I WANT to be absolutely clear: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in unnecessary, horrific attacks against that country’s civilians. A UN agency reported that from the start of the war to May, there have been 23,606 civilian casualties: 8,791 killed and 14,815 injured. About 8 million, or 20 percent of that nation’s population have fled, throughout Europe.
Relentless attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have caused over $10 billion in damages and left over 12 million people with no or limited electricity, while also disrupting water supply and heating systems, according to a UN study.
But most people know this, as the powerful US media machine has been relentless in disseminating this view of the war, day in and day out.
What most people don’t know is that the US for nearly 20 years had provoked Russia to attack Ukraine. The US and NATO would have practically turned Ukraine into their platform for attacking Russia, or at the very least encircling it with its armies. Vladimir Putin had had enough of it but miscalculated that Ukraine would fall in a month at most. He probably never thought that even with its debt crisis, the US would spend $150 billion to provide the Ukrainians with all the modern weapons they could use — and soon, the state-of-art F-16 fighter planes. After all, the US military-industrial complex mainly gobbled up that $150 billion.
Such analysis and information came recently from people who would know, their patriotism unquestionable: 14 US national security experts and former US military officials who had manned the American defense establishment.
They issued a statement last week, posted at the website of what they called themselves “The Eisenhower Media Network,” in honor of President Dwight Eisenhower, ironically a legendary US general, who first exposed the power of the military-industrial complex. Obviously, knowing that US mainstream media would likely ignore their letter, the group had it published through a paid ad in the New York Times.
Their statement has become viral. Because of its importance, I post it in its entirety here, except for the timeline — starting 1990 — of how the Ukraine crisis came about. It should be a must reading for our ambassador to the US, who has been so diligent in articulating every bit of the US propaganda line that he had claimed that the Philippines, if asked, would let the Americans use the Subic and Clark Air Bases if it has to fight Russia.
The letter of the national security experts was entitled, “The US Should Be a Force for Peace in the World.”
Statement as follows:
“The Russia-Ukraine War has been an unmitigated disaster. Hundreds of thousands have been killed or wounded. Millions have been displaced. Environmental and economic destruction have been incalculable. Future devastation could be exponentially greater as nuclear powers creep ever closer toward open war.
We deplore the violence, war crimes, indiscriminate missile strikes, terrorism, and other atrocities that are part of this war. The solution to this shocking violence is not more weapons or more war, with their guarantee of further death and destruction.
As Americans and national security experts, we urge President Biden and Congress to use their full power to end the Russia-Ukraine War speedily through diplomacy, especially given the grave dangers of military escalation that could spiral out of control.
Sixty years ago, President John F. Kennedy made an observation that is crucial for our survival today. ‘Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy — or of a collective death — wish for the world.’
The immediate cause of this disastrous war in Ukraine is Russia’s invasion. Yet the plans and actions to expand NATO to Russia’s borders served to provoke Russian fears. And Russian leaders made this point for 30 years. A failure of diplomacy led to war. Now diplomacy is urgently needed to end the Russia-Ukraine War before it destroys Ukraine and endangers humanity.
Russia’s current geopolitical anxiety is informed by memories of invasion from Charles XII, Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler. US troops were among an Allied invasion force that intervened unsuccessfully against the winning side in Russia’s post-World War 1 civil war. Russia sees enlargement and presence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [the US-led NATO of European countries] on its borders as a direct threat; the US and NATO see only prudent preparedness. In diplomacy, one must attempt to see with strategic empathy, seeking to understand one’s adversaries. This is not weakness: it is wisdom.
We reject the idea that diplomats, seeking peace, must choose sides, in this case, either Russia or Ukraine. In favoring diplomacy we choose the side of sanity. Of humanity. Of peace.
We consider President Biden’s promise to back Ukraine ‘as long as it takes’ to be a license to pursue ill-defined and ultimately unachievable goals. It could prove as catastrophic as President Putin’s decision last year to launch his criminal invasion and occupation. We cannot and will not endorse the strategy of fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian.
We advocate for a meaningful and genuine commitment to diplomacy, specifically an immediate ceasefire and negotiations without any disqualifying or prohibitive preconditions. Deliberate provocations delivered the Russia-Ukraine War. In the same manner, deliberate diplomacy can end it.
As the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended, US and Western European leaders assured Soviet and then Russian leaders that NATO would not expand toward Russia’s borders. ‘There would be no extension of … NATO one inch to the east,’ US Secretary of State James Baker told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Feb. 9, 1990. Similar assurances from other US leaders as well as from British, German and French leaders throughout the 1990s confirm this.
Since 2007, Russia has repeatedly warned that NATO’s armed forces on Russian borders were intolerable — just as Russian forces in Mexico or Canada would be intolerable to the US now, or as Soviet missiles in Cuba were in 1962. Russia further singled out NATO expansion into Ukraine as especially provocative.
Our attempt at understanding the Russian perspective on their war does not endorse the invasion and occupation, nor does it imply the Russians had no other option but this war.
Yet, just as Russia had other options, so too did the US and NATO leading up to this moment.
The Russians made their red lines clear. In Georgia and Syria, they proved they would use force to defend those lines. In 2014, their immediate seizure of Crimea and their support of Donbas separatists demonstrated they were serious in their commitment to defending their interests. Why this was not understood by US and NATO leadership is unclear; incompetence, arrogance, cynicism, or a treacherous mixture of all three are likely contributing factors.
Again, even as the Cold War ended, US diplomats, generals and politicians were warning of the dangers of expanding NATO to Russia’s borders and of maliciously interfering in Russia’s sphere of influence. Former Cabinet officials Robert Gates and William Perry issued these warnings, as did venerated diplomats George Kennan, Jack Matlock and Henry Kissinger. In 1997, 50 senior US foreign policy experts wrote an open letter to President Bill Clinton advising him not to expand NATO, calling it ‘a policy error of historic proportions.’ President Clinton chose to ignore these warnings.
Most important to our understanding of the hubris and Machiavellian calculation in US decision-making surrounding the Russia-Ukraine War is the dismissal of the warnings issued by William Burns, the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In a cable to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2008, while serving as ambassador to Russia, Burns wrote of NATO expansion and Ukrainian membership:
‘Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region. Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests. Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face.’
Why did the US persist in expanding NATO despite such warnings? Profit from weapons sales was a major factor. Facing opposition to NATO expansion, a group of neoconservatives and top executives of US weapons manufacturers formed the US Committee to Expand NATO. Between 1996 and 1998, the largest arms manufacturers spent $51 million ($94 million today) on lobbying and millions more on campaign contributions. With this largesse, NATO expansion quickly became a done deal, after which US weapons manufacturers sold billions of dollars of weapons to the new NATO members.
So far, the US has sent $30 billion worth of military gear and weapons to Ukraine, with total aid to Ukraine exceeding $100 billion. War, it’s been said, is a racket, one that is highly profitable for a select few.
NATO expansion, in sum, is a key feature of a militarized US foreign policy characterized by unilateralism featuring regime change and preemptive wars. Failed wars, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, have produced slaughter and further confrontation, a harsh reality of America’s own making. The Russia-Ukraine War has opened a new arena of confrontation and slaughter. This reality is not entirely of our own making, yet it may well be our undoing, unless we dedicate ourselves to forging a diplomatic settlement that stops the killing and defuses tensions. Let’s make America a force for peace in the world.”
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