WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – More Americans would understand the reasons behind the current crisis in Ukraine if they learned more about NATO expansion eastward and the 2014 change of power in the country, US human rights activist and coordinator of the Odessa Solidarity Campaign Phil Wilayto told Sputnik.
“Most people here in the US don’t know anything about either the NATO expansion or the coup. If they did, they might be able to understand why we are in the present crisis. Even so, it’s clear there is no appetite here for direct US involvement in the war,” Wilayto said. The activist believes it is very important to break through government propaganda which depicts alleged Russian expansionism as the reason for the conflict.
“The truth is that the US and NATO have provoked this war. For years, they have been expanding right up to Russia’s Western flank, and have been conducting joint military exercises with the Ukrainian military right up to Russia’s border,” he added.
American mainstream media, however, shaped public opinion by promoting the government position, he continued. Wilayto also expressed frustration that the antiwar movement in the US has weakened over the years.
“Polls are reporting that the majority of people here in the U.S. feel sympathetic to Ukraine, but are against getting directly involved in the war. I think if more understood the role of the US and NATO they would become more skeptical about the official explanations about how we got to this point,” he noted.
Still, a number of protests against US involvement in the Ukraine crisis have taken place around the country, he said. One of those protests, co-sponsored by several human rights groups, took place outside NATO Command in Norfolk, Virginia.
“The protest was small – only 12 people, but significant because it was held outside NATO Command, a companion to NATO headquarters in Brussels, and is housed at Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval station and home to the largest concentration of US Navy forces,” Wilayto explained. “The reactions from the passing drivers – many of whom were active-duty military personnel – was interesting. There was some hostility, but also some honks of approval.”
Speaking of US policy in Eastern Europe, Wilayto underscored Washington’s desire to dominate in the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some countries in the region could have grown into economic competitors of the West, but as conditions for receiving Western loans, they had to agree to shut down much of their own industry, he added.
Both the US and NATO have the same approach to Russia, according to the activist, who is sure that they want to dominate Russia as well.
“The West wants to dominate either by breaking it up like it did [with] former Yugoslavia or imposing ever more draconian sanctions in the hope that the Russian people will turn against their own government in favour of a more pro-Western one. If that happens, Russia would be reduced to one more vassal state of the West,” he said.
Wilayto opposes the idea of imposing sanctions.
“The US has imposed various forms of direct or indirect sanctions on dozens of countries on virtually every continent, and yet none have resulted in any significant changes in policy by the targeted governments. The sanctions have, however, brought great suffering to the people of those countries,” he said.
The real purpose of sanctions is to promote domestic unrest and, ultimately, what Washington calls “regime change,” he added. On 2 May 2014, Ukrainian nationalists locked protesters in Odessa’s House of Trade Unions and set the building on fire. Forty-six people died and over 200 protesters were injured in the blaze and clashes with the radicals.US human rights activists formed the Odessa Solidarity Campaign to call for an international investigation into the massacre. On 24 February, Russia began a special operation to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine, responding to calls for help from the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics in countering the aggression of Ukrainian troops. The Russian Defence Ministry said the special operation is targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure only. Several days into the operation, the Russian military accused the Ukrainian military of using typical terrorist methods, such as hiding behind civilians and in civilian quarters.