March 7, 2023

Ukraine And The NATO Question

For Joe Biden, History began when he placed his hand on the Bible and swore to become the 46th President of the United States. All that happened before became irrelevant to Biden. It's a strategy used by demigods and dictators throughout the ages.

This jaundiced view makes everything your opponent does, seem stilted. After all, if there is no context for their actions, they appear impulsive and unreasonable.

Why did Russia invade Ukraine? There seems to be no answer if there is no context. Eliminating the 30-year handshake agreement by the U.S. not to expand NATO, and the Russian Special Military Operation of 2022, makes no sense. Without that agreement, it appears Russia is behaving irrationally, just invading Ukraine for no reason.

And, of course, this has been the narrative promoted by the Biden Administration since day one of this conflict. Putin is a crazy man, and Russia is an aggressive empire aiming to conquer all of Europe.

That's how the President, his Administration, and most American Media have portrayed this conflict since it began. But what if there is much more to this story than we're being told? What if a historical context makes Russian moves at least understandable?

The stakes here are very high. We continue to edge closer and closer to a direct conflict between the two major nuclear powers on the planet. Because of the Ukraine conflict and the U.S.'s possible involvement, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved its Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds from midnight. The closest it has ever been in its 75-year history to utter disaster. If that context exists, we owe it to ourselves to explore some of that history.

NATO Expansion

The year was 1990, and the Soviet Union was in total collapse. Talks between the U.S. and USSR are ongoing. The principal issue was how the Eastern Block countries, particularly Germany, would align in the new post-Soviet World. Would Germany join NATO? The Warsaw Block? Or remain independent?

The United States was anxious that a reunified Germany would become a NATO member. America was, therefore, willing to make concessions. Negotiating for the Americans was Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

The Los Angeles Times picks up the story:

In early February 1990, U.S. leaders made the Soviets an offer. According to transcripts of meetings in Moscow on February 9, then-Secretary of State James Baker suggested that in exchange for cooperation on Germany, the U.S. could make "iron-clad guarantees" that NATO would not expand "one inch eastward." Less than a week later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to begin reunification talks. No formal deal was struck, but from all the evidence, the quid pro quo was clear: Gorbachev acceded to Germany's western alignment, and the U.S. would limit NATO's expansion. Los Angeles Times May 30, 2016.

But things changed under President Biden.

For 30 years, it has been settled that the borders of NATO would stop well before Ukraine. As President Vladimir Putin pointed out, Russia would have no defense if Ukraine joined NATO and NATO placed nuclear missiles in Ukraine. The missiles could be launched without warning and without time to intercept. This was the same reasoning that President Kennedy used in the 1960s to have Russian Nuclear Missiles removed from Cuba.

But all that seemed to change when Joe Biden became President. Suddenly the 33-year agreement between President George HW Bush and his Secretary of State James Baker not to expand NATO "one-inch east" was gone. The handshake agreement was forgotten or ignored. Under the new President, our World has no historical context.

On December 2, 2021, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe met in Stockholm, Sweden. Attending the meeting that day, representing the U.S. was the current Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, along with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Russian forces were beginning to form on the Ukraine border, but it was unclear whether Russia would invade.

Blinken met first with the Ukrainian Kuleba. By all accounts, the meeting went well, with Blinken announcing complete support for Ukraine. In Blinken's words, the U.S. and NATO pledged their "unwavering support" for the sovereignty of Ukraine. Reuters and the Western Press took this pronouncement to indicate that the U.S. stood behind Ukraine's joining NATO.

Later Blinken met with Russian Foreign Secretary Lavrov, presumably indicating that the U.S. supported Ukraine's joining NATO. Within days, Russia invaded Ukraine.

Had the United States just gone against its agreement of 30 years? It certainly looked that way. The door was now wide open for NATO not only to go more than "one inch" east but all the way to the Russian Border.

And just in case there was any doubt, just five months later, at April 26, 2022, Senate Hearing, Senator Rand Paul asked if Blinken was endorsing Ukraine's membership in NATO. And the answer was a resounding "Yes."

Russia had relied upon its handshake agreement with America ensuring a buffer zone around the Russian borders for over a generation. But now there was a new President in town, with a new Secretary of State, neither would acknowledge that the United States had given its word. And just like that,t a 30-year understanding between Russia, NATO, and the United States was summarily disposed of.

The past has become irrelevant in this new World of Joe Biden and Anthony Blinken. They alone determine the application of historic agreements. In today's brand-new Biden-centered World, there is no context—it's a place where the United States never looks back and is never wrong.