In Washington today, if you oppose keeping NATO’s doors open to Ukraine you’re a bit of a freak. I’m aware of barely any members of Congress, in either party, who hold that view. A decade or two ago, however, it was a position espoused by pillars of the American establishment. What happened? In part, it’s a story of generational change. US foreign policy is now dominated by people who came of age in a unipolar world. And that’s a dangerous thing.
Having been on the ground working, when President Bush made the infamous "Chicken Kiev" speech. Advising the CIA on Yeltsin's first visit to the US, suggesting ways to integrate former Soviet Republics (including Russia) into new global age, I think your article's reliance on the assessments of Cold War warriors, undermines what was possible at the time the walls came down. Had US leadership, from G.H.W. Bush on down been willing to think beyond their limited understanding of the world, our planet would be a much safer place to live, and NATO would not be a topic of discussion as other possibilities and ideas would have bridged what are now intractable rivers between east and west. It was not the West's military limits that destroyed prospects for peace, it was their fear of ideas and engagement. It was not a near naked Yeltsin in DC that was the problem, it was putting him in a box that led to Putin's rise that was the problem. Mindset between old liners and Millennials is not the issue, thinking of what could be, rather than fiefdoms was and is.
I bit late to this article, but just wanted to congratulate you on a great piece. I completed a degree in Political Science in 2015, just when the Crimea issue was the crisis of the day, and that's what my final paper was about. What I found while researching Russia-West relations and studying Russian and Ukranian history is largely consistent with what you just wrote.
At the end of the day, Ukraine in NATO is as much of a red line to Russia as Soviet missiles in cuba were to the U.S. We can only hope the tough guys and gals in Washington and newsrooms wise up to that reality before disaster ensues.
Apart from the question of "spheres of influence", do the preferences of the people who actually live in the affected regions (Donbas, Crimea) count for anything? Do they want to be part of Ukraine or part of Russia, or (semi-)autonomous parts of either? I suspect that the large Russian ethnic minority (and Russian-speaking majority) in the Donbas, and the Russian ethnic and language majority in Crimea, might well have something to say about this. Should their preferences carry any weight?
You decidedly have history on your side and you convincingly proved it by quoting the foreign policy giants of the past who acknowledged, or at least understood, Kremlin's displeasure at NATO's expansion to the Russian border. However, the rationale that the current unipolar view is rooted somehow in a generational gap is not very convincing. People surrounding Biden comes in two stripes: the younger breed, that is leftist and socialist and at the same time globalist, seems to be wary of conflicts that would undermine globalism. The other stripe is the usual cabal that has fomented conflicts because it is their hobby, a la John Bolton, or those whose paychecks are tied to a world in perpetual conflict. Also, your characterization of Tucker Carlson's views on Ukraine are tendentious and inaccurate. I watch his hour every night. He has repeatedly highlighted the Russian gripe against NATO's eastward expansion. Former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is his regular guest on this subject and she has made this point many times. Thanks.
How's "American Exceptionalism" for a generation gap? People who think there's something good about America and its machinations abroad are either rich, gray-haired, or both. The last thirty years haven't done anything to prove Smedley Butler wrong, so the US foreign policy establishment has got a fair bit of catching up to do if it wants to convince Americans that their latest crackpot adventure is worth supporting.
I agree with most of what you write except for the grave SINS of OMISSION in this sentence, "2014, Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, swallowing Crimea, fomenting a rebellion in parts of the country’s Russian-speaking east"
That didn't come out of a vacuum.
It was the logical next step and consequence for the 2014 US Coup d'Etat/regime change of the Russian friendly government the Russian speaking majorities in the East and Crimea voted for.
It was the US Coup that fomented the rebellion in the East and Crimea, not Putin.
This is a very good article. Thank you for writing it. I do have one non-completely central question that I hope you could answer: when FDR said that the U.S. and Britian would not defend Poland from the USSR, why was it the case that GB agreed to defend Poland from Germany? Certainly, there couldn't be any ethical differences important enough. Nazi Germany and the Stalin-led USSR are 1 and 1a when it comes to all-time evil regimes. Thank you.
Very insightful. It seems history is never a lesson until one experiences it.
Peter. What this piece lacks is anything discussing/speculating about what Russia's response today would be to the U.S./NATO stating that Ukr will not become a member. Are you confident that this would be sufficient to change Putin's behavior for the better, or would it be rather proof to him that further ratcheting up pressure is a successful strategy? Sure, maybe the US/NATO should have been clear decades ago that the preference would be the Finlandization of UKR, but after the annexation of Crimea, it seems that possibility that this would be a successful way to manage the relationship with Ru has passed?
Very strange how the history of Ukraine has been revised and invented. Khrushchev put Crimea administratively under the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic that the Soviet Union created and that dissolved in 1991. The current geographic area of Ukraine was created in different parts primarily starting with the creation of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic after a brief period of independence after WWI. There were also border changes after WW II.. The pre Soviet era Ukraine post post WW I appears on maps smaller. There is Western Eastern and Central Ukraine. The original Ukraine which means borderlands was the Cossack Hetmanate whose best known Hetman was Bogdan Khmelnitsky.
I'm first gen Ukrainian Jew . My Mother and her family came here around 1915 . Her older sister my Aunt Sonia remembered the Kossacks' coming into their village ( outside Kiev ) on horseback to kill Jews. My Mother's native tongue was Yiddish , although according to my sister my Grandfather spoke Russian. which was unusual .
Been doing a deep into Russian History including my own. Most days I feel like I have been whacked on the head. After reading this, i feel less "whacked "
Although a good model for Ukraine, Finland has neither the large Russian minority population (although some Russian Jews remained) nor the significance of Ukraine in Russian history. Also, Crimea was parr of Russia as recently as 1954 and many of the anti-Russian paramilitary groups are essentially Fascists. Imagine what we would do if we were in their shoes!
When I first heard of the Colleyville, TX Synagogue attack, my first reaction was:” God I hope this is not a Palestinian” ( intent on revenge or troubled or deranged). Then I recognized how easily anyone can buy a gun and get their hot or cold anger satisfied. And that could have been someone who attacked a Mosque in Texas for a similar reason. I shook my head and went on to Ukr, Russia, Putin, NATO. I remembered the justification of moving NATO missiles to Poland - to protect NATO from Iranian missiles!!! Really? The great opportunity missed when the Soviet Union was not winning the Cold War, but winning the New Peace. Not had no mission left then since the enemy had just melted down. Not a leap of faith, but a reality, except for the powerful entrenched special interests. Now we threaten Russia with unprecedented sanctions if they dared, while we wink at Israel’s annexation of the last of the Palestinian Loaf of Bread, or the Golan. The megaphone for Ukraine is so loud, while it’s silent on Israel or Saudi Arabia. If we look in the mirror, can we keep any credibility?
On the Ukraine crisis, I am disappointed The Washington Post deleted my comment yesterday in one of their many anti-Russia/Putin Propaganda articles recently.
The hypocritical, duplicitous, schizophrenic attitude of SOS Blinken and the US Power Elite is Dangerous to all Humanity in the extreme.
This is the stated US position in the Tug of WAR with Russia over Ukraine.
“We must never stand for the flouting or erosion of our bedrock principles. That means no tolerance for overt or tacit spheres of influence, no restrictions on the sovereign right of nations to choose their own alliances, no privileging one state’s security requirements over those of another.” What BS!
The Soviets deployed their missiles to Cuba in 1962 only AFTER the US deployed it's missiles aimed at Russia in new NATO Member Turkey.
In an Act of War by International Law, the US Navy erected a total Blockade around Cuba and was willing to start Armageddon/WWIII over those Soviet missiles close to the US.
The US totally denied Cuba's "Sovereign right in making an alliance" with the Soviets after the failed CIA Bay of Pigs debacle. In reality, the US established it's "sphere of influence" in the Western hemisphere, bedrock Principles be damned.
The Military Warsaw Pact opposite NATO in Europe collapsed with the Soviet Union in 1991.
In it's delusional and arrogant hubris with no Warsaw Pact opposition, US/NATO, discarding it's verbal promise not to move East beyond the Unified Germany if the Soviets withdrew it's Military forces back to Russia, then advanced NATO steadily toward Russia.
Putin has every legitimate right to be concerned and alarmed about US motives and intentions in Russia's part of this World
Ukraine is only 800 miles wide from Russia's border to Western Europe.
Americans are not that exceptional. Putin is following that 1962 US playbook, threatening Armageddon/WWIII, if NATO arms Ukraine and admits it into NATO so US troops and missiles will be right on Russia's border
NATO forces are already in Ukraine training the Military to fight Russia as the US proxy force, knowing the Ukrainians wouldn't stand a chance in a WAR against Russia no matter how many weapons it gives to Ukraine.
The US has already given Ukraine close to $2 BILLION in Military aid since the 2014 US orchestrated Coup, changing the Russian friendly government the Russian speaking majorities in the East bordering Russia and Crimea voted for, installing the US proxy Neo-Nazi anti-Russian government.
That was the same Ukraine government US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland was caught on tape saying she wanted even BEFORE the Coup was a done deal.