Money, money, money: The real deal behind Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

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America’s corporate masters are raking in the cash as they do during every catastrophe that befalls humanity – currently, by shaking down American consumers at the gas pump. This is Sacramento in mid-March. – Photo: Nathaniel Levine, Sacramento Bee

by Rand W. Gould

“(T)here is no justification for a compromise in which principles are sacrificed for fear of precipitating a confrontation.” – Wilhelm Reich, “The Mass Psychology of Fascism” (1933)

The action taken or not taken by the United States government in concern of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, reflects a decades-long policy of eliminating competing oil and natural gas producers in order to raise their prices on the world market – a policy successfully executed by G.W. Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq, which removed Iraqi oil from the market and raised the price of oil from around $20 a barrel to over $120 a barrel and is now being successfully executed in Ukraine by eliminating Putin’s ability to market its oil to European Union (EU) countries. 

Contrary to what the so-called “Left” claimed, it was never “blood for oil.” It was “blood for increased oil prices” with most Iraqi oil going to China, not the US, a policy that fattened the bloated coffers of transnational oil corporations – “Big Oil” – and made ExxonMobil the most profitable corporation in history up to that time. Meanwhile, the US military industrial complex also reaped record profits, as it had the US military field test all of its latest weapons – all of which is now being reproduced by the war on Ukraine. 

You want to know what’s really going on? Just follow the “money, money, money” as the O’Jays sang. The CNBC stock ticker told – and tolled – the tale: Every oil and weapons manufacturer stock went green on Feb. 24 and has stayed green since along with other commodities, especially wheat.

Since the war on Iraq, the US government has tried and failed to duplicate the success of this policy by disrupting Libyan oil and natural gas production via the murder of Muammar Qaddafi and the instigation of an ongoing civil war. It also intervened in the politics of the former Soviet Socialist Republics of Georgia and Ukraine in order to disrupt and/or control the flow of oil and natural gas from the East to EU markets, all of which was ultimately unsuccessful in raising prices because the Saudi-led Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia ramped up production to fill the vacuum, knowing full well in the not-so-distant future very little fossil fuel will be burned due to the increasingly devastating effects of global warming.

In 2019 these failures became painfully obvious when Trump gleefully announced the US had become “the world’s largest oil and natural gas producer,” only to go silent on the issue before the end of the year, as the Saudis and Russians engaged in a price war resulting in an oil glut and oil trading at -$35 a barrel. Yes, that’s a minus sign! 

The CNBC stock ticker told – and tolled – the tale: Every oil and weapons manufacturer stock went green on Feb. 24 and has stayed green since along with other commodities, especially wheat.

Trump failed to take into consideration that the Saudis and Russians pump oil out of the ground at a cost of around $7 a barrel while US oil is fracked out of the ground at the cost of between $60 and $70 a barrel. Interestingly, Trump was saved from this embarrassment by the Covid-19 pandemic taking over the headlines due to his administration’s failure to exercise proper oversight of the National Institutes of Health scientist in North Carolina who sent the virus to a lab in Wuhan, China, to conduct experiments forbidden in the US for reasons now obvious. 

Nevertheless, the blame for these failures does not just fall on Trump. It falls squarely on corporate boardrooms, both national and transnational, that have always controlled the US government under the aegis of both political parties, Republican and Democrat, and who benefit from that control. Not US citizens and certainly not Ukrainians or Russians.

During the late 1970s oil crisis, engendered by Saudi-led OPEC cutting back oil production to raise prices, laws were passed under the Carter administration that banned the export of US oil and natural gas. Yet with those laws still in place, the Bush and Obama administrations, in collaboration with Big Oil, facilitated a massive increase in oil and natural gas production for overseas sales, with the Obama administration allowing the construction of natural gas liquefaction facilities at ports on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts so liquified natural gas (LNG) could be shipped overseas even though it would have been illegal to do so. After assuming office, Trump made sure these oil crisis laws were repealed

Likewise, the Keystone XL pipeline was being built in anticipation of the repeal of these laws in order to transport Canadian tar sands “oil” in the form of highly corrosive and toxic diluted bitumen (dilbit) across the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater aquifer in the US, to refineries and ports on the Gulf of Mexico for export. Fortunately, the American people intervened before it was completed with both the Obama and Trump administration’s halting Keystone XL’s completion.

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From April 2016 to February 2017, Indigenous people crying, “Water is life,” took over the news. The Standing Rock Sioux welcomed thousands of protesters, mostly Indigenous people from all over the country, even Alaska, to strengthen their resistance to Big Oil’s invasion of their land and their lives. – Photo: T. Sylvester

Unfortunately, Big Oil shills are using the rising oil and gasoline prices, caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, to advocate for the completion of Keystone XL. For example, Amy Myers Jaffe, Tufts University professor and Big Oil spokesperson, appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on March 15 falsely claiming dilbit is “the same as any other crude oil,” equating oil and natural gas pipelines with electrical transmission wires and stating they could be used to transport hydrogen gas, which is highly explosive, and which she falsely claimed is manufactured without any fossil fuel inputs.

The current Biden administration will likely complete Keystone XL and, despite all its rhetoric about global warming, never intended to reduce US oil and natural gas production; the incremental reduction that has occurred is mostly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Biden’s Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was on CNBC on March 8 stating, “Every molecule of natural gas that can be liquefied and exported we are liquefying and exporting.” Like those presidents before him, Biden is following the orders of his corporate masters who have bet so heavily on fracked oil and natural gas that they cannot afford to change course. Now they don’t have to, thanks to Putin.

Putin knew if he sent the troops into Ukraine, the price of oil and natural gas would rise dramatically and it has. On Feb. 24, oil shot up to over $100 a barrel and is still trading at or near $100 a barrel, with a CNBC market analysis stating prices need to be between $100 and $150 a barrel in order to maintain profits. Putin also knew the construction of the Nordstream II oil and natural gas pipeline would be halted and he would be conceding the EU oil and natural gas market to the US. In return, Ukraine would fall to Russian control again so Putin could add to his “great leader” resume while Russia benefits from selling all the oil and natural gas it can produce to China at the newly inflated prices. This would have been a win-win for Biden and Putin, as well as American and Russian oil and natural gas producers.

Consequently, it sure seems like a deal was struck between Biden and Putin (or one of Biden’s predecessors in the White House) because these merchants of death, Big Oil and the Military-Industrial Complex, are certainly reaping the rewards of this deal in a big and bloody way. Never hesitant to stoop too low, Big Oil immediately engaged in price gouging at the pump by retailing gasoline and diesel fuel at inflated prices, refined from oil purchased at the pre-war prices, with its usual impunity, as it well knows the Biden administration’s Department of Justice has no intention of prosecuting it for its crimes committed against the American people.

Russia is at best a second-rate power, spending only $63 billion a year on its military whereas the US spends $778 billion and China spends $225 billion.

Further confirmation of this deal is provided by the way Putin slowly staged the invasion of Ukraine. Instead of the lightning strike tactics used in Crimea, he moved very slowly as if he didn’t trust Biden, like a swimmer entering an ice cold swimming pool – first a toe, then a foot, wade into the waist and finally dive into the water. First, Putin slowly built up his troops in Ukraine on Ukraine’s borders. Second, he sent some troops into Donbas, where Russian troops have been operating for years. Third, he launched cruise missiles into Ukraine. Fourth, he sent slowly moving armored columns of troops across the borders in what can only be construed as probing actions to see how the US and NATO would react. And fifth, he finally went all in and is trying to take major cities using armored assaults, missile strikes, artillery shelling and indiscriminate bombing by his air force.

Obviously, Putin also knew that if Biden had tricked him like H.W. Bush’s ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, tricked Saddam Hussein into invading Kuwait, it would be his air force shot out of the sky and his armored columns burning on the roads out of Ukraine. All those tanks burning in the desert of Kuwait and on the road to Baghdad were made in Russia and couldn’t manage to destroy or even hit one American M1-A1 tank. Not one!

US and NATO’s military superiority is overwhelming when compared to Russia, both technologically and tactically. This explains why Putin is playing the nuclear war card. It is the only one he’s got, but it’s an obvious bluff. 

Russia is at best a second-rate power, spending only $63 billion a year on its military whereas the US spends $778 billion and China spends $225 billion. Russia may have the world’s largest air force, but its jets, like its tanks, are decades behind technologically. Its Navy has only one aircraft carrier. Newly built, it sailed out of Sevastopol, Crimea, where Russia has always had a large naval base, crossed the Black Sea into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Syria, launched a few jets and cruise missiles, then started spewing plumes of black smoke and had to limp back to its base. Its planned sister ship was never completed. It was sold to China, stripped down to the hull and rebuilt to become China’s first of three operational aircraft carriers.

Unfortunately. Putin tricked himself, with the invasion of Ukraine not going according to plan, because the Russian military turned out to be a “paper tiger,” Mao’s term for the US military during its war on Korea and Vietnam. Both Putin and the Pentagon expected Putin’s troops to be in Kyiv within three days. Instead, the Russian troops were forced to withdraw from the north and reconcentrate in the Donbas and areas south. 

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A soldier fires a Javeline anti-tank missile. – Photo: US Army

Russian aircraft are being shot down and their armored column shot to pieces by Ukrainians using shoulder-fired anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, primarily stingers and javelins as well as switchblade drones, resulting in the deaths of over 25,000 Russian soldiers in Putin’s conscript army, who appear to be killing their officers, as seven generals along with over 300 officers have died the same way US soldiers did in Vietnam. 

As one talking head US general put it, Ukrainian willpower is prevailing over Russian firepower. 

This is a stunning example of the effectiveness of asymmetrical warfare against a conventional military attack by superior forces. It was achieved in spite of Biden’s intentional weakening of the Ukrainian military by refusing to supply them with these weapons before the invasion and leaving them to rely on weapons and equipment previously supplied by the Obama and Trump administrations. 

As one talking head US general put it, Ukrainian willpower is prevailing over Russian firepower. 

Nevertheless, America’s corporate masters are raking in the cash as they do during every catastrophe that befalls humanity – first, by shaking down American consumers at the gas pump; second, by shaking down American taxpayers for funding Ukraine’s defense, as all money “given to Ukraine” by Congress goes straight to military weapon manufacturers who supply weapons to Ukraine.

There is also the added bonus of NATO countries clamoring for US weapons for fear they are next on Russia’s list. For example, Poland ordered $6 billion worth of M1-A2 tanks from General Dynamics. These corporate merchants of death are very happy with their bloated profits and stock prices paid for by the blood of the Ukrainian and Russian people. As former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said on a March 8 Fox News broadcast, “They want the war to continue so they can continue to sell weapons,” in explaining why more wasn’t being done to help Ukraine.

The perceived success of Ukrainian resistance has left Putin at a distinct disadvantage and, deal or no deal, Biden and his NATO allies are pouring advanced weapons systems into Ukraine, including Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) batteries, which has allowed Ukraine to control its airspace, as recently reported by the British Defense Ministry. All US “deals” and treaties are situational and are disregarded at will. Just ask the American Indians or, more recently, the French regarding the sale of submarines to Australia.

Putin for his part is sounding more and more like Hitler in his Berlin bunker in 1945 – or Trump in the White House in 2020 – with his “Make Russia Great Again” rhetoric, as he watches his future die on the Ukrainian battlefield. No doubt, his best choice is to make peace and withdraw his troops, especially as it seems he has already been reduced to asking China for aid that is unlikely to be given and, if it is, will come with some serious strings attached. 

. . . people in Africa are suffering increased wheat prices and shortages as their wheat is normally supplied by Russia and Ukraine.

Moreover, as China has long coveted Siberian oil and natural gas resources, Putin would be wise to consider the words of a Soviet-era commissar in Vladivostok, who said, “An optimist learns to speak English. A pessimist learns to speak Chinese. A realist learns to shoot his Kalashnikov.”

Ultimately, all war is a crime and all those responsible are war criminals, the only exception being a war to eliminate all the greedy, self-serving assholes who control the world and its economy. The horrifying reality of this war is that thousands of Ukrainians are being murdered on their land and in their homes, with millions displaced, while Russians are suffering the loss of thousands of their young men forced to fight Putin’s war as the Iron Curtain drops down cutting the Russian people off from the West. 

Meanwhile, people in Africa are suffering increased wheat prices and shortages as their wheat is normally supplied by Russia and Ukraine. All suffer from this war for the sake of money, money, money made from the weapons suppliers and from the oil and natural gas, which needs to be left in the ground if humans are to have a chance to live a sustainable life on this planet! 

Ukraine and Russia, a brief history

The Ukrainians and Russians are essentially similar Slavic people with similar histories. Both countries were founded by the Rus, a Scandinavian people known in Western Europe as Vikings or Norsemen (Normans) who traveled Eastern Europe’s rivers, founding Kyiv on the Dnieper River in the eighth century and later Moscow (Moskva) on the Moskva River, the capitals of Ukraine and Russia. 

Today’s Ukraine was the center of Kyvian Rus, which was the largest and most powerful state in Europe in the 10th and 11th centuries. Eventually, weakened by internecine fighting and the Mongol invasions, it broke up and became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Later it became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. After an uprising against the Poles (remember the ‘60s movie “Taras Bulba,” starring Yul Brynner?), the Cossack Hetmanate was established in the mid-17th century, only to be absorbed into the Russian Empire in the late 18th century. After the 1917 revolution deposing the tsar, Ukraine regained its independence only to see it crushed by the Red Army in March 1919, despite the two-year-long war of resistance fought by an anarchist army comprised of miners from Donbas and peasants.

Russia originated in the Principality of Muscovy, which was founded in the 12th century. After it emerged from Mongol domination from the 13th to 15th centuries, it conquered and absorbed surrounding principalities – eventually expanding across Siberia to the Pacific under the Romanov Dynasty, founded in the early 17th century by Ivan the Terrible, who declared himself tsar. Its reach was extended to the Baltic Sea in the early 18th century by Tsar Peter the Great, who renamed it the Russian Empire and founded St. Petersburg as its new capital. 

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A map of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) or the Soviet Union – Map: Encyclopedia Britannica

The reign of the tsars ended with the 1917 Revolution but not Russia’s imperialist ambitions, when the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin seized power and renamed it the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). A little over two decades later, Joseph Stalin cut a deal with Adolf Hitler called the Pact of Steel, whereupon Germany and Russia invaded Poland in September 1939 instigating World War II. This was similar to previous deals made between 1772 and 1795 to divide Poland among Russia, Prussia and Austria.

Russia has reason to feel threatened by the steady encroachment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on its borders, breaking the 1990 promise made to Mikhail Gorbachev by G.H.W. Bush Secretary of State James Baker . . .

Russian ambitions have also long included Crimea, a part of the Russian Empire since at least the mid-17th century. It’s a peninsula that juts into the Black Sea where the Crimean War (1853-1856) was fought between the Russian and Ottoman Empires after a Russian attack. Unfortunately for the Russians, the Ottomans’ allies Great Britain, France and Sardinia joined the war and the Russians lost the battle for their fortress and naval base at Sevastopol in 1855, then the war. 

Crimea, which remained Russian, was primarily inhabited by Tartars, a Turkic people, until they resisted Soviet farm collectivization programs and Stalin removed them en masse to northern Russia and Siberia. At some point in the ‘50s or late ‘40s, the administration of Crimea was transferred to Ukraine. After the US-backed coup in 2014, Russia took Crimea back, as it was unwilling to relinquish control of its long-held territory and major naval base at Sevastopol.

Despite this long shared history – or maybe because of it – Russia has reason to feel threatened by the steady encroachment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on its borders, breaking the 1990 promise made to Mikhail Gorbachev by G.H.W. Bush Secretary of State James Baker that if a reunified Germany were allowed to join NATO, then no other former Warsaw Pact countries would be allowed to join. However, beginning in 1999, all of them, along with several former Soviet republics, have been allowed to join NATO. In 2021, Bosnia Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine were invited to join, which would place NATO armed forces along nearly the entirety of Russia’s western border from Estonia to Turkey and Georgia with the exception of Belarus.

How would the US have reacted if Mexico joined the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War? Probably exactly as it did during the Cuban missile crisis, and the US had plenty of allies back then. Not the Russians now – their allies are limited to members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), comprised of Belarus and the former Soviet republics to its south, Syria and maybe China if their interests align.

Ostensibly, after much posturing, Putin ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, because the Zelensky government refused to implement the 2015 Minsk Protocols (Minsk II), signed by Ukraine, Russia, Russian-backed separatists in Donbas and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), that guaranteed Ukraine sovereignty in exchange for remaining neutral – i.e., not joining NATO like Austria, Finland. Sweden and Switzerland and allowing Donbas to remain autonomous within Ukraine. 

These were neither new nor unreasonable requirements. Ukraine had remained neutral since the 1991 dissolution of the USSR, even giving up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons in return for non-aggression guarantees from Russia and NATO. This makes the Zelensky government’s insistence on joining NATO and refusal to recognize the autonomy of Donbas entirely unreasonable, almost as unreasonable as Putin’s murderous war on Ukraine.

Send our brother some love and light: Rand W. Gould, C-187131, Central Michigan Correctional Facility, 320 N. Hubbard St., St. Louis, MI 48880-1926.