Ukraine risks becoming another Syria, and guess who that benefits?

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS — Here we go again. Yet another round of ramped-up rhetoric about how Russia is supposedly on the verge of invading Ukraine. Does it strike anyone else as just a bit too convenient an argument for flooding the area along the Russia-Ukraine border with weapons and troops?

Does Russia want some sense of control over what’s going on in Ukraine? Well, British foreign secretary, Liz Truss, claims to “have information that indicates the Russian government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine.” She lists former Ukrainian officials with whom “Russian intelligence services maintain links.”

The insinuation is that Moscow is planning to overthrow the actual president and install one of these guys — to which one of the candidates, Yevhen Murayev, replied by pointing out that, in reality, he’s under Russian sanctions — a fact that undermines London’s claims of him being a future Kremlin puppet. “All I can think is that the British Foreign Office was given misinformation by some elements in Ukraine, and they repeated it without proper checking,” Murayev told The Independent. “I also think that myself and some others are getting caught up in the geopolitical confrontation going on between the US, UK, NATO and Russia. I think we are getting caught in the middle.”

While the propaganda is being exaggerated, it isn’t a stretch to imagine that Russia would be concerned about a hostile neighbor with an open-door and open-fridge policy for Washington: the world’s most ardent practitioners of regime change. Moscow is seeking national security guarantees directly from the U.S., in much the same way that the U.S. under President Trump, for example, sought the same from neighboring Mexico under threat of crippling tariffs of up to 25 percent if it didn’t prevent undocumented migrants from attempting to cross into the U.S.

Moscow’s concerns are hardly unfounded, at least going back to the western-backed attempt to overthrow the Kyiv government in the winter of 2013 after then-president Viktor Yanukovych stalled on signing an association agreement with the European Union. That unrest left an opening for Moscow to swoop into neighboring Crimea (home to Russia’s long-standing leased Black Sea Port of Sevastopol) under the then-trendy United Nations’ Responsibility to Protect principle, evoked just two years earlier by NATO member states in Libya and ultimately used to overthrow leader Muammar Gaddafi.

So now, eight years later, the same western players are overtly moseying right up to the Russian border and bringing weapons and proxies with them. The CIA-backed Azov Battalion, whose covert training under the supervision of the Agency’s Ground Branch reportedly began as soon as the Ukraine unrest ended in 2014, is frequently described as a “Neo-Nazi Ukrainian National Guard unit.” Now integrated into the Ukrainian military, it represents the kind of proxies that Washington has historically embraced, going back to the jihadists who fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the Cold War, or more recently, the “Syrian rebels” backed by Pentagon and CIA funds to the tune of a billion dollars in a failed effort to oust President Bachar al-Assad.

Washington and its allies are well aware the closer they can get troops and weapons to the Russian border, with Moscow at a distance of just 490km (about 304 miles) away, the more low-intensity proxy conflicts or covert action it can dial up or down against Moscow – all under the guise of “protecting” the locals, despite subjecting them to endless war and instability.

It’s such a well-worn blueprint. Washington has just left Afghanistan in tatters after two decades of selling the locals a pipe dream while stoking endless conflict. And Syria is just now getting back on its feet after years of Washington-backed regime change efforts, which were ultimately stymied by Moscow.

Moscow’s request for guarantees that NATO troops and hardware won’t be placed against its border is being countered by the massively peddled narrative that Moscow could invade at any time. Why? Because it has amassed troops inside its own country. OK, and why would that be? Because of legitimate concerns about the proximity of foreign military buildup against its own border, backed by countries outside of the region known for employing regime-change tactics to get their way.

As Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin play a game of chicken against a backdrop of ongoing diplomacy, spare a thought for the poor people of Ukraine, whose country risks becoming the next Syria or Libya if this all pops off. Three guesses whom that would benefit most (hint: not Russia).