During the meeting between President George Bush’s Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, Baker, regarding possible NATO expansion, famously stated, “not one inch eastward.” That was just one of many deceiving assurances given by the Bush and Clinton administrations to the Soviet and Russian officials.
On December 5, 1994, during the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Russian President Boris Yeltsin vehemently accused President Bill Clinton of “trying to split [the] continent again” through NATO expansion (see declassified the National Security Archive.)
President Putin has also been warning the U.S. that NATO’s expansion represents a threat to Russia’s national security. The legacies of the Balkans, Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya reinforced Russia’s fears of American hegemony and had generated too much distrust.
Even more worrisome was that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO quietly converted the concept of an alliance into a doctrine of collective security. In this new mission, NATO equated peace and security with “locking in” and expanding democratic gains and the proliferation of American values.
Yet American leaders never comprehended how some of those values appeared repugnant and unsettling to the Russian people. So as long as Russia was economically and militarily weak, the expansion proceeded unabated, and NATO has grown from 16 countries in 1990 to 30 today.
After restoring the Russian economy and rebuilding its armed forces, the balance of power in Europe has changed fundamentally in Moscow’s favor. Putin feels strong enough to challenge American preeminence and issue a blatant ultimatum – neither Ukraine nor Georgia ever be admitted to NATO.
To show that he means business, Putin has amassed thousands of troops ready to invade Ukraine if his demands are not met.
Putin has chosen his timing well. Western allies are ushering in a period of systemic crisis. Politically, there is no unity among the members of NATO.
The very definition of common security and, indeed, of common purpose is being questioned. Economically, the allies being obsessed with climate change, have shut down their nuclear- and coal-fired power plants and currently rely on Russian gas to keep their industries running and homes warmed. Militarily, the emphasis of the NATO members has been on social spending rather than on increasing military capabilities.
As a result of the insane policies, they found themselves dependent on the U.S. for the defense and Russia for the energy needs. Thus neither militarily nor economically, NATO is of little consequence as this matter is concerned. Instead, it boils down to Biden and Putin.
Biden threatens Putin with “crushing” sanctions should Russia invades Ukraine. By threatening Putin with – “all sanctions short of war,” Biden is talking loudly but carrying a small stick.
Since Moscow sees the Ukrainian situation as a geopolitical issue paramount to their security, no threats can weaken Moscow’s resolve.
Indeed, the democracies are frightened by the pending sanctions more than Putin, and for a good reason. Applying sanctions without considering security and geopolitics will drive democracies into geopolitical shipwreck.
If the sanctions isolate Russia but do not destroy the economy, Russia will undoubtedly turn to China. The unity of objectives would drive both countries to form an economic, political, and military alliance.
On the other hand, if the sanctions succeed in bringing the Russian economy to its knees, the world may face Yugoslavia of nine time zones with a nuclear weapon.
The sanctions will also exacerbate the current economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic and produce a crisis that would hit their economies.
Although Biden implores Putin to take a "peaceful path," he fails to offer one. A thoughtful maker of foreign policy could invoke diplomacy based on the national interest and settle the conflict at once.
Biden could order his vassal President Zelensky to withdraw Ukraine’s futile request for NATO membership and thus deprive Putin of the justification for the invasion. He could do the same with tiny Georgia.
Contrary to some experts’ opinions, Putin’s motivation is not an occupation of Ukraine. Moscow needs an independent state that serves as a buffer zone between Russia and NATO.
Its main objective is regime change. The likely scenario is that Russians would bring the former and duly elected President Yanukovych, who was overthrown in a coup, on their tanks and restore the status quo.
As a result, Ukraine would be converted from foe to friend. Moscow also wants to send a strong message to the former Soviet satellites – NATO is not the salvation; it is a liability.
In this geopolitical chess, at least one thing is clear. Putin outclassed Biden and put him in a classical Zugzwang position. It is a situation in which a player has to make a move, but any possible move will worsen his position. He can’t afford to lose it but is unable to defend.
Alexander G. Markovsky is a scholar of Marxism and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, a conservative think tank that examines national security, energy, and other public policy issues. He is the author of "Liberal Bolshevism: America Did Not Defeat Communism, She Adopted It.” Contact: [email protected]
Ted Belman is the founder and publisher of Israpundit.org. Read Belman's Reports — More Here.
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