Worth reading and recommended an article in The Conversation, which addresses the main two positions on the causes of the Ukraine war and the resulting conclusions:
“Ukraine war follows decades of warnings that NATO expansion into Eastern Europe could provoke Russia
Published: February 28, 2022 8.06pm CET Updated: February 28, 2022 9.33pm CET
Author Ronald Suny ,Professor of History and Political Science, University of Michigan
As fighting rages across Ukraine, two versions of reality that underlie the conflict stare across a deep divide, neither conceding any truth to the other.
The more widespread and familiar view in the West, particularly in the United States, is that Russia is and has always been an expansionist state, and its current president, Vladimir Putin, is the embodiment of that essential Russian ambition: to build a new Russian empire.
“This was … always about naked aggression, about Putin’s desire for empire by any means necessary,” President Joe Biden said on Feb. 24, 2022.
The opposing view argues that Russia’s security concerns are in fact genuine, and that NATO expansion eastward is seen by Russians as directed against their country. Putin has been clear for many years that if continued, the expansion would likely be met with serious resistance by the Russians, even with military action.
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That perspective isn’t held just by Russians; some influential American foreign policy experts have subscribed to it as well.
Among others, Biden’s CIA director, William J. Burns, has been warning about the provocative effect of NATO expansion on Russia since 1995. That’s when Burns, then a political officer in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, reported to Washington that “hostility to early NATO expansion is almost universally felt across the domestic political spectrum here.”
NATO edging toward Russia
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, is a military alliance that was formed by the U.S., Canada and several European nations in 1949 to contain the USSR and the spread of communism.
Now, the view in the West is that it is no longer an anti-Russian alliance but is instead a kind of collective security agreement aimed at protecting its members from outside aggression and promoting peaceful mediation of conflicts within the alliance.
Recognizing the sovereignty of all states and their right to ally with whatever state they wish, NATO acceded over time to the requests of European democracies to join the alliance. Former members of the Soviet-established Warsaw Pact, which was a Soviet version of NATO, were also brought into NATO in the 1990s, along with three former Soviet republics – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – in 2004.
The Western view is that the Kremlin is supposed to understand and accept that the alliance’s activities, among them war games replete with American tanks staged in nearby Baltic states and rockets stationed in Poland and Romania – which the U.S. says are aimed at Iran – in no way present a threat to Russian security.
Many warnings about Russia’s reaction
Russian elite and broad public opinion have both long been opposed to such expansion, the placement of American rockets in Poland and Romania and the arming of Ukraine with Western weaponry.
When President Bill Clinton’s administration moved to bring Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO, Burns wrote that the decision was “premature at best, and needlessly provocative at worst.”
He continued, “As Russians stewed in their grievance and sense of disadvantage, a gathering storm of ‘stab in the back’ theories slowly swirled, leaving a mark on Russia’s relations with the West that would linger for decades.”
In June 1997, 50 prominent foreign policy experts signed an open letter to Clinton, saying, “We believe that the current U.S. led effort to expand NATO … is a policy error of historic proportions” that would “unsettle European stability.”
In 2008, Burns, then the American ambassador to Moscow, wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.”
Responding to Russia’s insecurity
There are different outcomes to the current crisis depending on whether you see its cause as Russian imperialism or NATO expansionism.
If you think the war in Ukraine is the work of a determined imperialist, any actions short of defeating the Russians will look like 1938 Munich-style appeasement and Joe Biden becomes the reviled Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who acceded to Hitler’s demands for territory in Czechoslovakia only to find himself deceived as the Nazis steadily marched to war.
If, however, you believe that Russia has legitimate concerns about NATO expansion, then the door is open to discussion, negotiation, compromise and concessions.
Having spent decades studying Russian history and politics, I believe that in foreign policy, Putin has usually acted as a realist, unsentimentally and amorally taking stock of the power dynamics among states. He looks for possible allies ready to consider Russia’s interests – recently he found such an ally in China – and is willing to resort to armed force when he believes Russia is threatened.
But at times he has also acted on the basis of his ideological predilections, which include his fabricated histories of Russia. Occasionally, he’s acted impulsively, as in seizing Crimea in 2014, and rashly, as in his disastrous decision to invade Ukraine. Annexing Crimea after Ukraine’s pro-democracy Maidan revolution in 2014 combined both a strategic imperative to hold onto the Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol and a nationalist justification, after the fact, to bring the imagined cradle of Russian Christianity and a historic conquest of the czars back into the fold of the “motherland.”
Putin’s sense of Russia’s insecurity vis-à-vis a much more powerful NATO is genuine, but during the current impasse over Ukraine, his recent statements have become more fevered and even paranoid.
Usually a rationalist, Putin now appears to have lost patience and is driven by his emotions.
Putin knows enough history to recognize that Russia did not expand in the 20th century – losing parts of Poland, Ukraine, Finland and eastern Turkey after the 1917 revolution – except for a brief period before and after World War II when Stalin annexed the Baltic republics and pieces of Finland, and united lands from interwar Poland with Soviet Ukraine.
Putin himself was traumatized by the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, the loss of one-third of its former territory and half of its population. In an instant, the USSR disappeared, and Russia found itself much weaker and more vulnerable to rival great powers.
Leaders like Putin who feel cornered and ignored may strike out. He has already threatened “military and political consequences” if the currently neutral Finland and Sweden attempt to join NATO. Paradoxically, NATO has endangered small countries on the border of Russia, as Georgia learned in 2008, that aspire to join the alliance.
One wonders – as did the American diplomat George F. Kennan, the father of the Cold War containment doctrine who warned against NATO expansion in 1998 – whether the advancement of NATO eastward has increased the security of European states or made them more vulnerable.
Very good article that gets to the heart of the two positions, but unfortunately doesn’t go any deeper. E.g. why NATO “expansion” should be a military threat, no matter if to the Baltic States, Poland or Ukraine. The first NATO soldier to cross the Russian border would trigger a veritable nuclear strike, which NATO also fears. Or would the reaction only be conventional at first and perhaps conceivable as a nuclear warning shot at Europe in the sense of a limited strike. While the Russian urban centers are located west of the Urals and near the border , but Moscow has a lot of hinterland as before, and there is also the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which prohibits the permanent deployment of NATO offensive capacities in Eastern Europe, as well as military bases and which NATO has complied with even in the Ukraine war, and it states that the post-Soviet countries are free to choose their military alliance, i.e. also NATO, what was not offically terminated even under Putin. The term expansion is also a Russian narrative, since the USA did not invade Eastern Europe in order to conquer and subjugate these states, but the Eastern Europeans wanted their NATO membership voluntarily and out of fear of precisely that imperial claim by Russia, even if several NGOs and “Fuck the EU”-Victoria Nuland´s agencies supported the pro-Western democratic movements in Ukraine, Belarussia and Russia itself. And the mass demonstrations in Belaruss and at the same time in the East of Russia, when Nawalny wanted to unite them, while he was stopped by poison, catalyzed Putin’s decision to conquer all of Ukraine, as it could have become a democratic beacon and counter-model instead of his authoritarian regime and those authoritarian regimes around the world which in new speak euhemistically were called“neo-conservative“- as part of Novorussia and the „Russian world“ within the Eurasian Economic Union and part of the new multipolar worid order. Russian word and Eurasianism with the BRICS and the SCO. Therefore it was not the alleged direct military threat by NATO, but due to the imperial thinking of the Russian elites and large parts of the population, which is not only limited to Putin, but it seems to be common sense that Russia in the view of Russian elites should be a great power/world power and not a regional power, which is integrated into the previous still US- dominated international world order and remains a silent and peaceful supplier of raw materials to the West and the world, as well as sees the post-Soviet space as a sphere of influence, be it Europe or Central Asia. Therefore Putin in its ultimatum to NATO before the Ukraine war openly called for NATO to roll back to the 1997 borders. Apparently, it is not the military threat to Russia from NATO expansion, but its imperial claims.Brzezinski also wanted to break this Russian imperial mindset with the Ukraine, although one can hardly ignore the imperial claims of the USA, especially since hybrid war is not only a Russian peculiarity, but also done by the USA or China (“Unrestricted warfare”).
In any case, Jeffrey Sachs doesn’t blame the whole of NATO or the US, but rather a certain neocon clique, saved into new times by the neocons Kagan- (Fuck the EU)-Nuland axis. This is not wrong, but one could expand on this. Because even before the emergence of the neocons, Zbignew Brezinski, as national security adviser and author of the programmatic book Chessboard, was a key driver of NATO’s eastward “expansion”. Especially with regard to Ukraine. But it was US Presidents and high-ranking politicians and much of the security apparatus who endorsed his ideas. But now one should no longer quote the Polish-born US presidential advisor and US geostrategist Brzezinski, who at the time anticipated the Ukraine war after luring the Soviet communists into the „Afghan trap“ and whose son Mark became US ambassador to Poland, while his other Son Ian for US think tanks developing strategic NATO proposals vis-à-vis Russia and China. Along with „Fuck the EU“ – Victoria Nuland and the Kagans, an inherited team of US imperialism. But here is a quote from “Zbig” Brzezinski and how he saw Ukraine in his book “Chessboard” as the “linchpin of American hegemony”:
“Eurasia is thus the chessboard on which the struggle for global dominance will play out in the future (…) Nonetheless, Russians will eventually have to understand that Russia’s national self-discovery is not an act of surrender but of liberation (…) Despite its protests will Russia reconcile the fact that NATO enlargement in 1999 will include several Central European countries (…) In contrast, Russia will find it incomparably more difficult to reconcile Ukraine’s NATO accession“
„It cannot be stressed enough that Russia ceases to be an empire without Ukraine, but automatically becomes an empire with Ukraine subordinate and eventually subjugated to it.“ (Brzezinski, NZZ, 10/29/99)
The claim of the mainstream politicians and presidents in the USA was to press ahead with NATO exlargement despite warnings from Russia experts such as Burns, Kennan and others, especially since they saw this as legitimate with the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997 and the Russian protests up to 2008 were by no means loud or violent, but that ended 2007 with Putin’s speech to the Munich Security Conference, which was not just about Ukraine and NATO expansion, but Lavrov emphasized that it was about a new international security architecture and a new multipolar world order, in which Russia and China should have a significant say , and regional conflicts like Ukraine or Syria could not be resolved unless the US and the West first agreed to such a new world order under Russian-Chinese authorship and spheres of interest and a new Yalta. Furthermore, the Conversation article, like all Western media, oddly enough, never mentions the central point of Putin’s so-called peace speech in the German Bundestag in 2001, when he not only promoted a Eurasian economic area from Lisbon to Vladivostok, but also a Russian-European Eurasian military alliance, whereby the dissolution of NATO and EU would have resulted, Xi-China pushing the USA out of Europe and the Indo-Pacific within the framework of the Russian-Chinese alliance for a new multipolar beautiful world under Russian-Chinese hegemony. The war in Ukraine began on the Russian side as early as 2001 and it escalated. At first Putin was still friendly, at first there were no Russian protests against NATO eastward enlargement, but first had another focus and instead of military means made Europe and above all Germany dependent on Russian oil, gas and raw material supplies, especially since Merkel herself became the guarantor that Georgia and Ukraine did not become NATO members in 2008 and despite all the protests from the EU and the US, Merkel decided on Northstream 2 even after the Crimean annexation in 2014, while Schröder and the SPD previously hoped to get Germany into a great power role by pointing to a Admission of Russia and China into the G7, in order to eurasianize them to a G 9 and Germany should then play a mediating role between USA, China and Russia, which should also bring him a seat in the permanent UN Security Council, including UN reform and a new world order.
And when it came to Russia, Schröder and the SPD went very far at the time, including when it came to China. He called for the lifting of EU’s arms embargo against to China , eliminated the human rights dialogue and replaced it with a sole rule-of-law dialogue, but Schröder was not alone, George Bush senior also lifted the US sanctions on China after Deng’s trip to the South in 1992 to further push and promote the export of US and western capital because of the Chinese supermarket, its cheap labor and all the outsourcing of the globalists began. Forget human rights and authoritarianism and the Tiananmen massacre. It was the same under Clinton, but up until the Taiwan crisis, the US was still strong enough to stop it with a few aircraft carriers. But also under Clintion: „It’s the economy, stupid“. And anyone who opposed this neoliberal globalization mania and outsourcing or in terms of human rights or the authoritarian and mercantalist character of the CP China was considered an idealist and unworldly. Significant was also a meeting of some business leaders and Professor Kindermanns in Munich about the Taiwan crisis, where Siemens managers dreamed of the huge Chinese market and new investments, the idea of whether economic action or a more distanced attitude to the CP China, including its own Western demands in view of the authoritarian and mercantile character of the CP China made sense, yes, if one should speak out against the CCP joining the WTO as long as China does not meet the criteria of a free market economy were immediately dismissed as crazy or as it was said: „If the Chinese buy more BMWs, that is national and European and at the same time western interest and realpolitik at the same time. We’ll sort out the rest later.“ Change and world peace through trade and profits and everyone who saw it differently was perceived as an idealist, dreamer , out of the world, exterrestial trouble maker, disturber of world trade and world peace and later nothing ever came until it was „too little, too late” and then it was and is too late and then, as a counter-reaction, it produced economic nationalists and fascists like Trump.Prosperity, profits and World peace and Change through trade.
You can’t really blame the Chinese Communist Party and Putin for that, but these globalist ideological“Realpoliticans“ . Putin and the CCP saw all this geopolitically and also in the medium and long term and knew their Lenin and the greed of Western capitalists or as Lenin once said: „The capitalists will also provide us with the ropes by which we will hang them“. Then along came George W. Bush jr. and declared China a „strategic competitor“, but was then surprised by 9-11 in 2001, moved the entire US commitment to the Greater Middle East, since the USA was not yet a fracking export nation, but still an oil importer from the Middle East and alongside neocon liberation ideology and Cheyney’s energy ellipse study were still dependent on this area for energy policy, but at that time the USA also had a spy plane incident with China, in which Bush jr. became a clown because when he demanded that the intercepted plane be returned, the Chinese asked which part he wanted delivered first – the front or rear. In any case, the USA, together with Schröder and the Europeans, then supported China’s accession to the WTO, which subsequently allowed China to rise exponentially to become today’s economic world power without any problems, until Trump came. Unlike all those neoliberal economic stunners ala Clinton, Schröder, yes even Kohl or even Merkel, both the Chinese Communist Party and Putin-Russia understood economics not only economically, but above all geopolitically, as well as the North Stream pipelines or the now high dependence on China , who now have all the instruments of torture and sanction mechanisms in their own hands against their stupid, naïve, greedy, idealistic-ideological and sometimes corrupt promoters, who just as homo economicus and middle class Histomat believers and ideologues who called that Realpolitik thought that from a certain per capita income of the Chinese and Russian or other populations, a liberal middle class would develop, which, like Marx, would bring the working class to communism, would now demand political rights and participation, would also politically liberalize, moderate and perhaps also democratize the whole system. And if you are trading, you are nit shooting, change and world peace through trade, while they feed the beasts and their economic power to invest in the Chinese and Russian military modernization. A number of bankers also hoped that the new Shanghai gang led by Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji could now bring about Hong Kong rule of law and free investment conditions in the CCP and all of China via Beijing, perhaps even democratization. That too failed when Jiang banned the Democratic Party and Falun Gong and sparked the Taiwan Crisis. Well, so much for the economy, you neoliberal stupids who called that Realpolitik.
On the simple idea that both Putin and the CCP only use their economic relations to quickly generate economic and technological resources alongside geopolitical dependencies to feed a rapid rearmament and modernization of their military for the goal of a new multipolar world order under Russian- Chinese leadership, if necessary by war, apparently nobody had in mind. No thought of „Feed the Beast“. And now many are dreaming nostalgically back to the times when Kissinger and Helmut Schmidt visited Deng and so-called realpolitik prevailed. Well. Deng also wanted a strong China, Taiwan back, a Chinese superpower, pushing the US out of the Indo-Pacific in perspective, but China was still a developing country at the time and needed such idiots for investment and technology to compete with the West who had philosophical debates with him f the CCP suld be called Commnist or Confucianist party. Well, real selfproclaimed China experts , historicans and culturalists. What Deng thought of democratization or a fifth modernization ala Wei Jingsheng was made clear by Deng and the CP China through his bloodbath at Tiananmen , although Helmut Schmidt said that it could also be made more humane with special task forces of an armed police, which the CP China has now also established for any counterinsurgency, so as not to always flatten everything with tanks. Because of this, Deng was friendly but also said that unless you are the economic and military power, you should not show your intentions and strength, but show a peaceful face. Mind you: as long as. The Tiananmen is comparable to the failed German revolution in 1848, Deng was then Bismarck, Xi is now Wilhelm 2 and like there was the German Baghdad Railway, so China’s New Silk Road, which this time does not penetrate into areas of the British Empire, but the US Empire, which is why this could lead to a Sino-American war. And now, after the geopolitical integration of Europe and a failed regime change on the part of Navalny and his poisoning, Putin is letting go of all limitations. Putin also used the Russian state fund from the Resource Empire for the modernization of Russia, well-intentioned by his economic advisor Kudrin at the time, primarily to modernize the military and arm it with weapons, which he always proudly presents in his annual speech to the nation, and now starts with China a final struggle for a Russian-Chinese new multipolar world order. Just feed the beast, you stupid neoliberal Realpoliticans.
That’s why all the idiotic conjurations of the good old nostalgic Deng-Schmidt-Kissinger-Lee Kuan Yew-time are irrelevant and have nothing to do with today’s new realpolitik, although there is a danger that this will now go to the other extreme of an absolute value orientation and demonization and one degenerates into outdoing China bashing. The EU triad in the China strategy is recommended: China as a systemic adversary, as a competitor and as a cooperation partner. We will have to agree on the weighting, engagement of the old kind is out, containment is in, decoupling is not going as well as desired, i.e. diversification, maybe not China plus 1, but China plus 3 and selective cooperation on central global political issues, yes in the USA is also being discussed as an alternative to engagement and confrontation/containment; coopetition. Well, so much for the economy, you neoliberal globalist stupids and „Realpoliticans“.
And while Putin also relied on this kind of economic and geopolitical integration of Germany and parts of Europe and also operated it quite successfully, other trends such as NATO eastward expansion and the situation in Belarus and Ukraine ran against him.
After the Maidan revolt and the storming of the Ukrainian parliament by pro- Western opposition forces against Yakunovich, who wanted EU and NATO membership, which was also referred to in Russia as the „Maidan coup“, the danger that Russia’s military architecture with the ice-free Black Sea port in Crimea along with the military bases of his Mediterranean fleet in Syria which were endangered as a result of the Arab Spring and the whole development did not develop as hoped for in the Bundestag speech in 2001, Putin responded with hybrid warfare, both politically and militarily. A concept that Gerasimov had developed, especially since he was also inspired by the experiences of the Arab Spring, since modern wars are not only waged militarily, but as hybrid wars.
After the Maidan revolt and the storming of the Ukrainian parliament by opposition forces against Yakunovich who wanted EU and NATO membership, in what was dubbed the “Maidan coup” in Russia, Putin responded with hybrid warfare, both political and military. Even before the Crimea annexation by the then „green men“, Putin, through a Russian oligarch, sent 40 million euros to the Front National in the hope that Le Pen would leave the euro, the EU, NATO, if Le Pen seized power and the Franco-German Axis and thus the engine of the EU would have been destroyed, ultimately the EU and France would enter into a Eurasian alliance with Russia.
“Front National to receive 40 million euros from Russia
At first there was talk of a nine million loan. But the campaign aid from Moscow for the right-wing extremist Front National from France could be much higher. November 27, 2014, 2:01 p.m. Source: ZEIT ONLINE
The far-right Front National (FN) will receive a million-euro loan from Russia for the upcoming election campaigns in France. Over the weekend, the internet portal Mediapart reported that Marine Le Pen’s party received a loan of 9 million euros from the First Czech Russian Bank. Now it turns out that this is probably just the first tranche of a 40 million euro loan. Le Pen has already confirmed the payment of nine million euros. However, other sums were completely out of thin air, said the party leader. However, its financial adviser, Bernard Monot, said the party needed 45 million euros to fund it up until the 2017 presidential and general election year, Mediapart writes. Treasurer Wallerand Saint-Just also believes it is possible that his party will receive more money. According to his knowledge, up to 10 million euros. Le Pen has repeatedly spoken out against European sanctions against Russia and publicly stated that she admires Russian President Vladimir Putin. Le Pen is said to have personally negotiated credit According to Mediapart, the party leader personally negotiated the million-euro loan during a trip to Russia in February. It is said that there was also a meeting with the politician Alexander Babakov, who helped arrange the loan. Babakov is on the EU sanctions list. The First Czech Russian Bank is based in Moscow and is owned by the former CFO of the gas company Stroytransgaz, Roman Popov. Gas magnate Gennady Timchenko also has a stake in the bank. Both are considered confidants of the Kremlin.
Such ideas are in vogue in France, as shown in French philosopher Emmanuel Todd’s bestseller World Power USA—An Obituary in the 2000s, in which Todd calls for a Eurasian axis between Europe and Russia. So Todd—quoting Putin and agreeing with him—writes:
“Vladimir Putin was able to announce in Berlin: “No one doubts the great value of Europe to the United States. But I believe that Europe will only strengthen its reputation as a powerful and independent center of world politics in the long term if it combines its own potential with Russia’s human, territorial and natural resources, as well as with Russia’s economic, cultural and defense potentials.“ I can just agree with it:“
(Emmanuel Todd: World Power USA—An Obituary / Piper-Verlag, Munich-Zurich 2002, p.209).
For this purpose, too, Putin keeps the propaganda think tank Institute for Peace and Development in Paris, while the same attempt using Yakunin’s Dialog of Civilizations in Germany failed. Here he relies on the AFD as the destroyer of the EU and NATO, as the right- winged party has already openly included the goal of a Dexit in their party program. Gerasimov’s hybrid war is also meant politically and not just militarily. John Mearsheimer, god father of offensive realism, repeatedly emphasizes that Putin’s Russia poses no threat to the EU and NATO, since Russia’s economy is just the size of Portugal or Texas and moreover, was not in a position militarily to occupy the whole of Europe. Admittedly correct in this respect, but also a misjudgment that Putin does not intend to invade the whole of Europe, but instead hybrid war means weakening, blocking, paralyzing and ultimately destroying the EU and NATO from within by using nationalistic Politicians such as Le Pen, Trump, Berlusconi, Orban, Erdogan, AfD, FPÖ and others are promoting their Frexit, Dexit like before the Brexit, as well as the withdrawal of US troops, for example as now demanded by the AfD and the removal of US nuclear protection for Europe including Eurasian military alliances. In addition, a Sino-American conflict or even a war between the USA and Putin’s ally Xi-China could overtax the USA’s capacity to fight simultaneously in Europe and the Indo-Pacific and could help the hoped-for new Russian-Chinese world order to achieve a breakthrough, although Russia increasingly is becoming a Chinese appendage.