|We're Backing These Guys|
If we don't want another Cold War or, worse, a full-blown shooting war with Russia (and quite possibly China to boot) it's on us to stop treating them like we're already enemies.
Russia expert, University of Kent professor, Richard Sakwa, has added his voice to the chorus arguing that the debacle in Ukraine is the inevitable result of the West's - and especially America's - policies over the past 30 years since G.H.W. Bush and Gorbachev ended Cold War I.
Sakwa maintains it was the United States, fearful of suffering economically, that subverted efforts for an economic and political reconciliation between the EU and Russia.
...despite the shocking assassination under the Kremlin walls of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, despite ever more evidence of Russia's complicity in and support for the conflict tearing Ukraine apart, Sakwa insists the West must take a step back and reassess its language and strategy since Malta – before it's too late.
"Ultimately Russia as a great power, a nuclear power, has to be listened to. Not to say 'it's right', not to say to 'give in', but at least to say 'OK, what are the issues' instead of simply demonising them. The triumphalism has to come to an end."
In his new book, Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands, Sakwa sketches out his theme: that by assuming that Russia was beaten, by ignoring its needs and its nature and by pushing NATO's borders closer and closer to Moscow, Europe and the US created the conditions for the current civil war in Ukraine.
They have put Europe and Russia into a destructive, escalating cycle of mistrust and aggression in which neither side is entirely to blame, yet both consider themselves blameless. "The atmosphere in Moscow, some of the hardliners, even the old liberals and academics, they're [saying] 'let's just solve it and march all the way to Kiev'," Sakwa told Fairfax Media. "They're so angry, they feel so betrayed by the West. It's very dangerous.
"We are doomed to . . . another 25 years of cold war, probably more dangerous than the first Cold War, which could end up in a 1914 situation because the West simply will not listen to Russia's concerns."
Sakwa's book has already caught attention. Retired NATO intelligence analyst Martin Packard wrote that it was the first "realistic synopsis of the background to current events".
"The intention in Moscow [in 1986] was to . . . achieve a progressive convergence with the EU," he wrote. "There could have been huge benefits to Europe in such convergence, but the process was deliberately sabotaged by US intelligence agencies, working from the hypothesis that a tie-up between the EU and a democratic Russia would pose a major threat to American long-term economic interests."
"The chaos that we now have, and the distrust of America which motivates Russian policy, stems primarily from decisions taken in Washington 30 years ago."
Sakwa warns the West must be careful not to get caught in its own hypocrisy.
Over the last decade Russia became increasingly alienated. Vladimir Putin took power as a "new realist" seeking to engage with and accommodate the West. But after 2007 he and Russia became more assertive, Sakwa writes, buoyed by the country's economic recovery and unable to form genuine partnerships with the EU. Putin began to attack the US for trying to establish a "unipolar world . . . in which there is one master, one sovereign", and called the enlargement of NATO "a serious provocation".
Sakwa argues there's only one way out of this - a new deal with Russia, one not immersed in American triumphalism.
"NATO exists to manage the risks created by its existence," Sakwa argues in the book.
"We are in the logic of 1914, we are in an escalatory logic," he told Fairfax Media. "The idea of Russian troops marching into the Baltic states until a few months ago was absolutely absurd. Today it becomes more and more likely. The more they want proof of NATO's security, the less security they get. We've gone too far."
So what to do? Talk, says Sakwa: "For 20 years we've been living in a fool's paradise. After the end of the Cold War we ultimately fundamentally failed to establish an inclusive and satisfactory peace on the European continent.
"Ultimately there has to be a new Helsinki, a new Yalta, a new Malta."
And this time we have to get it right, he says.