Letter to the Editor from 2008 (Monday, May 12, The Washington Post)

I didn’t find Robert Kagan persuasive when he said that what Vladimir Putin, now Russian’s prime minister, has to fear from NATO expansion into Ukraine and Georgia is only democracy, not a military threat [“Ideology’s Rude Return,” op-ed, May 2]. Mr. Kagan echoed President Bush on the subject in writing, “NATO is less provocative and threatening toward Moscow today than it was in [Mikhail] Gorbachev’s time.”
Both columnist and president are wrong. Mr. Putin sees the world around his immediate frontiers in a strategic sense of military options. NATO forces are in his face from Murmansk to the Baltic states, Romania and Turkey. Kyrgyzstan, while not in NATO, is certainly an American client with its large U.S. military airfield and staging area at Manas, near the capital. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have pledged to the U.S. various forms of direct military cooperation.
Think about Mr. Putin’s reduced military options in backing up Russian policy if Ukraine and Georgia join NATO. Mr. Putin could not be clearer on this point: Russia will not tolerate further NATO expansion eastward. He has stated that to any media outlet that will listen. He has shown his seriousness on this point with stepped-up Cold War-style flights by his Tu-95 Bear bombers over our ships at sea and near Alaska and Great Britain.
We risk a major confrontation by disregarding Mr. Putin’s “red line” on this subject.

– Jack Broadbent

I’ve been digging through Congressional testimony, op-eds, letters to the editors and so on from the ’90s to the present. The number of warnings is amazing. Everyone from Phyllis Schafly to the late Senator Wellstone.

Note, recognizing the complicated multifactorial nature of the current Ukraine crisis is not the same as being an apologist. We have a form of unconventional warfare being practiced on the Ukraine by Russia; and we have a complicated form of political warfare being practiced in the Ukraine by the US, UK, EU and so on. The whole-of-it matters for understanding.

3 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor from 2008 (Monday, May 12, The Washington Post)”

  1. This is why I’m always disgusted by the idea of “realpolitik”. Realpolitik pretends to be sophisticated, high minded, and long looking. In actuality it is just taking the least disgusting option remaining on the table when you are forced to do something.

    Truthfully sophisticated foreign policy would look much different, it would engage our values (liberty, consensual governance, etc.) and treat others with the respect (or, occasionally, enmity) deserved rather than viewing the world as a chessboard full of pawns. It would make the hard choices early and put in the grunt work from the beginning to stave off the inevitable choice of picking the least catastrophic catastrophe down the road. But nobody at the helm of the US, and certainly no bureaucrat at the state department, has had the fortitude to do anything of that sort for the last several decades. So instead we jump from near catastrophe to near catastrophe, fuck up the resolution of each one in its own special way, pull out before the work is done, and then repeat the cycle ad infinitum and wonder why the world is so screwed up and geopolitics are so gosh darned complicated.

  2. “Kyrgyzstan, while not in NATO, is certainly an American client with its large U.S. military airfield and staging area at Manas”

    The base was opened after 9-11 with Putin’s permission and will be closed this summer because of Putin’s pressure on them. No Central Asian nation is an American client (although I wish that wasn’t the case).

    The Russians also allow us to transit their country to Afghanistan through the Northern Distribution Network.

    Maybe this great, complicated game has been going on for some time and has finally reached the boiling point now that we’ve pushed Russia to the brink.

    However, it was a popular uprising to overthrow a plundering Plutocrat that initiated the Ukraine crisis. Perhaps we could have been nicer and more understanding to Russia’s needs to grab land in the wake of their puppet’s demise, but the US mostly didn’t do anything to help either side.

    Of course, there is your émigré oligarch buying his way into the halls of influence. I don’t doubt your research or that they are trying. I think so far the Russian unconventional warfare has been a lot more effective than the American kind.

    Putin proved with the Syrian debacle that he can run circles around the ineffectual Obama anytime he wants. He currently has his hand on the spigot to Europe’s gas supply. He’s expanding into the Mediterranean and Middle East, not shrinking from it.

    All the while NATO can’t even get out of its own way. Does anyone seriously think they can field an effective force against anyone?
    Obama commanding a constabulary operation? The US has basically been reduced to the role of France’s air force.

    Rather than an insecure, bullied victim, Putin looks to me like someone who has the upper hand in any confrontation he chooses to get involved in.

  3. @ RobinGoodfellow: The urge to meddle is present in various American foreign policy camps that are interventionists, it seems to me. Right to protect, neoconservative, liberal interventions, even realpolitik impulses that mix up with all of those various strands. We seem unmoored and our domestic situation inflates threats and makes promises it can’t or won’t keep. It is very harmful.


    I know about the Northern Distribution Network. A lot of the chest-thumping is nothing but hot air because of the complicated nature of the economic relationships between various nations and Russia, including the BRICS. Our own big oil guys aren’t going anywhere.

    My point about the Ukranian oligarchs was never so crude as you put it. I think you may have missed the point I was trying to make in my previous posts.

    I meant that we are in an effective proxy war, have been for some time and egged on by various camps in the West that portray the situation in a simplistic white hat vs. black hat way. The ground realities are far more complex and our attempts to support one candidate over another only contributes to instability, perhaps even to civil war. None of this excuses Russian aggression or meddling by other intelligence agencies to include eastern european nations.

Comments are closed.