In his recent speech outlining the new U.S. foreign policy vision Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken made a really sensational statement: “We will not promote democracy through costly military interventions or by attempting to overthrow authoritarian regimes by force. We have tried these tactics in the past. However well intentioned, they haven’t worked.”
After hearing this from someone who not only enthusiastically supported the wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, I had to reread his speech a couple of times to make sure that I wasn’t hallucinating.
Some skeptics, after seeing in this speech the usual lines about “renewing America’s strength” and that only the United States can “lead” the world, shrugged off Mr. Blinken’s disavowing many decades of U.S. forceful changes of unsuitable foreign regimes.
For example, David Swanson from World Beyond War wrote that “those wanting to hear peace heard it, but those wanting to hear war did too, no doubt.” Still, I want to give Tony, whose great-grandfather was my compatriot from Kiev, Ukraine, the benefit of the doubt.
Another reason why I say this is because I really liked Mr. Blinken’s suggestion that one can encourage democracy not by military force but by example. This is something that many of us in the past have strongly advocated but to no avail.
I think Ivan Eland from Independent Institute said it best after the Libyan disaster: “Let’s get rid of preaching to, meddling in, and even attacking and invading other countries to spread our values and go back to the founders’ vision of leading by example.”
Now comes the hard part: What next? We know that in politics words are not very often followed by deeds. So, what would those who enthusiastically welcomed Mr. Blinken’s words expect as the first move in this direction?
Why not start with an apology and humanitarian assistance to all those victims of U.S. democracy promotion and regime changes crusades? The numbers of victims in post 9/11 endless wars are staggering. According to Brown University research, since 2001 over 801,000 people have died due to direct war violence from U.S. interventions, among them over 335,000 civilians. The number of wounded is several times higher, and 37 million people were made war refugees and displaced persons. Tens of thousands of Americans have been killed or wounded and the U.S. federal price tag for the post-9/11 wars is over $6.4 trillion.
If we had the money to wage these endless wars that obviously violated international law should not we offer some reasonable humanitarian assistance to the victims of these wars in turn? And, since the word “values” is uttered every time politicians open their mouths, wouldn’t such assistance be some proof of our adherence to Judeo-Christian values?
America’s role in the 2014 regime change in Ukraine is especially important as this is the region that has all the potential to ignite World War III due to continuous pumping money and arms to the Ukrainian military and the growing numbers of U.S. and NATO advisers as well as navy ships in the Black Sea area.
After the 1991 collapse of the USSR, Ukraine had great potential to become one of the most successful European countries. Effective anti-corruption reforms, a certain level of autonomy for the regions with large Russian ethnic populations, two state languages and neutral status with no membership in any military blocs would have made Ukraine if not a new Switzerland then definitely a happy and prosperous state. There would be no civil war and Donbass and Crimea would still be a part of Ukraine.
However, certain powerful forces in the U.S. and Europe had a different agenda which resulted in the current tragedy, loss of life and territory, rise of radical nationalism, economic devastation, and the loss of millions of skilled workers who were forced to leave the country in search of manual jobs in foreign lands to survive and support their families. Ukraine is now the poorest country in Europe.
While Ukrainians suffer, Hunter Biden, former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, and many other “advisers” and “democracy promoters,” were making a fortune in this country.
When Mr. Blinken speaks about failures of U.S. regime change policies that gave us a bad name does he acknowledge his and his bosses’ responsibility for these failures?
Here are some of the Western experts’ headlines: Ted Callen Carpenter of CATO Institute -“America’s Ukraine Hypocrisy”; John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago -“Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault”; Investigative historian Eric Zuesse – “How and why the U.S. Government Perpetrated the 2014 Coup in Ukraine” ;Scott Ritter a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer - “In Confronting Russian ‘Aggression’, Biden Forgets he is the Problem, not the Solution”
The list of comments with similar opinions is endless and the gist of them is as follows: The most important Western objective was and still is to weaken Russia geopolitically and economically, to encroach upon Russia’s territorial boundaries through NATO expansion and to undermine its influence in the post-Soviet space.
At the same time, statements from Joe Biden, Mr. Blinken and Congress placing all blame on Russia and pledging to “stand with Ukraine against Russia’s aggressive acts” are reminiscent of rhetoric from Washington in August 2008 that helped convince unstable Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili to attack that country’s breakaway provinces. Russia responded and Georgia lost lives and 20% of its territory. At that time, Vice President Dick Cheney advocated attacking Russian troops but President George W. Bush was smart enough to dismiss his advice.
Presently, there are all indications that another unstable leader, Vladimir Zelensky, this time in Ukraine, is getting ready to attack Kiev’s breakaway regions counting on direct military support from the U.S. and NATO. In the desperate moves to holt the dropping of his ratings, Mr. Zelensky is imposing sanction on opposition and closing news outlets with no objections from Washington.
Mr. Biden’s and Mr. Blinken’s choice of Victoria Nuland – Mother of Maidan Revolution who not only appointed new members of the post-coup Ukrainian government but made history by insulting all European allies with four letter words – for number 3 position at the State Department might send a message to Mr. Zelensky that Washington would back him all the way.
President Vladimir Putin stated repeatedly that he will respond with full force, which would mean a direct military confrontation between the nuclear powers.
Is this what we want or is there a better way? God save us all.
• Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow.