Previous posts in this discussion:
PostUS/Western Policymakers are "Wringing Their Hands in Glee" over Ukraine (Cameron Sawyer, USA, 03/26/22 3:27 am)
JE commented: "Of course Putin wouldn't talk about 'expansionist zeal,' but it seems clear to many that it was there... The other points about encirclement and the like ring quite hollow. Who was (genuinely) threatening Russia's sovereignty or economic status prior to this war?"
Further, he wrote: "The CNN article addresses perhaps the biggest obstacle to negotiations: a profound feeling of the injustice of dealing with Putin. How can you sit down with the guy who has slaughtered your people and destroyed your cities?"
What may "seem clear to many" is not clear at all, to those who have delved deeper into the origins of this conflict. There are many, many pieces of evidence that encirclement and great power proxy battles are the real origin of this crisis. The fact that Putin has responded to the West in this barbaric and self-defeating way does not contradict that at all. Of course the West was threatening Russia--it was an explicit goal of ours.
From one of the articles linked in my previous post:
"The horror unfolding in Ukraine today must be understood not only as the result of brutal Russian aggression but also as a protracted proxy war between NATO and Russia over Ukraine. For decades, the United States has been attempting to tilt Ukraine in its direction and away from Moscow. Ukraine is the 'biggest prize' in the struggle between Russia and the West, wrote Carl Gershman. At the time, Gershman was head of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a group with an extensive record of funding movements opposed to governments with which the US is displeased. Between 1991 and 2013, the US spent $5 billion attempting to fashion Ukrainian affairs as the US saw fit--'support[ing] Ukraine's transition to democracy and a free market economy,' in the words of US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland."
Note that Ukraine is not one iota more democratic, nor one iota more capitalist, than Ukraine was before Maidan. The President we helped overthrow in 2014 was democratically elected, in elections declared "free and fair" by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe. Our $5 billion was not spent for "democracy" or "free market economies"; it was spent to make Ukraine pro-Western and anti-Russian, as part of this great game. Let's be clear about this. Russia motive in invading Ukraine was to counter this long campaign of hostility waged by the US, and to keep us out of an area considered by the Russians to be an area of their vital national and security interests. Why is it so hard for us to understand that we are not the only country in the world which considers certain neighboring countries to be areas of our vital interests, which should be hands off to our foreign adversaries?
We've been practicing that ourselves for more than 200 years. Has no WAISer ever heard of the Monroe Doctrine? The Cuban Missile Crisis? How is it possible to so totally misunderstand what is going on in Ukraine?
Further: "These developments should be seen in their material context. In 2012, the International Monetary Fund, which the US and its European allies effectively control (and have used to ravage many countries in the Global South), was criticizing Ukraine's energy subsidies, and calling on it to lower its ‘overspending on wage and pension increases,' to press forward with ‘more deregulation,' and to ‘further privatiz[e]' the economy. Late the next year, Yanukovych broke with the IMF, reportedly saying that it refused to lift onerous conditions attached to previous loans such as increasing the retirement age and implementing a wage and pension freeze. Nuland later called on Ukraine to follow the IMF's advice. The rejection of the IMF effectively meant Yanukovych was shelving plans for Ukrainian integration with the EU. Instead, he struck a deal with Russia, which ignited the Maidan protests and heightened divisions among Ukrainians who preferred close ties to Russia and those who wanted deeper connections with the West.
"... Indeed, framing Russian aggression as a disastrous escalation in a long-term proxy war is necessary both to accurately make sense of how and why this cataclysm is unfolding, and to underscore the urgency of building an anti-war movement inside NATO countries."
I agree with this. As I said, we need principled and rules-based international relations. These rules need to be aimed at preventing war, among other civilized goals. Our foreign policy is aimed on the contrary at marginalizing and pushing down our perceived adversaries, and if a resulting war seems to be in our interests, in the twisted view of our policymakers, so be it. Over and over again, during the last 20 years at least, this has resulted in one disaster after another, a disaster not only for those countries where we meddle, but for ourselves too.
Ukraine is just one more example. Our policymakers are wringing their hands in glee as they see Russia destroy herself, and to hell with the Ukrainians. What a perfectly executed provocation. But even if this conflict ends somehow without spreading beyond the borders of Ukraine, the resulting smoldering instability in Europe will not be in our long-term interests. Our long-term interests lie with peace and cooperation and mutual security, taking into account everyone's security interests, not just those of our own gang. We fail to see this, and it will be our downfall. This is how great empires end.
JE comments: I still have to rely on the schoolyard explanation for this war: Putin started it. Otherwise you flirt with justifying every revanchist/"sphere of influence" conflict throughout history, including the actions of a certain fellow in 1938-'39. Versailles 1919 was a cruel peace that probably planted the seed for WWII, but does that make the Allies guilty of the cataclysmic rematch?
Cameron, what do your sources say about the reports that Putin will now refocus the war on the more limited goal of splitting off Donbas--in essence, declaring "mission accomplished" and going home? "Peace without Victory" only works if both sides can claim they've won.
Finally, on what basis do you believe that "our" policymakers are enjoying this war? The rise in energy prices alone is enough to keep Western policymakers awake at night. All politics is local, as they famously say, and a "destroyed" Russia will not change many votes this November in the US.