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Putin: ‘U.S. hegemony’ to blame for Ukraine crisis

Addressing labor union leaders before an ice show marking the one-year anniversary of the start of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Putin said Moscow would not accept US hegemony.

“It’s a fact that there clearly is an attempt to restrain our development with different means,” Putin said. “There is an attempt to perturb the existing world order which formed in the decade which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, with one incontestable leader who wants to remain as such thinking he is allowed everything while others are only allowed what he allows and only in his interests.”

“This world order will never suit Russia,” Putin insisted. “If someone likes it, if someone wants to live under conditions of semi-occupation, let him — we will never do this.”

Putin also stressed that US-led sanctions, which along with lower oil prices have caused considerable damage to the Russian economy, would not work.

“These so-called sanctions, I think they will not make anyone happy in the end and in regards to such a country as ours they definitely cannot be effective, though they are causing us some harm,” Putin said.

The Russian leader also expressed his nation’s peaceful intentions.

“We are not going to wage war on anyone,” he insisted. “We are going to cooperate with all.”

On Monday, Ukrainian officials claimed some 1,500 Russian troops and convoys of military hardware had entered Ukraine over the weekend. Russian forces have been backing, and fighting alongside, separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine as they continue to wage a bloody civil war against the pro-Western government in Kiev. More than 5,000 people have died in the fighting since it began last February.

In addition to its invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine last year, Russia also invaded Georgia in 2008 after US-backed government forces there attacked Russian separatist enclaves, killing innocent Russian civilians and Russian peacekeeping troops.

The Georgia war exploded against a backdrop of US efforts to bring both Georgia and Ukraine, both former republics of the Soviet Union, into the anti-Russian NATO military alliance.

Historically, Russia, which has been invaded by many foreign powers over the centuries, has sought to maintain control over its ‘near abroad’ in order to have a secure ‘buffer zone’ to act as protection against future attacks. American attempts to bring Ukraine, the very birthplace of Russian civilization, into the NATO fold incensed Russia, which was also infuriated by American efforts throughout the 2000s to develop and deploy an anti-Russian missile shield in Eastern Europe.

The missile shield, while billed as a countermeasure against a largely non-existent terrorist and Iranian missile threat, was planned for deployment near Poland’s border with Russia. The United States claimed it was a defensive measure, although America’s withdrawal from the historic 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) with the Soviet Union was a tacit acknowledgment by the George W. Bush administration that missile shields are anything but defensive in nature.

Indeed, American military planners realized the relative invulnerability of a country with an active missile defense system could provoke an adversary who lacked such a shield to launch a surprise attack or to attack with a massive number of nuclear warheads in an attempt to overwhelm the shield.

In the absence of any Soviet threat, the US has led the way in expanding NATO, born as an anti-Soviet alliance, into former Soviet republics, breaking a promise made to Mikhail Gorbachev in the waning days of the USSR. Moscow views this expansion of NATO to its very doorstep to be highly provocative, as Washington and Brussels have taken advantage of relative Russian weakness to greatly bolster their own strength.

Under NATO rules, all member nations are treaty-bound to defend any other member who is attacked, so that future attempts by a resurgent Russia to recapture lost territory could result in a wider conflict, even a nuclear war.

There is a strong element of truth to Putin’s assertion. NATO expansion and missile defense are part of a larger official US strategy to expand American global domination, first expressed in NSC-68, a document drafted by President Harry S. Truman’s National Security Council which called for a potential nuclear first-strike against the Soviet Union for the purpose of “developing a general military superiority” over the USSR.

Later, during the George H.W. Bush administration, neoconservative officials Paul Wolfowitz and his deputy Scooter Libby authored “Defense Planning Guidance,” advocating total global dominance by the United States in order to prevent the emergence of “any potential future competitor.” The Wolfowitz Doctrine called for preemptive nuclear, chemical, or biological attacks on countries which do not possess such weapons, but might try to obtain them. In March 1992, the New York Times leaked details of the plan, which horrified the American public.

It was not, however, until after 9/11 that the George W. Bush administration, staffed full of neoconservatives like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, began implementing plans for US global hegemony long advocated by hawkish neocons. Leading Bush officials relied heavily upon documents like Project For A New American Century’s (PNAC) “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” which called for regime change not only in Iraq but throughout the Middle East and even in China, a permanent American military presence in the Middle East, worldwide expansion of US bases, control of cyberspace and outer space, the enlargement of US conventional and nuclear forces and even the waging of biological warfare.

Despite very real, very official US policies and actions aimed at maintaining and expanding American global hegemony, Putin’s most recent comments appear to be yet another attempt by the powerful Russian leader to deflect blame for the situation in Ukraine and excuse Russia’s own regional hegemonic ambitions and aggressive actions.

President Barack Obama responded to Putin’s accusations of American hegemony in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House on Monday.

“Russian aggression has only reinforced the unity between the United States, Germany and other European allies,” Obama said. “There’s going to continue to be a strong, unified response between the United States and Europe — that’s not going to change.”

The Obama administration is currently considering whether to provide military assistance to Kiev, further angering and alarming Moscow.

“This would not only threaten to escalate the situation in the southeast of Ukraine, but threatens the security of Russia, whose territory has been repeatedly shelled from Ukraine,” warned Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich.

America’s most powerful NATO allies — Britain, France and Germany, have all voiced their opposition to arming Ukrainian government forces.

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