Prof. Stephen F. Cohen, emeritus professor of Russian studies at Princeton and NYU, asks this interesting question.
For centuries and still today, Russia and large parts of Ukraine have had much in common—a long territorial border; a shared history; ethnic, linguistic, and other cultural affinities; intimate personal relations; substantial economic trade; and more. Even after the years of escalating conflict between Kiev and Moscow since 2014, many Russians and Ukrainians still think of themselves in familial ways. The United States has almost none of these commonalities with Ukraine.
Which is also to say that Ukraine is not “a vital US national interest,” as most leaders of both parties, Republican and Democrat alike, and much of the US media now declare. On the other hand, Ukraine is a vital Russian interest by any geopolitical or simply human reckoning.
Why, then, is Washington so deeply involved in Ukraine? (The proposed nearly $400 million in US military aid to Kiev would mean, of course, even more intrusive involvement.) And why is Ukraine so deeply involved in Washington, in a different way, that it has become a pretext for attempts to impeach President Donald Trump?
In the linked video, he discusses the likely reasons with Aaron Maté of Grayzone. A transcript is available at that site.
Interventionism – interference of one nation state in the affairs of another.
The interference can be overt through propaganda, armed intervention, or outright declared war; or it can be covert by election rigging, financing a favored political party or candidate, inciting an insurrection, or hiring mercenary surrogates to wage a proxy war.
The goals of an intervention can include one or more of the following: replacing an oppressive dictatorship with a democracy; regime change for other reasons; acquisition of resources; protecting energy sources and transport; territorial expansion; regional projection of power; stopping human rights abuses; preventing genocide; and other rationalizations. The nominal goals can differ from the true goals which may be known only to the planners of the interventions.
After the Second World War, interventionism became a hallmark of United States foreign policy. Becoming the “policeman of the world” was an irresistible consequence—indeed, a compelling obligation—of being the world’s one and only superpower. Bringing American-style democracy and consumer-capitalism to the rest of humankind was an added benefit, a win-win for the United States and the rest of the world.
At the same time, Soviet interventionism in the West was proceeding overtly through local Communist Parties; covertly by the NKVD/KGB propaganda and espionage cells; independently by Trotsky’s Fourth International; culturally by neo-Marxists of the Frankfurt School; and politically by the Fabians. All were driven by the ideology of Karl Marx and the vision of bringing utopian Communism to the rest of humankind, a win-win for Soviet Russia and the rest of the world.
This clash of American and Soviet ideologies, via reciprocal interventions, became a dialectic that resulted in fascinating reversals, but still no synthesis. Russia went from atheistic, totalitarian Communism, with goals of global expansion, to a parliamentary democracy supporting individual freedom, capitalism, Orthodox Christianity, and national sovereignty. Its antithesis, the United States of America, went from a republic founded by Christians, supporting individual freedom and free enterprise, to freedoms threatened by surveillance and political censorship, free enterprise hampered by cronyism and regulation, national sovereignty impinged by globalization, and a repressed Christian heritage. In effect, Russia became more like the old United States, while the United States became more like the old Soviet Russia but without the autocracy. In the geopolitics of today, the Russian leadership espouses the multipolarity of independent sovereign nation states, while the establishment powers of the United States envision the unipolarity of globalism, a world order eventually controlled by a supranational governing body. It is a dialectic still in progress.
Military-industrial complex (MIC) – the cohesive relationship between the Department of Defense, the military services, and the defense industry in the United States.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his Farewell Address to the Nation in 1961, warned that we must “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
Despite Eisenhower’s warning, the MIC has grown in power and complexity, so that it now includes the intelligence and security agencies, Congress, and the media. It has become the ultimate expression of advanced capitalism in the United States, a public-private enterprise with strong bonds between its interdependent components. A better name today might be the military-industrial-intelligence-congressional-media complex.
The military consumes vast quantities of hardware (aircraft, ships, vehicles, weapons, munitions) and human necessities (food, clothing, shelter). Supplying the military consumer is the defense industry, which is comprised of six major corporations, their suppliers, subsidiaries, sub-contractors, and a plethora of smaller companies and contractors. Intelligence (the collection, analysis, processing, and dissemination of information) is provided by seventeen government agencies and extracted from enormous databases acquired by every public and private technique of surveillance and data analysis known to modern technology. In most of the twentieth century, US intelligence focused on one or two enemies. More recent wars and interventions created many more enemies and adversaries, some capable of coming to America to wage unconventional warfare or terrorism, or portrayable as such. Finding a few terrorist needles in the general-population haystack justifies the expansion of intelligence and governmental surveillance to the entire population.
Funds for the MIC come from the Treasury, which in turn come from taxation of the citizenry, borrowing from the Federal Reserve banking system, and loans from foreign governments. Congress appropriates the funds to the military and is the nominal overseer of their utilization. In return, cooperative congressmen accept choice committee assignments, enhanced media exposure, inside investment information, the favors of lobbyists, and major contributions to their re-election campaigns. Their constituents are rewarded when a defense industry opens a plant in their congressional district.
In a finite budget, money allocated to defense means less available for social programs, and vice versa. For example, the social democracies of western Europe are strong socially but weak militarily; they depend on the United States military to protect them from real or imagined threats. Their defensive alliance known as NATO is totally dependent on the United States and is essentially a projection of American power internationally.
Dialectically, the MIC is the warfare-state antithesis of the welfare state. Politically, it has the bipartisan support of neoconservatives on the right and neoliberals on the left. Its powerful supporters use the mass media, controlled by six major corporations, to provide the propaganda necessary to retain the consent of the people. The media exaggerate the MIC’s successes and minimize its failures, flaunt the superiority of its weaponry and technology, demonize our “enemies,” ignore the human-rights abuses of our “allies,” and maintain the fear that is necessary for a people to sacrifice freedom for security.
Note: The Department of Defense dates back to 1949. For 160 years before that, it was called the Department of War, which was a more accurate and honest name.