The West has set the stage for its lack of options over Ukraine
Stephen Kinzer has a somewhat contrarian take on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, namely that our anticommunist intransigence has forced Russian and China into uniting in opposition (“How the US brought China and Russia together,” Ideas, Feb. 27).
I am no fan of Russia’s long line of antidemocratic leaders, but I am also not a fan of the long line of American hawks who have controlled our politics. Pushing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization up to the borders of Russia over the last several decades was shortsighted and arrogant. Given our hypocrisy about interfering in other countries’ affairs (Vietnam, Iraq, South and Central America, etc.) and our almost religious (maybe not “almost”) public despising of Russia and China, it is not surprising that we have set the stage for our lack of options in Ukraine. I think Kinzer is completely correct in his analysis.
Faced with a deranged but not entirely incomprehensible Vladimir Putin, who still has nuclear weapons, we are reduced to making financial threats against someone who has been salting away national and personal financial assets for years.
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Perhaps we can only hope that the Ukrainian military can keep the Russians at bay through guerilla warfare. Meanwhile, as Kinzer points out, there is little hope for any help from China.
At the same time, I don’t think Putin is above using the Chernobyl containment barrier as a terrifying threat.
American and NATO policy has been arrogant and unheeding of all these realities and possibilities for half a century, and the West is now boxed into a situation I don’t think it can control. We will wait and see while we hope for the best.
Are we supposed to just give up the fight over democracy and human rights?
Is Stephen Kinzer unconcerned about policies of China and Russia that undermine human rights, democracy, and international law and that define the goals of their societies? He seems to believe that our ignoring their records on rights will make it possible to begin a good-faith policy with Russia and China to “confront the threat of climate change, prevent the emergence of another pandemic, and end nuclear proliferation.” It is unbelievable that anyone could think such a thing given the horrific invasion of Ukraine and its support by China through economic ties.
Kinzer writes of anti-Russia and anti-China US policies that are actually pro-human rights and pro-democracy. Apparently, these concerns are of such minor importance that American policy should not “antagonize this immense bloc” of Russia and China or hold them accountable for their systematic violations.
The previous administration in Washington, with its antidemocratic sympathies, particularly for Russia, showed its embrace of Kinzer’s approach with its desire to dismantle NATO, its praise for Putin, and its disdain for Ukraine. Following the approach Kinzer advocates would only result in more events such as the invasion of Ukraine.
Robert G. Bill