All War Is Essentially a Failure of Diplomacy. Russia’s Criminal War in Ukraine Is a Prime Example.

We need to go back 31 years to begin the diplomatic failures that led to war in Ukraine Wednesday. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, it represented one of the most remarkably peaceful transformations of a belligerent empire in history. The West had a golden opportunity to embrace that transformation, incorporate Russia into the European community, but chose not to. Rather than dissolve NATO, the U.S. promoted Russia as an existential threat to Western Europe, requiring its expansion. Beginning with Poland, Hungary and Cech Republic, NATO gobbled up 12 former Soviet republics, encroaching senselessly right up to Russia’s borders.

George F. Kennan, architect of U.S. strategic containment of the Soviets in 1947 that led to NATO in 1949, was aghast at this diplomatic blunder saying, “I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves.”

But year after year, U.S. and Western diplomacy continued to stir adverse Russian reaction rather than reduce tensions. In 2008, the U.S. flirted with adding Georgia to NATO. This inspired Georgia to intervene militarily in 2 Russian aligned breakaway provinces. The Russian response was a short, decisive crushing of Georgian hubris as the US and NATO stayed out of the fight.

Not chastened by that diplomatic debacle, the U.S. and NATO made essentially the same blunder in Ukraine in 2014 by inspiring and promoting an ultra-nationalist coup that ousted elected Ukraine president, Viktor Yanukovych., who sought economic cooperation with Russia. That blunder ignited a civil war in the Donbass, bordering Russia, between the new government and Russian speaking Ukrainians there. 13,000 have died from U.S meddling.

The 2 breakaway provinces from that civil war eventually became the flashpoint for Russia’s decision to engage in criminal war 8 years later.

Sadly, the American public is woefully ignorant of the diplomatic background and failures that have led to a potentially catastrophic war could that spiral into nuclear confrontation. In the run up to the current war the U.S. publicly announced all Russian security demands were off the table. That is not diplomacy. That is a recipe for senseless war.

The U.S. government and mainstream media have essentially erased this sorrowful diplomatic prelude to war from public knowledge and discussion.

We in the small but committed peace movement promote responsible diplomacy as our N0. 1 goal for the U.S. to engage in with potential belligerent states to prevent war. But the U.S. blundered ahead, eschewing diplomacy for either outright invasion in Afghanistan and Iraq, or as behind the scene supporters of war in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

That is diplomacy in 21st century America. Every potential conflict is We Win…You Lose. That never results in peace, just criminal war. Except diplomatic failure in Ukraine has set the U.S. back on its heels, playing catch up with criminal war by Russia. And until the U.S negotiates diplomatically, the Founding Fathers, as proclaimed by George F. Kennan, continue turning over in their graves.

Walt Zlotow became involved in antiwar activities upon entering University of Chicago in 1963. He is current president of the West Suburban Peace Coalition based in the Chicago western suburbs. He blogs daily on antiwar and other issues at

13 thoughts on “All War Is Essentially a Failure of Diplomacy. Russia’s Criminal War in Ukraine Is a Prime Example.”

  1. The US is shoveling war materials (and there are undoubtedly covert ‘advisors’ on the ground as well) at the Ukrainians, and our fearless leaders- of whom not a single one has traveled to the Ukraine to volunteer to fight for them- might keep in mind the result of our last major endeavor of this kind. Anyone remember what became of a ragtag band of plucky fighters known as the Mujihadeen in Afghanistan? How did that work out for us?

  2. I’m still not convinced that the Russian operation is illegal under international law. Or at least, no more illegal than the US action in Kosovo and Serbia. Some people complain about “what-aboutism”. That’s not the point. The point is that international law scholars argue about various components of the UN Charter – and this business of “self-determination” vs “national sovereignty” and “territorial integrity” is one of them.

    Russia claims that the UN clauses about “national sovereignty” and “territorial integrity” refer to states that are NOT oppressing their own people. I think they have a point. Which doesn’t mean that the US concept of “Responsibility To Protect” is a legitimate point. The US believes the latter gives it the right to intervene in any country anywhere without being invited by either the legitimate government of that country (whatever “legitimate” means in any given case) or even the supposed “oppressed people.” See: Syria.

    Russia, OTOH, treats it to mean that people who speak Russian and are being oppressed by Nazis can seek self-determination, and having done so, can be recognized as independent, and can then legally invite assistance from Russia. Which also gives Russia the opportunity to get rid of a hostile state on its borders which is being used by a still more hostile state – the US and EU – to threaten its national security.

    Of course, whether Russia will do so depends on the real world power relations between the country involved, the other countries concerned and Russia. Because real world power balance controls everything that happens.

    Since I’m an individualist anarchist of the Max Stirner stripe, I say it’s all bullcrap. In the real world it all devolves to who has the power to do what they want. In this case, it’s Russia who has the power. As Martyanov likes to say, “It is what it is.”

    So people need to stop their moral posturing.

    1. Putin was at least careful to wait for all of the pieces to fall into place: an evident humanitarian crisis in the Donbass, declarations of independence from Ukraine by those regions, and he gave Zelensky just enough time to make a dangerous fool of himself as regards nuclear ambitions.

      1. Putin put 130k troops on Ukraine’s border THEN and ONLY THEN did separatists claim independence in the Donbass.

        1. Separatists declared independence in the Donbas in 2014.

          Putin didn’t put 130k troops on the border until he was ready to officially recognize that independence rather than support it with just enough military force to keep the Ukrainians from successfully contesting it while they refused to implement the Minsk Protocols.

          1. have you ever read the Minks protocols? Read it and highlight “Russia” every time it comes up

    2. Our diplomats accused the Russians of “what-aboutism” and whining about the promise of NATO to not move one inch eastward. They don’t like “what-aboutism” because it shows up America’s hypocrisy.

  3. Failure of diplomacy? That would be an explanation if there were not sociopaths involved in nearly every war. The US/NATO/CIA/MI6 alliance, simply want war. That is not something that can be bargained or reasoned with. They need to distract from the failed plannedemic and destruction of free society on behalf of the WEF. These folks have been provoking war since the collapse of the Soviet Union. None of this should surprise anyone.

  4. Outside wars of choice being qualitatively criminal, its not clear how Russia’s war is materially criminal.

    Under UN Charter Article 51,

    “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

    The DNR and LNR were recognized under the Minsk Agreement as autonomous. Russia is a UN member. Kiev had failed to resolve the civil war militarily or diplomatically.

    The Donbass Republics repeatedly petitioned Moscow to recognize their independence and help put an end to the fighting.

    A sharp increase Kiev shelling pressed Putin to finally recognized their independence. Treaties of friendship and defense were then signed. This gained Russia lawful access to their territory.

    When Kiev continued shelling, they effectively attacked Russian troops, which in and of itself is an act of war. Ukraine’s troop buildup on the Donbass contact line already indicated immanent invasion by Kiev.

    That second phase of the Russian intervention is a UN legal pre-emptive counter-attack or counter-invasion against against Kiev.

  5. Russias criminal war in Ukraine not to mention Americas criminal war in Iraq , Libya Afghanistan ect ect ect ,

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