In NATO, Russia, Ukraine, USA
May 18, 2015: Remains of an Eastern Orthodox church after shelling by the Ukrainian Army near Donetsk International Airport. Eastern Ukraine. (Mstyslav Chernov. CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Remains of an Eastern Orthodox church after shelling near Donetsk International Airport. Eastern Ukraine, 18 May 2015

By Joe Lauria.  Originally published by Consortium News, June 30, 2023.

The way to prevent understanding of the Ukraine war is to suppress its history.

A cartoon version says the conflict began in February 2022 when Vladimir Putin woke up one morning and decided to invade Ukraine.

There was no other cause, according to this version, other than unprovoked, Russian aggression against an innocent country.

Please use this short, historical guide to share with people who still flip through the funny pages trying to figure out what’s going on in Ukraine. The mainstream account is like opening a novel in the middle of the book to read a random chapter as though it’s the beginning of the story.

Thirty years from now historians will write of the context of the Ukraine war: the coup, the attack on Donbass, NATO expansion, rejection of Russian treaty proposals — without being called Putin puppets. It will be the same way historians write of the Versailles Treaty as a cause of Nazism and WWII, but aren’t called Nazi-sympathizers.

Providing context is taboo while the war continues in Ukraine, as it would have been during WWII. Journalists have to get with the program of war propaganda while the war continues. Long after the war, historians are free to sift through the facts.

Journalists are clearly not afforded the same liberties as historians.


World War II
— Ukrainian national fascists, led by Stepan Bandera, at first allied with the German Nazis, massacre more than a hundred thousands Jews and Poles.

1950s to 1990 – C.I.A. brought Ukrainian fascists to the U.S. and worked with them to undermine the Soviet Union in Ukraine, running sabotage and propaganda operations. Ukrainian fascist leader Mykola Lebed was taken to New York where he worked with the C.I.A. through at least the 1960s and was still useful to the C.I.A. until 1991, the year of Ukraine’s independence. The evidence is in a U.S. government report starting from page 82. Ukraine has thus been a staging ground for the U.S. to weaken and threaten Moscow for nearly 80 years.

November 1990: A year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Charter of Paris for a New Europe (also known as the Paris Charter) is adopted by the U.S., Europe and the Soviet Union. The charter is based on the Helsinki Accords and is updated in the 1999 Charter for European Security. These documents are the foundation of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The OSCE charter says no country or bloc can preserve its own security at another country’s expense.

Dec. 25, 1991
: Soviet Union collapses. Wall Street and Washington carpetbaggers move in during ensuing decade to asset-strip the country of formerly state-owned properties, enrich themselves, help give rise to oligarchs, and impoverish the Russian, Ukrainian and other former Soviet peoples.

1990s: U.S. reneges on promise to last Soviet leader Gorbachev not to expand NATO to Eastern Europe in exchange for a unified Germany. George Kennan, the leading U.S. government expert on the U.S.S.R., opposes expansion. Sen. Joe Biden, who supports NATO enlargement, predicts Russia will react hostilely to it.

1997: Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. national security adviser, in his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, writes:

“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state.”

New Year’s Eve 1999: After eight years of U.S. and Wall Street dominance, Vladimir Putin becomes president of Russia. Bill Clinton rebuffs him in 2000 when he asks to join NATO.

Putin begins closing the door on Western interlopers, restoring Russian sovereignty, ultimately angering Washington and Wall Street. This process does not occur in Ukraine, which remains subject to Western exploitation and impoverishment of Ukrainian people.

Feb. 10, 2007: Putin gives his Munich Security Conference speech in which he condemns U.S. aggressive unilateralism, including its illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq and its NATO expansion eastward.

He said:

“We have the right to ask: against whom is this [NATO] expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them.”

Putin speaks three years after the Baltic States, former Soviet republics bordering on Russia, joined the Western Alliance. The West humiliates Putin and Russia by ignoring its legitimate concerns. A year after his speech, NATO says Ukraine and Georgia will become members. Four other former Warsaw Pact states join in 2009.

2004-5: Orange Revolution. Election results are overturned giving the presidency in a run-off to U.S.-aligned Viktor Yuschenko over Viktor Yanukovich. Yuschenko makes fascist leader Bandera a “hero of Ukraine.”

April 3, 2008: At a NATO conference in Bucharest, a summit declaration “welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO”. Russia harshly objects. William Burns, then U.S. ambassador to Russia, and presently C.I.A. director, warns in a cable to Washington, revealed by WikiLeaks, that,

“Foreign Minister Lavrov and other senior officials have reiterated strong opposition, stressing that Russia would view further eastward expansion as a potential military threat. NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine, remains ‘an emotional and neuralgic’ issue for Russia, but strategic policy considerations also underlie strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene. … Lavrov stressed that Russia had to view continued eastward expansion of NATO, particularly to Ukraine and Georgia, as a potential military threat.”

A crisis in Georgia erupts four months later leading to a brief war with Russia, which the European Union blames on provocation from Georgia.

November 2009: Russia seeks new security arrangement in Europe. Moscow releases a draft of a proposal for a new European security architecture that the Kremlin says should replace outdated institutions such as NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The text, posted on the Kremlin’s website on Nov. 29, comes more than a year after President Dmitry Medvedev first formally raised the issue. Speaking in Berlin in June 2008, Medvedev said the new pact was necessary to finally update Cold War-era arrangements.

“I’m convinced that Europe’s problems won’t be solved until its unity is established, an organic wholeness of all its integral parts, including Russia,” Medvedev said.

2010: Viktor Yanukovich is elected president of Ukraine in a free and fair election, according to the OSCE.

2013: Yanukovich chooses an economic package from Russia rather than an association agreement with the EU. This threatens Western exploiters in Ukraine and Ukrainian comprador political leaders and oligarchs.

February 2014
: Yanukovich is overthrown in a violent, U.S.-backed coup (presaged by the Nuland-Pyatt intercept), with Ukrainian fascist groups, like Right Sector, playing a lead role. Ukrainian fascists parade through cities in torch-lit parades with portraits of Bandera.

Protesters clash with police in Kiev, Ukraine, February 2014. (Wikimedia Commons)

Protesters clash with police in Kiev, Ukraine, February 2014. (Wikimedia Commons)

March 16, 2014: In a rejection of the coup and the unconstitutional installation of an anti-Russian government in Kiev, Crimeans vote by 97 percent to join Russia in a referendum with 89 percent turn out. The Wagner private military organization is created to support Crimea. Virtually no shots are fired and no one was killed in what Western media wrongly portrays as a “Russian invasion of Crimea.”

April 12, 2014: Coup government in Kiev launches war against anti-coup, pro-democracy separatists in Donbass. Openly neo-Nazi Azov Battalion plays a key role in the fighting for Kiev. Wagner forces arrive to support Donbass militias. U.S. again exaggerates this as a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine. “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text,” says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who voted as a senator in favor of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 on a completely trumped up pre-text.

May 2, 2014: Dozens of ethnic Russian protestors are burnt alive in a building in Odessa by neo-Nazi thugs. Five days later, Luhansk and Donetsk declare independence and vote to leave Ukraine.

Sept. 5, 2014: First Minsk agreement is signed in Minsk, Belarus by Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE, and the leaders of the breakaway Donbass republics, with mediation by Germany and France in a Normandy Format. It fails to resolve the conflict.

Feb. 12, 2015: Minsk II is signed in Belarus, which would end the fighting and grant the republics autonomy while they remain part of Ukraine. The accord was unanimously endorsed by the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 15. In December 2022 former German Chancellor Angela Merkel admits West never had intention of pushing for Minsk implementation and essentially used it as a ruse to give time for NATO to arm and train the Ukraine armed forces.

2016: The hoax known as Russiagate grips the Democratic Party and its allied media in the United States, in which it is falsely alleged that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to get Donald Trump elected. The phony scandal serves to further demonize Russia in the U.S. and raise tensions between the nuclear-armed powers, conditioning the public for war against Russia.

May 12, 2016: U.S. activates missile system in Romania, angering Russia. U.S. claims it is purely defensive, but Moscow says the system could also be used offensively and would cut the time to deliver a strike on the Russian capital to within 10 to 12 minutes.

June 6, 2016: Symbolically on the anniversary of the Normandy invasion, NATO launches aggressive exercises against Russia. It begins war games with 31,000 troops near Russia’s borders, the largest exercise in Eastern Europe since the Cold War ended. For the first time in 75 years, German troops retrace the steps of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union across Poland.

German Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier objects. “What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmongering,” Steinmeier stunningly tells Bild am Sontag newspaper. “Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken.”

Instead Steinmeier calls for dialogue with Moscow. “We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation,” he warns, adding it would be “fatal to search only for military solutions and a policy of deterrence.”

December 2021: Russia offers draft treaty proposals to the United States and NATO proposing a new security architecture in Europe, reviving the failed Russian attempt to do so in 2009. The treaties propose the removal of the Romanian missile system and the withdrawal of NATO troop deployments from Eastern Europe. Russia says there will be a “technical-military” response if there are not serious negotiations on the treaties. The U.S. and NATO reject them essentially out of hand.

February 2022
: Russia begins its military intervention into Donbass in the still ongoing Ukrainian civil war after first recognizing the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Before the intervention, OSCE maps show a significant uptick of shelling from Ukraine into the separatist republics, where more than 10,000 people have been killed since 2014.

Ukrainian troops in the Donbass region, March 2015. (OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Ukrainian troops in the Donbass region, March 2015. (OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

March-April 2022: Russia and Ukraine agree on a framework agreement that would end the war, including Ukraine pledging not to join NATO. The U.S. and U.K. object. Prime Minister Boris Johnson flies to Kiev to tell Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to stop negotiating with Russia. The war continues with Russia seizing much of the Donbass.

March 26, 2022: Biden admits in a speech in Warsaw that the U.S. is seeking through its proxy war against Russia to overthrow the Putin government.

September 2022: Donbass republics vote to join Russian Federation, as well as two other regions: Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

May 2023: Ukraine begins counter-offensive to try to take back territory controlled by Russia. As seen in leaked documents earlier in the year, U.S. intelligence concludes the offensive will fail before it begins.

June 2023: A 36-hour rebellion by the Wagner group fails, when its leader Yevegny Prigoshzin takes a deal to go into exile in Belarus. The Wagner private army, which was funded and armed by the Russian Ministry of Defense, is absorbed into the Russian army.

The timeline clearly shows the aggressive Western intent towards Russia, and how the tragedy could have been avoided if NATO would not allow Ukraine to join; if the Minsk accords had been implemented; and if the U.S. and NATO negotiated a new security arrangement in Europe, taking Russian security concerns into account.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He is the author of two books, A Political Odyssey, with Sen. Mike Gravel, foreword by Daniel Ellsberg; and How I Lost By Hillary Clinton, foreword by Julian Assange. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe


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