Russia tensions cannot justify US facilitation of far-right growth in Ukraine

By Bradley Bernard

FEARS of a US-Iran war after the assassination of Qasem Soleimani foreboded an ominous 2020.

A year later, US civil war could have broken out following the Capitol insurrection.

And because 2022 doesn’t want to be left out, major powers are sweating over the impending prospect of a conflict based around Russia and Ukraine.

Talks are hitting a dead end, while the US says Putin is preparing military operations to invade his neighbour.

But aside from being Joe Biden’s second major foreign policy test (after the Afghanistan withdrawal), the tensions have uncovered what few have tried to highlight since the Crimea conflict – the growing prominence of the far-right in Ukraine.

A recent investigation found that since the 2014 revolution, there has been a “proliferation of nationalist ideology in the military and security forces of Ukraine”. The Azov Batallion, established by the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior, has a political wing with known contacts in neo-Nazi parties around the world.

Worryingly, Washington seems to think that the end justifies the means.

Evelyn Farkas, who served as US deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, bizarrely told Newsweek: “They have right now existential issues to deal with, and the far-right groups are helping defend Ukraine.

“So at this moment in time, the Ukrainian government needs all the help it can get from its citizens, regardless of their ideology.”

Recently the Kremlin has also (opportunistically, perhaps) tried to point out the growth of the far-right, with a top legislator calling for a pan-European response to a torch-lit, far-right march in Kiev.

We’ve seen this before in conflicts around the world. Washington has either implicitly supported or turned a blind eye to far-right or fundamentalist elements, as long as it helps them achieve their foreign policy goals.

From a US perspective – but not necessarily an objective one – Russian aggression in the region must stop. But instead of supporting diplomacy and democracy while carrying out this aim, there appears to be a convenient blind eye when it comes to Azov and right-wing elements in Ukraine.

And just like we’ve seen in other conflicts, a failure to plan for the aftermath can often leave the proxy nation in ruins.

Biden has a massive decision to make – one that could define his tenure more than the disaster in Afghanistan. But at the time of writing, the New York Times reports that “senior Biden administration officials are warning that the United States could throw its weight behind a Ukrainian insurgency should President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia invade” – the signs don’t look great.


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Featured Image: Atlantic Council @ Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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