(Graphic by Donald Smith)
The U.S. provoked Russia in Ukraine — But Don’t Just Take My Word
By: Donald Smith
The U.S. provoked Russia in Ukraine. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here is a list of times senior U.S. diplomats, journalists, academics and secretaries of defense spoke on the United State’s involvement in provoking Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the USSR Jack Matlock says in Ukraine: Tragedy of a Nation Divided:
“Interference by the United States and its NATO allies in Ukraine’s civil struggle has exacerbated the crisis within Ukraine, undermined the possibility of bringing the two easternmost provinces back under Kyiv’s control, and raised the specter of possible conflict between nuclear-armed powers. Furthermore, in denying that Russia has a “right” to oppose extension of a hostile military alliance to its national borders, the United States ignores its own history of declaring and enforcing for two centuries a sphere of influence in the Western hemisphere.”
Diplomat and historian George Kennan, quoted in Thomas Friedman’s This Is Putin’s War. But America and NATO Aren’t Innocent Bystanders, discussing NATO expansion:
“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the founding fathers of this country turn over in their graves.”
William J. Perry, Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton, wrote How the US Lost Russia — and How We Can Restore Relations in Sept. of 2022:
“Many have pointed to the expansion of NATO in the mid-1990s as a critical provocation. At the time, I opposed that expansion, in part for fear of the effect on Russian-U.S. relations….Still, the first step in finding a solution [to the war in Ukraine] is acknowledging the problem and recognizing that our actions have contributed to that hostility.”
Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush, in We Always Knew the Dangers of NATO Expansion:
“[T]rying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching, … recklessly ignoring what the Russians considered their own vital national interests.”
Ambassador Michael Gfoeller and David H. Rundell: in Newsweek‘s Lessons From the US Civil War Show Why Ukraine Can’t Win:
“Before the war, far right Ukrainian nationalist groups like the Azov Brigade were soundly condemned by the US Congress. Kiev’s determined campaign against the Russian language is analogous to the Canadian government trying to ban French in Quebec. Ukrainian shells have killed hundreds of civilians in the Donbas and there are emerging reports of Ukrainian war crimes. The truly moral course of action would be to end this war with negotiations rather than prolong the suffering the Ukrainian people in a conflict they are unlikely to win without risking American lives.”
Christopher Caldwell: in the New York Times‘ The War in Ukraine May Be Impossible to Stop. And the US Deserves Much of the Blame:
“In 2014 the United States backed an uprising — in its final stages a violent uprising — against the legitimately elected Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych, which was pro-Russian.”
Thomas Friedman: in the New York Times‘ This Is Putin’s War. But America and NATO Aren’t Innocent Bystanders:
“The mystery was why the US — which throughout the Cold War dreamed that Russia might one day have a democratic revolution and a leader who, however haltingly, would try to make Russia into a democracy and join the West — would choose to quickly push NATO into Russia’s face when it was weak. A very small group of officials and policy wonks at that time, myself included, asked that same question, but we were drowned out.”
America and NATO Aren’t Innocent Bystanders [from the title]
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said in an interview in 2014:
“With respect to Ukraine, we have not sat on the sidelines. We have been very much involved. Members of the Senate have been there, members of the State Department who have been on the square …. I really think that the clear position of the United States has been in part what has helped lead to this change in regime…. I think it was our role, including sanctions and threats of sanctions, that forced, in part, Yanukovich from office.”
Henry Kissinger in an interview with The Wall Street Journal:
“We are at the edge of war with Russia and China on issues which we partly created, without any concept of how this is going to end or what it’s supposed to lead to.”
Neoconservative Robert Kagan writes in an otherwise hawkish Foreign Affairs essay from May, 2022, The Price of Hegemony: Can America Learn to Use its Power?:
“Although it is obscene to blame the United States for Putin’ inhumane attack on Ukraine, to insist that the invasion was entirely unprovoked is misleading. …. the invasion of Ukraine is taking place in a historical and geopolitical context in which the United States has played and still plays the principal role, and Americans must grapple with this fact.”
Fiona Hill, former official at the U.S. National Security Council during the administration of George W. Bush, in the New York Times’ Putin has the U.S. right where he wants it:
“At the time, I was the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia, part of a team briefing Mr. Bush. We warned him that Mr. Putin would view steps to bring Ukraine and Georgia closer to NATO as a provocative move that would likely provoke pre-emptive Russian military action. But ultimately, our warnings weren’t heeded.”
Pope Francis in Yahoo News’ Pope Francis Says NATO Started War in Ukraine by “Barking at Putin’s Door”:
The real “scandal” of Putin’s war is NATO “barking at Putin’s door.”
Stephen M. Walt, professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, in an essay in Foreign Policy:
“This war would have been far less likely if the United States had adopted a strategy of foreign-policy restraint…. The Biden Administration and its predecessors are far from blameless.”
Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute in The US and NATO Helped Trigger the Ukraine War. It’s Not ‘Siding With Putin’ to Admit It:
“One can readily imagine how Americans would react if Russia, China, India, or another peer competitor admitted countries from Central America and the Caribbean to a security alliance that it led — and then sought to add Canada as an official or de facto military ally. It is highly probable that the United States would have responded by going to war years ago. Yet even though Ukraine has an importance to Russia comparable to Canada’s importance to the United States, our leaders expected Moscow to respond passively to the growing encroachment.They have been proven disastrously wrong, and thanks to their ineptitude, the world is now a far more dangerous place.”
Alfred de Zayas, a former senior lawyer with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, says in The Ukraine War in the Light of the UN Charter:
The war in Ukraine did not start on 24 February 2022, but already in February 2014. The civilian population of the Donbas has endured continued shelling from Ukrainian forces since 2014, notwithstanding the Minsk Agreements. These attacks on Lugansk and Donetsk significantly increased in January-February 2022, as reported by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.
The 2019 RAND Corporation study Overextending and Unbalancing Russia“examines nonviolent, cost-imposing options that the United States and its allies could pursue across economic, political, and military areas to stress — overextend and unbalance — Russia’s economy and armed forces and the regime’s political standing at home and abroad.” It includes the paragraph:
“Providing lethal aid to Ukraine would exploit Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability. But any increase in US military arms and advice to Ukraine would need to be carefully calibrated to increase the costs to Russia of sustaining its existing commitment without provoking a much wider conflict in which Russia, by reason of proximity, would have significant advantages.”
(The highlighted words indicate that the authors were quite aware that US provocations would cause Russia to respond militarily.)
As Dennis Kucinich said, the U.S. government used “the good, courageous people of Ukraine as pawns in a vicious and deadly geo-political chess game which began well before the illegal Russian invasion. And it is now planning to do for the people of Taiwan what it has done for the people of Ukraine, portraying China as the aggressor while surrounding China with about 200 military bases.”
For copious detail about U.S. provocations see How the U.S. provoked Russia in Ukraine: A Compendium.
These facts do not justify Russia’s invasion, but they certainly give the lie to statements by President Biden and others that the invasion was “unprovoked.” And the facts are strong reasons why the U.S. should not be arming Ukraine to the teeth and pushing them to fight to the last Ukrainian, risking a nuclear war. This is especially true considering the history of unjustified and disastrous U.S. invasions, proxy wars, and government overthrows which have killed over 900,000 people since 9/11 and many millions since the 1960s. Since 9/11 U.S. militarized foreign policy caused over 38 million people to lose their homes and cost at least $8 trillion (IBID). It also caused mass migrations in Europe and at the southern U.S. border. Yet nobody was held accountable for all these disasters; indeed, many of the same people are in Congress or work for the government or the weapons industry.
The U.S. launched numerous unjustified wars; surrounded Russia and China with pro-US allies and military bases (about 800 worldwide); exited numerous arms treaties; and increased military spending to about $1 trillion a year despite $31 trillion in debt and dire domestic needs. Yet we accuse Russia and China of being the aggressors.
By admitting culpabilty, we can do the right thing for once — we can push for peace and diplomacy instead of war and provocation. It’s time for the sake of all people and the planet.
Donald A. Smith is a writer, a peace activist working with CodePink, a Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, the editor of http://waliberals.org, and the creator of https://progressivememes.org. He lives in Bellevue, Washington and has a PhD in Computer Science.