy Arestovich asserted that in December 2021 Kiev had been stealthily moving to the conflict zone, 'forward positioning' some 40-60,000 troops. Did this come from Western advice, and did Russian intelligence catch these deployments? Was this connected to Zelenskiy's provocative statement to Ukrainian intelligence services a month before Putin's SMO began: "We have learned to deter and counter external aggression quite effectively. I am convinced that the time has come to move to offensive actions to defend our national interests."?

On the eve of the war the West, in particular Washington, was issuing repeated warnings that Putin was planning to invade Ukraine, but the warnings were so hysterical and accompanied a deafening silence in US diplomacy, suggesting the goal was to provoke the green Zelenskiy into a misstep that Russia might use to justify an invasion. Indeed, soon Zelenskiy cooperated, perhaps falling for the trap, by announcing Kiev was going to abandon the Budapest memorandum which is the basis for Ukraine's non-nuclear status. Then throw into this combustible mix the exponential increase in firing across the contact line undertaken by Ukrainian forces first and Zelenskiy's threat to pursue nuclear capability.

Moreover, we now know that from 2015-2022 Kiev and its Western partners were feigning the Minsk negotiating process intended to resolve the internal driver of the war: the separatism of the breakaway Donbass regions of the Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) and Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) protected by Moscow after Kiev declared a de facto war on them in April 2014 without negotiating. Moreover, a series of Western and Ukrainian leaders, including former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have acknowledged that the entire Minsk 1 and 2 process was but a stalling tactic to buy time to build up the Ukrainian army in preparation for military operations to return Crimea and the re-subjugate the breakaway republics to the Ukrainian fold. For example, the processes chief Ukrainian negotiator Poroshenko himself acknowledged in a June interview to Radio Free Europe's Ukrainian language service and the German Deutsche Welle that the Minsk accords were intended to "delay the war" and "create powerful armed forces":
"Our goal was to, first, stop the threat, or at least to delay the war - to secure eight years to restore economic growth and create powerful armed forces."
This deception is an especially robust indicator that the West's goal was war with Russia rather than peace between Russia and Ukraine.

Throughout the period from 2014-2022, the US and NATO did nothing to forward the Minsk process, which was the only real exit path from the road leading to a NATO-Russia Ukrainian War. Volodomyr Zelenskiy's 2019 election to the presidency, despite campaign promises to pursue peace, led to an intensification of NATO-Ukrainian integration. In September 2020, Zelenskiy approved Ukraine's new National Security Strategy, which provided for further development of the distinctive partnership with NATO towards the goal of NATO membership. Thus, the US and NATO began integrating the Ukrainian military into NATO operably (interoperability) while supplying it with massive levels of weapons and training unprecedented for a NATO non-member. NATO calls 'interoperability' "the heart of the alliance". In June 2020, Ukraine joined NATO's Enhanced Opportunities Partner program to provide it with "enhanced access to interoperability programs and exercises, and more sharing of information, including lessons learned." Ukraine joined the mere five countries enjoying such status, four of which are near Russia: one of the 'Five Eyes countries, Australia, as well as Georgia, Sweden, Finland, and - in support of US operations supporting Israel and across the Middle East - Jordan.

In 2019, an amendment to Ukraine's Constitution entered into force stipulating membership in NATO as a strategic foreign and security policy objective, overturning the neutrality policy of the pre-Maidan regime Yanukovych government. This followed a June 2017 Ukrainian legislation reinstating NATO membership as a Ukrainian foreign and security policy goal. At the 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw, NATO included in the alliance's Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP) "to support Ukraine's ability to provide for its own security and to implement wide-ranging reforms based on NATO standards, Euro-Atlantic principles and best practices." Under CAP, NATO "helped Ukraine transform its security and defense sector for many years, providing strategic-level advice via the NATO Representation to Ukraine and practical support through a range of capacity-building programmes and initiatives.

Through these programmes and tailored advice, NATO has significantly strengthened the capacity and resilience of Ukraine's security and defence sector, as well as its ability to counter hybrid threats. NATO and Allies have also provided extensive support to capability development, including through training and education and the provision of equipment." Along with CAP, several Trust Funds were set up in 2014 "to support capability development and sustainable capacity-building in key areas," focusing on reorganizing and modernizing Ukraine's command, control, communications and computer or C4 capabilities; medical rehabilitation for servicemen and veterans; and professions development of civilians in the defense and security sectors . This was the first time in NATO history that such a program was extended to and such a level of integration with a country already at war. And again, NATO and its leading member-state, the US, did nothing to forward the Minsk process in order, as several NATO member states' leaders acknowledge now, to buy time to arm Ukraine for a war to take back Crimea and the breakaway regions by force.

Beyond training, development, and capacity-building in 'soft' areas such as communications and logistics, non-lethal hardware was supplied before the current war by the US and other NATO countries at not insubstantial levels. As one US official noted regarding the US's supplies alone, before Presidential Drawdown Authority — authority to draw from Defense Department stocks to provide directly to Ukraine — led to as much as $100 million in military equipment being sent to Ukraine annually


So, the question arises just how much the US and NATO tried to draw, provoke, incite Russia into war in Ukraine or at least made Kiev so robustly prepared for war that it made war inevitable - the late stage of the proverbial self-fulfilling prophecy about perceived (in this case, sans NATO expansion, misperceived) threats. Long before the Maidan putch, the US and NATO were on course for war in Ukraine by expanding NATO as some warned at the time. Continuing NATO expansion particularly to Ukraine would spark a NATO-Russia war. Throughout post-Cold war history and particularly in the 2004-2014 period, the US and NATO increased support for Ukraine's military and integrated it into NATO operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan. A 'high point' in this process was the 2008 NATO summit that promised that Ukraine and Georgia would become NATO members in future. From 2010 to 2014, as NATO's website notes, "Ukraine pursued a non-alignment policy, which it terminated in response to Russia's aggression".

The NATO statement naturally leaves out the Maidan revolt that overthrew the government conducting the neutrality policy that preceded 'Russia's aggression" and was nurtured by Western money and networks in Ukraine. In Western analyses, Western actions have no effect on Russian calculations about its own security. Meanwhile, the US and NATO took no steps to oppose the rising influence of ultranationalism, neofascism, and anti-Russian feeling in Ukraine beginning with the Orange Revolution. In this period the West tirelessly cultivated pro-NATO networks in Ukraine in order to amass pro-NATO, pro-EU sentiment and promote regime change or 'color revolution' in Ukraine on the Maidan 'revolution' in 2013-2014, but I and others have already made that point and exhaustively so [see Gordon M. Hahn, Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West and the 'New Cold War' (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland Books, 2018).
See also:
A final side note. All this has led to NATO and the US being combatants in a war against Russia, which threatens us with world war and nuclear conflagration. You doubt NATO is a combatant? Here is how a NATO official describes NATO involvement in organizing deep communications and targeting (!) for Ukraine down to the front unit level:
"(T)he way targeting has been achieved within Ukraine and the way that data has been provided down to almost the lowest tactical unit there for them to be able to call joint fires in is extraordinary. ... I think that the tempo that's been achieved to give those capabilities to do a sort of trial in the field, where the risk appetite is very high. I think many allies look on enviously how quickly that can be done in comparison to more traditional processes"
I detain you no further.
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, www.canalyt.com. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu