We in the West like to troll Russia with the argument that Putin’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine failed to achieve its goals. Oddly, one of the claimed goals in making that argument is that rather than stopping NATO expansion, Putin’s invasion has led to NATO’s further expansion, military-political consolidation, and military strengthening. This is odd, because Western, particularly US policy, has been built on the premise that Putin feigns fear of NATO expansion in order to engage in his own expansion. The reality, of course, is quite different. NATO is struggling to include not just Ukraine but also Finland and Sweden into the alliance, but because of NATO member Turkey’s resistance driven by the prospective new members’ support for Kurdish rebels this expansion is also going rather poorly.
And let’s turn the original argument around. Western policy supposedly has been aimed at creating a sovereign, democratic, and economically free and prosperous Ukraine. How has that policy fared? In failing to prevent, in fact by provoking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine going nearly two decades back, the US and its allies have not achieved any of its goals. Rather than stopping the expansion of NATO and establishing a neutral Ukraine, we cultivated a violent putsch in Kiev, hid the facts of the 20 February 2014 neofascist snipers’ terrorist attack, supported the ultranationalist-oligarchic Maidan regime’s war on the Donbass population, did nothing to forward the Minsk peace process for Kiev or Donbass, built up the Ukrainian army on Russia’s borders to be the second most powerful in Europe, and rejected Putin’s 2021 proposals to save Minsk and reorganize the security architecture surrounding Ukraine and in Europe-western Eurasia.
Moreover, the alliance is splitting along several seams – Turkish, Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian – where resistance to the West’s and NATO’s massive support for Ukraine is high. The US attack on Nord Stream threatens to break a core partnership in the alliance: America-Germany.
Also, NATO GenSec Stoltenberg has acknowledged that NATO weapons stockpiles are nearly exhausted and that Ukraine is using many times more the amount of ammunition than NATO countries produce.
If we throw Ukraine’s current condition into the calculus of pluses and minuses of Western policy, the results appear as catastrophic, most notably for Kiev and those in the region poised against Moscow. Russian forces are deeper into Ukraine than ever before. Moscow has annexed more Ukrainian territory than before. Ukraine has become more authoritarian and corrupt with each year of Western anti-Russian rhetoric and policies and certainly during the war. The war has bolstered the neofascist element in the Ukrainian polity. Economically, Ukraine is not only not prosperous, but its economy contracted by a third in the first year of the war the West’s policies helped bring about. Large parts of what remains of the country lies in ruins, and the area covered by such destruction is about to expand probably up to the Dnepr river. In other words, American, Western, and NATO policies have led to precisely the opposite results from they claim to have sought.
Geostrategically, the war has driven Russia further into the arms of China, accelerated Sino-Russian efforts to forge an alternative political, economic, and financial order to the Western architecture, and heightened Sino-Western trade and military tensions.
In sum, Americans and everyone else in the West should ask themselves whether or not their countries’ national security would have been better served by not expanding NATO, expansion attempting to do so to Ukraine, and insead negotiating a security agreement with Russia that addressed every state’s security concerns.
Worse still, no matter how counterproductive Western policy is proven to be, Western leaders automatically double down on their failures, escalating an already unforgivably dangerous, pre-apocalyptical military-political and socioeconomic situation in Europe and globally. The newest double-down is the NATO declaration that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance after Kiev’s military defeat of Russia. That declaration guarantees that Moscow will drive the war harder and arrange a post-war order in which Ukraine cannot become a NATO member. That might require destroying or occupying what remains of Ukraine in the event of a Russian victory.
Moscow is making its own contribution to the escalatory cycle in the form of the large-scale counteroffensive operation. The West will follow suit, then Moscow will respond, and so it will go on and on until it has gone too far. Humankind is full of fools, and the fools often make its history.The fundamental flaw the fools have multiplied is a complete failure to understand Putin and Russia. Prolongation of this failure has consistently led to the worsening of Russian-Western relations and escalation of tensions and distrust. Western policies bring about the very policies the Kremlin would never have taken but for those very same Western policies, most notably NATO expansion, creating a never-ending cycle of deterioration in relations. Moscow had no need or even interest in annexing Crimea to save its Black Sea Fleet naval base until the West cultivated the anti-Russian Maidan coup. Annexation was then portrayed by the West as part of Moscow’s plans all along, and the failure of Western policy is said to be an unwillingness to bring Ukraine into NATO. The policy continues, and Western apparatchiks mouth the lie that Russia is not opposed to NATO expansion; it just wants to expand and recreate the Russian Empire or the USSR.
Kiev then declared an anti-terrorist operation in Donbass against a handful of pro-Moscow rebels merely repeating the Maidan coup for anti-Maidan purposes. Moscow’s support for the rebels, backed overwhelmingly by the local population, is portrayed in the West as a pre-planned separatist policy and invasion of Donbas, part of Moscow’s imperial expansion goal. The battlefield stalement and Minsk accords were then used by the West to build up Ukraine’s armed forces, which Russian intelligence easily could observe, instead of attempting to secure the peace by forcing Kiev to fulfill its obligations under Minsk. The US never engaged the Minsk process, and its organizers and interested parties, with the exception of Moscow, faked their engagement. Zelensky has followed similar admissions by former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and for French President Francois Hollande to this effect. As the Ukrainian paper Ukrainskaya Pravda noted: “Zelenskyy remarked that he treated Minsk agreements only as the official avenue for negotiations where it was possible to ‘solve at least some problems’, so he started using it for prisoner of war swaps.” Zelenskyy acknowledged: “(C)oncerning Minsk agreements in general, I told Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel that we cannot fulfill them in this way.” At the Normandy meeting that included Vladimir Putin in 2019, Zelenskyy announced his intention not to fulfill the agreements. He said to all the participants of the meeting, that “the agreement, as it stands, cannot be fulfilled” (www.pravda.com.ua/eng/news/2023/02/9/7388717/). Clearly without Washington’s and NATO’s proactive support of Minsk, the peace process was doomed to fail. Former Israeli PM Bennet says this was precisely the intent, revealing that he had all but secures a truce in March 22, but the US stepped in to block it (https://contra.substack.com/p/us-led-west-opposed-peace-deal-in and https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1623684447823618048.html).
Putin responds to the emerging threat in the west with coercive diplomacy, mounting troops near Ukraine in 2021 and proposing a new agreement on Ukrainian and European security without NATO expansion, but the West rejects the proposals and never really takes them seriously. They are merely a ploy to cover Russian expansionism, you see. Russia invades, and the West sees only Russian expansionism. NATO expansionism is no threat. Putin feigns fear, Washington and Brussels contend, before world history’s most powerful military alliance, as they continue to build up Ukraine’s military into a powerful fist and Ukraine as an inevitable NATO member, as NATO summits never fail to declare.
The most tragic element is that there is no end in sight for Ukraine, only more escalation, without even a hint of the potential for a ceasefire, no less peace negotiations. Kiev is caught between the West and Russia. Ukrainians are caught between a corrupt regime born in blood, voracious oligarchs, and violent neofascists.
The next phase of the Ukraine war is here. Gains during Russia’s counteroffensive in Ukraine will ‘reconfirm’ or be used to reconfirm the myth of Russian expansionism, as NATO continues to prosecute the war rather than negotiate—all in an effort to further its own expansion to Ukraine and beyond.
EUROPE BOOKS, 2022
MCFARLAND BOOKS, 2021
MCFARLAND BOOKS, 2018
About the Author –
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, www.canalyt.com. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu
Dr. Hahn is the author of the new book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored five previous, well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.
Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group.