Part I of this series on the relations between Russia, Ukraine and the US (NATO) presented the general context, the key questions and the framework of the analysis, which opposes peace journalism to propaganda. Part II focuses on how Western propaganda omits that a history of NATO/US expansion, warmongering and non-negotiation prevented the possibilities of building a just world order conducive to lasting peace.
12 September 1990: Under the presidencies of Bush I and Gorbachev, the US, the USSR, Germany (FRG and GDR), the UK and France sign the Two Plus Four Agreement by which Russia accepts the reunification of Germany and its incorporation into NATO in exchange for NATO not expanding eastward. Since then, Russia considers any attempt at NATO eastward expansion, especially in Ukraine, a threat to national security.
1997-2000: Clinton breaks the agreement, inviting Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join NATO and pushing for the entry of 9 more Eastern European countries, as well as ordering the bombing of Serbia.
2008: Bush II pushes for Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO at the Bucharest summit, but is vetoed by France and Germany.
2014: The Maidan triumphs, supported by Washington. The Kremlin annexes Crimea. War begins in the Donbas. Donetsk and Lugansk proclaim themselves independent. Russia supports separatists and militarizes the border. The US arms Ukraine, while Germany considers that this will only worsen the crisis. That is why, together with France, it promotes negotiated solutions.
2015: Minsk II agreements between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and unanimously approved by the UN Security Council. Minsk II brings ceasefire in the Donbas and suspends full-scale war, but fundamental agreements are not implemented and fighting continues.
2017: The Ukrainian parliament sets the goal of NATO membership.
2019: That goal is sanctioned in the Ukrainian Constitution (also EU membership).
December 2019: Ukraine and Russia resume negotiations on Donbas at the Paris summit and set a timetable for achieving peace.
2020: Tensions continue, negotiations break down and threatening military activity on both sides of the border increases dangerously. The US and UK arm, finance, train and advise the Ukrainian army and 102,000-member militias. Russia deploys some 100,000 military personnel on the border.
April 2021: Through the Ukraine Security Partnership Act, the U.S. provides $300 million in military aid aimed at preparing Ukraine for NATO accession. Russia conducts military exercises in Crimea with 10,000 military personnel and 40 warships supported by troops on Ukraine’s border.
May 2021: Operation Defender Europe, military manoeuvres in Eastern Europe with 28,000 U.S. and European military and naval drills in the Black Sea. 80,000 Russian troops remain on the border.
June-July 2021: Cossack Mace exercise in response to external aggression with more than 2,000 military and 300 military teams from Ukraine, Britain, US, Canada and Sweden. Russia shows military muscle with the Checkmate Fighter aircraft. At the Brussels summit, NATO reiterates “the decision taken at the 2008 Bucharest Summit that Ukraine [in addition to Georgia] will become a member of the Alliance with the Membership Action Plan”.
September 2021: The Biden Administration states that its strategy involves providing advanced weaponry and training to Ukraine to bring it closer and further open the door to NATO membership.
November 2021: Putin says the US has ignored Russian complaints about NATO expansion and warns that he will act if red lines are crossed such as continuing Ukraine’s membership process or providing offensive weapons. Biden does not accept such limits. US intelligence reveals a Russian plan for a potential invasion of Ukraine, but Putin’s intentions are unknown.
December 2021: New revelations of invasion plans. Biden says he will make it “very, very difficult” for Putin to launch an invasion. Russia sends a proposal to negotiate based on an end to NATO expansionism, Ukraine’s neutrality, a binding security pact and reinstatement of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (which the US abandoned in 2019). The US rules out any agreement that denies Ukraine’s entry into NATO.
There was always an opportunity to go for relations based on peace/security and not military expansion. The official policy of the most powerful country in the world has consistently advocated for the latter and has sought to maintain its global hegemony by relying heavily on military power and war. It could be argued that Russia’s proposal was unacceptable, but the key points have been accepted by Ukraine and even by Europe, although it has finally decided to follow Washington’s line.
According to veteran US diplomat Chas Freeman, the US has been “arming and training” Ukraine as if it were effectively “an extension of NATO”. Senior diplomats and influential commentators have warned for years of the irresponsibility of NATO expansion, including George Kennan, Bill Bradley, Robert Gates, and William Burns. Finnish and Swedish membership in NATO would likely lead to further escalation and insecurity, according to Reiner Braun of the International Peace Bureau. Of course, mainstream media have scarcely discussed the aggressive role of NATO.
Putin is responsible for initiating and sustaining an illegal war. The question from the point of view of the West is whether the priority is to defeat Russia or to avoid, in the first instance, and now stop the war, so that there are no more deaths and the risk of nuclear escalation is reduced. The Manichean narrative that pits the war as a conflict between good guys (us) versus bad guys (Putin) is self-gratifying. We congratulate ourselves for supporting a just cause and showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people while more and more Ukrainians die as the US assumes no responsibility and blocks the possibilities of reaching peace.
Part III in this series will be published next Tuesday, 21 June.
(Featured Image: “File:Volodymyr Zelensky visits Brussels 2019.jpg” by Presidential Administration of Ukraine is licensed under CC BY 4.0.)