During the Cold War there were similar dangerous moments, but John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, as well as Ronald Reagan and Michael Gorbachev, managed to avoid the worst-case scenario. George H.W. Bush talked in 1990 about a “Europe whole and free” and a new “security architecture from Vancouver to Vladivostok,” while Boris Yeltsin, during his 1992 address to the joint chambers of Congress, exclaimed, “God bless America.”
So, what went wrong? Why are we talking about nuclear war again? According to Washington, Putin and his desire to restore the Soviet empire are to blame. Moscow points the finger back at Washington for its vision of a unipolar world order under the U.S. hegemony.
Below is my brief take, which I would be happy to debate with those who see it differently. Perhaps during such exchanges, we could come up with some ideas for avoiding our mutual extinction.
December 25, 1991
The Soviet flag over the Kremlin comes down, Russian white-blue-red (symbolically the same colors as the American flag) comes up. It looked like the new era of peace, friendship, and mutually beneficial cooperation had arrived, but regrettably, as we see now, it hasn’t.
1993 – 2001
Bill Clinton. The greatest robbery of the 20th Century. NATO Expansion.
The term “Russiagate” entered the American media space much earlier than during Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign, when she tried to blame Russia for her loss. This term was first used by Washington Post correspondent David Ignatius, who is now one of the harshest critics of Russia. But back in 1999 in his WP article Who Robbed Russia? he highlighted some of the most damning revelations of the multi-billion robbery of Russia with the help of the Bank of New York and with the acquiescence of the Clinton administration. “By allowing the oligarchs — in the name of the free market — to grab Russia’s resources and siphon anything of value into their own offshore bank accounts, the United States poisoned Russia’s transition from communism… What makes the Russian case so sad is that the Clinton administration may have squandered one of the most precious assets imaginable — which is the idealism and goodwill of the Russian people as they emerged from 70 years of Communist rule. The Russia debacle may haunt us for generations,” – said Ignatius.
A Congressional September 2000 report about the Clinton Administration’s misdeeds in Russia has many other details on the same subject.
Clinton also meddled in Russia’s 1996 presidential elections. Then he started the first round of NATO expansion despite the objections of many prominent experts, including former US government officials, Members of Congress, and diplomats. For example:
Fifty members of the Arms Control Association wrote a letter to Clinton saying “We, the undersigned, believe that the current U.S.-led effort to expand NATO is a policy error of historic proportions. We believe that NATO expansion will decrease allied security and unsettle European stability.”
“We’ll be back on a hair-trigger” said Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat, during the debates in the Senate. Moynihan continued: “We’re talking about nuclear war. It is a curiously ironic outcome that at the end of the Cold War,we might face a nuclear Armageddon.”
Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), while calling Moynihan “the single most erudite and informed person in the Senate,” said he disagreed with him and pushed for NATO’s expansion.
One of America’s most distinguished diplomats, George Kennan, called NATO expansion “a fatal foreign policy mistake.”
2001 – 2009
George W. Bush. Thanked Putin for help after 9/11, then paid him back with the war in Iraq, abrogation of the ABM treaty, color revolutions in the post-Soviet space, and pushing to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO.
This is what Bush said in November 2001 following Putin’s support for the Afghan operation a month earlier:
“A lot of people never really dreamt that an American President and a Russian President could have established the friendship …. to establish a new spirit of cooperation and trust so that we can work together to make the world more peaceful….I brought him to my ranch because, as the good people in this part of the world know, you only usually invite your friends into your house…. a new style of leader, a reformer, a man who loves his country as much as I love mine…. a man who is going to make a huge difference in making the world more peaceful, by working closely with the United States.”
What a spirit of sanity from a man who would oversee a disastrous two terms in office which included the war in Iraq and an abrogation of one of the most strategic anti-nuclear war treaties.
Russia considered NATO’s statement during its April 2008 Bucharest summit that Ukraine and Georgia would become part of this military block to be an existential threat.
2009 – 2017
Barack Obama. Short-lived “Reset”. Gave a Ukrainian Portfolio to his VP Joe Biden which he used to coordinate the February 2014 regime change coup in Ukraine overseen by Victoria Nuland, and make lots of money for his family via Hunter, both in Ukraine, and around the world. Russiagate 2.0 orchestrated by Hillary Clinton and the Deep State derailed Trump’s presidency and his efforts to improve U.S.-Russia relations.
2017 – 2021
Donald Trump. Accused of being a Russian stooge. Four years of harassment by the Washington Swamp. Survived two impeachment efforts. Lost the 2020 elections due to the success of Biden’s virtual campaign and corrupt media to shift the blame for Hunter’s “Laptop from Hell” on Russia.
2021 – now
Joe Biden. Rejection of Russia’s proposals in December 2021 for the mutual security guarantees that included a neutral status for Ukraine. Destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines. Declared his goal of achieving a devastating strategic defeat of Russia. Continues multi-billion dollar funding of Ukraine for “as long as it takes.”
During a recent speech at the EU Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg admitted that the war in Ukraine was the result of NATO expansionism. In his comments he stated that “in the autumn of 2021, Putin sent a draft treaty that he wanted NATO to promise, never to enlarge NATO, to remove our military infrastructure in all Allies that have joined NATO since 1997, introducing some kind of B, or second class membership. So he went to war to prevent NATO, more NATO, close to his borders. We rejected that.”
Well, Putin only wanted NATO to honor the pledge “not to expand one inch East” given to Gorbachev by the Western leaders in exchange for allowing the reunification of Germany. The document confirming this is available in the National archives.
By accepting at least one, I believe the most important point of Russia’s proposal, to make Ukraine neutral, Washington and NATO would show goodwill and readiness for negotiations. Unfortunately, they rejected this plan outright.
The current nuclear threat will end when Washington orders Kyiv to search for diplomatic solutions. However, as long as Biden is in the office that is unlikely. For him, too much is at stake, and the interests of American people who are in favor of ending this war are secondary.
Therefore, we are entering two races: the U.S. presidential election, and how to avoid extinction. The main issue is Ukraine’s neutrality. How important it is for the American people to risk the annihilation?
Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow. Reprinted from New Kontinent US with permission from the author.