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How Haley’s Hawks Brought Carnage to Ukraine

The U.S. hawks who have prolonged and intensified the conflict in Ukraine are coalescing around Nikki Haley.

Credit: Consolidated News Photos

The Ukraine war could have been brought to a close much earlier, at a much smaller cost in lives and treasure, but for Western hawkism.

Once considered a fringe notion, this is fast becoming the bitter conventional wisdom in Washington, London—and Kiev. David Arahamiya, the leader of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party, told a Ukrainian outlet that Russia had offered to end hostilities in spring 2022, provided Ukraine stayed out of NATO and maintained neutrality.


Arahamiya should know. He headed the Ukrainian delegation to the two rounds of peace talks held that spring in Turkey. The Russians “really hoped almost to the last that they would put the squeeze on us to sign such an agreement so that we would take neutrality,” he recalled. “It was the biggest thing for them.” He added: “They were ready to end the war if we took—as Finland once did—neutrality and made commitments that we would not join NATO. This was the key point.”

Team Zelensky was, understandably, mistrustful of Moscow’s intentions. And the prospect of amending the Ukrainian constitution to remove the reference to the country’s NATO aspirations—enshrined there at George W. Bush’s behest—was no doubt daunting. Still, whatever hopes there were of a negotiated settlement were dashed on April 9, when Boris Johnson, then the British prime minister, visited Ukraine, urging war. BoJo, according to Arahamiya, told the Ukrainians that they “shouldn't sign anything with them at all—and let’s just fight.”

Yeah, let’s just fight.

The result: many more months of combat, thousands more dead, the destruction of Ukraine’s physical landscape and infrastructure, the country’s utter depopulation, and the high likelihood that the Zelensky government will have to settle for worse peace terms than those that were on the table in 2022. This is what the “responsible people” in the corridors of Western power have wrought.

As Jacobin writer Branko Marcetic notes in a recent essay, restrainers on the left and the right were branded Kremlin stooges and irresponsible fools for warning that this is where escalation would lead: “Restrainers indicated that while Kiev is certainly justified in defending itself and trying to reclaim territory seized by Russia, the potential costs to Ukraine of a prolonged war would be much worse than the costs of losing territory.” He adds:


Through it all, proponents of peace and restraint and many military experts stressed that an outright Ukrainian victory was highly unlikely, given the imbalance of military power between the two states and Russia’s stark advantages in a war of attrition. The country and its people, they warned, could very well wind up bearing all of these enormous costs, only to be forced into some kind of ceasefire or peace deal anyway, and on more unfavorable terms than they would have gotten earlier. The danger was always that, with the American public and politicians weary of funding escalation, Kiev would be forced to negotiate without the leverage of US military backing.

And the “responsible people” are determined to maintain their perches of responsibility—which is to say, their power. On the right, this means a concerted push to manufacture enthusiasm for Nikki Haley’s challenge to Donald Trump in the GOP primary. A $1,000-per-ticket fundraiser for Haley on Nov. 13, previously unreported elsewhere, opened a revealing window onto this effort.

The host committee was a who’s who of the sorts of “responsible people” who plunged the United States into two fruitless wars in the two decades after 9/11 and/or served as hired guns for various foreign regimes and companies. There was, of course, Kurt Volker, Bush II’s ambassador to NATO and Trump’s special envoy for Ukraine, who later served as a key witness in his second impeachment (remember the dumb call with Zelensky?).

Volker was joined by a host of Bushy figures like Jim Connaughton, the former chairman of Bush II’s White House Council on Environmental Quality; Andrew Maner of Bush II’s Department of Homeland Security (and a generous Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush donor); as well as a host of figures associated with the BGR Group, lobbying firm of choice for a number of U.S. client states, including unsavory ones like Azerbaijan. BGR Group has also been retained by the Beijing-based Xiaomi to help fight the Chinese electronics company’s blacklisting under the Trump administration over its ties to the Chinese security apparatus.

It is notable, of course, that some of these same figures had found their way into government under Trump himself. Trump did not drain the swamp. That fact raises serious questions about whether a figure like Trump could ever make good on his more populist promises. Still, for now, the swampiest are swirling around Haley as their woman. It’s one more reason to declare once more: never, ever, ever Haley.