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Unveiling the Complex Dynamics of the Russo-Ukrainian Conflict: A Critical PerspectiveInterview with Éric Denece by Gagliano Giuseppe

Éric Denécé, Director of the French Center for Intelligence Research, member of Cestudec and IASSP, has recently contributed to an essay in France on the Russo-Ukrainian war, “The Russo-Ukrainian War: Realities and Lessons from a High-Intensity Conflict” (Cf2R, 2024), where he highlighted the undeniable strategic responsibilities of the United States and NATO in the escalation of the conflict as part of a broader policy of containing Russia. In this extensive interview, the French analyst and former operative of the French intelligence services has provided us with an overview of the topic.

Unveiling the Complex Dynamics of the Russo-Ukrainian Conflict: A Critical Perspective
Interview with Éric Denece by Gagliano Giuseppe

1) What is the political context of the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine?

Unfortunately, this conflict was predictable, but nothing was done to prevent it. On the contrary, there is ample evidence that it was deliberately triggered by the United States. If American leaders had not reneged on promises made to Moscow, if NATO had not continued to expand, if France and Germany had been able to force Kiev to comply with the Minsk agreements, and if Zelensky and his clique had not listened to the fatal advice of their American mentors, we would not be in this mess. It is therefore important to re-establish a more objective view of the facts than that conveyed by particularly distorted media.
The analysis of the facts shows that since the autumn of 2021, we have been facing a scenario orchestrated from scratch in Washington with the triple objective of cornering Moscow, mobilizing Europeans behind the United States and NATO, and distracting them from President Biden’s domestic policy problems.
The American decision to weaken Russia is part of a strategy that has been developed since the end of the Cold War and has taken a clearly visible form since 2014. From the autumn of 2021, seeing that Russia refused to respect their unacceptable injunctions, the Americans have increased provocations against Moscow instead of seeking to ease tension. Instead of pushing the Ukrainians to negotiate with the Donbass republics, as provided by the Minsk agreements, the Americans have sent military advisors.
However, from the beginning of the crisis, the Russians have consistently reiterated that they have no intention of invading Ukraine and that their military deployment has only one goal: to deter the Kiev regime from launching an offensive against the Donbass republics. Putin has denied any belligerent intentions and has repeatedly invited Washington, London, and NATO to “stop spreading nonsense” and asked them to cease hostile actions against his country.
On November 11, 2021, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations explained that Moscow had “never planned” to invade Ukraine and that “it will never happen, unless we are provoked by Ukraine or someone else and the national sovereignty of Russia is threatened.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stated that he cannot rule out that Kiev might undertake “a military adventure” in Donbass. If Russia is the aggressor in this conflict, those who have pushed it to attack are unquestionably the United States, NATO, and the Zelensky government. We must never forget this. Although Russia cannot be justified, blaming it alone for this conflict is a misrepresentation of reality, if not deliberate disinformation.
Indeed, on February 17, 2022, Kiev launched a military operation to reconquer the Donetsk and Luhansk republics with NATO’s support, well aware that Moscow could not remain without reacting, thus triggering the current crisis.
In this way, American neoconservatives set a Machiavellian trap for the Russians: to make the pressure on Donbass unbearable for Russia to force it to intervene militarily in Ukraine, undermine its international credibility, and cut it off from Western Europe.

2) What role have the United States and Britain played in preparing for the current conflict?

The US-UK policy against Russia is largely due to the need for the two leaders to create a diversion in the face of the growing difficulties they were encountering in domestic politics during 2021. The more the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom were in trouble on the domestic scene, the greater the pressure against Moscow. Moreover, this policy was based on deep-rooted Russophobia among the ruling elites in both countries.
The internal difficulties Joe Biden had to face were numerous. On February 17, 2022, the Senate passed a temporary law to extend federal government funding until March 11, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown and giving legislators another three weeks to draft an annual budget. Biden’s failure to reach an agreement with parliamentarians left the country in a deadlock: if an agreement between Congress and the White House had not been reached by March 11, there was a risk that federal funding would be cut.
It is therefore not surprising that tensions over the Ukrainian issue increased as a diversionary tactic. So much so that American journalists ended up asking them, on February 19, 2022, if it was all a bluff. Naturally, the journalists denied it.
In the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson was in a similar situation. He had suffered a setback in by-elections; David Frost, one of his ministers, had resigned abruptly; he was embroiled in the Partygate affair, and his own party was calling for his resignation.
Washington and London thus had every reason to nurture a genuine anti-Russian hysteria, and the American strategy was clear: provoke an incident in Donbass to trigger a Russian response. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Americans have resorted to such subterfuges to play the role of the aggressor and justify a “legitimate” response: the first Gulf War (Iraq, 1991), where Washington sent false signals to Saddam Hussein, making him believe he could invade Kuwait without consequences; and the second Iraq War (2003), where they used two fabricated arguments: the links between Saddam and Al-Qaeda and the presence of weapons of mass destruction.

3) What are the responsibilities of NATO and Putin in this war?

Let’s look at some facts. In 1997, George Bush and James Baker promised Gorbachev that NATO would never take advantage of Russia’s eclipse to advance “even an inch” eastward. As history shows, they did not keep their word. Their successors claimed that there had never been any promise. They also lied. Declassified documents in 2017 detail the unkept agreement. But this is not the only complaint of the Russians against the Americans. At the same time, the United States began to withdraw from arms control treaties signed during the Cold War, particularly from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which had put an end, for a time, to the nuclear arms race.
At the end of 2021, at a press conference, Putin reiterated the Russian position, which must be objectively recognized as legitimate. Moscow’s demands included the end of the Alliance’s expansion policy, a commitment not to deploy offensive weapons near Russian territory, and the withdrawal of NATO positions from the 1997 borders. The Russian President reiterated that he was waiting for written commitments from the Americans; he lamented the refusal of his main requests and regretted not receiving any constructive response. He declared that he would not give up his demands and that they would be part of the Russian-Western negotiation process. By amassing his army on the outskirts of Ukraine and showing that he could decide to send it to Kiev, he demonstrated that Russia was no longer the weakened state of the early 2000s.

4) How much has disinformation been used during this war? Are there illuminating examples?

This conflict has been characterized by a significant media dimension in which, unlike the Cold War, the West has managed to impose its version of the facts. The overseas spin doctors have undeniable talent in representing the Russian threat. There are many parallels between the current Ukrainian crisis and the preparations for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Americans built up a threat that did not exist and launched a large-scale psychological operation in the hope that their prophecies would come true and that Russia would make a mistake that would allow them to punish it. In 2003, after an intense media campaign based on false accusations, Washington illegally invaded Iraq, bypassing the United Nations decision and blatantly violating international law.
Politicians, journalists, and analysts appearing in the media to tell us what to think seem to live in a parallel world, in a reality they have created for themselves and come to believe in, but which has nothing to do with the actual situation. This blindness is terrible because it leads us into a dead end and disqualifies us definitively in the eyes of Russia – with which we will eventually have to reestablish relations – and the non-Western world.

5) Is this a proxy war? If so, why? If not, why?

Yes, undeniably. Since April 2022, we have been witnessing a Russo-American war, through the Ukrainians, instigated by Washington in an attempt to weaken Russia – unsuccessfully – and in which European states have let themselves be involved out of Russophobia, submission, or stupidity.
Since 2014, Kiev has built an army of nearly 300,000 soldiers trained by NATO – not to mention the 900,000 reservists – and has tempered it by fighting the forces of the two autonomist republics of Donbass supported by Moscow. In eight years, Ukraine has built an army larger than those of France, Britain, and Germany. It is no surprise that the Russian offensive has encountered real adversity.
Moreover, during 2023 and the beginning of 2024, several American newspapers revealed the extent of the assistance provided by the CIA to the Ukrainian special services. These operations ranged from infiltration into enemy territory to sabotage and targeted killings. From these media, it emerges that since 2014, the Agency has spent tens of millions of dollars to reorganize the Ukrainian services, train new units of covert action, provide advanced surveillance systems, and build new infrastructure to spy on Russia. Moreover, it has provided its ally – but also received from it – an impressive amount of intelligence.

6) What responsibilities does Europe have in this war? What role should Europe play in this conflict?

This conflict is yet another demonstration of the insignificance of Europeans and their total subordination to Washington at the expense of their interests. While France has been relegated to the role of a bystander in this crisis,despite the pathetic gestures of its President, it is especially Germany that is paying the highest price in this conflict. With the sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, Germany was the victim of a real act of war by its ally and protector, the United States. But despite this operation having disastrous consequences for the German economy, neither the Berlin government, nor its parliamentarians, nor the media, nor public opinion have backed down, literally bowing to Washington, which thus achieved one of its objectives: to definitively cut Germany off from Russia, causing an irreconcilable fracture between the two states, and reducing Berlin’s growing influence in Europe and its economic weight within the Western camp. Even worse, the BND, the German intelligence service, validated the ridiculous story published by the Americans to refute the version of the facts presented by the respected American journalist Seymour Hersh.
Another particularly surprising paradox is Germany’s support – especially from its Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, a very militant member of the Green Party – for the Zelensky regime, even though it includes, up to the highest levels of its military, supporters of a Nazi ideology that originated in Germany and was thought to have been eradicated in 1945. But we are no closer to a contradiction… Thus, Europeans, under American pressure, have married the cause of a corrupt and antidemocratic Ukrainian regime that welcomes extremists among its ranks and has forcefully repressed the population of Donbass demanding respect for their language.
We must therefore stop believing that the United States always tells the truth, that it is a benevolent power for humanity, disinterested, peaceful, and aiming only for the common good. Since the end of the Cold War, Washington has become increasingly hegemonic, imposing its laws on the rest of the world without restraint, sanctioning and plundering its allies, saturating public opinion with information that serves its interests, refusing to see its citizens brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC), and having clearly distanced itself from respect for human rights (legalization of certain forms of torture, extrajudicial abductions, secret prisons, etc.). The Americans are pursuing a policy in the world that responds only to their interests.
If Russia is not, in our eyes, the ideal democracy, we must recognize that neither are the United States of the 21st century, even if they wrongly still appear to be the leaders of the democratic field. But by constantly provoking Moscow, we do nothing but strengthen Russian nationalism and its hostility towards the West.
This is not about admiring Putin, nor about abdicating out of fear of Russia, but about having an objective view of the situation and not accepting the distorted and partial vision provided by the United States.

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