The US Just Won’t Leave the Cold War Behind

June 1st, 2023 - by Tarak Kauff / Veterans For Peace: NY Chapter & Jeffrey D. Sachs / Peace and Planet News

Reviewing US History of Provoking Russia
Tarak Kauff / Veterans For Peace: NY Chapter

(May 30, 2023) — The Russians (not just Putin), it can be argued, were actively defending their beloved country. Regardless of whether you buy that, other pertinent facts are that the Ukrainian Army, especially including the neo-nazi Azov battalion (and others) have been waging war in the Donbas right on Russia’s doorstep and killing thousands of ethnic Russian speaking people since 2014.

Another fact is that Russia (not just Putin) made overtures that were neglected completely in 2021 and again in 2022 by the US to avoid outright war. Whether or not one believes that war, even defensive war is evil and wrong, there are also people of good will who believe that self-defense as a last resort is legitimate.

Many people of good will and considerable intelligence believe that Russia has been in the US deadly crosshairs for many years with the intent to kill, dismember, fragment, emasculate, Russia (however you term it) was recognisably operable since 2014 (at least — and we could go back to1920) and by 2021-22 moving inexorably to that effect. The days before the Russian invasion there was a massive increase in artillery shelling by Ukrainian forces on the people of the Donbass.

As Jeffrey Sachs says in this article, “While the Biden administration declares Russia’s invasion to be unprovoked, Russia pursued diplomatic options in 2021 to avoid war, while Biden rejected diplomacy, insisting that Russia had no say whatsoever on the question of NATO enlargement. And Russia pushed diplomacy in March 2022, while the Biden team again blocked a diplomatic end to the war.”

The issue also is often brought up condemning the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. On that I would urge people to read this recent post.

On the issue of nonviolence always, in every situation being the best or only legitimate response, I disagree as did Gandhi (who I do not cite as a paragon of virtue but as someone who is seen as one of the world’s main proponents of the use of nonviolence). He said, and I agree: “I WOULD risk violence a thousand times rather than risk the emasculation of a whole race.” Source.

So before condemning Putin or Russia, I would remember that what was perceived correctly by Russia and Putin was indeed the intention of the US, and corresponding actions continuing to this day bear that out. The goal has remained the same — the defeat and fragmentation of Russia.

None of this makes war, defensive or not, a wonderful thing but as far as causative elements, the US is so much more and primarily to blame.  Now that the war is upon us and the threat to life on this planet more immediate, the focus for all of us is how to stop it, and again it is the US, not Russia that is the main obstacle and the main proponent of its continuation.

The War in Ukraine Was Provoked —
and Why That Matters to Achieve Peace
Jeffrey D. Sachs / Peace and Planet News

NATO enlargement is at the center of this war
US weaponry will not end this war.
Only diplomatic efforts can do that.

(Spring 2023 Edition) — George Orwell wrote in 1984 that “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Governments work relentlessly to distort public perceptions of the past.

Regarding the Ukraine War, the Biden administration has repeatedly and falsely claimed that the Ukraine War started with an unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine on February 24, 2022. In fact, the war was provoked by the US in ways that leading US diplomats anticipated for decades in the lead-up to the war, meaning that the war could have been avoided and should now be stopped through negotiations.

Recognizing that the war was provoked helps us to understand how to stop it. It doesn’t justify Russia’s invasion. A far better approach for Russia might have been to step up diplomacy with Europe and with the non-Western world to explain and oppose US militarism and unilateralism. In fact, the relentless US push to expand NATO is widely opposed throughout the world, so Russian diplomacy rather than war would likely have been effective.

The Biden team uses the word “unprovoked” incessantly, most recently in Biden’s major speech on the first-year anniversary of the war, in a recent NATO statement, and in the most recent G7 statement.

Mainstream media friendly to Biden simply parrot the White House. The New York Times is the lead culprit, describing the invasion as “unprovoked” no fewer than 26 times, in five editorials, 14 opinion columns by NYT writers, and seven guest op-eds!

There were in fact two main US provocations. The first was the US intention to expand NATO to Ukraine and Georgia in order to surround Russia in the Black Sea region by NATO countries (Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Georgia, in counterclockwise order).

The second was the US role in installing a Russophobic regime in Ukraine by the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych, in February 2014. The shooting war in Ukraine began with Yanukovych’s overthrow nine years ago, not in February 2022 as the US government, NATO, and the G7 leaders would have us believe.

Biden and his foreign policy team refuse to discuss these roots of the war. To recognize them would undermine the administration in three ways.

First, it would expose the fact that the war could have been avoided, or stopped early, sparing Ukraine its current devastation and the US more than $100 billion in outlays to date.

Second, it would expose President Biden’s personal role in the war as a participant in the overthrow of Yanukovych, and before that as a staunch backer of the military-industrial complex and very early advocate of NATO enlargement.

Third, it would push Biden to the negotiating table, undermining the administration’s continued push for NATO expansion.

The archives show irrefutably that the US and German governments repeatedly promised to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move “one inch eastward” when the Soviet Union disbanded the Warsaw Pact military alliance. Nonetheless, US planning for NATO expansion began early in the 1990s, well before Vladimir Putin was Russia’s president. In 1997, national security expert Zbigniew Brzezinski spelled out the NATO expansion timeline with remarkable precision.

US diplomats and Ukraine’s own leaders knew well that NATO enlargement could lead to war. The great US scholar-statesman George Kennan called NATO enlargement a “fateful error,” writing in the New York Times that, “Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”

President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Perry considered resigning in protest against NATO enlargement. In reminiscing about this crucial moment in the mid-1990s, Perry said the following in 2016:
“Our first action that really set us off in a bad direction was when NATO started to expand, bringing in eastern European nations, some of them bordering Russia. At that time, we were working closely with Russia and they were beginning to get used to the idea that NATO could be a friend rather than an enemy … but they were very uncomfortable about having NATO right up on their border and they made a strong appeal for us not to go ahead with that.”

In 2008, then US Ambassador to Russia, and now CIA Director, William Burns, sent cable to Washington warning at length of grave risks of NATO enlargement: “Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region. Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests.

Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face.”

Ukraine’s leaders knew clearly that pressing for NATO enlargement to Ukraine would mean war. Former Zelensky advisor Oleksiy Arestovych declared in a 2019 interview “that our price for joining NATO is a big war with Russia.”

The key to peace in Ukraine is through
negotiations based on Ukraine’s neutrality
and NATO non-enlargement.

During 2010-2013, Yanukovych pushed neutrality, in line with Ukrainian public opinion. The US worked covertly to overthrow Yanukovych, as captured vividly in the tape of then US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt planning the post-Yanukovych government weeks before the violent overthrow of Yanukovych. Nuland makes clear on the call that she was coordinating closely with then Vice President Biden and his national security advisor Jake Sullivan, the same Biden-Nuland-Sullivan team now at the center of US policy vis-à-vis Ukraine.

After Yanukovych’s overthrow, the war broke out in the Donbas, while Russia claimed Crimea. The new Ukrainian government appealed for NATO membership, and the US armed and helped restructure the Ukrainian army to make it interoperable with NATO. In 2021, NATO and the Biden Administration strongly recommitted to Ukraine’s future in NATO.

In the immediate lead-up to Russia’s invasion, NATO enlargement was center stage. Putin’s draft US-Russia Treaty (December 17, 2021) called for a halt to NATO enlargement. Russia’s leaders put NATO enlargement as the cause of war in Russia’s National Security Council meeting on February 21, 2022. In his address to the nation that day, Putin declared NATO enlargement to be a central reason for the invasion.

Historian Geoffrey Roberts recently wrote:
“Could war have been prevented by a Russian-Western deal that halted NATO expansion and neutralised Ukraine in return for solid guarantees of Ukrainian independence and sovereignty? Quite possibly.”

In March 2022, Russia and Ukraine reported progress towards a quick negotiated end to the war based on Ukraine’s neutrality. According to Naftali Bennett, former Prime Minister of Israel, who was a mediator, an agreement was close to being reached before the US, UK, and France blocked it.

While the Biden administration declares Russia’s invasion to be unprovoked, Russia pursued diplomatic options in 2021 to avoid war, while Biden rejected diplomacy, insisting that Russia had no say whatsoever on the question of NATO enlargement. And Russia pushed diplomacy in March 2022, while the Biden team again blocked a diplomatic end to the war.

By recognizing that the question of NATO enlargement is at the center of this war, we understand why US weaponry will not end this war. Russia will escalate as necessary to prevent NATO enlargement to Ukraine. The key to peace in Ukraine is through negotiations based on Ukraine’s neutrality and NATO non-enlargement. The Biden administration’s insistence on NATO enlargement to Ukraine has made Ukraine a victim of misconceived and unachievable US military aspirations. It’s time for the provocations to stop, and for negotiations to restore peace to Ukraine.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a university professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he directed The Earth Institute from 2002 until 2016. He is also president of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and a commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission for Development. He has been advisor to three UN secretaries-general, and currently serves as an SDG Advocate under Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Sachs is the author, most recently, of A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism (2020). Other books include Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable (2017) and The Age of Sustainable Development, (2015) with Ban Ki-moon.

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