FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Making of a New Cold War

by MELVIN A. GOODMAN

Twenty years ago, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union marked a virtual end to the long-standing military and ideological threat that Moscow represented to the United States.  Instead of “anchoring” Russia to the political and economic architecture of the Western alliance system, which George F. Kennan’s “containment doctrine” endorsed, successive U.S. administrations have not only kept the Kremlin at arm’s length but have drawn the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) closer to Russia itself. This is central to the current crisis over Crimea.

In expanding NATO, the United States has been guilty of betraying a guarantee that Secretary of State James Baker gave to Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in 1990, when the United States stated that it would not “leapfrog” over East Germany to place U.S. military forces in East Europe in the wake of the Soviet military withdrawal from Germany.  The administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ignored that commitment when the United States sponsored the entry of eight former Warsaw Pact members as well as three former Soviet Republics into NATO.  The Obama administration, meanwhile, appears ignorant of the geopolitical context of its foreign policies, which have not taken this betrayal into account in the Crimean crisis.

President Clinton seemingly had no appreciation of the great difficulty involved in Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s acceptance of the unification of Germany and German membership in NATO in view of Russian historical memories and huge World War II losses.  One of the few sources of Soviet pride in foreign policy was the Soviet defeat of the German Wehrmacht, which was the key to the U.S. and British victory on the Western front.  Three-fourths of the German Army fought on the Eastern front, and three-fourths of German losses took place on the Eastern front.  U.S. diplomats and academics, particularly those with expertise in European policy and the Soviet Union such as George Kennan, made a valiant effort to convince President Clinton that the expansion of NATO was bad strategic policy.  Even members of the administration, including deputy secretary of defense Bill Perry, tried to dissuade the president from his strategic blunder.  In using military power against Serbia in the 1990s, Clinton seemed to have no idea of the long historical ties between Russia and Serbia.

President Bush made significant contributions to the alienation of the new Russian leadership by sponsoring NATO membership for former Soviet Republics (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania); abrogating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was the cornerstone of strategic deterrence; and deploying a national missile defense system in California and Alaska.  The Bush administration’s disdain for multilateral diplomacy and arms control, as well as its reliance on the use of force, particularly the unnecessary war against Iraq, angered the Russian leadership as well as many European leaders.  President Bush explained that national missile defense as well as the regional missile defense in East Europe would not be aimed at Russia, but rather  the “world’s least-responsible states,” which the president did not name.  Of course, no one in the Kremlin believed him.

The Bush administration was a welcome relief to the neoconservative community and a warning to Russia.  The appointment of right-wing ideologues, who brandished a deep animosity to the Russian state, included Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretaries of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, CIA director Porter Goss as well as such Pentagon luminaries as Douglas Feith, William Luti, and Abram Shulsky.

In his memoir “Duty,” Gates prides himself for opposing any improved relations with Russia, since “making the Russians happy wasn’t exactly on my to-do list.”  During meetings with his Russian military counterparts, Gates passed a childish and churlish note to Secretary of State Condi Rice stating “I’d forgotten how much I really don’t like these guys.” President Bush even favored the expansion of NATO into Ukraine and Georgia, and U.S. military support for Georgia played a significant role in the five-day war between Russia and Georgia in 2008.

President Obama initially received some credit for pushing the “reset” button in relations with Russia, but it was soon obvious that the button was simply symbolic and that no effort was being made to institutionalize bilateral relations.  The Obama administration also ignored Secretary of State Baker’s verbal commitment against “leapfrogging” over a united Germany by basing U.S. fighter jets in Poland as well as favoring the deployment of a sophisticated regional missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic.  He is using the Crimea crisis to base additional fighter jets in Poland and is considering the expansion of fighter patrols over the Baltic States.

At present, there is no U.S. ambassador in Russia, and Secretary of State John Kerry has been holding talks with his Russian counterpart without any senior Russian experts at his side.  The intemperate remarks of Kerry’s assistant secretary of state for European affairs last month as the crisis in Kiev was worsening speaks to the lack of diplomatic experience at Foggy Bottom.

During the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, a former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union played a key role in convincing President John F. Kennedy that, if the United States gave Moscow some diplomatic room, the Kremlin would find a way to withdraw its missiles and bombers from Cuba–and thus avoid a military confrontation.  In the Crimean crisis, President Obama seems to be unnecessarily accommodating the right-wing criticism of his administration from politicians and pundits instead of finding a diplomatic solution to the current imbroglio.  If the United States offered guarantees against the further expansion of NATO and invited Russia to take part in a multilateral economic aid program for beleaguered Ukraine, then it is possible that President Vladimir Putin would find a way to lower the Russian military presence in the Crimea.  In the meantime, the U.S. reliance on modest military steps, travel bans, and economic sanctions will not bring any favorable change to the situation on the ground in Crimea.  These steps will only worsen the crisis in the Ukraine and ensure that the United States and Russia cannot discuss important geopolitical matters on arms control and disarmament, nonproliferation, and counter-terrorism, which finds them essentially in agreement.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and an adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  He was a CIA analyst from 1966 to 1990, and a professor of international security at the National War College from 1986 to 2004.  His most recent books include “National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism” and “The Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA. 

 

More articles by:

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. His latest book is A Whistleblower at the CIA. (City Lights Publishers, 2017).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

Weekend Edition
November 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jonathan Cook
From an Open Internet, Back to the Dark Ages
Linda Pentz Gunter
A Radioactive Plume That’s Clouded in Secrecy
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Fires This Time
Nick Alexandrov
Birth of a Nation
Vijay Prashad
Puerto Rico: Ruined Infrastructure and a Refugee Crisis
Peter Montague
Men in Power Abusing Women – What a Surprise!
Kristine Mattis
Slaves and Bulldozers, Plutocrats and Widgets
Pete Dolack
Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking
Mike Whitney
ISIS Last Stand; End Times for the Caliphate
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness, Part Two
James Munson
Does Censoring Undemocratic Voices Make For Better Democracy?
Brian Cloughley
The Influence of Israel on Britain
Jason Hickel
Averting the Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica
Pepe Escobar
How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads
Jan Oberg
Why is Google’s Eric Schmidt So Afraid?
Ezra Rosser
Pushing Back Against the Criminalization of Poverty
Kathy Kelly
The Quality of Mercy
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Gerry Brown
Myanmar Conflict: Geopolitical Food Chain
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Robert Redford’s Big Game in Nairobi
Katrina Kozarek
Venezuela’s Communes: a Great Social Achievement
Zoltan Grossman
Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry
Binoy Kampmark
History, Law and Ratko Mladić
Tommy Raskin
Why Must We Sanction Russia?
Bob Lord
Trump’s Tax Plan Will Cost a Lot More Than Advertised
Ralph Nader
National Democratic Party – Pole Vaulting Back into Place
Julian Vigo
If Sexual Harassment and Assault Were Treated Like Terrorism
Russell Mokhiber
Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics
Louis Proyect
The Witchfinders
Ted Rall
Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics
Anna Meyer
Your Tax Dollars are Funding GMO Propaganda
Barbara Nimri Aziz
An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Graham Peebles
What Price Humanity? Systemic Injustice, Human Suffering
Kim C. Domenico
To Not Walk Away: the Challenge of Compassion in the Neoliberal World
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Giving Thanks for Our Occupation of America?
Christy Rodgers
The First Thanksgiving
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power”
David Yearsley
On the Road to Rochester, By Bike
November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail