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 www.heartlandprogressive.blogspot.com.