(Note from the Editors: This article is Part III of a series of six which will be published on a weekly basis; A version in Spanish is available at Amanece Metrópolis)
The US revealed in November and December 2021 Moscow’s plans for a potential invasion of Ukraine. In the run-up to the Russian invasion and faced with the tangible possibility of war breaking out, were all diplomatic avenues exhausted? Did the US/NATO do enough to avoid war? The evidence shows that, rather, Washington refused to negotiate seriously and chose to continue arming Ukraine. However, there has been very discussion about the role of the White House in the hegemonic media. The official narrative presents Putin as holding exclusive responsibility for the War because the basic benevolence of US geopolitics cannot be questioned.
During the first half of February 2022, the US alerts that Russia plans an imminent invasion of Ukraine. Russia denies this, but warns that the NATO issue must be resolved. Moscow demands a commitment that Ukraine will not join NATO and is concerned about the military force that the US has deployed in its vicinity.
According to Deutsche Welle, the leaders speak on the phone. They indicate that diplomatic channels are open, but Biden tells Putin that the US is “equally prepared for other scenarios”. The US continues to support “NATO’s Open Door Policy”. It offers Russia to de-escalate its forces on the border in exchange for disarmament measures. No negotiations on NATO or possible de-escalation are reached. According to a US official, there has been “no fundamental change in the dynamics unfolding now for several weeks”. The US continues to arm and advise Ukraine.
The Kremlin claims to detect a US submarine in Russian territorial waters in the northern Pacific. The US denies the accusations and, together with the UK, continues to arm Ukraine, while Germany rejects this option because it could lead to greater tensions and hinder negotiated solutions to the crisis.
Zelensky calls for speeding up NATO membership, the US encourages it and Putin threatens to respond. In the face of rising tensions, the United Nations advocates diplomacy and calls for “maximum restraint”. On 21 February, Putin recognises the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. The US and the EU impose sanctions. On February 24, Russia launches its full-scale invasion.
The war would have been avoided if Russia had decided not to invade -obviously-, but perhaps also if the US had decided to negotiate. Former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said that, if Biden had simply promised not to bring Ukraine into NATO, the war could have been prevented. A simple ‘not for now’ might have been enough to stop the invasion. The reality is that, as confirmed by a senior Biden administration official, the US decided not to negotiate with Russia on NATO expansion before the war.
A round of negotiations between Ukraine, Russia, France, France, Turkey and Israel begins in early March. It is expected to fail because there is still disagreement about the nature of the conflict and how to overcome it. Moreover, there is agreement on the desirability of continuing the war. Russia and Ukraine are satisfied in terms of their key objectives: inflicting as much damage as possible on the one hand and avoiding military defeat on the other. Without steps towards substantive agreements and concrete commitments to de-escalation or cease-fire, both sides impose their military capability and political will to prolong the war.
At the end of March, the State Department spokesman continues to discourage Ukraine from negotiating with Russia over NATO. Putin’s brutality and criminality is manifest, but peace requires a change in geopolitics not only on the part of Russia, but also on the part of the US.
US foreign policy has continued the aggressive line pursued during the Cold War. In 1948, the US State Department set the objectives of reducing Moscow’s power and influence in Eastern Europe and to modify its foreign policy. In peacetime, the “gradual retraction” of Russian power in the satellite countries and the “the emergence of the respective eastern-European countries as independent factors” were to be promoted. In wartime, it would be necessary to “destroy Soviet military influence and domination in areas contiguous”, in addition to “destroy thoroughly the structure of relationships by which the leaders” of Russia influence other countries. However, “it would not be our aim […] to assure the independence of the Ukraine or any other national minority” (except in the Baltic states).
The 1990 Bush I-Gorbachev agreement on NATO non-expansion and Russian non-aggression was a brief lapse of peace until 1997 when Clinton undertakes such expansion. The same year, Biden states that the only thing that could provoke a “vigorous and hostile” reaction from Russia is to expand NATO into the Baltic states.
Then, as now, US policy has followed the line marked by influential foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski: in the “grand chessboard” of the world order after the fall of the Soviet Union, the US objective as the only global superpower is to control Eurasia, for which “Ukraine is the critical state”.
According to Anatol Lieven, “U.S. strategy of using the war in Ukraine to weaken Russia is also of course completely incompatible with the search for a ceasefire and even a provisional peace settlement”. Only in this way can it be explained – Lieven points out – that the US did not publicly support the peace proposals made by the Ukrainian government at the end of March, including its military neutrality: this “is an absolutely inescapable part of any settlement – but weakening Russia involves maintaining Ukraine as a de facto U.S. ally”.
Europe has had and has the possibility of developing good trade and security relations with Russia – a common European home, in Gorbachev’s words. It could in the best-case scenario drag Russia toward democratisation, but instead it has allowed itself to be dragged by the U.S. toward geopolitical obedience.
Peace journalism aims to make visible what propaganda hides, namely, that starting with a cease-fire agreement and moving forward in the transformation of international relations, peace is still within reach. This is the subject of the next article in the series.
(Featured Image: “LITPOLUKRBRIG starts a realistic training near Nowa Dęba” by Ministry of Defense of Ukraine is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.)