If you’ve followed the diplomacy over Ukraine closely, you may have noticed that the Biden administration has relied heavily on CIA Director William J. (Bill) Burns. In November it dispatched him to Moscow where, according to CNN, he served as a “key intermediary
Burns is right on the mark. Everything happening today was fostered by behaviors and relationships from when the Iron Curtain fell. Many of us on the ground were ready, willing, and able to serve as conduits to a healthy US-Russia-Ukraine-East/Central European world. The G.H.W. Bush administration was not interested in much more than nuclear weapons and allowing American business to secure many new markets. I won't say the USA is 100% to blame, but 95% might be too low. Had the US been "better" engaged and openminded (and willing to open its wallet slightly) there might never been a Putin, NATO expansion would not be a thing, and so many of the other problems we see today (globally) would have only been found in dystopian novels and films.
Thank you for this insight. It rings true, and has deep roots. In 1991, the Reaganesque treatment of the dissolution of the "Evil Empire" USSR overlooked the dire needs and situations of individual Russians. The dominant narrative in Washington became the victory of capitalism over communism, not democracy over totaliarianism. Capitalism was set free and glorified, but without support for strengthening the rule of law. The dark side of unbridled capitalism, organized crime and cronyism, quickly gained control. The US seriously erred by punishing the Russian people and not stepping in with stronger strategic assistance to help rebuild institutions and a new legal framework. The US could have had the relationship that we now share with Germany and Japan, but chose a hands-off, humiliating victory lap instead. Washington got the capitalism in Russia that it wanted, but in the process set up deep resentments and division that are finally playing out today in Ukraine and western Europe. Not surprisingly, the same capitalism over democracy priorites are still at work in US politics today, leading to similar unrest. Putin and Russia are now the ones gloating.
Don't be fooled by Russian disinformation. Contrasting views on NATO expansion are worthy of debate, but they have little or no relationship to the current Russia-Ukraine conflict.
In particular, Peter Beinart's analysis ignores the fact that Putin would still be threatening Ukraine today even if NATO had barred Ukraine from entry. The real reason Putin wants Ukraine is that he thinks it has no right to exist at all, and is instead a sub-national part of Russia -- a view he propounded in a historically illiterate 7,000-word essay on the subject. Here is Timothy Snyder's dismantling of Putin's arguments: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/01/28/putin-russia-ukraine-myths/
Putin's deepest fear, however, is that Ukraine, left to its own devices, will turn into a true democracy that will call into question the legitimacy of his own rule in Russia. This is why he is attacking Ukraine now.
Those who push the "NATO expansion is at fault" argument should recall that Ukraine was a neutral nation in 2014 when Putin attacked, and at that time only about 13% of Ukrainians were in favor of joining NATO. The issue then was not NATO membership, but a closer relationship with the EU. Putin jerked Yanukovych's leash, Yanukovych backed off, and the Ukrainian people wouldn't have it. They threw him out and Putin invaded. The current Russian disinformation campaign claiming that NATO expansion is the root cause of the current conflict is just a convenient smokescreen designed to legitimize Putin's decades-long designs on Ukraine.
Finally, please note the fact that Putin has a tendency to attack those countries who are not yet members of NATO. That is one of the reasons why, after years of war with Russia, a large majority of Ukrainians have changed their minds and now want to join NATO. If you were in their position, wouldn't you?
The tragedy in Ukraine has many causes and not a few culprits. The real issue now is how to stop the war. Balance of power politics, oil and arms manufacturing interests, nationalism militate against peace. If we let fear, greed, anger, and wishful thinking drive our policies we will succumb to nuclear war before climate change burns us.
"Aren't you pathetic? Hating your own country so much, tsk, tsk, and using English, eating American food and biting back. Are you living in a big villa entertained by the CCP now?"
In addition to Burns, Perry, Pifer and Hill, consider also Ambassador Jack Matlock:
Peter, I agree with your characterization of the degree of US culpability for current Russian hostility.
But you don't seem to acknowledge any agency on the parts of the post-Soviet states. I.e how should the US deal with post-Soviet states' populations' desire for greater economic and military ties with the West over Moscow?