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Over Easy: Some Context for MH17

NATO History map

The Ukraine crisis is intimately linked to the history of NATO.

The downing of MH17 is much more important than the any other aviation tragedy in recent history. We all feel compassion for the people on the plane and their surviving friends and relatives. That’s a normal human response. But if we look at the context surrounding the crash, it becomes clear that MH17 is a hugely important geopolitical event with potentially catastrophic ramifications. The 298 civilian deaths over the breakaway republics of Ukraine must be seen as a casualty of the proxy war between Russia and the West fought over the expansion of NATO into former Soviet territory.

As a condition of USSR agreeing to the reunification of its communist satellite East Germany with West Germany after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia was assured that NATO would not expand to the east of its position held at that time. That promise was broken by Clinton, and NATO has steadily moved toward Moscow and into many of the states lining the borders of the former USSR.

In spite of the diplomatic breach, Russia’s response to NATO encroachment was initially weak. Russia had more pressing economic and social problems during the 1990’s than fighting NATO expansion, and Boris Yeltsin was compliant in what seemed like a US plan to incorporate Russia into the fold of the “international community” as a junior partner.

Putin has been less accommodating. By 2008, US backed and funded forces destabilized Georgia, and Russia was forced into a brief land war to retain what territory it could while NATO overtook an area near and dear to the Russian identity. It was a step too far for Russia to continue to ignore. Then came Ukraine.

Kiev is funded, trained, and by all rational perceptions wholly politically supported by the US. It will invite NATO into the the land some believe is the cradle of Russian civilization. Novorussians, the Ethnic Russians populating the newly established republics of the East, are either fleeing in droves to become refugees inside Russia or they remain in their homes to be bombed relentlessly by Ukrainian jets. These are civilians, women and children, just like the ones on the Malaysian plane, yet Kiev calls them terrorists.

The Novorussians are supported and funded by Russia, as surely you have heard from western media. This is no surprise (although Russia officially denies it). Russia has a legitimate interest in the outcome of war between Kiev and the breakaway regions. At this point, Russia wants secure borders with a nation that does not host NATO’s nuclear arsenal pointed at Moscow.

So, from the Russian perspective, the war on its border is one deliberately created by the US/NATO for the explicit purpose of moving military within striking distance of Moscow, ready to destroy the country NATO was created to fight. Rather than acknowledge its own role in the conflict, the US has consistently blamed Moscow for interfering in Ukraine as if Moscow had no interest there beyond imperial control. Each and every violent event has been pinned on Russia, while many have been done with American approval if not outright complicity. Additionally, the US has inflicted sanctions on Moscow for pursuing its legitimate interests in Ukraine.

So, when you read in the NYT that Russia is responsible for shooting down the airliner, remember Judy Miller. When CNN reports evidence of pro-Russian rebels firing Buk missiles, think of mobile weapons labs in Iraq. When Ambassador Pyatt tweets satellite images of missiles firing from Russia, remember Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN on WMD, yellowcake in Niger, and the hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq that resulted. Then ask yourself why the US is escalating a dangerous situation in Ukraine and what a war with Russia might ultimately mean.

Off topic is welcome and lurkers and newbies are too. Sorry about the lack of links for reference — I need a few hours added to the day to be functional. See you in the comments.

Image from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.

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