|"The Kremlin didn't see NATO expansion|
to Russia's borders as benign."
In that book, he wrote that he had observed the essence of U.S. and British foreign policy: "The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims, while incidentally capturing their markets; to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples, while blundering accidentally into their oil wells" (page 222).
The religious self-righteous notion that "if we do it is ok, but if they do it that is not right" still permeates U.S. and NATO foreign policy to this very day, now plaguing us in what we are seeing as the Ukrainian folly.
To the last several U.S. Presidents, that anomaly was known as American Exceptionalism, even though "holier than thou" really does not have a place in a nation that touts the separation of church and state.
There are Central European people who think of this policy, as it is being manifested by NATO strategists, as ill mannered:
The downing of MH17 did not start the process of dysfunction, and neither did its incubating Ukrainian crisis; these are symptoms of the failure of nationalist entities to govern. The main crisis - gripping the entire region - is reducible to the inability of post-Soviet nations – some with little or no experience of independent statehood – to properly function in place of the collapsed multinational federation. And the only truly viable solution is a reintegration programme. This is not to advocate the return of Russian privilege in a neo-Soviet Union. Rather, there needs to be an integration programme of equals so that no voices are drowned and no interests eclipsed. No integration means no stability.(Ukraine: Reflecting on the Downing of Flight MH17, emphasis added). The wrong-wing lunatics, who fancy themselves capable of mentoring presidents, call civilized behavior "isolationism", while they try to isolate Russia from the European Community by threat of force of arms (their hypocrisy knows no bounds).
The crisis following MH17 is producing an avalanche of pundits' opinions and bloggary that run counter to this message and reveals how little people understand about the processes that run in the post-Soviet space. Calls to punish Russia, introduce more sanctions and, at the extreme even militarily help Ukraine, will not be productive in ending 20 years of regional chaos, cronyism and bad governance. These policy suggestions - if adopted - will only create further, more intractable problems.
Any significant cooperation within the post-Soviet space, which excludes Russia, leads to crises and there are numerous cases of Russia’s conflicts, economic, energy, and military - in 2004, 2006, 2008, and now in 2014 - which strongly suggest such a tendency. In other words, do not neglect Russia, include it in all initiatives, and prioritise its economic benefits instead of political values and ideological narratives. Russia needs a voice at the table, otherwise it will muscle in by force.
What is left out these days is the art of statecraft; enlightened, realist-based diplomatic bargaining, which may be one of the reasons for today’s open confrontation in Ukraine. It may not be a coincidence, that currently the world is lacking true statesmen but is governed by politicians instead.
Regular readers know that Dredd Blog touched upon the very old and rotting roots of this policy recently (The Peak Of The Oil Wars - 10), indicating that more would be said of the Ukraine crisis later in this series ("more in future posts").
After Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev did some statesman like interaction in foreign policy, it was not long until officials following them in time and sequence began to dismantle their good deeds:
Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to allow the unification of Germany and its membership in NATO, a hostile military alliance. In the light of recent history, this was a most astonishing concession. There was a quid pro quo. President [Bush I] and Secretary of State James Baker agreed that NATO would not expand “one inch to the East,” meaning into East Germany. Instantly, they expanded NATO to East Germany.(Civilization Is Now On Suicide Watch - 2, quoting Noam Chomsky). They don't call it a "theatre of war" without "reason."
Gorbachev was naturally outraged, but when he complained, he was instructed by Washington that this had only been a verbal promise, a gentleman’s agreement, hence without force. If he was naïve enough to accept the word of American leaders, it was his problem.
After all, it is composed of propaganda-driven theatrics mixed with drama queen machinations.
The president who followed later in the election-driven lineage also believed that the show must go on:
For Tuchman [author of "The March of Folly"], these mistakes were examples of folly, which she defined as "the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests." It is, she added, "a phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period."(Joining The March of Folly, emphasis added). This ill-advised policy is described by observers in one of our allied nations:
The Clinton administration's campaign to expand NATO into Eastern Europe once again proves that Tuchman was on to something. Last July, at a NATO summit in Madrid, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were invited to join the alliance, a process that is expected to be concluded by 1999, NATO's fiftieth anniversary. All three countries were Soviet allies in the defunct Warsaw Pact.
The administration has repeatedly stated that these countries will not be the last ones admitted to the alliance.
However unsettling, Russia's actions are not irrational. In many ways they are the foreseeable reaction to the West's decisions since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, writes Tom Switzer.(The West Poked The Russian Bear, emphasis added). The criticism comes from a lot of places, including the Foreign Affairs website:
The conventional wisdom among western pundits and politicians says the Ukrainian crisis is entirely Vladimir Putin's fault and the West is blameless.
Russia's military incursion in Crimea, warns the Wall Street Journal, is a "blitzkrieg" that "brings the threat of war to the heart of Europe". Putin, according to Hillary Clinton is acting just like Hitler in the late 1930s. Moscow, editorialises the Financial Times, has started a "new Cold War". Now, it is widely argued, President Barack Obama must get tough with the Kremlin and intensify political, economic and strategic relations with the new Ukrainian Government.
Throughout this crisis, however, there has been very little attempt to take into account Russia's susceptibilities and its attempt to protect what it perceives as its vital strategic interests. If anything, as several distinguished professors of international relations, such as John Mearsheimer (Chicago University) and Stephen Walt (Harvard University), have made clear, this crisis stems from decisions made by Washington and Brussels since the collapse of the Soviet Empire more than two decades ago.
Start with the expansion of NATO eastwards and Washington's decision to deploy ballistic missile defences in Russia's neighbourhood.
In 2014, Western officials are learning about their strategic errors the hard way. They have come to realize that NATO’s collective defense mission in Europe is still vital because Russia is in the business of changing international borders by force, that NATO never had to go “out of area” for a compelling mission, that the Kremlin didn’t see NATO expansion to Russia’s borders as benign, and that NATO missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya cost a great deal in lives and money but they only achieved mixed results.(NATO's Biggest Mistake, emphasis added). A google search on "the Kremlin didn’t see NATO expansion to Russia’s borders as benign" leads to many other places with the same results.
The second major change in NATO policy, starting in the 1990s, was the adoption of a new array of global missions to justify NATO’s continued existence. The rationale was that NATO’s European members would have to help Washington with its global concerns to keep the United States committed to Europe.
This strategic reasoning was based on several flawed assumptions. First, the global interests of the United States and Europe were not (and are not) in alignment.
In the end, Russia got the mine (Black Sea Oil) but NATO and the U.S. got the shaft, because one size does not fit all when it comes to foreign policy.
The previous post in this series is here.
"The Front Fell Off"