Australian news, and some related international items

Common Security Approaches to Resolve the Ukraine and European Crises

Common Security Approaches to Resolve the Ukraine and European Crises23.01.22 – United States – Abolition 2000   Pressenza, By Joseph Gerson* 23 Jan 22,

We have been bombarded by news reports and announcements from President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent. On January 18, as he prepared to leave for Kyiv, Berlin and Geneva, Secretary of State Blinken, said “We’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine.” A day later President Biden announced that he expected Russian President Putin to order an invasion. And both backed their fear inducing warnings with the less than fully accurate claim of NATO unity and the threat that a Russian invasion of Ukraine will be met with “severe, and united response.”

Remarkably, across Europe, there has been a relative absence of fears of an imminent Russian invasion. The belief there is that the 100,000 troops Russia has deployed along its borders with Ukraine are a negotiation ploy. And when Secretary Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov met in Geneva they committed to future diplomacy.

This has been a totally unnecessary crisis, fueled in large measure by U.S. insistence on maintaining NATO’s “open door” policy, when the reality is that there is no way that France or Germany will agree to Ukraine becoming a NATO member state. Resolution of the crisis could be hastened were President Biden or Secretary Blinken to state the obvious: “We understand there are deep insecurities on all sides. Given that our allies are in no hurry to welcome Ukraine into NATO, we propose a moratorium on new NATO memberships. Beyond that, we look forward to a range of constructive negotiations to establish an enduring Eurasian security framework for the 21st century.”

Such a statement would bring all the contending forces back from the brink. Instead, U.S. insistence on maintaining the possibility of Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO is exacerbating the multifaceted crisis.

The crisis has been years in the making. In 1990, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Paris Charter, signed by 34 heads of state, “ushered in a new era as states made an unprecedented commitment to domestic individual freedoms, democratic governance, human rights, and transnational cooperation.”

[i] Seven years later, it was followed by the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which enshrined commitments to equal security and to not seek security at the expense of the other’s security. And in 1999 the OSCE’s European Security Charter its member states committed “not to strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other States.”

More than Ukraine’s uncertain fate, it is the violation of these commitments to create a post-Cold War European security order that lies at the heart of the current dangerous crisis. Malcolm X would have said, the chickens have come home to roost.

Rather than acknowledge and compensate for errors made along the way, U.S. and NATO leaders’ arrogant inability to acknowledge legitimate Russian security concerns have precipitated what is termed the Ukraine crisis. It is actually a trans-European crisis. Contrary to all sides’ harsh public rhetoric, a near-term Russian invasion of Ukraine appears to be unlikely. But it could be triggered by an unintended incident, accident, or miscalculation.

There are realpolitik and Common Security diplomatic options that could resolve the crisis and build on the Paris Charter and the NATO-Russia Founding Agreement. They have been advocated by Former U.S. ambassador to Russia James Matlock and in off the record Track II discussions among other U.S., Russian, and European former officials and security analysts.

Three interrelated crises – not one

Developing mutually beneficial diplomatic solutions requires disaggregating what is commonly presented as a single crisis. We are, unfortunately, confronted by at least three entwined crises, not one: (1) The struggle between Galician (western) and Russian-oriented (eastern) Ukrainians over Ukraine’s identity and its future; (2) the crisis in Russian-Ukrainian relations, which has deep historic roots; (3) competing ambitions of two empires that are in decline (U.S. and Russia) to reinforce their power and influence across Europe, compounded by the inability of European nations to create an enduring post-Cold War security system.

Ukraine’s Identity Crisis: Given stark divisions in the United States, which date to 1619, our civil war, and across the 20th century, we should appreciate the histories that reverberate across Ukrainian culture and politics. For those wanting detail, Richard Sakwa’s Frontline Ukraine is an excellent resource. In short, Kievan Rus’ and its 988 conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy lie at the foundation of the Russian nation. In the 1400s, Ukraine became part of the Lithuanian and later Polish empires. As a consequence, those in the Galician west are predominantly Catholic, Western oriented, and Ukrainian speakers, while those in the east are primarily Russian Orthodox, Russian oriented, and Russian speakers. In pursuit of creating a warm water port for a Black Sea fleet, Russia’s Catherine the Great annexed Crimea in 1783. and during three Russo-Turkic wars and divisions of Poland during her rule, Ukraine fell fully under Russian control.

In the 20th century, millions of Ukrainians died of starvation in the 1920s as a consequences of Stalin’s brutal agricultural collectivization. With no love for the Soviets or Russia, anti-Soviet forces in eastern Ukraine allied with Hitler and joined his devasting march to the east. The first major Holocaust massacre of Jews was inflicted at Babi Yar, a ravine near Kyiv. At war’s end, Ukraine was re-unified with the Soviet Union, with Khrushchev transferring Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became an independent state, surrendering the arsenal of Soviet nuclear weapons that had been left behind in exchange for solemn Russian, U.S., and European commitments to honor Ukraine’s territorial integrity…………………………

Russia & Ukraine: The Russian-Ukrainian dimension of the crisis speaks for itself. Kiev was central to the creation of the Russian nation a millennium ago. Eastern Ukraine remained an integral element of the Russian and Soviet empires for centuries……….

………Most Russians believe the Crimea and eastern Ukraine are inherently Russian, and more than a few extend Russian claims to Kyiv.

Most Ukrainians and much of the world don’t share this perspective. There is a long history of Ukrainian resistance to Russian dominance and rule.

…………..  Gorbachev’s refusal to intervene to preserve Soviet East European clients and the breaching of the Berlin wall marked the end of Yalta’s division of Europe. Russia’s buffer against the West disappeared, ushering in a period of hope and uncertainty. For a brief period, building on the Common Security paradigm (the understanding that security cannot be achieved against a rival nation, but only with the rival) that laid the foundation for the end of the Cold War and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty), and reinforced by the 1990 and 1997 accords, a vision of a common house of Europe prevailed.

This vision and the commitments were shattered when President’s Clinton and George W Bush took advantage of Russia’s immediate post-Soviet chaos and weakness by extending NATO to the East. The German Reunification Treaty had earlier been negotiated on the condition that no NATO forces would be based in eastern Germany. Pledges made by President Bush and Secretary of State Baker in the course of the negotiations to the effect that NATO would not move a centimeter closer to Russia led the Russian elite to believe these U.S. commitments. That Gorbachev failed to get these commitments in writing is rued by Russians in the know to this day.

Notably, the author of the United States’ Cold War containment doctrine, George Kennan, warned at the time that expanding NATO to Russia’s border would trigger a new Cold War. ……..

……   In the decades that followed, the NATO alliance reached Russia. U.S. and German troops are now based and conduct exercises along Russia’s borders.

………. There is a pro-Western government in Kyiv. And NATO signaled possible future Ukrainian and Georgian membership, while NATO forces conduct exercises along Russia’s border, and U.S. naval and air forces are pressing against Russia across the Baltic and Black Seas. It should thus be no surprise that Putin has responded in the tradition of the best defense being a good offense.

………. Putin has now challenged the U.S., NATO and certainly Ukraine by surrounding the country from three sides with 100,000 troops and which are arguably in a position to conquer all or part of that nation.

……………………  while President Biden and NATO have for the moment ruled out a military counterattack should Russia invade Ukraine, nothing is certain in war. Just as unanticipated gunshots triggered an unwanted World War in 1914, today an incident, accident or miscalculation, compounded by powerful nationalist forces, could lead to wider, great power, and potentially nuclear war.

Fortunately, Russian diplomats have repeated that Russia does not intend to invade Ukraine, and diplomacy remains the order of the day.

Common security alternatives

We may be horrified by Putin’s authoritarian rule and by Russia’s past military aggression and today’s implied threats. That doesn’t make them go away. The reality is that the U.S., Russia, and many of their allies have been practicing international relations in the tradition of Mafia dons. President Biden’s and Secretary of State Blinken’s arrogant, stiff necked, anti-historical, and ultimately self-defeating insistence on holding to the fantasy of possible future Ukrainian NATO membership only deepens the compounded crisis. When elephants fight, they threaten not only one another, but the ants and grass beneath them. Someone is bound to be hurt.

The Biden Administration would do well to begin by stating that in the face of the West’s violations of the Paris Charter, the NATO-Russia Founding Act, and the understandings that NATO would not move another centimeter eastward, the U.S. acknowledges that Russians have more than a little reason on their side.

Despite the bellicose tone of the public rhetoric and propaganda that preceded and has followed recent diplomatic encounters, some progress has been made. For the first time in two years there have been something approaching open and “business like”—if not warm—exchanges. All sides’ red lines have been clearly identified. Behind closed doors, there is increasing recognition that resolution of the crisis will require reciprocity in future negotiations on the range of outstanding issues. And commitments for future negotiations have been made.

Winston Churchill, racist, colonialist, and alcoholic though he was, had it right when he said that “jaw-jaw is better that war-war.” Difficult and complex though the challenges of this moment may be, with rationale and Common Security diplomacy, this crisis can be transformed into an opportunity………..

As former U.S. ambassador to Russia James Matlock and others have advised, there is an obvious solution to the Ukraine crisis: Building from the Minsk II agreement that made the 2014 ceasefire possible, U.S., Russian, Ukrainian, and European negotiations should lead to the creation of a neutral and federated Ukrainian state………………….

As former U.S. ambassador to Russia James Matlock and others have advised, there is an obvious solution to the Ukraine crisis: Building from the Minsk II agreement that made the 2014 ceasefire possible, U.S., Russian, Ukrainian, and European negotiations should lead to the creation of a neutral and federated Ukrainian state………..

In the above mentioned Track II discussions, a host of other possible options, compromises and processes to address broader Eurasian insecurities have been identified. We can hope that they are embraced by those in power and serve as the basis for future negotiations. 

They include:

  • With Russia insisting on permanently banning Ukrainian NATO membership, and both France and Germany opposed to Ukraine joining the alliance, the Biden Administration could save face by agreeing to a moratorium on new NATO memberships for the next 15 years. This commitment could be extended by mutual agreement after that. A model for such an agreement would be the European Union’s functional moratorium on consideration of Turkey’s application for E.U. membership.
  • Moldova, and Georgia, as well as Ukraine could become neutral states.
  • While reaffirming Russia’s sovereign right to deploy its military forces wherever it deems appropriate WITHIN Russia, there could be an agreement by both sides to limit military exercises and border patrols.
  • Renewed arms control negotiations, beginning with renewal of the INF and Open Skies treaties,
  • no deployment of NATO conventional or nuclear strike forces in countries bordering Russia and moving to major reductions of their omnicidal nuclear arsenals.

A former senior U.S. military officer, now a scholar at a leading U.S. university notes that there would be advantages for the U.S. and NATO to use the NATO-Russian Foundation agreement as a mutually beneficial foundation for future agreements. They place limits on Russia’s actions, as well as those of the U.S. and NATO………………..

Europeans involved in these discussions have suggested negotiating agreements on non-deployment of strike forces by either side, negotiating an updated version of the INF Treaty which Trump and then the Russians abandoned, and banning potentially-first strike-related “missile defenses”.

Another world, at least another, more peaceful and just Europe, is possible. We must press for continued commitments to negotiations and do what we can to ensure that rational common security solutions prevail.

*Dr. Joseph Gerson is a member of the Abolition 2000 Global Council and President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security.       The original article can be found here

January 24, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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