Jerusalem and Kiev

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By BERNARD HORSTMANN*

There is only one country in the world that can guarantee peace in Ukraine and the security of its borders. And that country is Russia

A major issue for Ukraine since becoming an independent state was who or what could guarantee its security. In the early years after 1991, the Ukrainian government believed it could protect itself. The country had inherited some Soviet nuclear weapons and tried to make them operational. But it couldn't bypass the safety locks that Russian engineers had built into the nuclear warheads.

On the other hand, the United States also pressured to get rid of those devices, since Ukraine at the time was already prolific in selling its Soviet weapons to the most varied obscure actors around the world. Ukraine, along with Belarus and Kazakhstan, was pressured to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In return, in 1994, it obtained a feeble promise of non-interference, through the Budapest Memorandum on Security Guarantees: “The memorandums, signed in Patria Hall at the Budapest Convention Center, attended by US Ambassador Donald M. Blinken, among others, prohibited the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States from threatening or using military force or economic coercion against Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, 'except in self-defence or as otherwise prescribed by the Charter of the United Nations'. As a result of other agreements and the Memorandum, between 1993 and 1996 Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons”.

Two side notes about the above excerpt are worth mentioning here: (i) Ambassador Donald M. Blinken is the father of the current Secretary of State Anthony Blinken; (ii) formally, Russia did not break the Budapest Memorandum in its current military campaign against Ukraine: first, it recognized the Republics of Lugansk and Donietsk as independent states, signed security agreements with them, and only then did it openly participate of military actions that were already underway on Ukrainian territory since 2014, under Article 51 (common self-defense) of the United Nations Charter. Legal scholars will debate this situation for years, but the case is not unlike the argument NATO used to justify the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia.

After the Budapest Memorandum was signed, the Soviet nuclear weapons that Ukraine and the other two treaty nations still possessed were shipped to Russia.

By the middle of the first decade of this century, Russia had largely recovered from the shocks that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, Ukraine had sunk further. The population had dwindled dramatically, its industries had failed, and widespread corruption had devoured what was left of the country's wealth. His own army, theoretically still well armed, was no longer capable of defending the territory, which at the time was not bad, since no one was really interested in threatening him.

However, NATO, breaking the promises it had made to Russia, expanded towards the Ukrainian borders. Again in Budapest, but now in 2008, the United States took advantage of a NATO summit to pressure other countries in the alliance to offer Ukraine an Action Plan for Membership. However, no date has been set for the realization of this promise.

In 2013, the European Union pressured Ukraine to sign a free trade agreement with it. Russia, which was Ukraine's biggest trading partner, made a counterproposal that was financially more interesting and politically less restrictive. Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych then rejected the European Union agreement. The United States, along with the German secret service BND, had longstanding ties to far-right groups in western Ukraine; heirs of the former local cooperation with the occupying military forces of Nazi Germany. The CIA reactivated these groups and instigated a violent color revolution in Kiev in 2014.

The coup d'état that took place led to a civil war, as the vast majority of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine rejected the new regime, installed by a political minority on the other side of the country. Thus, even though those former had lost control over most of their traditional territories, they would soon defeat what was left of the Ukrainian army. And they did it twice in a row.

Since 2015 the conflict remained only latent. The Minsk agreements were signed, by which Ukraine should be federalized, but the new regime actually prevented its implementation. Meanwhile, the United States and Great Britain used this time to restore and refit the Ukrainian army.

In 2021, Ukraine was ready to attack the People's Republics of Lugansk and Donietsk. Russia mobilized its army and warned that it was obliged to interfere in such plans. The Ukrainian attack, already imminent, was called off. In early 2022, however, the United States gave the Ukrainian regime the green light to operate as it had planned. Russia anticipated, and the current war began.[1]

US plans behind the war assumed that the ensuing pre-coordinated Western economic sanctions would ruin Russia, that that country would become a pariah in the world, and that a military defeat of the Russian army would lead to regime change in Moscow. . The Ukrainian regime, for its part, hoped that, after winning the war against its internal separatists, it would immediately become a member of NATO. Completely unrealistic, both expectations were dashed.

Ukraine is now very obviously being beaten. It could soon sign a capitulation, as the first step towards a ceasefire with Russia. The question, however, is: who or what could serve as a guarantor for such an agreement?

NATO membership is no longer an option. On 11 July, the North Atlantic Council summit in Vilnius declared that Ukraine would not have to follow the formal Membership Action Plan. But then the Council replaced the formal conditions of that Plan with a much more vague wording: "We will be in a position to invite Ukraine to join the Alliance when the allies agree and the conditions are met." The NATO Secretary General was even more explicit: “unless Ukraine wins this war, there is no accession to be discussed”. In practice, there will be no NATO membership and no NATO security guarantees for Ukraine, now or ever.

A direct total security guarantee, from Washington to Kiev, is also impossible. It would make the likelihood of a direct war between the United States and Russia very high, which would soon escalate into a nuclear conflict. The United States seems unwilling to risk that.

Thus, during the preparations for the Vilnius summit, when it became clear that the allies would not accept Ukraine's membership, US President Joe Biden sketched an alternative: “the United States is willing to offer Kiev a kind of security agreement along the lines of the one currently offered to Israel, instead of joining NATO – President Joe Biden told the CNN in an interview on July 7. "I don't think [she] is ready to join NATO," Joe Biden said of Ukraine. 'I don't think there is unanimity in NATO on whether or not to bring Ukraine into her family now, in the middle of a war. And one of the things I suggested is that the United States would be ready to provide, while the process is ongoing (and this will take a while) security like the one we offer Israel: provide the weapons they need and the ability to defend themselves. ’ – said Joe Biden, adding: ‘If there is a deal, if there is a ceasefire, if there is a peace deal.

This, however, is even more unrealistic than NATO membership. As Geoffrey Aronson cogently argued in the magazine National Interest: “The pertinence of the Israeli model suggested by Biden for the security of Ukraine is deeply compromised, both in conceptual terms and in practical terms. (...) Operationally, the Israeli model is not applicable to the situation in which Ukraine finds itself and would hardly be a good model on which to build the desired security relationship between the United States, NATO and Ukraine. Conceptually, there isn't much more than a superficial comparison between Jerusalem and Kiev for such a concept to be viable."

“(…) The security ties between the United States and Israel were born from three fundamentals: (a) the extension of the Cold War to the Middle East; (b) Israel's overwhelming victory in June 1967; and (c) Israel's surreptitious development of nuclear weaponry from the 1950s onwards. It is almost impossible for Ukraine to be able to emerge from its war with Russia with the kind of total victory that provided the basis for the ties. between the United States and Israel after June 1967”.

“(…) Thus, there may well be those in Ukraine (but hopefully not in Washington) who see Israel's model as suggestive: that of creating the alternative of an ambiguous nuclear endowment coupled with continued supply of conventional weapons by from Washington. (...) But even here reality intrudes. The US bargain with Israel is explicitly aimed at securing Israel's superiority in conventional weapons against any association of Arab/Iranian enemies. To that end, the US fiscal 2020 budget allocated $146 billion in military, economic, and missile defense funding to Israel (2018 was $236 billion).”

“(…) In the first year of the current war, Ukraine received 77 billion dollars from Washington, corresponding to half of the military, economic and humanitarian assistance provided. At best, US military support at the current level has given Kiev a military stalemate. Ukraine, outside (most likely) or inside NATO, will never enjoy a consistent military advantage over Moscow, Israeli style, nor will it be able to command the strategic or security agenda in the region, as Israel does in the Middle East”.

Russian military power makes any attempt to guarantee security for Ukraine, allegedly similar to that offered to Israel, something excessively expensive for the United States and, therefore, simply impossible.

There is only one country in the world that can guarantee peace in Ukraine and the security of its borders. And that country is Russia. Any guarantee that the latter country may offer will obviously be conditional. Either Ukraine accepts this or it will never be safe from outside interference. This is simply a fact of life, which Ukraine has had and will have to live with.

*Bernhard Horstmann is editor of the independent North American media Moon of Alabama.

Translation: Ricardo Cavalcanti-Schiel.

Originally published in Moon of Alabama.

Translator's Note


[1] Today, among geopolitical analysts, the interpretation that NATO's interest (especially that of the United States and Great Britain) in the military advance of the Kiev regime focused on the military control of the Black Sea (and the subsequent blockade of the Chinese economic/geopolitical program “Belt and Road” ‒ or Belt and Road Initiative ‒ BRI), through the territorial domination of Crimea, with the displacement of the Russian military base in Sevastopol.

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