Ukraine Update: How There Came to be Neo-Nazis in Ukraine
The Americans Have Been Allied with European Nazis Since the 1940s
Readers: This piece is in two pieces, updates and the history related to the title. The history begins about 1/3 of the way down.
Introduction: one of the ways that modern politics works for those in power, if not for anyone else, is through the erasure of history. This is particularly true in the U.S. where events that have been unfolding for years, decades, and sometimes longer, are presented as battles between good and evil that only began with the last transgression.
The events now transpiring in Ukraine are an example of this. For Americans who get their news from American sources, the war in Ukraine began in late February, 2022. For Ukrainians, it began with the U.S.-led coup in 2014. Since then, Ukraine has been caught in a proxy war that the U.S. launched against Russia.
In the U.S., ‘standing with Ukraine’ means standing with the Pentagon, multinational oil and gas companies, and weapons manufacturers. Urban liberals--- the predominant audience for Russiagate, imagine themselves allied with ‘humanity,’ rather than with one side in a civil war tied to a proxy war that has been underway since the 1940s.
Remarkably, self-described anti-fascists in the U.S. are using state propaganda to convince themselves that fascist militias in Ukraine--- direct descendants of the Ukrainian Nazis who allied with the German Nazi Party in the 1940s, are freedom fighters. Debate features talking points from one domestic propaganda outlet being used to challenge the same talking points from another.
Responding to the Russian political leadership’s charge that the motive for the military incursion into Ukraine is ‘demilitarization and denazification,’ the U.S. has moved to play down the presence of neo-Nazis in Ukraine. The points were made that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish, and that eight-million Ukrainians perished in the Nazi war against Russia.
Left out of this narrative is that Ukraine was joined with Russia through the USSR at the time, and that Ukrainian nationalists had allied with the Nazis to commit atrocities against Jewish and ethnic-Russian Ukrainians. As detailed below, the Americans have been allied with German and Ukrainian Nazis on and off since the mid-1940s.
Up until the Russian incursion into Ukraine, much of the American foreign policy establishment had been of the view that the standoff with the Russians was the fault of the U.S.--- the result of the Americans moving NATO, an American-led military alliance, up to Russia’s border.
U.S. President Joe Biden reportedly spent three months trying to convince the Chinese that the Russians were at fault. After listening to and reviewing the evidence that Biden had provided, the Chinese told him straightforwardly that the Americans had provoked the crisis.
With respect to the historical record, U.S. assurances that NATO wouldn’t be moved to Russia’s border were far less ambiguous than subsequent propaganda suggests. What happened was that one U.S. administration, that of George H.W. Bush, made the pledge while another, that of Bill Clinton, broke the pledge.
In fact, George H.W. Bush had little regard for the American neocons, calling them ‘the crazies in the basement.’ Clinton created the liberal alliance with the crazies in the basement. Clinton bombed Serbia, a Russian ally, continued the U.S. war against Iraq, and it was Clintonite Barack Obama who instigated the 2014 U.S.-led coup in Ukraine.
Clinton was warned by Boris Yeltsin in 1994 that U.S. expansion of NATO would be very poorly received by Russia. Clinton was then selling NATO expansion as part of the post-Soviet liberalization of Europe. With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, NATO’s alleged purpose of ‘containing’ the USSR dissolved with it. Without skipping a beat, containing the USSR was transformed into containing Russia.
In fact, the stated logic of both NATO and the Cold War disappeared in 1991. The USSR no longer existed, and post-Soviet Russia was in no sense communist. In moves suggesting that both had always been thinly-veiled pretexts for the promotion of American business interests, both NATO and the Cold War still exist.
Joe Biden was part of the congressional delegation that was with Clinton at the 1998 NATO summit when Clinton further upped the ante by incorporating former Soviet satellites into NATO. Biden was at the heart of American, post-Soviet, triumphalism that featured the elevation of both neoliberalism and neo-conservativism. American liberals became an alt-Right faction.
Biden was an enthusiastic proponent of the U.S. bombing campaign in Serbia as well as the U.S. war against Iraq. Later, Biden was made Barack Obama’s prefect in Ukraine following the American-led coup there. And Biden ended the U.S. fiasco in Afghanistan--- which he helped start and supported for twenty years, in part to redirect CIA anti-insurgency forces from Afghanistan to Ukraine.
This isn’t a gratuitous rant of a Biden-hater. The point is practical. The Russian political leadership had every reason to view Biden’s election as re-upping the stealth U.S. war against Russia. The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, was loudly stating his intention for Ukraine to join NATO when the Russians took the matter to Biden, who refused to counter Zelensky.
What is happening in Ukraine is tragic. It is impossible not to feel compassion for ordinary people caught in the grip of war. But this is where the starting point of history matters. If it is late February, 2022, you get one answer. If it is 1918, with stopping points in 1991 and 2014, you get a different answer. The long view is supported here.
The Americans have Allied with Ukrainian Nazis for Most of the Last Century
A disinformation campaign is being waged in the U.S. to whitewash the presence of Nazis in Ukrainian politics during the Maidan uprising of 2013 – 2014, and since. The purpose here isn’t to use the label ‘Nazi’ to slander political actors, but to provide a brief history of what led to the presence of self-described Nazis in contemporary Ukrainian politics. This history leads from Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera and his followers, who allied with German Nazis in the 1940s, to the Right Sector and Azov Battalion that played crucial roles in the Maidan massacre and its aftermath.
While charges of ‘fascism’ have flowed free and easy in the U.S. in recent years, Russia lost in the vicinity of twenty-seven million people in WWII, twenty million of them to the Nazis. Ukrainian nationalists from the OUN-B, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists led by Stepan Bandera, joined with German Nazis to commit atrocities against Poles, Ukrainian Jews and ethnic-Russians as the Nazis moved eastward to attack Russia. The point is that the Russians have legitimate reasons to fear neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
Before the Americans began denying the existence of neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine, their existence had been well-enough understood that congress sought to limit the flow of arms to them. Ironically, this was more than three years after the Americans were known to have been supplying American arms to neo-Nazi militias. As I suggested as the time, the impeachment of Donald Trump was over his temporarily halting American arms shipments to neo-Nazi militias. Trump being Trump, he quickly fell in line and arms shipments resumed.
Both Ivan Katchanovski of the University of Ottawa and the late professor of Russian politics, Stephen Cohen, have provided details of the determinative role that neo-Nazi militias have played in the political violence that is being used to shape current Ukrainian politics. The Maidan Massacre, claimed by Katchanovski to have been carried out by the neo-Nazi Right Sector, occurred as negotiations for then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to remain in office were taking place. It was charged at the time that Yanukovych was behind the killings.
This illustrates why the claim that neo-Nazis represent too small a percentage of the Ukrainian population to warrant concern is a canard. The Maidan Massacre shifted public sentiment against Yanukovych around the time that Victoria Nuland was caught choosing the new government of Ukraine. While this isn’t proof of a conspiracy, the coincidence of a neo-Nazi militia committing a false-flag operation--- the killings were originally blamed on the Yanukovych government, that facilitated the American-led coup, strains credulity.
The 2014 coup ties to a century-long history of the Americans interfering in Russian politics. In 1918, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent the American Expeditionary Force to reverse the Russian Revolution. Following, the Americans allied with German and Ukrainian Nazis during and after WWII to battle the Soviets. Today, Ukrainian neo-Nazis are drawing from this history that most Americans know nothing about. Ukrainian neo-Nazis aren’t Nazis in the American sense, they are Nazis as emerged from European history.
The October Revolution of 1917 is widely understood in the West to represent the culmination of the Russian Revolution. However, Ukraine wasn’t officially joined with Russia in the USSR until 1922. As is suggested by the difference in dates, joining the USSR was contested both within Ukraine and between the Ukrainian state and the Bolsheviks. A very crude analogy is the American absorption of the west from Texas to California during the Mexican American War. That absorption was contested, hence the war. And residual differences are easy enough for malevolent political actors to exploit.
Readers will note that the year, 1922, followed the end of WWI (1918) when what is now western Ukraine was apportioned to Poland. Ethnic Ukrainians were caught between Poland in the West and the Bolsheviks in the east. The relevant Ukrainian nationalist political organization for present purposes is the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists), which became active in Western Ukraine, which was then Poland, in the late 1920s. The goal of the OUN was the formation of an autonomous Ukrainian state under the control of ethnic Ukrainians. The relevant point is that ethnic affiliation aligned with the contours of this imagined Ukrainian state.
Stepan Bandera was a Ukrainian nationalist who eventually gained a prominent role in OUN before rivalries, political differences, and imprisonment, led the Banderites, also known as OUN-B, to split and form their own Ukrainian nationalist organization. OUN-B had an ethnic, and antisemitic, understanding of the Bolsheviks that posited that they represented a Jewish conspiracy to control the world. Readers will note the similarity to Nazi antisemitic tropes regarding an ‘international Jewish conspiracy.’ The German Nazi ‘innovation’ was their contortion of American eugenics into Nazi race theory.
Bandera and his followers, OUN-B, needed political alliances to realize a Ukrainian state, and their anticommunist, antisemitic, ideology aligned with that of the Nazis. Similarly, the Nazis needed alliances with Ukrainians to facilitate their march through ethnic Ukrainian territory on their way to attack the Soviets during WWII. OUN-B affiliated themselves with the German Nazis, espoused Nazi ideology, pledged allegiance to Adolf Hitler, and participated with the Nazi Einsatzgruppen in carrying out a pogrom against Jews in Lviv. It later became known that OUN-B had assumed official roles working for the Gestapo and SS.
(For background and details, see here, here, here, and here).
However, the Banderites had been naïve in imagining that the Nazis would cede power to them. They were on-again, off-again supported, arrested, and freed by the Nazis. This isn’t to understate their commitment to Nazism and Nazi ideology. OUN-B is implicated in atrocities instigated years and decades after the alliance with the German Nazis became fraught. The point is that they weren’t simply opportunists allied with the German Nazis for temporary political gain. They were deeply anticommunists and antisemites. The term ‘Ukrainian Nazis’ has descriptive value. It isn’t slander for purposes of political posturing.
Of current relevance is that OUN-B represented a Ukrainian front in the Nazi devastation caused the Soviets in WWII. Whatever your view of the CIA, it has historians who not only know this history, but operations people who participated in it (links below). When the Americans were looking for ‘partners’ in Ukraine to carry out Cold War operations against the Soviets, Ukrainian nationalists with ties to OUN-B, aka Ukrainian Nazis, were an obvious choice.
Few Americans have knowledge of the long history of the CIA and its predecessor, the OSS, working with German and Ukrainian Nazis from the time that WWII was winding down. And the relationship went beyond just the CIA. The American military (CIC), American industry, and related intelligence services like Britain’s MI6, hired and protected German and Ukrainian Nazis to carry out espionage and attacks against their residual enemies from WWII. Occasional revelations in the U.S. have tended to grossly understate the scope and nature of this relationship.
New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau has written and spoken extensively about the American relationship with German Nazis in the aftermath of WWII. The American explanation for recruiting and protecting thousands of former Nazi leaders to work for the CIA and branches of the military has tended to be expediency during the Cold War in the U.S. fight against the Soviets. However, Lichtblau also found evidence of potent antisemitism amongst the American military and political leadership, including American ‘hero,’ U.S. General George Patton.
While Lichtblau characterizes the DP (Displaced Person) camps as an American takeover of the German Concentration Camp system following WWII, in fairness, the Americans had long used concentration camps to hold ‘undesirable’ populations before assuming management of the Nazi camps. The DP camps remained occupied for years after WWII ended. Many were ‘managed’ by the same Nazi guards who had done so during the war. And violent retribution from residual malevolent forces from the war was carried out against camp occupants.
What united the Americans with the former Nazi leadership was hatred of the Soviets. Toward this end, the CIA recruited former Nazi senior intelligence officer Reinhard Gehlen to head-up the Berlin office of the CIA. Gehlen recruited at least one-hundred former Nazi officers to work for him in Berlin. The CIA also worked with Klaus Barbie, ‘the butcher of Lyon,’ to murder key ally of Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution, Che Guevara. Stepan Bandera and OUN-B were natural allies of Western intelligence agencies in post-WWII, anti-Soviet, warfare.
Following WWII, Bandera joined with MI6, the British intelligence service, to reconstitute the Banderite branch of the OUN (OUN-B). Concurrently (1946), Five Eyes, the formal cooperative relationship between the intelligence services of the Anglosphere that included the CIA and MI6, was formed. As these events were transpiring, an agent for the CIC, the U.S. Counterintelligence Corps, brought information to the CIA that the Banderites had been full partners with the German Nazis, including ‘as agents of the Gestapo and SS.’
Separately, members of the OUN emigrated to New York and began working for the CIA through Project Aerodynamic (and here). The CIA operation in New York worked to exploit Ukrainian nationalist sympathies by building an anti-Soviet publishing and distribution network funded and managed by the CIA. Prolog was the front corporation used. Prolog was relocated to Munich in 1968, after which it remained in the business of stoking anti-Soviet animosity amongst Ukrainian nationalists as a front for the CIA.
Ukraine became an independent nation in the summer of 1991. The USSR officially dissolved later that year. And although Stepan Bandera was killed by the KGB in Munich in 1959, CIA and MI6 continued working with OUN-B long after the war had ended. Whereas Project Aerodynamic focused on publishing anti-Soviet propaganda, OUN-B in Europe was an operational arm that worked with / through MI6. OUN-B appears to have been set loose in Europe to carry out an anti-Soviet terror campaign.
The existence of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance makes strong distinctions between operations carried out by MI6 and the CIA suspect. British author Stephen Dorril writes extensively about the coordinated intelligence operations between MI6, the CIA, and CIC (U.S. Army intelligence) surrounding the relationship with OUN-B. Much as the Nazis had used OUN-B to advance the Nazi army through Ukraine, the Five Eyes alliance used OUN-B to exacerbate Ukrainian anti-Soviet tensions and to carry out terror attacks against the Soviets.
The information presented here, all gotten from public sources, has the CIA, MI6, and various related letter agencies, allying with German and Ukrainian Nazis from the end of WWII through the late 1960s. From 2013 on, Ukrainian neo-Nazis from the Azov Battalion and Right Sector used orchestrated political violence at key points in the Maidan uprising, including the Maidan Massacre, that propelled the American interest in replacing the Ukrainian government with one allied with it, forward.
Since 2015 the CIA has been openly training Ukrainian nationalist militias, including known neo-Nazis, in anticipation of military conflict with Russia. American arms totaling $2.5 billion have been delivered to the Ukrainian military as it works with and arms neo-Nazis. Ukrainian neo-Nazis pay homage to OUN-B founder Stepan Bandera in candlelight marches that are direct historical corollary of the candlelight marches that marked the political ascendance of Adolf Hitler.
This history, which is becoming known due to the Russian military incursion into Ukraine, ties American foreign policy intended to box Russia in militarily to the revival of U.S. alliances with Ukrainian nationalists, many of whom are self-described neo-Nazis. Without these alliances with neo-Nazi militias, U.S. goals in Ukraine wouldn’t have been achieved. As alleged above by Ivan Katchanovski above, the role of the neo-Nazi Right Sector in the Maidan Massacre shifted the course of the American-led coup.
What is frightening in the present is that the Americans have no apparent conception of how to get out of the current mess. The answer is simple: give the Russians the security pledges that they are asking for and move on. However, the proverbial genie is out of the bottle. With their backs to the wall, the Russians stood up to the Americans. While those outside of the American foreign policy establishment have seen this writing on the wall since George W. Bush’s catastrophe in Iraq, Biden was brought to office to recover an unrecoverable old normal.