The Russian invasion of Ukraine with its horrific atrocities and massive refugee crisis has turned the world upside down. The war will have a huge impact on global food security as both countries are major exporters of wheat, barley and other grains. As usual, the media provide very little context and background. We are told ad nauseum that the Russian invasion was unprovoked. A careful look at history reveals a slightly more nuanced picture. To explain is not to excuse Moscow’s criminal attack. Meanwhile, as two-time legendary Medal of Honor winner Marine Corps General Smedley Butler reminds us, “War is a racket.” U.S. weapons corporations are lining up to feed at the trough. Before the war is over many Ukrainians and Russians will die while Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman will make money hand over fist. Interview by David Barsamian
The February 24th Russian invasion of Ukraine has rattled the world and has unleashed misery, death and destruction. What prompted Moscow's attack? From their perspective, the expansion of NATO, a U.S.-led military alliance, up to Russia’s borders threatens their national security interests. It went against assurances given by Washington that that would not happen. Years ago, George Kennan, the much venerated State Department diplomat warned against NATO expansion. With great foresight he said, it “would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era. Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”
Winston Churchill once observed, the further back you go, the farther forward you can see. We know little of Russia and its history beyond bears, Siberian winters, the Kremlin and Doctor Zhivago. The United States emerged victorious at end of the Cold War. An era of cooperation was to be ushered in. What should have been an opportunity to create a structure for peace and stability did not happen. Instead of an inclusive security system the U.S.-led NATO military alliance expanded to the east. Hardliners in Washington goaded by the military-industrial complex, seeking more profits from weapons sales, have vilified and demonized Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. The media followed in lock step. A reheated Cold War with a new arms race and the catastrophic dangers of hot war are the last things that humanity and the planet need. Interview by David Barsamian.
Katrina vanden Heuvel is the editorial director and publisher of The Nation magazine. She writes a weekly column for The Washington Post. She has edited or co-edited such books as The Change I Believe In and Voices of Glasnost: Interviews with Gorbachev’s Reformers.
Ray McGovern is a former Central Intelligence Agency officer. He was a CIA analyst from 1963 to 1990. In the 1980s he chaired National Intelligence Estimates and prepared The President’s Daily Brief. Today, he is active in the peace and justice movement and works for Tell the Word, a ministry of the inner-city Washington D.C. Church of the Saviour.
Stephen Cohen, regarded as one of the foremost experts on Russia, was professor emeritus of Russian studies, history, and politics at NYU and Princeton. He was a Nation contributing editor and author of many books including The Victims Return, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives and War with Russia? He died in 2020.