In view of the upcoming summit in Washington between President Biden and Ukrainian President Zelensky, it is important to analyze the U.S. geopolitical strategy toward that country and see if it serves the best interests of the American people — and, for that matter, of the Ukrainians.
Here are some introductory points.
As a result of the Soviet Union’s collapse, its 15 former republics became independent states, Ukraine among them. Free from the communist yoke, having strong industrial and agricultural sectors, a favorable climate and fertile land, Ukraine — the place of my birth — had great potential to become one of the most prosperous European nations. Effective anti-corruption reforms, a certain level of autonomy for the regions with a large Russian ethnic population, two-state languages and neutral status with no membership in any military blocs would have made Ukraine, if not a new Switzerland, then definitely a happy and prosperous state. There would have been no civil war, and Donbass and Crimea would still be part of Ukraine.
However, some inside and outside forces had a different agenda, which resulted in the current tragedy, the loss of life and territory, the rise of radical nationalism, a neo-Nazi movement and vast economic devastation. Add to this tragedy that millions of skilled workers were forced to leave their country searching for manual jobs in foreign lands to survive and support their families.
In addition, Ukraine is now one of the major negative factors in both U.S. domestic and foreign policies. President Trump’s impeachment in the House, the embarrassing scandal involving President Biden‘s son Hunter, an increasing threat of nuclear war with Russia — all these problems and more have Ukrainian connections.
The list of those responsible for this tragedy is long, but sadly Washington finds itself in the front row. Russia is obviously another major player, but its actions are mostly reactions to U.S. policies that Moscow views as attempts to encircle Russia through NATO expansion to turn Ukraine into an anti-Russian strategic beachhead. Billions of U.S. taxpayer funds have been poured into Ukraine exactly for this purpose.
Geopolitics is a cynical enterprise, but since those who implement it claim the adherence to sacred Western values, it would be hard to justify that turning two nations bound by centuries-old religious, family, cultural and economic ties into enemies correspond with Western and, for that matter, Judeo-Christian values. Regrettably, we do not see any criticism of this policy from U.S. human rights, Jewish or Christian organizations claiming to share these values.
The West has long dreamed of splitting Ukraine from Russia. The insight into this maneuver was expressed over a century ago by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, to whom historians attribute the following phrase: “The power of Russia could be undermined by separating Ukraine from it.” This understanding was expressed by Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who argued that “without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.”
At the same time, some experts saw the collapse of Soviet communism as a historical chance to bring Russia into the Western fold. One of them was Paul Weyrich, the late founder of the Free Congress Foundation. I mentioned Paul because he had direct access to President George H.W. Bush, to whom he presented these ideas. Bush was interested and later talked about forming a security arch from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
Moreover, in August 1991, before the collapse of the USSR, Bush went to Ukraine. He delivered a speech at the parliament, the Supreme Rada, warning that “Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.”
However, after Bush lost reelection in 1992, all this rhetoric was dismissed and Washington returned to Brzezinski’s vision on U.S. policy toward Ukraine, which was not only splitting it from Russia but also making it anti-Russia.
Enter Zelensky, a comic actor who made people laugh by telling jokes and playing piano on comedy shows with his pants down. Now he is trying to play a “wag the dog” game on the international stage by seeking to drag America and Europe into his conflict with Russia, even at the risk of starting World War III.
Everyone talks about the Minsk accords as the road map to peace, but neither Brussels nor Washington criticizes Zelensky when he openly demands renegotiations of these accords. He is also pushing for the constituent summit of the “Crimean Platform.”
The goal is to increase international pressure on Russia and eventually force it to abandon the peninsula even when, according to all polls, the overwhelming number of Crimean citizens want to be part of Russia.
Actually, Crimea for centuries was a part of the Tsarist Russian Empire and Russian Federation in the USSR. Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev transferred it as a gift in 1954 for the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s unification with Russia. No one asked the opinions of the Crimean people. The general secretary of the Communist Party followed the feudal rules of kings and tsars that all land was held by monarchs, who could grant it to anyone they wished together with serfs, cottars and slaves.
Therefore, this platform is a useless exercise because Crimea is a red line that Russia will never allow to be crossed. The recent incident in which the British destroyer HMS Defender was chased out of Crimean waters is clear proof of this fact. Do Americans want to fight with Russia over Crimea?
Other insane voices in Ukraine are calling for the production of nuclear weapons. They are blackmailing NATO countries that are delaying Ukraine’s entry to this organization with the threat that Kyiv might “perhaps also consider its nuclear status.”
So, we might soon face another Frankenstein monster similar to the Taliban or worse. The Taliban, let us recall, was created by the U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as an outgrowth of the jihad against the Soviets but then turned against America. The devastating and hugely embarrassing results of the 20-year war in Afghanistan are now on full display.
Something similar is going on in Ukraine with the growing influence of neo-Nazis and increasing numbers of American military personnel and equipment on Ukrainian territory at a time when potential conflict with Russia can quickly turn into full-scale war.
When Biden meets Zelensky, he should tell him that instead of trying to drag America into yet another potentially suicidal war, Ukraine should fulfill its obligations under the Minsk accords, abandon its NATO aspirations and enter into full-scale economic and security negotiations with Russia.
This would be the best choice for both the United States and Ukraine, but it’s not likely that the “deep state,” which actually runs U.S. foreign policy, would allow Biden to do that. So let us tighten our seat belts. We may be in for a rough ride.
• Edward Lozansky is president of American University in Moscow.
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