The crisis which emerged after the Russian deployment of troops on its border with Ukraine in recent weeks has led to diplomatic discourses between the United States, Russia and NATO. The Russian Government put forward an eight-point draft treaty, the core issues of which relate to the rollback of NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe since 1997 and Ukraine’s permanent exclusion from NATO. It is hardly likely that the Russian Government expects that NATO will return to its pre-1997 borders or that NATO would agree to officially limit its expansion, including to Ukraine. But enlightened observers have expressed the view that Russia may be prepared to accept an undertaking that Ukraine would not be admitted to NATO in the foreseeable future and the limiting of intimidatory and threatening military exercises.
The Heads of 26 NATO member countries stated in April 2003 that “NATO welcomes Georgia’s and Ukraine’s aspirations for membership.” It was reported by Reuters shortly after, quoting the Russian Chief of Staff, that: “Russia is opposed to NATO plans to grant membership to ex-Soviet Ukraine and Georgia, saying such a move will pose a direct threat to its security and endanger the fragile balance of forces in Europe.”
At NATO’s summit in Bucharest in April 2008, Membership Action Plans (MAP) were offered to Ukraine and Georgia. The Summit statement said: “We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO…Today we make clear that we support these countries’ applications for MAP.” President Vladimir Putin responded that NATO’s enlargement towards Russia “would be taken in Russia as a direct threat to the security of our country.” There is absolutely no doubt that the US and NATO fully understood the depth of Russia’s concern about NATO’s planned, provocative, expansion into Ukraine and Georgia. Not a single commentator, who are really pro-US propagandists parading as ‘experts,’ refer to Russia’s oft-expressed concern based on the invasions it suffered, most recently by Germany, at a cost of 20 million lives.
Russian relations with Georgia had long been characterized by tensions over the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia, the majority of whose populations held allegiance to Russia and not Georgia. Tensions increased and after minor skirmishes and in August, 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and the two regions were declared to be separate states. There is little doubt that the real reason behind Russia’s invasion was to forestall progress of Georgia accession to NATO.
After Georgia, events heated up in Ukraine. In 2013 President Yanukovych terminated the pending Ukrainian-European Association Agreement and proposed a loan agreement and closer relations with Russia. Demonstrations, believed by Russia to have been at least partially instigated by the US, broke out and about one hundred persons were killed by police. Yanukovych was forced to flee in 2014 and pro-Western, Petro Poroshenko, was eventually elected. A rebellion broke out in the east and south of Ukraine, which are Russian speaking areas. The Donbass region was occupied and is currently held by rebels, who are allegedly supported by Russian soldiers, or are, in fact, Russian soldiers.
Crimea was also invaded by Russia and was annexed after a referendum. It cannot be doubted that the annexation of Crimea must have been at least partially prompted by Russia’s anxiety to secure control of the peninsula’s ports, mainly Sevastopol, which enable Russia to protect its security and to deprive the West and NATO from using the port and dominating the Black Sea area, which is vital for the security of Russia. Those who are influenced by arguments of Russian ‘bullyism’ should recall the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, re-emphasised by President Trump in 2019, and the US’s blockade of Cuba in 1962.
Distinguished Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, a political scientist and international relations scholar, has repeatedly warned that the West is making a grave mistake in pushing or encouraging Ukraine in the direction of NATO membership. He has pointed out the depth of seriousness of Russia’s warnings that a militarily non-aligned Ukraine is vital for its security. He has predicted repeatedly that Russia will destroy Ukraine, rather than allow it to join NATO. The US and NATO have ignored these warnings and have even allowed Ukraine to drag its feet on implementation of the Minsk 2 treaty, designed to reduce tensions. Mearsheimer is not pro-Russian, but is a member of the US establishment, having been a US Air Force Officer for ten years and an adviser to the National Security Council.
Once again, as in the build-up to the US invasion of Iraq, we are witnessing the whipping up of anti-Russian and anti-Putin frenzy and hysteria in the US media, with little or no discussion of the of Russian deep fears. Little has been said about the ramping up of hostile activities of the Ukranian President, with the support of President Biden since his election, resulting in increasing tensions, which may well have provoked the current situation. Instead, wild speculation focuses on President Putin’s perception of US weaknesses. Nevertheless, Russia stands to lose a tremendous amount politically and economically from which it will take decades to recover, if at all, if it allows the inevitable drumbeat of war to prevail. It is in the interest of all parties to seek a diplomatic solution.