As the Defense Department explained earlier this week, in addition to two armed patrol boats, “the package also includes capabilities to enhance the lethality, command and control, and situational awareness of Ukraine’s forces through the provision of additional counter-artillery radars and tactical equipment; continued support for a satellite imagery and analysis capability; and equipment to support military medical treatment and combat evacuation procedures.”
The continued arming of the Ukrainian forces is of great concern for a few reasons. First, the government in Kiev is involved in a brutal war against Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the Donbass region of the country. So far, this war has cost the lives of over 13,200 Ukrainians, and, according to Amnesty International, has been marked by torture, enforced disappearances, illegal detention in secret prisons and other serious human rights abuses. For the US to provide aid with the explicit purpose of “enhancing the lethality” of the Ukrainian armed forces is greatly alarming in such circumstances.
In addition, what few in the mainstream press have been willing to discuss is that the Azov Battalion – a significant element of the Ukrainian armed forces – is openly neo-Nazi in its philosophy and tactics. The beloved former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica was quoted as saying that it is not even correct to call this battalion “neo-Nazis”; rather, they are straight-up “Nazis.”
And, after the Maidan coup in 2014, these Nazis became an integral part of the Ukrainian armed forces. As an article in the Nation explains,
“Post-Maidan Ukraine is the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi formation in its armed forces. The Azov Battalion was initially formed out of the neo-Nazi gang Patriot of Ukraine. Andriy Biletsky, the gang’s leader who became Azov’s commander, once wrote that Ukraine’s mission is to ‘lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade…against the Semite-led Untermenschen.’ …In the fall of 2014, Azov – which is accused of human-rights abuses, including torture, by Human Rights Watch and the United Nations – was incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard.”
As the Nation further explains, the Azov Battalion is not merely Nazi in theory, but also in practice, and that in present-day Ukraine, “there are neo-Nazi pogroms against the Roma, rampant attacks on feminists and LGBT groups, book bans, and state-sponsored glorification of Nazi collaborators.”
It is important to note that the US Defense Department makes it clear that, in addition to the $125 million already being allocated to Ukraine, another $150 million is there to be released under certain conditions, and purging the neo-Nazi’s from the ranks of Ukraine’s armed forces is tellingly NOT one of them.
Lest there be any doubt about the US’ views on the rise of neo-Nazis in Ukraine, in December of 2020, the US and Ukraine were the only two nations in the world to vote against a UN General Assembly Resolution which called for “‘combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance. This was done as they felt the resolution could be used to target the Ukrainian government and the U.S. continued funding of it.”
Another revealing action was President Biden’s appointment of Victoria Nuland as his “Under Secretary for Political Affairs, effectively the third-ranking U.S. diplomat.” This is significant given that Nuland, as revealed in recordings of conversations she had on the subject while serving as President Obama’s assistant secretary of state, was instrumental in the formation of the post-Maidan government in Ukraine – a government openly hostile toward Russia.
All of this taken together will surely cause great alarm in the Kremlin as to President Biden’s intentions toward Russia, and will further erode relations between the US and Russia at a time when the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is already sounding the alarm about the increasing risk of nuclear war between these nations.
Indeed, the Defense Department statement about the most recent round of aid to Ukraine makes it clear that Russia should be alarmed by the Biden Administration’s posture toward it.
Thus, as the Defense Department explained in its press release of March 1, 2021, one of the purposes of this “lethal aid” is “to improve [Ukraine’s] interoperability with NATO.” The idea of Ukraine – a former Soviet Republic on Russia’s border – being brought even further into the embrace of NATO is an openly provocative act, and Russia will surely see it that way, just as the US would feel provoked if Russia were actively trying to bring Mexico into a military alliance.
It cannot be understated how dangerous President Biden’s moves in regard to Ukraine are, especially from the point of view of Russia. In the midst of a global pandemic, and before providing any of his promised assistance to the American people to weather this pandemic, Biden has decided to provide “lethal aid” to a country on Russia’s borders which is not only adversarial toward Russia, but which also contains neo-Nazi elements.
Russia still suffers from the painful memories and scars of the Nazi invasion of its territory and the loss of millions of souls in defeating Nazi Germany during WWII. That Biden is prioritizing deadly assistance to Ukraine at this time sends an unequivocal message to Russia that peace and diplomacy are not in the offing, and that Russia must remain in a defensive posture.
In my view, this is a tragic beginning to the presidency of Joseph Biden as it belies his promises of a more diplomatic United States on the world stage.