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The West must stay out of Ukraine It's time for Nato to disband

Ukraine is too divided for Nato (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


December 13, 2021   6 mins

Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay, Nato’s first Secretary General, famously said that the organisation was created to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”. Given the demise of the Soviet Union, and the reunification of Germany, Nato has long outlived this raison d’etre. Even committed Atlanticists, such as Senator Richard Lugar, concluded as early as 1993 that Nato must go “out of area or out of business”.

But rather than go out of business, Nato has ramped up its operations. And as a result, what was once a major contributor to global security has increasingly become an instrument of global instability.

Nato’s mission creep started almost immediately in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union with its decision to expand into the newly configured Russian Federation’s borders in the early Nineties. This was followed by repeated bombing campaigns in the former Federation of Yugoslavia (a Russian ally), and the 2011 military intervention in Libya. It is worth noting that, with Libya, Putin’s stance was not one of unremitting hostility to the West. Russia did not exercise its UN Security Council veto, despite opposing the bombing. Moscow also initially supported the United States’ War on Terror, going as far as providing logistic support for the US forces in Afghanistan.

Yet Nato’s activities have become increasingly adversarial. Largely through Washington’s control, Nato has heightened tensions on Russia’s doorstep in Ukraine, a slowly percolating war threat that could well lead to destruction of Nato itself in the process.

To read Western commentary, one would be led to believe that the root cause of today’s current tension in Ukraine comes from Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Ominously, there appears to be a mounting bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill on how we must defend Ukraine, rather than tamping down the inexorable march to war. As one would expect from the New York Times and Washington Post, the prevailing consensus is that only the political, economic, and military strength of the United States can facilitate a diplomatic solution to a crisis engineered by an increasingly corrupt and autocratic Putin regime.

But as is so typical of most American commentary on Russia, the charges against Moscow lack historic context and continue to mix up cause and effect. As the Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently indicated to Russia’s TV Channel One in advance of last week’s video meeting between Presidents Putin and Biden: “The Augean stables in our bilateral relations can hardly be cleaned out over several hours of negotiations”.

The reference to the labours of Hercules should not be dismissed as Moscow’s fanciful indulgence in Greek mythology. Rather, it reflects legitimate longstanding Russian grievances pertaining to Nato’s broken promises about not expanding eastwardly. These assertions have been vigorously contested by various American government officials, who firmly denied that the topic of extending Nato membership to former Warsaw Pact countries was raised during the negotiations with Moscow on German reunification, much less that the United States made a “pledge” not to pursue eastward expansion.

Declassified US, Soviet, German, British and French documents from the national security archives, however, provide conclusive evidence of breached promises made to President Mikhail Gorbachev by President George H. W. Bush, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, President Francois Mitterrand, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and their foreign ministers in 1990: not to expand NATO eastward, and not to extend membership in the Nato alliance to former member states of the Warsaw Pact. As Professor Melvin Goodman, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University, recently argued, absent these pledges, the reunification of Germany could well have marked a dangerous new escalation of the Cold War between the West and Moscow, rather than bringing about its cessation.

The end of the Cold War could well have ushered in a new partnership between Washington, the EU and Moscow. Instead, the expansion of activities into areas where the West has had no compelling strategic interest has brought forth renewed conflict. Of particular note was the mooted promise to extend Nato membership to Ukraine in 2013, along with the European Union’s offer of a formal economic association to then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych hesitated to sign when he saw that the exorbitant terms resembled less a partnership, more an attempt at economic colonisation. In the wake of Yanukovych’s prevarication, protests erupted in Kyiv, centered on Maidan Square, which in turn led to the overthrow of the Ukraine government. The Ukrainian president was then replaced by a pro-Western coalition government made up of his political opponents.

Supporters of the uprising argue that the protests, and the corresponding offer of associate membership in the EU, offered a way out of the corruption and kleptocracy allegedly brought about by the Yanukovych administration. Of course, this version of events conveniently ignores the role played by US government officials in shaping the ultimate outcome, as well as ignoring the fact that Viktor Yanukovych himself had become Ukraine’s democratically elected president in response to the corruption of previous administrations (even if he did little himself to alleviate the same problem, sadly a longstanding feature of post-independence Ukrainian politics). In any event, what has since been termed the “Maidan coup” almost certainly induced Putin to annex Crimea, which in turn has led to today’s low intensity civil war between Russian and Ukrainian nationalists, backed by Moscow and Washington respectively.

The Western media has rendered judgment: their accounts warn that Putin is laying the groundwork for an imminent Russian military invasion. The tabloid-like reporting of the Sunday Times  confidently asserts that Putin’s ultimate goal is no less than the reclamation of the old Soviet empire, conveniently ignoring Nato’s ongoing attempts to expand its own force projection to Russia’s borders. Meanwhile in the US press, there has been much approving commentary for the Biden administration’s tough talk with Moscow last Tuesday, even from his traditional media opponents.

In response, Putin has demanded explicit guarantees that Nato will not continue to expand further eastward or put missiles in Ukraine that could target Russia. The Western press seems shocked that Moscow isn’t simply passively accepting what it perceives to be existential threats to its own national security. Given the conflicting claims surrounding previous Nato pledges, Putin understandably wishes to avoid any future ambiguity regarding the West’s future intentions toward Russia and the Ukraine, which seems like a reasonable means of de-escalating the conflict, as well as addressing Moscow’s legitimate security concerns.

The counterargument to Putin’s demand is that a genuinely sovereign and independent Ukraine should be able to establish its own defence and national security arrangements; in any case, goes the argument, responding in the affirmative to such a request in the face of a major troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders would be tantamount to acquiescing to extortion, thereby encouraging further aggression on the part of Moscow.

But these arguments are somewhat undermined by the actions of the Biden Administration, which has reportedly told the Ukrainian government that a Nato membership is unlikely to be approved within the next decade. This concession implicitly concedes legitimacy to Putin’s demands, but does beget the question: why restrict the pledge to ten years, given that this encroachment represents an ongoing existential threat to Russia? Do we seriously believe that Washington would have accepted a time-limited constraint by Moscow on putting offensive missiles in Cuba to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962?

Looming over all these considerations stands one crucial fact: that Nato is a collective defence pact, and membership carries with it reciprocal obligations that go well beyond the aspirations of the Ukrainian government. Being drawn into a Russo-Ukrainian conflict has implications for all Nato members. This is not merely a decision for Kyiv to make on its own.

Article 5 of Nato’s founding treaty states that an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all its members. Is the US (or Nato’s European members) seriously prepared to risk thousands of lives to defend Ukraine as a newly enshrined member of this club? If the answer is no, then why perpetuate this unnecessarily provocative situation with Moscow?

It is also worth noting that Ukraine is far more profoundly divided than any of its Nato counterparts. It has a substantial Russian population, especially in the east, many of whom wish to retain close ties to Russia. Accession to Nato, therefore, could well create the conditions for civil war, as the recent conflict in the Donetsk Region of eastern Ukraine has illustrated.

And then there’s the problem of Crimea. According to every Nato member, as well as the current government of Ukraine, Crimea is still part of Ukraine. Therefore, if Ukraine joins Nato, one of three possibilities must follow: Nato goes to war with Russia over Crimea; or Nato recognises the Russian annexation of Crimea; or  Article 5 is a dead letter.

Which will it be? No other alternatives exist. Given that an activation of all-out warfare versus Russia would certainly create the conditions for World War Three (featuring several nuclear armed powers), it is most probably that Article 5 would not be invoked. In which case, Nato as a collective defence treaty would be dead. In effect, those who are arguing to bring Ukraine into Nato are arguing for its destruction.

Senator Lugar’s old observation about Nato has never seemed so prescient. For Nato to remain true to its goal of promoting peace and international security, it is time to put it out of business once and for all.


Marshall Auerback is a market commentator and a research associate for the Levy Institute at Bard College.

Mauerback

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Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

Do those Warsaw Pact countries not yet a say into which alliances they wish to be part of?
Why should nations who suffered under the Soviet Union have their foreign policy dictated by the Russians? If I was Poland I’d be grateful of NATO backing, especially after seeing the way Russia has acted in regards to Georgia and Crimea amongst others.
While the West clearly isn’t blameless, this article strikes me as incredibly one sided

David McDowell
DM
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“Why should nations who suffered under the Soviet Union have their foreign policy dictated by the Russians?”
They shouldn’t unless they’re unwilling to pay the price of standing up to Putin. They seem to want to eat their cake and have it, expecting the US to bear the cost of standing up to Russia so they don’t have to.

Last edited 2 years ago by David McDowell
Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

The whole point of NATO is an attack on one is an attack on all, it’s communal defence. The likes of Poland and Estonia are never going to be able to repel the Russians single handedly if the need arose, but by joining alliances with larger countries gives them a degree of protection.
In the event of an attack they’d still stand up to Russia to the best of their abilities, however they’d also have powerful allies to assist them. Without that they’d be forever relying on Russia’s goodwill to leave them alone, and that’s not a position I’d like to be in if I were them

mauerback
MA
mauerback
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Why not? It seems to have worked fine for Finland. Or do the West’s broken promises to Gorbachev mean nothing?

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  mauerback

Finland allowed the Soviets a degree of control over the information broadcast into the country at the time, in effect it led to negative stories of the Soviet Union being censored in exchange for not being invaded. To me that’s a funny kind of freedom having the narrative controlled by a foreign power, and one most Eastern Bloc countries who were occupied in the past would be rightly suspicious of

David Nebeský
DN
David Nebeský
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

Most of them pay a higher percentage of GDP than Western European countries.

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

My impression in Poland having spoken to many there is that they are well aware of this. No one is more aware that all NATO’s talk and hot air is worth little. Professions of goodwill from Western European powers towards them meant little in, to wit: 1772, 1795, 1815, 1830, 1867, 1921, 1939, 1945 or 1981. On every occasion in that tragic litany of events there was a lot of handwringing about ‘crimes’ and little concrete help, hence the formation of citizen militias there as we speak.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
mauerback
MA
mauerback
2 years ago

As was the case with Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

Frederick B
FD
Frederick B
2 years ago

“Little concrete help”. Why do you think Britain declared war on Germany in 1939 if not to bring help to Poland? Admittedly, Germany’s defeat delivered Poland into the hands of the Soviet Union for the next 45 years, but at least it saved her from the genocide which Hitler intended.

Poland’s continued existence and present freedom would not have happened without Britain’s actions in 1939. “Little concrete help” eh?

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Frederick B

Britain and France launched no major offensive against Germany at the start of the war. They sat back and sprinkled Germany with leaflets hoping they would come to reason.

Colin Elliott
CE
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

I’ve heard that argument before. Are you seriously suggesting that Britain and France could have attacked Germany between 3rd September and 27th, when Poland capitulated? Impossible, and if it had been possible, how would they have done i, and what would have been the chances of success?
However, by far and away the most important factor is that Britain was exceedingly reluctant to go to war, and had been actively disarming but shortly before. I can’t say what morale in France was, but her experience of WWI was even more horrifying.
My parents told me that it was the fall of France in June 1940 which convinced them that the struggle which lay ahead was now absolutely unavoidable.
Don’t forget that Poland was also attacked by Russia on 17th September, but perhaps you think we should have declared war on her too.

JR Stoker
JS
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

Billy Bob’s reply answers your point very cogently. And was not this what western states were saying in the late 1930’s? If the Czechs wanted to resist Germany then it was up to them to do it. But they simply did not have the resources to do so. And by the time the invasion of Poland opened western eyes, it was too late.

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Luckily there were absolutely no negative consequences to Britain or France because of that attitude and everyone lived happily ever after.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Vanessa Dylyn
VD
Vanessa Dylyn
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Agree with Bill Bob. In addition, in 1994 President Bill Clinton announced that Ukraine would give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for Russia respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty. We all know how well that worked out. Historically, Russia has oppressed and invaded Ukraine many times. The Holodomor occurred because of Stalin’s policy designed to break the back of land-owning peasants in Ukraine. NATO has a duty to protect Ukraine.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Vanessa Dylyn

Ukraine has a right to defend itself.

NATO has zero duty to defend Ukraine, especially as that would involve starting a world war.

Stalin’s crimes are wholly irrelevant. For those crimes, blame Stalin, not Russia.

Alexander Morrison
Alexander Morrison
2 years ago

Why is UnHerd publishing this one-sided twaddle? The root cause of the problem is not NATO expansion – it is the refusal of Russian elites to accept Ukraine’s right to sovereignty and indeed existence as an independent state. This is not new – it was already clear in the early 1990s – it is just that Russia has now rebuilt sufficient military muscle to make enforcement a possibility. Russia truly does pose an existential threat to the existence of Ukraine; outside the warped world-view of Putin, Shoigu, Lavrov et al, NATO does not pose an existential threat to Russia – only to Russia’s ability to bully its former satellites with impunity.

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
2 years ago

Whilst I don’t agree with the article, I’m glad UnHerd posts pieces with viewpoints different to my own personally. The last thing I want is an echo camber

David Nebeský
DN
David Nebeský
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I am glad UnHerd posts articles with viewpoint different to my own. I am not glad it posts articles full of propaganda of hostile dictatorships and articles advocating the enslavement of whole nations.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

As J.S. Mill once observed:
“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion… Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them…he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”
It is why when reading historical sources heavily biased ones may often be more revealing of a deeper truth about what happened via their subtext than a putative neutral one.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

Excellent quote from Mill. I was particularly struck by the following words:

“Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them…he must know them in their most plausible and
persuasive form.”

I often think that we are presented with opposing views that are skewed to ensure so that they are unacceptable, or the abhorrent parts are left out to make them more attractive. or straw men are constructed to make views easier to argue against. One should always ask for references to what was actually said including the context in which it was said, as another trick is to take things out of context so that even being given the words can be deceptive.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

And being able to read subtext and subtlety both in written and visual media in order to be able to intelligently deduce what is being said and why. A skill unfortunately too few possess. I guess this is why many of my generation prefer ‘soundbites’ and Twitter’s character limits to sprawling Victorian novels.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

This is another very good point; at times the subtext can be “saying” something different from the presented words.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

This article is just so one sided. To engage with its extreme positions would be like engaging with a devout religionist or ideologue. What’s the point?

mauerback
mauerback
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

I don’t think anybody is advocating for the enslavement of whole nations. And, frankly, I don’t think Russia will invade Ukraine, assuming certain red lines aren’t crossed, such as NATO membership for that country.
The good news is that Putin almost certainly understands that an invasion of Ukraine would lead to a complete break in relations with the West, rendering Russia in effect a dependent junior partner of China. Moreover, he probably realizes that Russian forces would very likely have to deal with guerrilla resistance in occupied Ukrainian territory, and that unoccupied portions of western Ukraine could become a host for U.S. and NATO forces over the longer term. It is doubtful that these are outcomes he finds appealing. He would probably prefer to find an alternative way to derail a U.S. alliance with Ukraine if Biden is prepared to bargain. But if Washington and its western allies refuse to recognize that Russian redline, Putin may well be prepared to fight—and there is not much the United States could do to stop him, short of starting WW3

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

How on earth could Russia possibly enslave Ukraine ?

And according to you, any article which you don’t agree with, is propaganda.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

Ach the whole “hostile dictatorship” fluff. I welcome this article because it does in fact show the historical reality – the western leaders said they didn’t intend to push NATO east. If NATO had disbanded at the time then it would have transpired that
Europe, responsible for its own defence, could have come to arrangements with the Russians.

The deranged idea that an ex-empire like russia wants to regain the Warsaw Pact makes no sense, Russia has – as we are informed every day – a tiny economy. There are ethnic enclaves that concern them but that’s it. If pushing NATO east endangers a World War III then what’s the point, what kind of defense alliance endangers its members?

Alexander Morrison
Alexander Morrison
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

In principle I am as well – but only if they are by people with some specialised knowledge of the subject. This man is an investment manager who reads neither Russian nor Ukrainian.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

Heard of translations ?

A Spetzari
AS
A Spetzari
2 years ago

Yes quite! Stupid article on many levels (edit: though agree with Billy that it’s kinda the point of unherd to have different views)
NATO is not threatening Russia, has no plans to invade it (at present there’s no way it could even if it wanted to). Russia is in a dispute with Ukraine which if it escalated would destabilise the region. Other members in the region who are part of a group (NATO) are raising their concerns over this.
Regardless of whether Ukraine or Russia is right – that is what is happening
It’s like a school kid (Russia) is blaming the school teachers and school for trying to interfere with its bullying of another kid. As if Russia is being made to bully the kid by the school. Nonsense

Last edited 2 years ago by A Spetzari
Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Although I discovered the author is a MMT proponent. Which unforunately has the effect of tarnishing said theory by some kind of negative halo effect.

mauerback
MA
mauerback
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

So positioning offensive Missiles in Ukraine is something the Ridsians should passively accept? Much as the US accepted those Missiles in Cuba in 1962? Oh wait, that didn’t happen…

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

NATO and the West are the bullies !

Russia isn’t a pupil.

What are you on ?

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

Western intrigues in Ukraine pose an existential threat to Russia.

How would the USA respond to Russian meddling in Mexico ?

Western arrogance is mind- boggling.

Peter LR
PL
Peter LR
2 years ago

I don’t know enough or have the time to dig into it to unpick the rationale here; however, it seems determinedly one-sided. It reminds me of articles by Western writers eulogising the Chinese response to Covid!
For instance, who on the planet thinks NATO wants to encroach into Russia? The NATO intervention in Yugoslavia prevented yet more genocide. I didn’t like the mention of Afghanistan as this was guilt by association: NATO wasn’t involved. The author seems unable to consider that Russia is reluctant to allow former Soviet countries their own democratic freedom. He also ignores the pernicious campaign against dissidence even in other countries – viz Salisbury.
Just come across this with the opposing view:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/12/13/putins-left-wing-apologists-falling-kgb-tactics/

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter LR
Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Honestly I was pleasantly surprised to see that many people had cottoned on the fact that this was agitprop. A few years ago when people were a bit less conditioned to the new wild west of online propoganda I suspect more would have fallen for the selective reporting.
NATO as I understand was involved in Afghanistan, albeit after the facts.
As I see it Russia it is true has its interests and historical concerns and its zone of influence, but then again: so what. So did Poland under the commonwealth, so did Turkey once, so did Britain in India, so did Austria in much of central Europe, so did Germany for that matter. Why is it these are but historical relics to be quietly forgotten about (except in Erdogan’s wet dreams) but Russia has to have its ego stoked? This is of course a rhetorical question: realpolitik. People (not just Russians) get their knickers in a twist about all these contradictory and complex theories about who owns what when really history just has one guide: who has the tanks (or nukes). It is for this same reason anyone cares about China’s claims to the nine-dash line or (to be fair) that the USA has some kind of claim to Cuba’s political system. Given this, whilst some kind of reconciliation with Putin is desirable, if that comes at the cost of a conclusion that the West is no longer wants or is able to throw hard power I fear it will have grave long term effects. Stalin didn’t steamroll into Greece or Turkey in 1946 for a reason.
But I would add also one only needs to look at the history of what happend to people in Finland, in Poland, even in what used to be Eastern Prussia in Germany to see that people there are not merely engaging in “Russophobia” when they fear this kind of Soviet double talk. As much as any Middle Eastern country would have the sense to get worried if the US government started throwing phrases like “Axis of Evil” around again. The Hobessian world is one of signals of intent.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago

Stalin didn’t steamroller into Greece in 1946, because he and Churchill had already carved-up eastern Europe, with Greece in Churchill’s portion. And Stalin respected the agreement. It had nothing to do with “grave long-term effects.”

You evidently want the risk (even the reality) of world war, so that the West can show it can still “throw hard power”, ie demonstrate it still has cojones.

But really, it can’t and it hasn’t.

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Stalin never respected agreements unless they were backed by force. It is too tiresome to list all the examples of this truth, but needless to say Churchill tried to protect as much as Europe as he could. If he’d had a realistic way of preventing Soviet tyranny over half the old world you could be fairly sure he would have, indeed he asked for a plan for offensive nuclear war against the Soviet Union in the brief window the West had to realistically fight after the end of WW2 before they acquired they own weapons.

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago

That plan, for offensive nuclear war, was codenamed something like Operation Unthinkable.

It was never more than than a wild fantasy, a fever-dream.

mauerback
MA
mauerback
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

NATO wad involved in Afghanistan. Article 5 was invoked here

David Yetter
David Yetter
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

More “genocide” like the slaughter that NATO breathlessly told us was taking place in Pristina stadium, during the second round which dismembered Serbia itself, even as Agence France Press was reporting on the ground from the stadium itself that nothing was going on there?
The Wars of the Yugoslav Dissolution were dirty wars on all sides, The first shots fired were the machine gunning of a Serb (Orthodox Christian South Slav) wedding by Bosniaks (Muslim South Slavs). When Croatia declared independence it promptly adopted the same flag the Fascist Croats (Roman Catholic South Slavs) used when they ran the third largest death camp during WW II, which killed mostly Serbs, rather than Jews, a move that felt to Serbs living in the newly independent Croatia the same way the revival of the swastika flag would have felt to Jews living in reunified Germany. But NATO decided that the Serbs were the only guilty ones, thereby deliberatly disregarding Russia’s views. (Yes, in Western terms, everyone fighting there was the same ethnicity, South Slav. In the Balkans, religion functions as ethnicity — NATO intervened in a war of religion, always a nasty affair,
Everyone likes to forget that the strongest evidence for a charge of “genocide” against the Serbs, the war crimes at Srebrenica, were preceded by the war crime of using a UN declared safe haven as a base for launching attacks, committed by at least a goodly number of the victims of the massacre. Everyone, esp. the ICTY, wants to ignore the photos of Bosniaks and foreign jihadists exulting over piles of severed Serb heads presented by Milosevic in his defense. An equally compelling case could have been made to intervene on behalf of the Serbs to prevent “genocide” but NATO decided to trample on the interests of newly free and re-Christianizing Russia in protecting fellow Orthodox Christians by siding with the Muslim Bosniaks.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Yetter
Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Many of us KNOW that NATO, the EU and the USA want to surround, emasculate and encroach on Russia.

After all, it’s hardly a secret !

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

This has been an interesting thread to follow. The overwhelming majority of commenters on UnHerd (including me) are highly critical of the MSM’s relentless attempts at foisting a woolly left liberalism on us all. Yet the overwhelming majority of comments on this topic are some version of the necessity of the west to defend democracy and the right of the Ukrainian people to self determination. In short the current stance of most of the MSM.

Strangely nobody has seriously asked what the people of the Ukraine might want to self determine. My guess is the 30% of Russian extraction are fairly happy being a Russian sphere of influence. For the rest, I’d bet my house most would be much happier being a Russian sphere of influence than being the latest battle ground in which the West demonstrates its moral authority. After all, the existing Ukrainian government is hardly less corrupt, or capable of government maladministration, than Russia’s, and the West’s moral crusades in Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan etc have all worked out so well for the populations of those countries.

In the interests of accruing more down votes, let’s consider Syria. A brutal despotic regime fighting a plethora of brutal tribal militias, of varying degrees of Islamic fundamentalism. As with all wars, the numbers of combatants on both sides are dwarfed by the number of civilians dying in their hundreds of thousands, who just want it to stop.

With so many direct and proxy interests involved, no political solution was remotely possible. To stop it therefore required a military solution and the only side actually capable of winning out right was Assad’s. So Russia helped him win, thus closing down the worst of the war, exposing the west as ineffective hand wringers, and securing a useful Middle East ally.

In the world of Realpolitik, Putin runs rings round us because we keep letting progressives confuse national interest with their weird proselytism of some sort of ill defined defence of a way of life we think others should adapt.

We have no National interest in Ukraine that warrants even thinking about war.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Bollis
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I think you miss one very important point.
Ukraine history has been a very long struggle to escape the Russian yoke and the Russian/Soviets have visited atrocities upon the Ukraine without parallel

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

No ! – that was Stalin. He’s dead.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

I think you can also count the contributions of Lenin, Peter the Great and Alexander II

Ian Stewart
IS
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Your guesses about the Ukrainian attitude towards NATO are way off beam – the attitude of the Ukrainian people towards supporting NATO membership has been shown in surveys. I’ve tried to find the source but not succeeded but I recall that roughly it’s increased from a minority to a majority of the population.
When can I move into your house?
Found one quote but not the survey data:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/12/russia-closer-to-war-ukraine-border-putin-buk-missiles
And this article indicates only 17% of Russians want unity with Ukraine, and even less Ukrainians:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/12/08/ukraine-putin-russia-invasion-public-opinion/

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Stewart
Martin Bollis
MB
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Thanks for the links, appreciate the effort. Just back from the pub so will read in the morning

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

You want Ukraine to get NATO membership.

Ergo, you want World War 3.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

Your starter for 10 Mr Aureback:
Which was the only country to give up nuclear weapons in exchange for guarantees of its sovereignty from both Russia and the USA?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Saul D
SD
Saul D
2 years ago

Pre-Maidan (end of 2013/start 2014) Ukraine was being pulled in two directions – to the EU or towards Russia. The Western assumption was that Ukraine would move towards the EU, but the then democratically elected Ukrainian government did a volte face and signalled greater co-operation with Russia and abandonment of pro-EU plans (corruption possibly involved). The effect was to trigger the Maidan Uprising/ Euromaidan, which threw out the Ukrainian government and installed a pro-EU government.
Putin’s reaction was totally unexpected – the annexation of Crimea – the part of the Ukraine with strongest pro-Russian links, and also the key naval and strategic base on the Black Sea. Nato didn’t expect Putin to act. For the most part he was seen as malleable and relatively low-risk (if you use Google’s timeline options for articles pre- and post-Crimea Annexation the difference is dramatic). Nato had already garnered support in the Baltic States, Poland and other former Eastern Block countries, pushing eastwards without much in the way of Russian resistance. The force of Putin’s reaction caught them completely off-guard.
The perspective of a US ex-congressman from the period post-Maidan pre-Crimea was that Ukraine was a Nato target: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ukraine-nato_b_4435637
The US was also playing color-revolution games in Russia in the 2012 election and Maidan overlapped with the Sochi Olympics when Russia was supposed to be demonstrating its prestige. Essentially, Putin reached his breaking point and reacted to avoid losing a key strategic asset.
And in the background you have complicated oligarchical relationships, both in Ukraine and in Russia and as exiles, plenty of whom would like to see Putin gone, who vie for control of key assets like gas fields, pipelines and raw materials assets. So post Crimea, the full-force of anti-Putin rhetoric was unleashed and Russia became marked as the ‘bad-boy’ behind every plot and scheme trying to bring down the western world.
There are real reasons to decry Putin, and the question of dismantling the nuclear threat will always be a big issue to Nato, but this is strategic chess and both sides make moves. And the biggest threat to Ukraine, might be not be military, but Nord Stream 2, which allows Russian gas to circumvent the routes through the Ukraine, and so restrict fuel to Kiev this winter.

Bill W
WW
Bill W
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Insightful analysis. FWIW, I also think there was a cumulative negative effect from the serial interventions by the US with or without its allies. Ie Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. I may have missed some.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill W

On this I agree, they broke the post-WW2 taboo on national integrity for little gain and unforeseen consequences.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
David Yetter
DY
David Yetter
2 years ago

The insistence by the United States on continuing to treat Russia as an enemy through the Yeltsin and early Putin eras has to be one of the greatest geopolitical blunders of the last century. I can only attribute it to the pravoslaniphobia (irrational fear or hatred of Orthodox Christians, esp. Slavic Orthodox Christians) on the part of Madeline Albright, since there is no rational explanation for it.
It has pushed Russia into China’s orbit, when the West really needs Russia as an ally against China (even as Russia will need the West as allies against China once Xi Jinping or his successors remember that large parts of Siberia are “really” part of China, because long ago they were.)

John McKee
JM
John McKee
2 years ago
Reply to  David Yetter

Amen!

George Knight
GK
George Knight
2 years ago

Thank you for a thought provoking article. My view is that NATO has fulfilled its historic purpose. Since its inception many things have changed geopolitically.
With the advent of the EU it seems sensible for the EU countries to band together under some umbrella organisation to protect their interests. Having American support has been beneficial but now is the time for Europe – as defined by the EU – to step upto the plate and take on the responsibility for its own defence and foreign policy. This policy should include rapprochement with Russia even though there is quite a gulf between us both politically.

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  George Knight

Ironically in 1952 (based on discussions by Plevin in 1950) before the US had firmly attached itself to permanent European security – and more than a few old-school Republican isolationist senators were suspicious of it – there was attempt to do that in the European Defence Community which proposed to add that to the European Coal and Steel Community that had been created the previous year. This was finally crushed in 1954 thanks to France’s rejection based on an alliance of Gaullist and Communist deputies who saw it as unnecessary with Stalin’s death and an assault on French soveriegnty, and worried about whether the British (who were not part of it) would withdrawl their forces in Germany as a consequence. Had that treaty gone through it is likely that the EU now would be a military alliance and NATO would have been a secondary, lesser known organisation of like Council of Western Europe etc. As it turned out events after Stalin’s death pushed the US even further into European affairs to prevent a Red Army takeover and thus NATO became a critical part of the defence structure of Europe around the Fulda gap.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Bill W
Bill W
2 years ago

It is a shame Western European/EU countries don’t appear to take into account how much the US and the UK did in protecting them from the Soviets.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill W

The Soviet Union no longer exists.

So how is it relevant in 2021 ?

Bill W
Bill W
2 years ago
Reply to  George Knight

Agreed. It should have happened decades ago.

David Nebeský
David Nebeský
2 years ago

The article is a collection of lies, nonsense and Russian war propaganda. NATO never promised Russia not to expand (and the linked article does not prove otherwise). And it was not NATO countries that wanted to expand, but former Soviet satellites seeking protection from the danger from Moscow. It was not easy at all to convince NATO states to accept the former Soviet satellites, and Clinton brushed the already done deal off the table in his time. 
I haven’t been able to read all the lies about Ukraine. This is the worst text I’ve ever read on UnHerd.

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

“Seeking protection from the danger from Moscow”
I would add that this was not some kind of idle parlour game of geopolitics either. Czechoslovakia and Hungary – hardly part of some ancient Russian fiefdom! – only a few decades before had had Soviet tanks rolling through their countries to enforce a suitably Stalinist political system and Poland was forced to endure martial law and a military dictatorship to avoid the same happening to them.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago

Russia isn’t the Soviet Union.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

And yet Putin seems desperate to assert that indeed the Russian federation is indeed the successor state to the USSR whenever he can.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

You want Ukraine to get NATO membership.
That is, you want world war.

John McKee
John McKee
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

See comments by William perry, Henry Kissinger, Robert McNamara, George F. Kennan, Medea Benjamin, Many commentators from India, including a Retired Lt. General from the Indian Army. etc. None of these people could be sanely accused of being Russian propagandists. All agreed that NATO’s Eastward expansion would be very detrimental to peace.

Marek Nowicki
Marek Nowicki
2 years ago

The only solution IMHO is to start from scratch and create a new military pact in Europe, renegotiated with all countries INCLUDING Russia from the get go. The concept of NATO is from a diffrent era and urgently needs to be revisited. IMHO Russia will love to be part of a new military alliance considering the big communist country on its Southeastern flank.

Bill W
WW
Bill W
2 years ago
Reply to  Marek Nowicki

Russia should have been allowed to join NATO decades ago. The fact it wasn’t merely emphasises how shortsighted our leaders were.

Johann Strauss
JS
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

Seems to me that this article is spot on. NATO should never have expanded eastwards. That only makes it easier as nobody is going to go to war for some tiny country that nobody can locate on a map. As for Ukraine, the US should stop provoking the Russian bear. The USSR is long gone; Russia is no longer seeking world domination; just let it go and don’t interfere where one doesn’t belong, especially since one has no understanding of the relevant history.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Rather polarised options there: Russia is no longer seeking world domination. Well Germany in 1939 did not want to achieve WORLD domination.

Russia isn’t threatened by Ukraine, or by Nato, it HAS now invaded more than one state it considers should be in its sphere of influence, and it HAS annexed territory of a neighbouring state whose boundaries were mutually agreed in the 1990s. Oh, and it HAS used incredibly dangerous methods to kill dissidents in other countries. Putin and indeed many Russians consider that the breakup of the Soviet Union was an international tragedy.

Quite missing from this article is any consideration at all of what the people and nations that Russia considers are somehow its own want for themselves. Spain, Portugal, Greece, then the former Soviet bloc countries chose to join the the EU without a bullying external power at that stage saying they should not.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Johann Strauss
JS
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I think you need to read some Russian history. Those so-called states were part of Russia since the times of Ivan the Terrible and Catherine the Great in the 18th century.
And yes Russia absolutely feels threatened by NATO intrusion into Ukraine. It’s the equivalent of having nuclear missiles in Cuba which the US was none too pleased about if I recall correctly.
To understand what’s going on you have to understand the Russian mind and just how paranoid they are about being invaded.
The analogy with Germany in 1939 is completely off the wall. It’s absolutely not comparable.
But you sound as if you want to beat the drums of war, in a war that would be impossible to win and would result in mutually assured destruction. Recall the Russians have enough nukes to wipte out the EU countries and the US many times over.
And just to make clear I’m no Russian apologist. But surely the history of perhaps the last 70 years in the US shows what a disaster their recent foreign adventures have been – think Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan where the most powerful country on earth lost to a bunch of rice farmers and herders.

Last edited 2 years ago by Johann Strauss
A Spetzari
AS
A Spetzari
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

But you’re not just understanding their mindset – you’re agreeing with it and defending it which is something altogether different. Understanding it doesn’t make their behaviour right.
It’s Russia’s problem that they’re so paranoid. It doesn’t excuse their annexation of various territories or strong arming former satellite states.
NATO has never and will never annex and oppress large swathes of europe in service of its paranoia. It’s a voluntary organisation, unlike the Soviet empire.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

WHAT Soviet Empire ?

Brezhnev died, haven’t you heard ?

David Nebeský
DN
David Nebeský
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I think YOU need to read some Russian history. Yes, some of the former Soviet satellites were conquered and annexed by Russia in the 18th or 19th century. But some of them were only conquered during or after World War II. Some were conquered by Russia more than once.
But it doesn’t really matter. Your idea that the past enslavement of non-Russian nations gives Russia the right to enslave those nations again is (in my humble opinion) monstrously amoral.

Martin Bollis
MB
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

Enslave? This is where these debates go wrong.

NATO, a hostile military alliance (to Russia), attempts to bring the country that has been the primary historical invasion route into Russia, into its sphere of influence. Russia resists.

Nobody is going to be carting the population off to Gulags, the government won’t get any more corrupt and incompetent than it is now. The lives of the people of Ukraine will be barely affected … unless it starts a war.

The Soviet Union was an ideological entity that tried to spread said ideology across the world, often at the point of a gun. Russia is a nation run by a corrupt leader, who also happens to be deeply patriotic and has a talent for geopolitical strategy. The first one and, possibly the second, also apply to Biden.

We have neither the wherewithal, the strategic interest, or the moral authority to fight a war over this.

Ian Stewart
IS
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Yes they won’t need to remove whole peoples to the gulags, since they already did it.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

They ? The USSR no longer exists.

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

Russia merely wants not to be enslaved by your pals.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Which so-called states precisely? Romania? Poland?
The only part of the the Eastern expansion of NATO that directly included land that was Russian in the 18th century was Estonia and Latvia.
Note Russia controls an enclave in the Baltic sea that was once a major part of German world: Kaliningrad (Königsberg), home of Kant among others. Strange that this particular historical anomaly never gets brought up when discussing who controlled what historical territory in Eastern Europe.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

You sill longing for Empire

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago

No, it’s Ukraine’s Western friends who are.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

So Mussolini was right to try and recreate the ancient Roman Empire too then, since it ran Southern Europe for a good 500 years?

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

If I’m not mistaken Ukraine became part of the Rusian state in the 18th century, only perhaps a 100 yrs or so after Scotland and England became a single nation. Now if Scotland were to secede and allied itself with a super-power hostile to England, and then agreed to the presence of military hardware from said super-power, what do you think the English would do.
Incidentally, if I’m also not mistaken, the Ukrainians used to be called Rus during Viking times (getting my information from the Vikings series), and I would guess Rus is where the name Russia came from. So let’s not act as if Ukraine is some completely separate entity. Let’s not also forget that the second leader of the Soviet Union came from that so-called independent state Georgia.
Here’s the bottom line in my view: the US and for that matter NATO can no longer afford to be the world’s policeman. Further the raison d’etre for NATO disappeared with the fall of the Soviet Union. We won the Cold War. Now it’s time for the US to get out of Europe and leave Russia and its sphere of influence alone. And I would also argue that in terms of a front against China, the west would do well to ally themselves with Russia rather than have Russia as an enemy.
Any confrontation with Russia will end up badly. And even worse now that the US is no longer energy independent, and Germany is dependent upon Russian oil and gas.

John McKee
John McKee
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

All sober men and women should ponder these words carefully.

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Russia is massively threatened by NATO, still more by a Ukraine with a Western alliance.

Gintautas Australas Kaminskas
Gintautas Australas Kaminskas
2 years ago

Shame on Marshall Auerback for this disgusting article, drafted in the Kremlin. I’m disappointed in Unherd for publishing it.This is sheer disinformation and Russian propaganda.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

Maye the clue is in the name

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago

“Mummy, Mummy, he doesn’t agree with me – he must be a Russian agent !”

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago

I largely agree. If Russia is threatening EU states it’s up to them to defend themselves by increasing their defense expenditure, not hide behind US skirts while whining about Washington.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

What an idiotic post. The Eastern bloc countries could spend 100% of their GDP on defence, and they’d still be rolled by the Russians in a matter of weeks in the event of an invasion. Their only defence against aggression of that nature is collective, and through alliances with larger nations.
Staring blithely that it’s up to them to defend themselves simply ignores the reality of power imbalances in the region and world in general

David McDowell
DM
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Germany is quite capable of defending itself and its neighbours. It chooses not to, and the consequences of that choice should fall to Germany.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

This is partially true, but kind of ignores the historical process that led to that fact and why other European countries might not be overjoyed with the prospect of a Germany armed to the teeth again. This to me comes under the ‘history in a vacuum’ school of thought.

James Joyce
JJ
James Joyce
2 years ago

Even if Germany is “armed to the teeth” again, it seems that they have little interest in leaving the wire! Germany’s “contribution” to America’s misguided Middle East wars was beyond parody!

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

As memory serves me the inculcation of a pacifist mindset in Germany was as much, if not more, at the behest of the USSR than the West – who were the first to admit Western Germany into NATO.

David Nebeský
DN
David Nebeský
2 years ago

West Germany was admitted to NATO at the time (1954) when the overt policy of the USSR was to conquer (with the help of Eastern German army) the whole Europe.
As late as the late 1980s, small military units of communist countries had maps of all of Europe as far as Portugal, but no maps of the territory more than a few dozen kilometers east of their deployment.

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

Agreed, but the article isn’t about the Germans, it’s about NATO incorporating the Eastern Bloc countries such as Poland and Estonia, countries that suffered under the Soviet Union in the past

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I disagree. The countries most threatened by Russia should not provoke it, and also “harden the target,” a “hedgehog” theory, that invading the Baltic countries for example, would be much more trouble than its worth. The “Forest Brothers” in Estonia engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Soviet Union until well into the 70s.
With respect, I suggest that this is a better strategy.

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

This “Finalandisation” policy in Findland after WW2 meant the impositions of internal censorship of anything critical to the “experiment” that was the disaster of the Soviet communist experiment. Maybe people aren’t overly thrilled with that kind of interference in their countries?

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago

As it may have prevented nuclear war, why was it so very dreadful ?

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

So you are an apologist for Communism and a system that murdered hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century?
Yes, pragmatic decisions had to have been made. But let’s not pretend that these were ideal or that the collapse of this cancer on humanity was anything but an unmitigated benefit.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago

Why put words into my mouth ? I’ve made no arguments for Communism nor regretted its downfall.

Last edited 2 years ago by Tony Buck
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

And yet throughout the 70’s Estonia was part of the USSR, so it clearly wasn’t a better strategy was it. A few lads running around the forest taking potshots at soldiers isn’t much use when your country is occupied by a foreign power, whereas a collective defence akin to NATO may have prevented the Soviets invading in the first place

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Might. Didn’t.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

It might, if NATO had existed when Estonia became part of the USSR.

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Thus making it impossible for Britain to fight Hitler.

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

This is turning into a rather silly and pointless back and forth to be honest, you’re being obtuse so I’ll leave you to it

A Spetzari
AS
A Spetzari
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

See your point but it’s just not realistic at all.
From the US’ point of view they have learnt the hard way (twice) about letting Europe implode and standing by.
Before them it usually fell to Britain and its hotchpotch of allies to try and stop the chaos.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

That’s a fair reply but I see the UK standing up to Putrid as equally unrealistic.
It’s not our quarrel at the moment, let’s keep it that way.

Last edited 2 years ago by David McDowell
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

It’s not 1914, it’s not 1939.

Do stop pretending that it is.

Earl King
EK
Earl King
2 years ago

I have been dubious about NATO expansion. I for one do not think Germany will fight with loss of life, to defend Estonia. I have doubts Americans would want to see body bags coming home from Estonia.
That said, America is supposed to be the defender of self determination. Of Freedom and Democracy as we understand it. Many people would not like to live under the weigh of the Russian Bear. For all the reasons one can imagine.
America cannot wins wars agains people who live in caves with RPG’s and AK 47’s. How would we do against Russian armor and artillery? Russia lost somewhere between 20 million to 50 million during WWII. We lost about 450,000. The scale of modern war with Russia is unimaginable.

Bill W
WW
Bill W
2 years ago
Reply to  Earl King

As a schoolboy with a military father I met the Commanding Officer of a USAAF airbase in the 70s. He told me in his opinion if the “Russkies” invaded, the USA, the UK, and perhaps the Germans would put up a fight.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bill W
John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Earl King

“America cannot wins wars agains people who live in caves with RPG’s and AK 47’s.”

This is completely untrue. America won the war in Afghanistan within weeks of the initial invasion in 2001. It has overwhelming military capacity which the Taliban had no hope whatsoever of successfully opposing on the battlefield.

It is true that the country took another decade to bring under some semblance of order, so that by 2013 the place was safe enough that there were no further American casualties. But that was not because the USA was not sufficiently powerful in military terms, it is more to do with the fact that it obeys the Geneva Convention and therefore does not commit barbaric acts to maintain fear and to impose its own rule, as does the Taliban. The collapse of the Afghan armed forces in the face of the Taliban earlier this year was of course a disaster, but the reason for it was simple: the Afghan Army was badly mismanaged, corrupt, many soldiers were going unpaid, and then in the face of the Taliban they faced an enemy who would simply execute them unless they laid down their arms and surrendered.

This is not, by any stretch, a failure of American militry power, it is a multi-layered failure of strategic statecraft, diplomacy, and political will, yes. I realise that there is no prospect of the USA going back to Afghanistan, but if it did it would defeat the Taliban again, and easily, too.

Zak S
ZS
Zak S
2 years ago

Thank you for an interesting piece that doesn’t blindly follow conventional wisdom re NATO and Russia. Hard to be found in MSM.

Howard Gleave
HG
Howard Gleave
2 years ago

Ukraine isn’t a NATO member. Therefore an attack on Ukraine by Russia wouldn’t trigger Article 5. But disbanding NATO isn’t a logical inference of “staying out of Ukraine”.

Iris C
IC
Iris C
2 years ago

The USA ignores cultural, religious and ethnic differences, – largely due to the fact that their educational system has never taught European and Middle Eastern history – even our educational system has ceased to give the broad education which we enjoyed in the past. I am pretty sure that it was this ignorance which led to the invasion of Iraq and all the other NATO wars that have taken place this century in our part of the world. As a result of this, we now have non-stop immigration from the Middle Eastern countries that we have destroyed.
As for Crimea, the citizens there (80% Russian speakers) voted to RETURN to Russia – Khrushchev having given it to Ukraine in 1953. This fact was ignored by the West (it must have been rigged was the response) just as the Afghan poll on Sharia Law (96% in favour) was ignored over there, prolonging that conflict.
The USA and the warmongers in our government (Ian Duncan Smith et al) want to stay antagonistic to Russia but I don’t think they are supported in the country at large. For example, many of us visited St. Petersburg for the World Cup and were made very welcome; have been engrossed by Russian documentaries during the past year and enjoy all aspects of Russia’s cultural heritage. I even quite like little Mr. Putin. .
When “Russia” led the Soviet Union, it was a textbook communist country so it was its duty to lift the yoke from workers in Western capitalist countries. That is not the case now and I don’t believe Russia has any interest in invading the Baltic States or, indeed, taking over Ukraine.
Who would want such a headache!

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

It might be worthwhile confusing Russia with Putin.
Argentina had little concrete benefits in invading the Falklands apart from a few sheep, even factoring in the highly speculative possibility of realistic oilfields there.
The symbolism of the whole matter though was considered a means by which the junta sought to keep itself in power.
Need I overburden the analogy here?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Terence Fitch
TF
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

The issue is a corrupt oligarchy- Putin and his cronies plus criminal mafia elements who have amassed wealth almost beyond counting terrified that ordinary Russians finally wake up in their crumbling apartment blocks to just how crappy their lives are. Foreign threats are the best sleight of hand to deceive them. Maskirovska! Meanwhile never forget the murder of civilians on MH17 including 80 children plus Salisbury etc etc. Spare me the Putin apologists. Disgusting article considering the treatment of Navalny and other political prisoners. Of course Putin also realises that over the next decades Russia will be seen as a failed state compared to more brutal but more efficient China. Ah well, Russia facing huge population decline so less threatening? Russian men tend to drink and smoke themselves to an early death at a spectacular rate and at least today it’s reported that Germany will reject the Nordstream pipeline for the finest Lefty Green reasons!

George Kushner
GK
George Kushner
2 years ago

Excellent piece to the otherwise awfully one-sided discussion of Russia and its role in the western media. Russia’s being a bogeyman is probably one of the few points there’s a general consensus in the West since about ever.
Maybe adding a bit of nuance could help? Russia’s enormously complex geopolitical reality and labeling it as “bad” isn’t really addressing the issue. Even not being a fan of the authoritarian Russian political tradition, it’s easy to see how it’s not random but growing out of deeper cultural realities. Now, one can deny complexities and simply declare a total mistrust and political containment and that might work in certain circumstances (maybe towards Soviet Union?), or otherwise, make an effort and try to see through the lenses of the others. And no, Putin and his regime, are not entirely alien to and hated by Russian people. Evidence of wide support, even if exaggerated, is not contestable.

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  George Kushner

And yet if you were a Pole who has faced 200 years of various ingenious forms of oppression at the hands of Russia maybe nuance might be a bit difficult to have here right? At the very least a sense of defensiveness might be natural?

George Kushner
GK
George Kushner
2 years ago

I totally get it, lived in Estonia myself, however the first partition of Poland 200 years ago was executed by Prussia and Austria too and supported by all major European players. And it was Germany who invaded Poland last time, before Soviets made it its satellite state. Clearly a nuance is in order when dealing with the new realities of today. Russia today is not (quite) the old USSR, even less the Stalinist hell on earth. Russia’s policy is very predictable, just like any large power they want a belt of neutral countries around their borders but ready to compromise on some reasonable arrangement ( e.g. bordering Baltic countries are in NATO but it’s never been put on the table by Russia )

Charles Mimoun
CM
Charles Mimoun
2 years ago

Concerning this tricky problem I have an original proposition: accepting to introduce Russia in the capitalist market (which it tragically needs) and in counterpart to obtain from Putin to cease totally its military operations wherever it’s important to the USA. It’s an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, isolate China from Russia and keeping peace in Eastern Europe. It would be the exact reverse of Kissinger’s great strategy, and it has the same potential to succeed.

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Mimoun

Russia was made a member of the WTO in 2012.

Charles Mimoun
CM
Charles Mimoun
2 years ago

With American commercial sanctions and a threatening diplomatic and military attitude … 

Last edited 2 years ago by Charles Mimoun
Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Mimoun

In 2012? I think you may be confusing that with 2014 when they invaded Crimea with a totally all-Russian and totally non-Russian army.

Charles Mimoun
CM
Charles Mimoun
2 years ago

I think there is a sort of a priori hostile towards Russia, which is obviously a distant consequence of the Cold War. Likewise, I see no effort on the American side to understand the Russian position and resolve the geopolitical issues it raises, as two equal countries. Going down the path of diplomacy and forgiving Putin’s faults seems to be essential to separate China from Russia. Sometimes knowing how to make yourself small is the proof that you are big. This is, in my opinion, very important because it would be totally ridiculous to think that USA + EUROPE + allies could surpass the military power of CHINA + RUSSIA + allies. But I could be wrong, this is just an impression …

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Mimoun

Except that Russia isn’t an equal to the USA. Maybe in terms of nukes or even certain conventional weaponary it is, a legacy of the Soviet Union’s kamikaze attempt to match the US in that area. But economically it is tiny. Its GDP is behind Britain, France and Germany, let alone China or the USA. Its GDP per capita is six times lower than the USA, and if you exclude cities like Moscow pumped full of oil money probably a whole lot less in other areas. The phrase ‘Upper Volta with nuclear weapons’ that was used to refer to the USSR is as true now as then.
One can argue about places like Ukraine and whether they fit into the national interest – given Ukraine isn’t part of NATO it fairly implicitly doesn’t despite a lot of nosie from Western countries – but Warsaw pact countries like Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria were only part of the Russian sphere of influence after WW2 because of the relatively weak hand that Stalin took advantage of in 1945. The collapse of communist and its unworkable and repressive economic system and the consequences of that unravelling meant that these places escaped and realigned themselves with the West, as they had been before 1945, as part of the old Central Europe so tragically crushed by the evils of communism. Then they were all clearly part of a Western sphere of influence of countries like France and Germany, not to mention the deep historical ties of places like Poland to the US.
Russia by seeking to reassert some kind of Warsaw Pact like domination over Eastern European countries is surely as guilty if not more of wanting to prolong cold war hosilities and their temporary Stalinist grip over half of Europe that the destruction and chaos of the post-WW2 era allowed and the collapse of which people joyfully – yes joyfully – renounced in 1989.
It is to me not surprising many left-wing idiots (like George Galloway) buy Putin’s propoganda hook, line and sinker. It is sadder many conservatives fail to see his post-modern gangster kingdom for what it is – Roger Scruton certainly did (read about it if you wish). Even Nassim Taleb has recently woken up to the manipulation of selective information. Unfortunately the old KGB tacits from the cold war about manipulating those full of ego – and ideological people from both ends of the spectrum tend to be full of ego – in order to unconsciously act against the interests of their own country are now even more effective with the ability to speak to people directly through online media.
I’m not even saying we *should* defend Ukraine. But equally allowing Putin to send in tanks into any country he likes without suffering consequences – consequences like those the Soviets suffered in invading Afghanistan in 1979 – will just send a signal to Russia and China to up the ante one more time knowing the West is too scared to defend itself these days.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Charles Mimoun
CM
Charles Mimoun
2 years ago

I imagine you are American, incapable of considering weaker countries as anything more than vassals, who must admire your purposes and defend your interests. (Don’t take it the wrong way). Charles de Gaulle had also noticed it in his days. For me Russia is not “bad”, it’s “bad for us”. The difference appears when it becomes glaring that it’s good for us to help them.
Moreover, please explain why your objections could not be raised against the Kissinger plan (which in retrospect is a huge success): China was nothing and Mao wasn’t a good guy, perhaps more dangerous than Putin. . .
And you have not explained how the US army could face China and Russia at the same time. 
I would have certainly agreed with you, if the only problem was Russia and Ukraine, but it is not the case. 
I have read R. Scruton and admire him a lot, but once again, to replace the Soviet terrorism by the Chinese one is not a good deal.

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Mimoun

I am not an American.
As for what Kissinger did with China, well because it had a long term goal of weakening the USSR – which it did! – towards a somewhat better status quo.
Of course pragmatic decisions have to be taken, but in none of these suggestions you seem to have realised that there has to be some long term goal or some kind of principle of confinement in order to prevent progressive encroachments. Weakness begets more weakness. With both China and Russia. It is definitely not good for Britain if the Russia exerts dominance over Europe.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago

The West is too bankrupt to defend itself nowadays, one of its main creditors being China.

Incidentally, Stalin had an incredibly strong hand in 1944/5. It was, after all, the Red Army that defeated Hitler.

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Mimoun

You are offering the Russians nothing.

Except the chance of becoming a decadent wreck like the USA.

James Joyce
JJ
James Joyce
2 years ago

Richard Lugar is right. NATO is another example of a program that has outlived its usefulness, almost to the point of parody. Turkey is a member of NATO? Excuse me, but is Turkey in the “North Atlantic?” Perhaps Australia should join too.
The expansion of NATO onto Russia’s back door was an unnecessary provocation. What’s the point? If Russia invades the East of Estonia, where many Russians live and are at least as much influenced by Russia (Russian TV, for example) do you really think that the US will defend Estonia as though Kansas was attacked? Don’t hold your breath!
George F. Kennan, the father of containment, is spinning in his grave. He would have been against this self harm. People who underestimate the average Russian’s paranoia, their fear that the entire West is always against them and will always be against them, do so at their own peril. There is something in the Russian character that runs deep–in their DNA one might say. I have talked to Baltic Russians and other Russians, smart, well-educated people who seem to leave reality behind when talking about Russia, Putin, the West. They cannot be convinced that the West is not a continuous, ominous threat to Mother Russia, and every “incursion” into the Russian sphere of influence makes it worse.
The bigger question is the future–the existence–of NATO. What’s the point of this bureaucratic behemoth? I once listened to a Russian on BBC, an ambassador I think, who scoffed at the thought of the US leaving NATO– So what?, he said. If the US leaves NATO, it’s not like the US disappears. And Trump was (inconveniently) right: America’s NATO “allies” hadn’t paid their fair share since….forever? Excellent point.
The American Era is over. Time for new ideas, new organizations. NATO is dead or should be dead. RIP.

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

And how exactly is this any different or valid than the paranoia of those who saw the Russian empire and then the USSR expand its tentacles throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th century? There is a reason satirical British maps of the 19th century had Russia as a octopus: often strangling Poland to death and attempting to do the same to Turkey, Persia and Austria, with a small tentacle nudging its way quitely to British India.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

Your point?

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Trying to portray Eastern European countries as inveterate, crazy Russophobes whilst Russia feeling paranoid of Western invasion as some kind of natural response to their history as eternal victims of Western invasion is an incredibly one-sided way to view said history. Yes: Russia faced invasions from the West and attempts at containment, equally Russia has sought to control and direct the whole European continent or large parts of it at various points over the last 200 years.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
James Joyce
JJ
James Joyce
2 years ago

“Inveterate, crazy Russophiles…..?” Whoa, mate, not my view, but an informed view from my dealings with Russians and Baltic Russians. I don’t completely understand it–not being Russian–but it is real. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Last edited 2 years ago by James Joyce
Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

I mean Russophobes. It is just the term de jour in these discussions regarding Poland etc.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
JR Stoker
JS
JR Stoker
2 years ago

Which has been the Russia strategy for 300 years

John Riordan
JR
John Riordan
2 years ago

Lord Owen’s book about Brexit contains a superb analysis of this same issue, in which he quotes the now-retired American diplomat George Kennan’s critique of the failure of the US political establishment to properly understand the realities behind the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Basically, the failure was that Russia continued to be treated as a smaller version of the USSR when in fact the people in charge of it post-1989 were the very people who had brought about the mostly-peaceful destruction of the Soviet regime. They failed to recognise the new Russian State as composed of allies of the West against Communism, in short, and then used the cooling diplomatic landscape resulting from their own attitudes as evidence that they had been right.

The expansion of NATO eastwards was a stupid plan for the simple reason that nobody supporting it in political terms at the time had any serious intention of standing behind Article 5 in an armed conflict. This example of NATO expansion was a politcal vanity project not a genuine strategic plan. But this does not mean that NATO is entirely redundant, because most of the traditional participants in NATO do still possess aligned incentives: they are collectively threatened by Russia in a potential armed conflict. It is possible that the USA itself is less interested these days of course, but that just means that the European nations have to put something together and pay for it extremely quickly. In short, if NATO really is dead, something has to replace it.

Terence Fitch
TF
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

Putin knows China will be dominating Russia within 20 yrs. Like all dwarves in giant’s clothes he has to keep telling the big lie- he and his mafiosi gangsters are patriots- and distractions are constantly needed. Belorussia and Kazakhstan are recent reminders what happens when a populace are given a peep behind the Wizard if Oz’s curtain. Can’t have that.

Chris Wheatley
CW
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

The hawks in the United States can clearly see that a war is the only solution to their internal problems. A war would make America great again – everyone would be saluting the flag, the rich would get richer, the poor would get poorer and blue-collar jobs would be created by the million.
Politicians have been solving internal problems by causing wars for hindreds of years. Why would they stop now.
Another byproduct of this war or stand-off would be to make China have bit of respect for the USA. Presumably China now sees a broken country, one to be easily overtaken.

James Joyce
JJ
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

This is a WAG THE DOG theory. I disagree. The US may have a war soon but it will be a Civil War, not a war far from home. The days of American hegemony are over. Looks like this will be China’s century. All empires end, there is a reason Portugese is spoken all over the world, but bad leadership and corruption have stopped the US maybe sooner than expected. The US has been in continuous decline for 50, 60 years.

Bill W
WW
Bill W
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

The UK destroyed the vast advantage it accrued not the least from being the home of the Industrial Revolution as a result of two world wars. It seems to me having won the Cold War the US for far less reason has simply thrown away its own advantage through unnecessary wars and misguided enablement of the most obvious rising power.

James Joyce
JJ
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill W

Excellent points. Some say that the UK lost the Empire starting with the Boer War. Future historians can pick with the US: Korea? Vietnam? First Gulf War? Second? These wars did not strengthen the US, they weakened it. Incredibly stupid. We bankrupted the USSR with our Cold War strategy, but someone must pay for all the bombs dropped in Afghanistan on goats and goat “farmers,” though we did leave some nice kit behind, free of charge.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Britain lost its oldest colony, Ireland, almost exactly a century ago.

When it talked to Michael Collins, instead of killing him, it forfeited its Empire.

Also, when Parliament censured General Dyer for massacring unarmed Indian civilians at Amritsar at about the same time.

To keep an Empire requires committing mass-murder when opposition arises.

In 1939 or 1940, it could have hung on to some of the Empire via a cynical deal with Hitler.

Thankfully, it didn’t.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I hardly think that the U.S. military is in any condition to win any war at this point. If the U.S. couldn’t figure out a way to remove itself safely from a 5th century goat pasture, it certainly won’t succeed in Russia.
However, our GI’s might be good at lecturing the Russians on transgender and equity issues.

James Joyce
JJ
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

I think you exaggerate. The racism and transgender lectures might shock the Russki system so much that it’s very possible they could die from them.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

As long as they don’t succumb to White Rage !

Ferrusian Gambit
SS
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

The Germans had the same attitude towards the British after seeing them struggle to put down some farmers in a guerilla war in South Africa. Worked out well for them when the conventional war came.

JR Stoker
JS
JR Stoker
2 years ago

Not “Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay”. He was “Lord Ismay”. General Ismay if you want. Are there no sub-editors on duty?!

Warren T
WT
Warren T
2 years ago

I wonder if the author’s real name is Marshall Auerbackanov?

David McKee
DM
David McKee
2 years ago

What Mr. Auerback is doing is to look at the world from the Russian point of view. I don’t necessarily accept everything he has written, but in one crucial point he is quite right. Russia was told that there would be no eastern expansion of NATO. In the NSA archive link he gave, possibly the clearest example of these assurances was a conversation between John Major (then the prime minister of Britain) and defence minister Yazov in March 1991 (document 28, page 3).
“(Yazov) professes to be worried that the Czechs, Poles and Hungarians will join NATO: Havel has been making equivocal statements. Major assures him that nothing of the sort will happen.”
Except that it did. The Partnership for Peace programme of 1994 opened the door to CEE membership. The Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary joined NATO in 1999, with most of the rest of the ex-Warsaw Pact states following in 2004.
Under those circumstances, how would we expect the Russians to view us?

Last edited 2 years ago by David McKee
Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
2 years ago

There are lots of buffoons here demanding we Talk Tough and Act Tough with Russia.

Leaving aside the obvious fact – that Russia, (not being a consumerist cesspit re-enacting the Last Days of Ancient Rome) is far Tougher than us

– it merely encourages Russia to Talk Tough and Act Tough with us.

If the West irks Russia or China, they will simply form a military plan to take down the West, especially the USA.

And will succeed. Unless of course, Biden chooses to make the world a nuclear graveyard.

Which would take down the West even more successfully.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

The real question is: honey trap or useful idiot?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit