In the wake of the Dec. 31 phone call between Presidents Biden and Putin, two very different perceptions of reality were brought into conflict which we can only pray will be resolved in the coming days and weeks of meetings between both sides.
Where one side sees itself committed to supporting Ukraine’s independent right to join NATO in order to help empower the transatlantic rules-based order, the other side sees an encroaching military encirclement of its vast territory under a military doctrine dubbed “full spectrum dominance.” This latter doctrine, born in the bowels of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “Flexible Response” doctrine of 1980, assumes that it is possible to deliver a nuclear first strike on Russia (and China) with only minor “acceptable” rates of collateral damage suffered as a consequence.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul correctly identified Vladimir Putin‘s fears of NATO’s ongoing encroachment in a Dec. 21 tweet, but was Mr. McFaul correct to dismiss these concerns as the crazy ravings of a paranoid Russian dictator with no bearing in reality? Or is there something to Mr. Putin‘s fears?
Considering the rapid growth of NATO from 16 to 29 nations in 24 years, and the obsessive drive which post-Maidan Kyiv governments have made to enter into the military pact, Mr. Putin‘s fears shouldn’t be dismissed too quickly.
When you also consider: 1) the vast array of military games that have taken place on the Black Sea in recent years; 2) the expansion of the anti-ballistic missile shield which weapons experts have proven can be turned into offensive systems with relative ease; 3) America’s abrogation of several trust building treaties since 2002; 4) the vast increase of arms sales to Ukraine over the past year; and 5) the promotion of first-use nuclear bombs by leading western officials in the last few weeks of 2021, it is clear that Russia‘s fears are not unfounded as Mr. McFaul or other hawks encircling Mr. Biden would have it seem.
Considering Mr. McFaul is a renowned “color revolution expert” who was caught trying to arrange a failed “white revolution” in Russia in 2011, it must be assumed that his perspective is more than a little polluted.
Even China has felt the burn of full spectrum dominance and western regime change operations in recent years, with a massive armada of military bases, troop buildup, war games, and anti-ballistic missiles like THAAD deployed in South Korea where 20,000 American troops are stationed and ready for battle. These troops are joined by 50,000 soldiers in Japan, while talks of creating a Pacific NATO (aka: QUAD) has occupied the conversations of military officials in Washington, Japan, India, and Australia since 2020.
As much as Mr. Biden, Mr. McFaul, former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, or Under Secretary Victoria Nuland might scream and shout that “Crimea will always belong to Ukraine,” the fact is that a democratic plebiscite did occur in 2014 which resulted in a majority vote to return the peninsula to Russia. Whether you like it or not, that happened.
As much as war hawks might also scream that the island of Taiwan is an independent nation deserving of U.S. military support, according to the United Nations and Taiwan’s own constitution, the island is still legally a part of China. That’s just a basic fact that no amount of media spin can change.
Should we treat the words of leading NATOcrats like Jens Stoltenberg seriously when he threatens to move U.S. nukes in Germany closer to Russia‘s border? Should we dismiss the claims made by Mr. Carter that the USA should support a color revolution in Russia? Should we ignore the words of Sen. Roger Wicker when he said “we don’t rule out first-use nuclear action” on Russia?
Whether or not American citizens take such words seriously, the fact is that Mr. Putin and his military advisors certainly do.
Taking the above facts into consideration, Mr. Putin‘s demands for written agreements on freezing NATO’s eastward expansion should strike any American patriot as eminently reasonable.
After all, who does NATO’s growth benefit? Does it benefit the Ukrainians if U.S. missiles are installed in Kyiv, which would only see the nation suffer the risk of a Russian retaliatory attack? Who will gain if the world is pushed to nuclear war?
So why not make the oral promises of 1990 between James Baker, Bush 41, and Mikhail Gorbachev (that NATO would not expand one inch eastward) legally binding once and for all?
If Mr. Putin requests that war games halt on Russia‘s border (which he will reciprocate) and requests that no short or medium range missiles be placed on Ukrainian soil (which he will reciprocate) while re-empowering the Russia-NATO council, then what harm does this do to the USA’s interests? Moscow is, after all, only 300 miles away from Ukraine’s border, so this sort of security guarantee is perfectly rational.
To put it into perspective, I doubt a single American would feel secure if either Russia or China carried out military war games in the Gulf of Mexico while placing Russian-controlled missiles in Ottawa. And how secure would Americans feel if Moscow’s intelligence agencies were openly supporting rabidly anti-American Mexicans who wished to become a part of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization of the Americas?
So rather than risk lighting the world on nuclear fire in a bid for global hegemony, why not simply agree to Putin‘s red lines, while also toning down the sabre-rattling in the Pacific while we’re at it?
Doing these simple things will involve returning to the tried-and-true methods of diplomatic engagement and acting like the U.N. Charter actually matters in international affairs. It will also involve treating other nations like partners with common interests, instead of assuming that everyone not under our hegemony are enemies vying for dominance in a world of diminishing returns.
It may be a lot to ask the NATOcrats running rampant in Washington, but I guarantee you that the majority of Americans from both sides of the political aisle will be overjoyed to avoid a nuclear holocaust.
• Matthew Ehret is the founder of the Rising Tide Foundation and author of “The Clash of the Two Americas.” He can be reached at matthewehret.substack.com.
• Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Sen. Roger Wicker “called for a nuclear first strike on Russia.” The mischaracterization was corrected on Jan. 7 to reflect Mr. Wicker’s actual quote in which he said, “we don’t rule out first-use nuclear action.”