Opinion: Stop the double standard and tell the truth about Ukraine


Published: 06-17-2023 6:00 AM

Allen J. Davis, Ed.D. is an educator and concerned citizen. He lives in Dublin. Tom Weiner taught at the Smith College Campus School for 40 years and is a published author of four books. He has been a peace activist for many years and lives in Northampton.

The first casualty of war, as many have noted, is the truth. This war is no exception.

Why was it acceptable for the U.S. to give an ultimatum to the Soviet Union to remove their missiles from Cuba in 1962, thereby almost igniting a nuclear holocaust? Simply put, President Kennedy proclaimed that Cuba is part of our “sphere of influence” going back to the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. So, why is it not okay for Russia to state that Ukraine, which is on its border, is part of its “sphere of influence?”

The fact is we violated our 1990 commitment not to expand NATO into Russia’s “sphere.” Soviet President Gorbachev was told in 1990 by Secretary of State James Baker that “There would be no extension of…NATO one inch to the east.” (Peter Baker, New York Times, 1/9/22) 

In 1997, George F. Kennan, the architect of our Cold War “containment policy,” warned that NATO’s eastward movement would be “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold war era.” (“A Fateful Error," George Kennan, New York Times Opinion, 2/5/97)

Nevertheless, despite our commitment to not expanding NATO, the eastward expansion began in 1999 when Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic were admitted. NATO then added Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Romania in 2004.

“The inclusion of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia has particularly alarmed the Russians, and Moscow has made little secret of its discomfort,” according to The Guardian. “The concern is about possible threats to Russia’s own security and about the ability of the Americans — the NATO “parent partner” — to operate freely so close to Russia’s borders.”

Incredibly, Russia didn’t retaliate. Could that have led the U.S. and NATO to even more violations of their “sphere?”

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Also, in 2004, William Burns, ambassador to Russia, sent the following classified email to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests,” (“Why Are We In Ukraine,” Benjamin Schwarz and Christopher Layne, Harper’s Magazine, June 2023.)

Despite Russia’s vociferous fears and objections, in 2008 NATO said it would bring in Ukraine and Georgia.

From 1945 to 1990, the U.S. and the Soviet Union respected one another and negotiated agreements countless times, including agreeing secretly to remove our missiles from Turkey in exchange for them taking their missiles out of Cuba and ending the most dangerous nuclear war crisis until now. But, after the fall of the Soviet Union, we decided that it was a unipolar world and the U.S. and NATO would write the geopolitical rules going forward. These dangerous expansions eastward, including our covert role in deposing the duly elected President Yanukovych of Ukraine in 2014, a Russian ally, ultimately provoked Russia to invade Crimea that year and then Ukraine in 2022. U.S. and NATO actions assuredly contributed to the start of the current war.

Instead of the recent decision to deploy F16 fighter planes, which will ultimately just prolong the war and the incalculable suffering, it is past time to resume the diplomacy that prevented war since 1990 in order to prevent the preventable war in Ukraine. Assuming a ceasefire can be negotiated, which is essential, here are potential agreements, proposed by Schwarz and Layne, that could enable a path forward to stop the carnage and avoid a nuclear war, which is more at risk of occurring than at any time since 1962.

“Russia would need to disgorge its post-invasion gains in the Donbas and contribute significantly to an international fund to reconstruct Ukraine. For its part, Ukraine would need to accept the loss of some territory in Luhansk and Donetsk and perhaps submit to an arrangement…that would grant a degree of cultural and local political autonomy to additional Russian-speaking areas of the Donbas. More painfully, Kyiv would need to concede Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea while ceding territory for a land bridge between the peninsula and Russia…Kyiv would need to forswear membership (in NATO) and accept permanent neutrality.”

We urge others to call President Biden and our two senators and congressperson and tell them to negotiate a ceasefire and end this war immediately.