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Botched Management Of US-Russia Relationship – OpEd

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Russia’s military attack on Ukraine, as a preemptive military action, has caused the already alarming tensions between Moscow and the Western military bloc known as NATO to enter a dangerous confrontation phase. However, unlike the Cold War, this time military threats have replaced political ones.

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Although the main responsibility for this escalation lies with Putin, NATO’s unchangeable policy of further geopolitical and geostrategic isolation of Russia during the past half-century also has a significant contribution to this dangerous process. Therefore, if the United States and its allies do not feel the need to return to adopting a realistic and balanced foreign policy vis-à-vis Russia in the near future, the continued expansion of the most powerful military alliance in human history toward the Kremlin will not lead to a happy ending; and even a nuclear confrontation can be one of the viable options.

The continuation of NATO’s ambitious eastward expansion practically completes the blockade of the Russian Federation. But Russia’s war against Ukraine has a great lesson: It is impossible to expand NATO to the east without a reaction from Moscow. Now, the simplest NATO advances can move the former borders of the Soviet Union to stir and bring the battlefield closer to Western Europe.

The first sparks of Russia’s security blockade were taken after George Herbert Walker Bush’s decision to unify the two Germanys and keep Germany united in NATO. Bill Clinton made another fateful decision and paved the way for the admission of former Warsaw Pact countries into NATO. In 1988, the US Senate agreed to the proposal of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to become members of NATO; subsequently, NATO leaders continued to take provocative steps against Russia by welcoming eastward expansion and the Baltic states, which were part of Russia during the tsarist empire, joined NATO.

Even in the early stages, these developments faced a negative reaction from some in the United States. George Kenan, the originator of the containment policy, warned about the consequences of the approval of the first round of NATO eastward expansion by the Senate; he believed that this move would be the beginning of a new full-scale war. Kennan even predicted in 1988 that the Russians would gradually show a hostile reaction, and such a decision would end up being a tragic mistake in his view. Even Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State, mentioned in her memoirs that Boris Yeltsin and the Kremlin strongly opposed the expansion of NATO, seeing it as a strategy to exploit the vulnerable position of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

America’s relationship with Russia was badly managed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and at the end of the Bush administration. The big mistake was unnecessarily provoking Russia by accepting the membership of Romania and Bulgaria in NATO, which gave the US access to a military presence in Eastern Europe. George W. Bush also overdid it by trying to include Georgia and Ukraine in NATO and neglected Russia’s security interests and what Moscow considered to be its vital national interests. A year later, Moscow used the attack on Georgia as a pretext for invading it and as a result, two separatist regions of Georgia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia were permanently separated from the territory of Georgia and came under the effective control of Russia. 

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Russia’s last friendly warning that it is necessary for NATO to review its policies dates back to March 2007; when, during the annual Munich Security Conference, Putin criticized the approach taken by NATO and the West and warned that Russia’s borders have become the front line of NATO forces. Putin emphasized that the expansion of NATO is a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust, and it is Russia’s right to know against which country this expansion is directed?

However, the United States and European countries were apparently unwilling to heed the warning signs and observe the red lines drawn by Putin. The American intervention during the Obama administration in the internal affairs of Ukraine in 2013-14 in support of the demonstrators finally led to the overthrow of Yanukovych, the elected pro-Russian president in Ukraine; another provocative act against Moscow, which ultimately led to Putin’s order to attack Crimea, capture this strategic region and annexing it to Russia.

After the occupation of Crimea, to ensure the benevolent intentions of NATO’s defense strategy, Putin demanded that the United States provide guarantees regarding a number of security issues. Specifically, he sought to obtain the necessary binding guarantees for Russia’s security and existence regarding reducing NATO’s military presence near its borders and Ukraine’s non-membership in NATO.

When Putin did not achieve his goals by gathering forces and increasing military movements on the borders of Ukraine, he reminded the West of the consequences of ignoring Russia’s requests by attacking Ukraine and updated the threats against major European countries, including Britain, France, and Germany, by testing advanced weapons of the next generation.

If the war in Ukraine continues in the current situation, unsuccessful diplomatic efforts will be lost as the last available opportunity to prevent the spread of the war in Europe; in this case, Europe will become the front line of the war because the Biden government is completely indifferent to Russia’s efforts to receive meaningful concessions and security guarantees and is even increasing the intensity of the war by sending more military equipment to Ukraine.

It can be said with certainty that the necessary platform for crossing the cold war and entering into military conflicts has been prepared, and the war in Ukraine can turn into a regional and even global war by ignoring Russia’s requests for security guarantees.

If we don’t learn from history that Washington’s behavior towards Russia in the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union and even after Putin came to power was a wrong policy on a terrible scale, it can be predicted that the continued expansion of NATO can eventually lead to violent behavior in the relations between Moscow and Washington, and the world must pay the price for the short-sightedness of the leaders of these two countries.

If an equal role is not considered for Russia, America, and NATO at the beginning of the unequal war in Ukraine, the countries of the world will be caught in a situation that will continue as a series of crises. The starting point of the investigations should be beyond the Ukraine issue or the decisions of Vladimir Putin or the American presidents- although no country or institution in the world has the capacity to investigate this problem based on international relations.

However, If the policy based on power is to be the next option to solve these puzzles and crises, the destructive idealistic approach of power in world politics in the competition between America, China, India, and Russia will fuel another disaster. What happened in Ukraine is an excellent example that from now on international laws and customs accepted in international relations and even institutions like the United Nations will not be able to restrain the ambitious rebellions of insatiable powers. In this global situation, vulnerable countries will not have security, and the aggressors will determine where these countries should stand on the right or wrong side of history. 

Timothy Hopper

Timothy Hopper is an international relations graduate of American University.

2 thoughts on “Botched Management Of US-Russia Relationship – OpEd

  • July 31, 2022 at 2:38 pm
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    An excellent article about how we should proceed in our relations with Russia. A military confrntation with a nuclear super power is crazy. NATO.USA need to tone down their aggressive attitude toward Russia. Unless you are looking for Armogeden and Rapture and all that nonsense that evanselicals promote.

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    • July 31, 2022 at 5:13 pm
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      Wrong analysis. Question is why do these countries and there citizins feel the need to apply for Nato. What if none of these countries would be members; Poetin is delirious being Peter the Great! Russia has been proven not to be trustworthy for decades in many cooperation matters, even textbook psychology is applicable. Stick with the simpele facts, there is no alternative given in the above analysis.

      Reply

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