Common Sense and Self-Preservation Go Mainstream in Washington, DC: Capitulation to Russian Demands Becomes Discussable

It is one month since the Russians presented first to American diplomats and then to the world community their brazen demands to roll back NATO to its configuration status quo ante in May 1997 before the accession of former Warsaw Pact countries.

Those demands were taken up with seeming seriousness by the U.S. Government, then by NATO, whose Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, initially dismissed them out of hand as unacceptable. In short order dates were sketched in for a meeting of U.S. and Russian delegations in Geneva on 10 January. Then at U.S. insistence further meetings were scheduled with NATO in Brussels on 12 January and with the OSCE in Vienna on 13 January.

Western media were invited by their ‘high level but anonymous’ information sources in Washington to see these astonishing developments as required to de-escalate tensions at the Russian-Ukrainian border, where the Russians had amassed over 100,000 troops. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his minions said repeatedly the troop concentration was in preparation for a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Such an invasion would spell a blitzkrieg victory for the Russians and would undo the 2.5 billion dollar U.S. investment made under two U.S. presidents to turn Ukraine from one more “catch” by the American team, as described by Gideon Rose, then editor in chief of Foreign Affairs magazine when it happened in February 2014, into a major military asset in the policy of threatening and containing the Russian Federation. Instead, this looked to become the second U.S. foreign policy debacle in less than a year after the shameful chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last August.

It is astounding that none of the major Western media picked up the fact in front of their noses: that on the pretext of an invasion they had no intention of staging, the Russians had succeeded in lining up high level meetings with the United States and its NATO allies to discuss total revisions to the security architecture in Europe, something which was the laugh of the town when first proposed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2008-2009 and led to nothing back then.

I would call this the first Psy-ops success scored by Moscow. The second success was the admission by the United States, the United Kingdom and France in the run-up to the meetings in Geneva and Brussels that they would not send a single soldier to help defend the Ukrainians if they were invaded! This was the loudest possible signal to Kiev to sober up its rabid nationalist militias and forget entirely using their shiny new U.S. military gear to stage the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that remain in open rebellion against the central authorities. Was this foreseeable on the part of Joe Biden, who in 2008 had been inciting the Georgian president Saakashvili to similar folly of recovering rebel provinces by force of arms in the face of Russian opposition? No, it resulted directly from some folks on Capitol Hill knowing what’s what with respect to comparative U.S. and Russian military strength, capabilities and will in Russia’s Near Abroad today. Victory two for Psy-ops!

Now today I am delighted to share with readers an article just published by The National Interest in Washington urging what would be, in effect, total capitulation to Russian demands for NATO’s downsizing. I am especially delighted that the author’s lever for his argumentation is precisely the definition of “military technical means” that I have provided to an otherwise clueless community of Russia experts in the U.S. and Western Europe. It is all set out on page one of his essay.

That this was dynamite is confirmed by its immediately being reposted by a news portal in Latvia, which would be one of the countries whose anti-Russian, pro-American government would be finished, kaput should the recommendations in this article be implemented.

I hasten to add that the publishers of this article are just one step away from U.S. mainstream in terms of respectability. The officers of the parent organization, the Center for the National Interest, formerly known as The Nixon Center, include not only dual citizenship former Soviets, whose patriotism might be put in question by political foes, but also some high serving former U.S. government folks who made the right sounds of patriotism when given a microphone in the past. Not entirely unimpeachable, but pretty solid.  And now we read this call for capitulation in their journal!

It is entirely logical that the author has used my little linguistic exploration as the starting point for his argumentation. Because language is key to what is before us: the American foreign policy community is largely lacking all competence in Russian thanks to policies that go back more than a decade.  I recall my semester on Columbia campus in 2010-11 when I refreshed my knowledge of The Harriman Institute and discovered they had dropped all language requirements for their master’s degree in regional studies relating to Russia and Eurasia. Instead, they required students to concentrate on numerical skills, which presumably would be more useful for their obtaining jobs after graduation in banks and international organizations.  And Columbia was not at all alone in its downgrading of language skills.

The net result is that journalists who report today on crises like the ongoing crisis between the United States and Russia are heavily reliant on handouts from the State Department and Pentagon, i.e. on state propaganda which they are unable to interpret critically and just pass through to their readers without comment.

But there is a bigger issue that cannot be resolved just by starting up language courses:  it is the unwillingness of institutions of higher education presently to listen to our adversaries and try to understand the logic underlying their behavior.  In the case of Russia, anyone presenting the Russian side of things has been instantly labeled a ‘stooge of Putin’ over the past decade.  I know very well, because all of my efforts as a public intellectual during this time have been precisely to present the thinking of the other side to my readers. Not to be an advocate or modern day “Tokyo Rose,” just to let the facts fall where they may.

Now that the Russians are saying “move or we will move you,” which they can back up with superior tactical and strategic military hardware, it is obvious there is a price to pay for ignorance.

Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book is Does Russia Have a Future? Reprinted with permission from his blog.

© Gilbert Doctorow, 2021

One thought on “Common Sense and Self-Preservation Go Mainstream in Washington, DC: Capitulation to Russian Demands Becomes Discussable”


  1. Instead, they required students to concentrate on numerical skills,
    which presumably would be more useful for their obtaining jobs after
    graduation in banks and international organizations.

    Or making change for customers at the takeout window at Micky D’s.

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