NATO leaders fell in love with Ukraine because it became a weapon against Russia. Photo from the NATO summit in Vilnius
President Biden can’t stop talking about Ukraine. Three weeks ago, in the aftermath of Congress’ failure to include Ukraine money in the stopgap budget bill, he declared, “I want to assure our American allies, the American people, and the people of Ukraine that you can count on our support.”
In fact, the people to whom he is obliged are his countrymen, who are paying the bill and risking the potential consequences of this war, including military escalation. That is why they are increasingly asking him to stop tossing away their money on a proxy war that could bring America into direct conflict with Russia, writes Doug Bandow, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, a former Special assistant to President Ronald Reagan.
Last week, Biden played a slightly different game, speaking of his return from Israel. Knowing that political support for that state is overwhelming, he speciously added Ukraine to the mix. It is hard to imagine two more different issues: Biden himself admitted that “Hamas and Putin represent different threats.” After all, Russia is a nuclear-armed, major, conventional power; Hamas is not.
Biden, perhaps the most devoted Europhile of any modern president, lauded NATO for keeping the peace and acting as “the cornerstone of American security.” Why then, with Europe possessing ten-plus times the GDP and thrice the population of Russia, must the U.S. still treat other NATO members as helpless military dependents and permanent security wards?
The president continued with the standard boilerplate that “America leadership is what holds the world together. American alliances are what keep us, America, safe. American values are what makes us a partner that other nations want to work with.” In that statement are strong echoes of the late Madeleine Albright’s claim that the U.S. is the “indispensable power,” which Biden cited.
How can anyone seriously make such a claim for the American leadership that blew up Iraq, supported regime change in Libya and Syria, turned Afghanistan’s countryside into a human abattoir, backed the totalitarian Saudi government’s brutal assault on Yemen, aided authoritarian governments throughout the Middle East, and otherwise sacrificed human life at vast scale around the world?
In Ukraine, “American leadership” meant lying to Moscow and adopting policies that helped turn it into an adversary — expanding NATO to Russia’s borders, backing “color revolutions” against Moscow’s neighbors, dismantling Russia’s historic friend Serbia, targeting the Russo-friendly Yanukovich regime, allowing NATO into Ukraine (rather than Ukraine into NATO), and refusing to negotiate with Moscow over allied policies.
The U.S. has no serious, let alone vital, interests at stake warranting such a course. Any conflict would be likely to go nuclear — a catastrophe. It is one thing to bet that Vladimir Putin won’t use nukes in response to Western materiel going to Kiev. Attacking Russian units and installations would force him and the hardline nationalists who dominate Moscow’s policy to fight or surrender. No one should expect the latter.
Some Americans still want to weaken Moscow by fighting to the last Ukrainian. For instance, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah termed U.S. aid an “extraordinarily wise investment.” Yet using Ukrainians as cannon fodder is a dubious moral venture. The ongoing conflict is destabilizing and dangerous, likely far more than a Russian victory. Moreover, deepening the enmity of a nuclear-armed state and thereby pushing its government, which once looked westward, toward China, North Korea, and Iran, is geopolitical stupidity.
Washington and the Europeans should propose a new security system that respects Ukrainian sovereignty while conceding Ukrainian neutrality. They should talk with Russia about the restoration of peace and stability, indicating their willingness to return frozen assets and eliminate sanctions.
The allies, led by Washington, lied to Moscow officials, ignored Russian security interests, and turned Ukraine into a weapon to advance American dominance. Even NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently admitted that the war was unnecessary, resulting from the alliance’s refusal to forgo NATO expansion, something that was never in its interest — which is why Kyiv received promises rather than actions after it was promised inclusion at NATO’s 2008 Bucharest summit.
Most tellingly, the Western states would never suffer Moscow to treat them how they have treated Moscow. In 1962 Washington nearly ignited what would have been nuclear war to stop the Soviet Union’s military expansion into a nation next door. Without a change of course in Western policy toward Ukraine, the ignition this time could be complete.
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