Ukraine, as I have often emphasized, is the epicenter of the new US-Russian Cold War, and its location directly on Russia’s border makes it much more dangerous than was Berlin during the preceding 40-year confrontation.
Some 13,000 people have reportedly already died in Donbass in fighting between forces backed by Washington and Moscow. For many on both sides of the border, the war is a personal tragedy due also to the at least tens of millions of inter-married Ukrainian-Russian families. (The names of some of them will be familiar to readers, such as Khrushchev and Gorbachev.)
But the struggle for peace has just begun, with powerful forces arrayed against it in Ukraine, Moscow, and Washington. In Ukraine, well-armed ultra-nationalist—some would say quasi-fascist—detachments are terrorizing supporters of Zelensky’s initiative, including a Kiev television station that proposed broadcasting a dialogue between Russian and Ukrainian citizens. (Washington has previously had some shameful episodes of collusion with these Ukrainian neo-Nazis.) As for Putin, who does not fully control the Donbass rebels or its leaders, he “can never be seen at home,” as I pointed outmore than two years ago, “as ‘selling out’ Russia’s ‘brethren’ anywhere in southeast Ukraine.” Indeed, his own implacable nationalists have made this a litmus test of his leadership.
Which brings us to Washington and in particular to President Donald Trump and his would-be opponent in 2020, former Vice President Joseph Biden. Kiev’s government, thus now Zelensky, is heavily dependent on billions of dollars of aid from the International Monetary Fund, which Washington largely controls. Former president Barack Obama and Biden, his “point man” for Ukraine, used this financial leverage to exercise semi-colonial influence over Poroshenko, generally making things worse, including the incipient Ukrainian civil war. Their hope was, of course, to sever Ukraine’s centuries-long ties to Russia and even bring it eventually into the US-led NATO sphere of influence.
Biden, however, has a special problem—and obligation. As an implementer, and presumably architect, of Obama’s disastrous policy in Ukraine, and currently the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Biden should be asked about his past and present thinking regarding Ukraine. The much-ballyhooed ongoing “debates” are an opportunity to ask the question—and of other candidates as well. Presidential debates are supposed to elicit and clarify the views of candidates on domestic and foreign policy. And among the latter, few, if any, are more important than Ukraine, which remains the epicenter of this new and more dangerous Cold War.