Over the last year, this blog has presented significant evidence that the prevailing Western view of the Ukrainian crisis has major blind spots which are prolonging the human suffering in that nation, and which also increase the risk of a nuclear disaster. Ronald Reagan’s Ambassador to Moscow, Jack Matlock, has been a valuable resource in my efforts, so I was pleased to see an article in The Nation which reported on a major address he gave last Wednesday. Here are some key excerpts (emphasis added):
Something is amiss, according to the ambassador, when heretofore serious voices in Washington believe that arming Kiev is a relatively consequence-free policy choice because they insist on viewing Russia as “a regional power.” To Matlock’s way of thinking, this is an error of the first order. “No one with ICBM’s is a regional power, not by any means.”
Matlock stressed that his position—that the United States needs to find a modus vivendi with Russia in spite of the crisis in Ukraine—is not driven by any animus towards the Ukrainians, far from it. “I respect and know Ukraine; I know it, its people and its literature,” but we in the West and in the United States in particular need to understand that for Russia, Ukraine is of “existential” importance.
According to the ambassador, who was present at some of the most pivotal discussions between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev during the Cold War’s denouement, the taproot of the current crisis is NATO expansion. … Bush’s promise [to Gorbachev] not to expand the alliance eastward in exchange for the peaceful and orderly withdrawal of Soviet occupying troops in Eastern Europe was, according to Matlock, repeated by nearly all of the alliance members at the time.
I had not seen coverage of Ambassador Matlock’s speech in my daily reading of both the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, and a web search found no coverage from them on line as well. The same was true for the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. This bias on the part of our media results in a dangerous blind spot in our perspective on the Ukrainian crisis. My search did find another article which had more direct quotes from the speech:
The West’s top priority should be to reestablish civil relations with Russia – and ease tensions to minimize the risk of spiraling confrontation. … The most important thing we did in ending the Cold War was cooling the nuclear arms race. If there are any issues for this country to face that are existential, that’s it. … But I’ll tell you, if the United States gets further involved [in Ukraine] … I don’t see how we are going to prevent another nuclear arms race. And that’s what scares me. …
In 1989 and ’90, after declaring their revolution, several Baltic leaders came to me hoping that the U.S. would support their plans, first for autonomy [from the Soviet Union] and then to declare their independence.
And I said, our hearts are with you, but if you declare your independence, we cannot recognize you until you are recognized by the Soviet regime. If we do, then you’re going to be crushed. Either Gorbachev will act to suppress you or he will be removed. And we can’t start a nuclear war over it.
Why we didn’t say that to Ukraine, I don’t know.
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