The US Government Should At Least Listen to this Wisdom of its Top Experts on the Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Peace

The US government has repeatedly asserted that Russia, and Russia alone, is responsible for the Ukraine conflict in which several hundred thousand persons have been killed and seriously injured while millions have been displaced. However it should listen at least to the voices of its own security and foreign policy experts, former ambassadors and diplomats who have been saying clearly that the provocations created by the USA and NATO in the first place have a lot to do with the present crisis.

Donald Smith of Code Pink, a Women’s Peace Initiative in the USA, has compiled several such statements by USA experts a selection of which is given below, to be followed by extracts from another important document, also by top US experts.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the USSR Jack Matlock says in Ukraine: Tragedy of a Nation Divided:

“Interference by the United States and its NATO allies in Ukraine’s civil struggle has exacerbated the crisis within Ukraine, undermined the possibility of bringing the two easternmost provinces back under Kyiv’s control, and raised the specter of possible conflict between nuclear-armed powers. Furthermore, in denying that Russia has a “right” to oppose extension of a hostile military alliance to its national borders, the United States ignores its own history of declaring and enforcing for two centuries a sphere of influence in the Western hemisphere.”

Diplomat and historian George Kennan, quoted in Thomas Friedman’s This Is Putin’s War. But America and NATO Aren’t Innocent Bystanders, discussing NATO expansion:

“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the founding fathers of this country turn over in their graves.”

William J. Perry, Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton, wrote How the US Lost Russia — and How We Can Restore Relations in Sept. of 2022:

“Many have pointed to the expansion of NATO in the mid-1990s as a critical provocation. At the time, I opposed that expansion, in part for fear of the effect on Russian-U.S. relations….Still, the first step in finding a solution [to the war in Ukraine] is acknowledging the problem and recognizing that our actions have contributed to that hostility.”

Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush, in We Always Knew the Dangers of NATO Expansion:

“[T]rying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching, … recklessly ignoring what the Russians considered their own vital national interests.”

Ambassador Michael Gfoeller and David H. Rundell: in Newsweek‘s Lessons From the US Civil War Show Why Ukraine Can’t Win:

“Before the war, far right Ukrainian nationalist groups like the Azov Brigade were soundly condemned by the US Congress. Kiev’s determined campaign against the Russian language is analogous to the Canadian government trying to ban French in Quebec. Ukrainian shells have killed hundreds of civilians in the Donbas and there are emerging reports of Ukrainian war crimes. The truly moral course of action would be to end this war with negotiations rather than prolong the suffering the Ukrainian people in a conflict they are unlikely to win without risking American lives.”

Christopher Caldwell: in the New York Times‘ The War in Ukraine May Be Impossible to Stop. And the US Deserves Much of the Blame:

“In 2014 the United States backed an uprising — in its final stages a violent uprising — against the legitimately elected Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych, which was pro-Russian.”

Stephen M. Walt, professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, in an essay in Foreign Policy:

“This war would have been far less likely if the United States had adopted a strategy of foreign-policy restraint…. The Biden Administration and its predecessors are far from blameless.”

Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute in The US and NATO Helped Trigger the Ukraine War. It’s Not ‘Siding With Putin’ to Admit It:

“One can readily imagine how Americans would react if Russia, China, India, or another peer competitor admitted countries from Central America and the Caribbean to a security alliance that it led — and then sought to add Canada as an official or de facto military ally. It is highly probable that the United States would have responded by going to war years ago. Yet even though Ukraine has an importance to Russia comparable to Canada’s importance to the United States, our leaders expected Moscow to respond passively to the growing encroachment .They have been proven disastrously wrong, and thanks to their ineptitude, the world is now a far more dangerous place.”

Alfred de Zayas, a former senior lawyer with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, says in The Ukraine War in the Light of the UN Charter:

The war in Ukraine did not start on 24 February 2022, but already in February 2014. The civilian population of the Donbas has endured continued shelling from Ukrainian forces since 2014, notwithstanding the Minsk Agreements. These attacks on Lugansk and Donetsk significantly increased in January-February 2022, as reported by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.

As Dennis Kucinich, a very senior and respected political leader of the USA, said, the U.S. government used “the good, courageous people of Ukraine as pawns in a vicious and deadly geo-political chess game which began well before the illegal Russian invasion. And it is now planning to do for the people of Taiwan what it has done for the people of Ukraine, portraying China as the aggressor while surrounding China with about 200 military bases.

Now we come to another very important statement from the website of the Eisenhower Media Network (EMT) signed by several top security experts of the USA which says, “ The Russia-Ukraine War has been an unmitigated disaster. Hundreds of thousands have been killed or wounded. Millions have been displaced. Environmental and economic destruction have been incalculable. Future devastation could be exponentially greater as nuclear powers creep ever closer toward open war. We deplore the violence, war crimes, indiscriminate missile strikes, terrorism, and other atrocities that are part of this war. The solution to this shocking violence is not more weapons or more war, with their guarantee of further death and destruction. As Americans and national security experts, we urge President Biden and Congress to use their full power to end the Russia-Ukraine War speedily through diplomacy, especially given the grave dangers of military escalation that could spiral out of control.”

This statement by top security experts of the USA has used a 60 year old quote from President John F. Kennedy to highlight concerns that still remain highly relevant for our survival today– “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy–or of a collective death-wish for the world.”

A much-debated issue has been to what extent US actions were responsible for provoking the Russian invasion. This statement of top security experts of the USA says, “The immediate cause of this disastrous war in Ukraine is Russia’s invasion. Yet the plans and actions to expand NATO to Russia’s borders served to provoke Russian fears. And Russian leaders made this point for 30 years. A failure of diplomacy led to war. Now diplomacy is urgently needed to end the Russia-Ukraine War before it destroys Ukraine and endangers humanity.”

Trying to understand Russian perceptions is also important. As this EMT statement notes, “Russia’s current geopolitical anxiety is informed by memories of invasion from Charles XII, Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler. U.S. troops were among an Allied invasion force that intervened unsuccessfully against the winning side in Russia’s post-World War I civil war. Russia sees NATO enlargement and presence on its borders as a direct threat; the U.S. and NATO see only prudent preparedness. In diplomacy, one must attempt to see with strategic empathy, seeking to understand one’s adversaries. This is not weakness: it is wisdom. We reject the idea that diplomats, seeking peace, must choose sides, in this case either Russia or Ukraine. In favoring diplomacy we choose the side of sanity. Of humanity. Of peace.”

Further this statement asserts, “We consider President Biden’s promise to back Ukraine “as long as it takes” to be a license to pursue ill-defined and ultimately unachievable goals. It could prove as catastrophic as President Putin’s decision last year to launch his criminal invasion and occupation. We cannot and will not endorse the strategy of fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian.

We advocate for a meaningful and genuine commitment to diplomacy, specifically an immediate ceasefire and negotiations without any disqualifying or prohibitive preconditions. Deliberate provocations delivered the Russia-Ukraine War. In the same manner, deliberate diplomacy can end it.”

This statement by very well-informed security experts reminds us—“As the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended, U.S. and Western European leaders assured Soviet and then Russian leaders that NATO would not expand toward Russia’s borders. “There would be no extension of…NATO one inch to the east,” U.S. Secretary of State James Baker told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990. Similar assurances from other U.S. leaders as well as from British, German and French leaders throughout the 1990s confirm this. Since 2007, Russia has repeatedly warned that NATO’s armed forces on Russian borders were intolerable – just as Russian forces in Mexico or Canada would be intolerable to the U.S. now, or as Soviet missiles in Cuba were in 1962. Russia further singled out NATO expansion into Ukraine as especially provocative.”

Further the EMT statement tells us, “The Russians made their red lines clear. In Georgia and Syria, they proved they would use force to defend those lines. In 2014, their immediate seizure of Crimea and their support of Donbas separatists demonstrated they were serious in their commitment to defending their interests. Why this was not understood by U.S. and NATO leadership is unclear; incompetence, arrogance, cynicism, or a treacherous mixture of all three are likely contributing factors.”


The top security experts have also reminded us—“ even as the Cold War ended, U.S. diplomats, generals and politicians were warning of the dangers of expanding NATO to Russia’s borders and of maliciously interfering in Russia’s sphere of influence. Former Cabinet officials Robert Gates and William Perry issued these warnings, as did venerated diplomats George Kennan, Jack Matlock and Henry Kissinger. In 1997, fifty senior U.S. foreign policy experts wrote an open letter to President Bill Clinton advising him not to expand NATO, calling it “a policy error of historic proportions.” President Clinton chose to ignore these warnings.

Most important to our understanding of the hubris and Machiavellian calculation in U.S. decision-making surrounding the Russia-Ukraine War is the dismissal of the warnings issued by Williams Burns, the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In a cable to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2008, while serving as Ambassador to Russia, Burns wrote of NATO expansion and Ukrainian membership:

“Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region. Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests. Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face.”

The leading security experts then raise a question–Why did the U.S. persist in expanding NATO despite such warnings? Their answer—“Profit from weapons sales was a major factor. Facing opposition to NATO expansion, a group of neoconservatives and top executives of U.S. weapons manufacturers formed the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO. Between 1996 and 1998, the largest arms manufacturers spent $51 million ($94 million today) on lobbying and millions more on campaign contributions. With this largesse, NATO expansion quickly became a done deal, after which U.S. weapons manufacturers sold billions of dollars of weapons to the new NATO members. So far, the U.S. has sent $30 billion worth of military gear and weapons to Ukraine, with total aid to Ukraine exceeding $100 billion. War, it’s been said, is a racket, one that is highly profitable for a select few.”

Hence, the experts conclude regrettably, “NATO expansion, in sum, is a key feature of a militarized U.S. foreign policy characterized by unilateralism featuring regime change and preemptive wars. Failed wars, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, have produced slaughter and further confrontation, a harsh reality of America’s own making. The Russia-Ukraine War has opened a new arena of confrontation and slaughter. This reality is not entirely of our own making, yet it may well be our undoing, unless we dedicate ourselves to forging a diplomatic settlement that stops the killing and defuses tensions.”

The statement ends with a call for hope, “Let’s make America a force for peace in the world.”

This statement has been signed by

Dennis Fritz, Director, Eisenhower Media Network;
Matthew Hoh, Associate Director, Eisenhower Media Network;
William J. Astore, Lieutenant Colonel, US Air Force (retired)
Karen Kwiatkowski, Lieutenant Colonel, US Air Force (retired)
Dennis Laich, Major General, US Army (retired)
Jack Matlock, U.S. Ambassador to the U.S.S.R., 1987-91;
Todd E. Pierce, Major, Judge Advocate, U.S. Army (retired)
Coleen Rowley, Special Agent, FBI (retired)
Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor at Columbia University
Christian Sorensen, Former Arabic linguist, US Air Force
Chuck Spinney, Retired Engineer/Analyst, Office of Secretary of Defense
Winslow Wheeler, National security adviser to four Republican and Democratic US
Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Colonel, US Army (retired)
Ann Wright, Colonel, US Army (retired) and former US diplomat.

In order to let people form a good idea of what has happening in this context over the years, this statement has also provided a timeline

1990 – U.S. assures Russia that NATO will not expand towards its border “…there would be no extension of…NATO one inch to the east,” says US Secretary of State James Baker.

1996 – U.S. weapons manufacturers form the Committee to Expand NATO, spending over $51 million lobbying Congress.

1997 – 50 foreign policy experts including former senators, retired military officers and diplomats sign an open letter stating NATO expansion to be “a policy error of historic proportions.”

1999 – NATO admits Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to NATO. U.S. and NATO bomb Russia’s ally, Serbia.

2001 – U.S. unilaterally withdraws from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

2004 – Seven more Eastern European nations join NATO. NATO troops are now directly on Russia’s border.

2004 – Russia’s parliament passed a resolution denouncing NATO’s expansion. Putin responded by saying that Russia would “build our defense and security policy correspondingly.”

2008 – NATO leaders announced plans to bring Ukraine and Georgia, also on Russia’s borders, into NATO.

2009 – U.S. announced plans to put missile systems into Poland and Romania.

2014 – Legally elected Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, fled violence to Moscow. Russia views ouster as a coup by U.S. and NATO nations.

2016 – U.S. begins troop buildup in Europe.

2019 – U.S. unilaterally withdraws from Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.

2020 – U.S. unilaterally withdraws from Open Skies Treaty.

2021 – Russia submits negotiation proposals while sending more forces to the border with Ukraine. U.S. and NATO officials reject the Russian proposals immediately.

Feb 24, 2022 – Russia invades Ukraine, starting the Russia-Ukraine War.

This statement was also published as an advertisement in the New York Times to ensure that it reaches more people. This advertisement was paid for by the Eisenhower Media Network, a project of People Power Initiatives.

It is very important that the USA government as well as media should give adequate attention to these important views expressed by several top USA security experts, diplomats, former ambassadors and other distinguished and well-infirmed citizens of the USA.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders, Man over Machine and A Day in 2071.


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