As we hydroplane toward the brink of nuclear armageddon while Bono and the Edge play U2 songs in Kyiv, it’s probably worth taking a moment to highlight the fact that this entire war could have been avoided if the US had simply pledged military protection for Zelensky against the far right extremists who were threatening to lynch him if he enacted the peacemaking policies he was elected to enact.
To be clear, what we are indulging in here is entirely an act of fantasy. In imagining what would have happened if the US had pledged to protect the Ukrainian government from an undemocratic violent overthrow at the hands of fascists instead of waging a horrific proxy war, we are imagining a world in which the US government acts in the highest interest of all instead of working continuously to dominate the planet no matter how much madness and cruelty it needs to inflict upon humanity. A world in which the US hadn’t been taking steps toward the orchestration of this proxy war for many years.
With that out of the way, it’s just a simple fact that for a fraction of the military firepower the US is pouring into Ukraine right now, it could have prevented the entire war by simply protecting Ukrainian democracy from the undemocratic impulses of the worst people in that country.
When he was asked by The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel last month what he thinks is preventing Kyiv from signing a peace agreement with Russia, John Mearsheimer, whose analysis of this conflict has been prophetic for many years, replied as follows:
I think that when Zelensky ran for president he made it very clear that he wanted to work out an arrangement with Russia that ended the crisis in Ukraine, and he won. And what he then tried to do was move toward implementing the Minsk II agreement. If you were going to shut down the conflict in Ukraine, you had to implement Minsk II. And Minsk II meant giving the Russian-speaking and the ethnic Russian population in the easternmost part of Ukraine, the Donbas region, a significant amount of autonomy, and you had to make the Russian language an official language of Ukraine.
I think Zelensky found out very quickly that because of the Ukrainian right, it was impossible to implement Minsk II. Therefore even though the French and the Germans, and of course the Russians were very interested in making Minsk II work, because they wanted to shut down the crisis, they couldn’t do it. In other words, the Ukrainian right was able to stymie Zelensky on that front.
When Mearsheimer says that the Ukrainian right was able to stymie Zelensky, he doesn’t mean by votes or by democratic processes, he means by threats and violence. In an article last month titled “Siding with Ukraine’s far-right, US sabotaged Zelensky’s mandate for peace,” journalist Aaron Maté wrote the following:
In April 2019, Zelensky was elected with an overwhelming 73% of the vote on a promise to turn the tide. In his inaugural address the next month, Zelensky declared that he was “not afraid to lose my own popularity, my ratings,” and was “prepared to give up my own position – as long as peace arrives.”
But Ukraine’s powerful far-right and neo-Nazi militias made clear to Zelensky that reaching peace in the Donbas would have a much higher cost.
“No, he would lose his life,” Right Sector co-founder Dmytro Anatoliyovych Yarosh, then the commander of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, responded one week after Zelensky’s inaugural speech. “He will hang on some tree on Khreshchatyk – if he betrays Ukraine and those people who died in the Revolution and the War.”