Without the violation of international law eight years ago by U.S. President Obama, Putin’s illegal invasion would probably not have taken place.
By Daniele Ganser
On February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his army to invade Ukraine, violating the UN ban on the use of force. This invasion is therefore illegal. Almost exactly eight years earlier, on February 20, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama had the Ukrainian government overthrown in order to draw the country into NATO. This coup d’état is the origin of the war in Ukraine. Like Putin’s invasion, this action by Obama violated the UN’s prohibition on the use of force. It was therefore illegal. It is time to move beyond half-truths and tell the story of the conflict in a complete and balanced way.
We only hear half the story
Currently, we read and hear a lot in the media about Putin’s invasion, which is rightly criticized. But on the Obama coup, we read and hear almost nothing. Why are we only told half the story?
Did the United States really overthrow the government in Ukraine? Why did almost nobody notice it at the time? And what is the historical evidence? I’m getting a lot of questions like that right now.
As a historian and peace researcher, I have been studying the official and hidden wars of the United States for years; I have also described the putsch in Ukraine, in my book « NATO’s Illegal Wars » [Half Moon ed. 2016.] « It was a Western-sponsored coup, there is little doubt about it, » said Ray McGovern, a former CIA agent(1).
A year after the coup, on May 10, 2015, I gave a lecture in Berlin on the events in Ukraine; I showed that President Obama had indeed overthrown the Ukrainian government. Those who wish to do so can watch this conference(2).
Confrontation of nuclear powers
The war in Ukraine is a particularly sensitive international conflict, as it pits the US and Russia, both of which have nuclear weapons. As in the Cuban crisis, both sides are playing hidden cards and trying to draw Ukraine into their sphere of influence.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine declared its independence from that power. Moscow’s weakness has, for the first time, given Washington the opportunity to extend American influence in Eastern Europe, and to integrate the former Warsaw Pact countries, formerly controlled by Moscow, into NATO.
NATO’s eastward enlargement and the Bucharest summit
Although the United States promised Russia that NATO would not expand, that is exactly what has happened. Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary became members of this organization in 1999. And at the April 2008 NATO summit in the Romanian capital Bucharest, U.S. President George Bush declared that Ukraine would also become part of the North Atlantic Alliance.
Russia was furious, because Ukraine directly borders it. In the US, too, voices were raised to warn. « Imagine Washington’s outrage if China forged a powerful military alliance and tried to bring Canada and Mexico into it, » warned American political scientist John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. According to him, the West has unnecessarily provoked the Russians and is therefore guilty of the crisis in Ukraine(3).
Senator John McCain on the Maidan
At the end of 2013, on the Maidan, the central square of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, more and more people demonstrated against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov. A famous former world boxing champion, Vitali Klitschko, led the protests and made fiery speeches, in close consultation with the United States.
In this tense situation, on December 15, 2013, influential U.S. Senator John McCain flew to Ukraine and visited Klitschko; he also visited the camp set up by the protesters in Mayan Square. This U.S. senator encouraged protesters to overthrow the Ukrainian government (4).
Imagine the outrage in Washington if a famous Russian parliamentarian flew to Canada to help demonstrators in the capital Ottawa overthrow the Canadian government.
This is exactly what the US did in Ukraine.
US Embassy in Kiev coordinates protests
The leaders of the Maidan protests were coming and going to the American embassy to take their orders. Some demonstrators were armed and violently attacked the police.« The Americans obviously pushed for confrontation, » recalls the overthrown Prime Minister, Nikolai Azarov(5).
It was the US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who, from his embassy in Kiev, supported the demonstrators and destabilized Ukraine. Pyatt was in direct contact with the ex-boxer Klitschko. The well-organized Mayan protests have grown in size and tension has increased.
Current U.S. President Joe Biden was also directly involved in the coup, as he also supported the demonstrations. In December 2013, while serving as vice president under Obama, Biden called President Yanukovych in the night; he threatened him with sanctions if he had the police evacuate the Maidan. Yanukovych then gave up the planned evacuation(6).
Victoria Nuland’s five billion dollars
Within the US State Department, Victoria Nuland was responsible for the coup. Under U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and as Deputy Secretary of State, Nuland was a senior aide to President Obama. Under President Donald Trump, she lost influence, but Joe Biden recalled her to the State Department as Secretary of State again. In Ukraine, Nuland wanted to overthrow Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov and President Viktor Yanukovych, in order, as decided at the Bucharest summit, to draw the country into NATO.
The leaders of the Mayan protests were not only receiving their orders from the American embassy, but also their remuneration.
In December 2013, two months before the coup, Nuland said in a conference,« We have invested more than $5 billion to help Ukraine ensure prosperity, security and democracy. »(7).
This has also led to criticism in the USA. Former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul asked publicly, « We heard Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Victoria Nuland brag that the U.S. spent $5 billion on regime change in Ukraine. How is that acceptable? » (8).
It was an open secret that some of the Ukrainian protesters were paid. « There are people, like the American billionaire George Soros, who finance revolutions. Soros also supported the Mayan, he paid people there — who earned more in two weeks on that square than in four weeks of work in the west of the country », explained Ukraine expert Ina Kirsch to the Wiener Zeitung.« There is enough evidence that people were paid both for the Mayan and for the « Anti-Mayan », the counter-demonstration, » said Ina Kirsch, who had visited the scene in Kiev. « There were rates for each service. I know people who cashed out in the morning in the Anti-Maidan, the counter-demonstration, and then went to the Maidan and cashed out again. This is not unusual in Ukraine » (9).
Fuck the EU: the phone call before the putsch
The central evidence of U.S. involvement in the putsch in Ukraine is an intercepted phone conversation, between Victoria Nuland and Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt; a conversation they had on February 7, 2014, just days before the putsch.
In this phone exchange, Nuland says who should form the new Ukrainian government, after the coup. « I don’t think that ‘Klitch [Klitschko] Should be part of the new government; I think it is not necessary and it is not a good idea, » she determines. « I think Yatsenyuk is the right man for the job; he has the necessary experience, in economics and politics. »
In fact, Arseniy Yatsenyuk became Prime Minister of Ukraine after the coup. The former boxer Vitali Klitschko had to settle for the post of mayor of Kiev. This proves that Victoria Nuland planned and carried out the US coup. She says, verbatim, in the intercepted conversation: Ban Ki-moon (of the UN) « could help solidify this; and you know what? Fuck the EU« This has caused some indignation among German Chancellor Angela Merkel (10).
February 20, 2014: snipers cause escalation
At the end of February, the situation on the Maidan degenerated. On the 20th, a massacre took place: unidentified snipers fired on police officers and demonstrators from different buildings, killing more than 40 people. Chaos ensued. The government then in place, that of President Viktor Yanukovych, and his police unit Berkut are immediately considered responsible for the massacre, although they had no interest in the situation worsening, since they did not intend to overthrow themselves. « The world should not watch a dictator slaughter his people, » commented boxer Vitali Klitschko in the German tabloid Bild, who is indeed aiming for an overthrow.
The regime change succeeds: President Yanukovych flees to Russia. He was replaced by the billionaire Petro Poroshenko who, as president, immediately declared that he wanted to lead Ukraine into NATO.
Obama talks about the coup
One year after the coup, on CNN, U.S. President Obama talks about the change of power in Ukraine, while obscuring the role of the United States. « Putin was caught off guard by the protests on the Maidan, » he said. « Yanukovych fled after we negotiated a power transfer agreement. But viewers do not learn that Obama had actually overthrown the Ukrainian government (11).
Putin talks about the putsch
The Russians, on the other hand, know that the United States organized this putsch, which provokes their anger. « I think this crisis was created on purpose, » President Putin told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. He says he is convinced that NATO countries could have prevented the coup: « If America and Europe had said to those who committed these unconstitutional acts: ‘If you come to power in this way, we will not support you in any way; you must hold elections and win them’, the situation would have developed quite differently. » (12).
The secession of Crimea
President Vladimir Putin did not intend to abandon Ukraine without a fight. Immediately after the fall of Yanukovych, in the early hours of February 23, 2014, he gave the order to begin a « recovery » of the Crimea. On February 27 of the same year, Russian soldiers in green uniforms, without insignia, occupied all the strategic points of Simferopol, the largest city on the Crimean peninsula.
By March 16, 2014, 97% of the Crimean population voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. Since then, the Crimean peninsula no longer belongs to Ukraine, but to Russia.
Neither the United States nor Russia have respected international law in the war in Ukraine. Obama first violated this right with the February 20, 2014 coup. In response, Putin did the same, occupying Crimea on February 23 of the same year. This occupation « constituted a violation of international law in force ( …) Ukraine’s sovereignty under international law and its territorial integrity were not respected, » says Dieter Deiseroth, former judge at the Federal Administrative Court. The West is now severely criticizing Putin, even though he himself has « has violated and continues to violate existing international law in numerous situations (Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the drone war, Guantanamo, et cetera); this has seriously damaged its credibility. » (13).
After the coup in Kiev and the secession of Crimea, Ukraine fell into civil war. The new Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has attempted to take control of the entire country with the army, secret service and police. But not all soldiers, police and secret service agents followed the directives of the coup government. In the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine, bordering Russia, the districts of Donetsk and Lugansk have declared that they do not recognize the coup government in Kiev. The separatists occupied police stations and administrative buildings, arguing that the new government had no legitimacy because it had come to power through illegal means.
Prime Minister Yatsenyuk vehemently rejected this idea and said that the separatists were all terrorists. CIA Director John Brennan went to Kiev to advise the coup plotters. On April 15, 2014, the Ukrainian army, supported by the United States, launched its « special anti-terrorist operation, » attacking the city of Slaviansk in Donetsk district with tanks and other armored vehicles. Thus began the Ukrainian civil war, which caused more than 13,000 deaths in eight years; and which, on February 24, 2022, led to Putin’s illegal invasion.
The Kiev putsch does not give Putin the right to invade Ukraine and thus violate international law. But if we in the West ignore the 2014 putsch, we can never understand the war in that country.
Daniele Ganser, Swiss historian, specialized in international politics and contemporary history since 1945. His research focuses on peace, geostrategy, hidden wars, resource struggles and economic policy. He is director of the Swiss Institute for Peace and Energy Research in Basel.
The original version of this article was published on March 12, 2022 on the Rubikon news site(https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/die-andere-seite-der-wahrheit)
Our thanks to Daniele Ganser for his kind permission to publish this article.
Translation by Daniel Zink
- Ray McGovern, ex-officier de la CIA, Das sind die wahren Schuldigen am Ukraine Krieg (Voici les vrais coupables de la guerre en Ukraine), YouTube, 21 septembre 2014 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juw4E4O_XeI
- Dr Daniele Ganser : Ukraine 2014, Ukraine 2014, ein illegaler Putsch, Berlin 10 mai 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sMfNmx0wKo
- John Mearsheimer, Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault, Foreign Affairs, 1er septembre 2014.
- John McCain tells Ukraine protesters: „We are here to support your just cause.“, The Guardian, 15 décembre 2013 : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/15/john-mccain-ukraine-protests-support-just-cause
- Stefan Korinth, „An unseren Händen klebt kein Blut.“ (Nous n’avons pas de sang sur les mains), NachDenkSeiten, 22 octobre 2015 : https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=28031#foot_0
- ARD Monitor, Die NATO als Kriegstreiber in der Ukraine (l’OTAN, fauteur de guerre en Ukraine), 14 mars 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpw5qIZ7QeM
- Ron Paul, Reckless Congress ‘declares war’ on Russia, Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, 4 décembre 2014.
- Gerhard Lechner, Offene Fragen zu Ereignissen auf dem Maidan. Ina Kirsch über die vielen Fehler, die zu der schweren Ukrainekrise führten (Questions ouvertes sur les événements du Maidan. Ina Kirsch sur les nombreuses erreurs qui ont conduit à la grave crise ukrainienne), Wiener Zeitung, 20 février 2015 : https://austria-forum.org/af/Wissenssammlungen/Essays/Politik/Maidan
- Victoria Nulands Ausrutscher. US-Diplomatin entschuldigt sich für „Fuck the EU“ (La gaffe de Victoria Nuland. La diplomate américaine s’excuse pour « Fuck the EU »), Spiegel Online, 7 février 2014 : https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/us-diplomatin-victoria-nuland-entschuldigt-sich-fuer-fuck-the-eu-a-952016.html
- US-Präsident Barack Obama im Gespräch mit CNN-Journalist Fareed Zakaria (Le président américain Barack Obama s’entretient avec le journaliste de CNN Fareed Zakaria), 1er février 2015. YouTube : Fareed Zakaria Obama CNN Interview 3 février 2015.
- Vladimir Poutine : Interview par le journal italien Il Corriere della Sera, 6 juin 2015.
- Marcus Klöckner, „Wer den Einsatz von Atomwaffen anordnet, handelt verbrecherisch. » (Celui qui ordonne l’utilisation d’armes nucléaires agit de manière criminelle), Telepolis, 2 avril 2015 : https://www.heise.de/tp/features/Wer-den-Einsatz-von-Atomwaffen-anordnet-handelt-verbrecherisch-3371089.html