The conflict in Ukraine burst into the open in November 2013 with the announcement by the President, Yanukovych, that an economic agreement with the European Union would be canceled.
On February 21, the NY Times reported that extreme right-wing groups have formed much of the hard core of the armed fighting against the government. “They are heirs to a nationalist tradition that traces its roots to Stepan Bendera and the fanatical nationalists of western Ukraine who violently opposed their Polish and Soviet overlords in the 1930s, ‘40s and ’50s before finally being subdued.” Among the right-wing groups are military formations called “sotni” (hundreds), the Right Sector, and the Fatherland Party and Svoboda parties.
U.S. efforts to expand NATO and to exploit the bullying of Ukraine by Russia do not invalidate the right of Ukrainians to protest, or invalidate their grievances. Ukraine is reported to be the only post-Soviet economy that has actually shrunk since the 1991 collapse of the USSR. A manifesto of a Ukrainian left group states, “The average salary in Ukraine is 2 to 2.5 times lower than in Russia and Belarus, and much lower than in the EU.”
NATO expanded toward the former Soviet nation of Georgia, and Georgia fought a war with Russia in 2008. According to Wikipedia, “Georgia and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) relations officially began in 1994 when Georgia joined the NATO-run Partnership for Peace. Georgia has moved quickly following the Rose Revolution in 2003 to seek closer ties and eventual membership with NATO. Georgia’s powerful northern neighbor, Russia, has opposed the closer ties, including those expressed at the 2008 Bucharest summit where NATO members promised that Georgia would eventually join the organization.”
Maps of the region show that Ukraine is a next likely target for NATO expansion, given that NATO countries bordering Ukraine or nearby include Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Turkey; Georgia is in a process moving toward membership.
The only possible military target of NATO is Russia. The NATO treaty obliges member countries to side with other members against third parties said to have attacked member countries militarily.
NATO was founded in 1949 as a Cold War military alliance directed at the Soviet Union. Among its first new members was Greece, not a “North Atlantic” country, but a country in which British and U.S. military forces had recently intervened on the side of right-wing forces in a civil war pitting the right against leftists and unions.
The first invocation of the NATO treaty was in 2001, against Afghanistan, leading to the U.S.’s longest war and to the brutal occupation of that country. It is widely observed that NATO aggressively defends Western economic interests, such as those related to pipelines in Central Asia, against Russian and local interests.
The armed confrontations in Ukraine in part show the dangers posed by U.S. military hegemony in the world and an expanding NATO in Europe. Rather than end this Cold War military alliance when the Cold War ended, the U.S. moved to expand it so that it now stands near the borders of Russia and includes almost all the countries bordering Ukraine to the West. The U.S. and the European Union are working openly to divide Ukraine by forcing it to choose between Russian and European economic and political ties, with officials of NATO countries like Poland playing prominent roles.