Bill Clinton’s Epic Double-Cross: How "Not An Inch" Brought NATO To Russia’s Border

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Submitted by David Stockman via Contra Corner blog,

American foreign policy is mindlessly driven by the machinery of our Warfare State - a vast accretion of economic, diplomatic, spying and military capabilities which are ceaselessly in search of missions and justifications for their colossal call on the nation’s resources. If you don’t believe that just read Ray McGovern’s succinct summary below of the US’s epic double-cross of Russia on NATO.

It began as a pledge by the first Bush Administration to Gorbachev that in return for German unification and liberation of the “captive nations” there would be “not an inch” of NATO expansion. It ended up its opposite, and for no plausible reason of American security whatsoever. In fact, NATO went on to draft nearly the entire former “Warsaw Pact”, expanding its membership by 12 nations. So doing, it encroached thousands of kilometers from its old Cold War boundaries to the very doorstep of Russia.

So what was the grand logic by which the safety and security of the good folks living in Bangor ME, Lincoln NE and Spokane WA would be enhanced by the addition of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Slovakia and Slovenia, among others, to our military shield against, well, no identifiable industrial state enemy?  In Dustin Hoffman’s epigrammatic style, it was fear of one word: Wimp!

That’s right. Bill Clinton came to Washington fresh from wandering the Ozarks for 20 years after his stint as a Rhodes Scholar - and with no clue about the post-cold war world which had suddenly emerged after the fall of the Berlin wall. Accordingly, he was a sitting duck for catcalls from neocon Republicans and spurious platitudes from the national security bureaucracy about “nation-building” and  America’s post-war role as the “indispensable” keeper of the peace.

So as McGovern explains, Clinton just unilaterally cast aside the solemn pledges to freeze NATO at its existing borders that had been made by President Bush and Secretary Baker. In making these pledges the latter represented a world-wise generation that had experienced the long, costly, perilous cold war twilight and had recognized the profound opportunity for a fresh start that had fallen upon the world when the Soviet Union disintegrated.

By contrast, Clinton didn’t want to face re-election against the hawkish Bob Dole and be stuck with the foreign policy “wimp” tag:

From the campaign trail on Oct. 22, 1996, two weeks before he defeated Bob Dole for a second term as president, Bill Clinton used NATO enlargement to advertise his assertiveness in foreign policy and America’s status as the “world’s indispensable nation.” Clinton bragged about proposing NATO enlargement at his first NATO summit in 1994, saying it “should enlarge steadily, deliberately, openly.” He never explained why.

The startling thing in hindsight is that many of America’s most respected and experienced cold war thinkers saw the absolute folly of NATO expansion long before a single former member of the Soviet bloc had been added. The father of the “containment” doctrine and the original instigator of Truman’s excessively and unfortunately aggressive anti-Soviet policy, George Kennan, had no doubt about the distilled lessons of half a century:

Clinton made what quintessential Russian specialist Ambassador George Kennan called a “fateful error.” Writing in the New York Times on Feb. 5, 1997, Kennan asserted: “Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.”

 

“Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”

Needless to say, Kennan could not have been more clairvoyant. Yet wisdom and analysis were impotent in the face of the inexorable drive of the Warfare State to perpetuate itself. Indeed, once the process of NATO expansion was set in motion by Clinton’s feckless campaign sloganeering, it took on the aura of United Way membership drive: Any nation east of the old cold war boundaries that had a flag and a couple of generals was fair game.

This mindless drive was eventually extended by George W.Bush’s neocon warmongers to encompass former constituent parts of the Soviet Union itself, including Stalin’s home province of Georgia and Khrushchev’s homeland in the Ukraine. The Warfare State machinery-minders in the beltway did not get the irony, nor did they heed the dire warnings from saner heads inside the national security bureaucracy itself.

The US ambassador to Moscow in 2008, William Burns, a pedigreed member of the War Party and current Under-Secretary of State, left nothing to the imagination in a dispatch prior to the fateful Bucharest summit in July 2008 in which NATO announced that Georgia and the Ukraine where being invited to join a military alliance against an unspecified enemy:

…we have the text of a State Department cable dated Feb. 1, 2008, from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow bearing the unusual title: “NYET MEANS NYET: RUSSIA’S NATO ENLARGEMENT REDLINES.”

As it turned out, Burn’s cable was just as clairvoyant as Kennan’s warning a decade earlier. He foresaw Ukrainian upheaval and civil war along almost the precise vectors which are unfolding today:

“Summary. Following a muted first reaction to Ukraine’s intent to seek a NATO membership action plan at the [upcoming] Bucharest summit, Foreign Minister Lavrov and other senior officials have reiterated strong opposition, stressing that Russia would view further eastward expansion as a potential military threat. NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine, remains ‘an emotional and neuralgic’ issue for Russia, but strategic policy considerations also underlie strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.

 

“In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.”

That was written in mid-2008, not mid-February of this year. Some future historian will doubtless wonder, therefore, about the next events in this baleful evolution. After all, six months later the “peace” candidate did win!

No matter. Barrack Obama quickly performed the beltway pivot and soon populated his government with leading lights of the War Party including Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton.

The rest is history. Not only was the utterly pointless expansion of NATO never re-considered, its aggressive encroachment on Russia’s borders was actually intensified by the current administration.

There is an underlying lesson here. It matters not a wit what candidates for President say about foreign policy or America’s role in the world. So long as the current massive Warfare State machinery is left in place, and fed by upwards of $900 billion per year in fiscal rations, it will determine policy, not the voters and not the officials they elect.

So the only platform that would make any difference in the future is the “dismantlement platform”.  That is, a campaign to: withdraw from NATO and liquidate it; shutdown entirely obsolete institutions like Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the National Endowment for Democracy and the military and civilian aid bureaucracies; drastically curtail the NSA/CIA/DIA/spy state apparatus; and, of course, drastically demobilize and defund the Pentagon’s machinery of power projection and wars of invasion and occupation.

Absent a dismantlement of the Warfare State machinery, giant policy errors like the Bill Clinton’s double-cross on NATO and Obama’s foolish present confrontation with Putin are nearly guaranteed to recur.

How NATO Jabs Russia On Ukraine

By Ray McGovern

 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov used Wednesday’s interview with Bloomberg News to address the overriding issue regarding the future of Ukraine, at least from Moscow’s perspective. Speaking in fluent English, he said Russia would be “categorically against” Ukraine joining NATO.

Lavrov said he welcomed the interviewer’s question regarding whether Ukraine can be part of NATO, recognizing it as a chance to shoehorn background information into the interview. It was an opportunity to explain Moscow’s position to a wide English-speaking international audience – first and foremost Americans. His comments seemed partly aimed at those so malnourished on “mainstream media” that they might be learning the history of NATO enlargement for the first time. Lavrov said:

“In my view, it all started … back in the 1990s, when in spite of all the pronouncements about how the Cold War was over and that there should be no winners – yet, NATO looked upon itself as a winner.”

Lavrov said U.S. and NATO reneged on a series of commitments: not to enlarge the Alliance; then (after NATO was expanded contrary to that commitment), not to deploy substantial forces on the territories of new NATO members; and then not to move NATO infrastructure to the Russian border.

“All these commitments have been, to one degree or another, violated,” said Lavrov, adding that “attempts to draw Ukraine into NATO would have a negative impact on the entire system of European security.” Lavrov said Russia’s national security interests and 25 years of recent history make this a key problem, not only for Ukraine and NATO, but also “an issue of Russia.”

Is Lavrov distorting the history? The answer is important – the more so inasmuch as the information needed to form cogent judgments is rarely found in the U.S. “mainstream media.” What happened in the months immediately before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9/10, 1989, is key to understanding Russia’s attitude now.

No Dancing

To his credit, President George H. W. Bush sent a reassuring message to the Soviets, saying, “I will not dance on the Berlin wall.” And just three weeks after it fell, Bush flew to Malta for a two-day summit with Gorbachev.

At a joint press conference on Dec. 3, 1989, Gorbachev said, “We are at the beginning of a long road to a lasting, peaceful era. The threat of force, mistrust, psychological and ideological struggle should all be things of the past.”

In the same vein, Bush spoke of a new future just begun “right here in Malta” – one of lasting peace and enduring East-West cooperation. This came just six months after Bush had publicly called in a major speech in Mainz, West Germany, for “a Europe whole and free.” At the time it did not seem one had to be Pollyanna to hope that flesh could be pinned to the bones of that rhetoric.

According to Jack Matlock, then-U.S. ambassador to the U.S.S.R. who took part in the Malta summit, the most basic agreement involved (1) Gorbachev’s pledge not to use force in Eastern Europe where the Russians had 24 divisions (some 350,000 troops) in East Germany alone, and (2) Bush’s promise not to “take advantage” of a Soviet withdrawal from Eastern Europe.

In early February 1990, Bush sent Secretary of State James Baker to work out the all-important details directly with Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Ambassador Matlock again was there and took careful notes on the negotiations, which focused on German reunification.

From memory, Matlock told me that Baker tried to convince Gorbachev that it was in Moscow’s interest to let a united Germany remain in NATO. Matlock recalled that Baker began his argument saying something like, “Assuming there is no expansion of NATO jurisdiction to the East, not one inch, what would you prefer, a Germany embedded in NATO, or one that can go independently in any direction it chooses.” [emphasis added]

The implication was that Germany might just opt to acquire nuclear weapons, were it not anchored in NATO. Gorbachev answered that he took Baker’s argument seriously, and wasted little time in agreeing to the deal.

Ambassador Matlock, one of the most widely respected experts on Russia, told me “the language used was absolute, and the entire negotiation was in the framework of a general agreement that there would be no use of force by the Soviets and no ‘taking advantage’ by the U.S.”

He added, “I don’t see how anybody could view the subsequent expansion of NATO as anything but ‘taking advantage,’ particularly since, by then, the U.S.S.R. was no more and Russia was hardly a credible threat.”

In his book Superpower Illusions, Matlock wrote that NATO enlargement was a function of U.S. domestic politics not of foreign policy strategic thinking. It seems he got that right, too.

Tough Guy Clinton

From the campaign trail on Oct. 22, 1996, two weeks before he defeated Bob Dole for a second term as president, Bill Clinton used NATO enlargement to advertise his assertiveness in foreign policy and America’s status as the “world’s indispensable nation.” Clinton bragged about proposing NATO enlargement at his first NATO summit in 1994, saying it “should enlarge steadily, deliberately, openly.” He never explained why.

President Clinton, thus, reneged on the pledges made by Baker to Gorbachev and Shevardnadze. Clinton lamely called upon Russia to view NATO’s enlargement as an arrangement that will “advance the security of everyone.”

Clinton’s tough-guy-ism toward Russia was, in part, a response to even more aggressive NATO plans from Clinton’s Republican opponent Bob Dole, who had been calling for incorporating Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary as full members of NATO and had accused Clinton of “dragging his feet” on this. Clinton was not about to be out-toughed.

Those three countries joined NATO in 1999, starting a trend. By April 2009, nine more countries became members, bringing the post-Cold War additions to 12 – equal to the number of the original 12 NATO states.

Clinton made what quintessential Russian specialist Ambassador George Kennan called a “fateful error.” Writing in the New York Times on Feb. 5, 1997, Kennan asserted: “Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.”

“Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”

If you are the “sole indispensable” country in the world, though, you are sorely tempted not to heed the worrywarts.

Seeds of a Crisis

On Wednesday, Lavrov said the seeds of the current Ukraine crisis were sown in April 2008 during the NATO summit in Bucharest when NATO leaders stated in a declaration that “Georgia and Ukraine will be in NATO.”

Were Lavrov not the consummate diplomat, he might have also told his interviewer that, two months before the Bucharest summit, he had warned U.S. Ambassador to Russia William J. Burns to anticipate a strong Russian reaction to including Ukraine and Georgia in NATO. But diplomats don’t generally permit themselves an “I told you so.”

Thanks to Pvt. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and WikiLeaks, we have the text of a State Department cable dated Feb. 1, 2008, from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow bearing the unusual title: “NYET MEANS NYET: RUSSIA’S NATO ENLARGEMENT REDLINES.”

The IMMEDIATE precedence that the cable bears shows that Ambassador Burns (now Deputy Secretary of State) was addressing a priority issue under active consideration in Washington. Though it was six years ago, Burns interlocutor was the same Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Here is Burns’s introductory summary of his discussions with Lavrov:

“Summary. Following a muted first reaction to Ukraine’s intent to seek a NATO membership action plan at the [upcoming] Bucharest summit, Foreign Minister Lavrov and other senior officials have reiterated strong opposition, stressing that Russia would view further eastward expansion as a potential military threat. NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine, remains ‘an emotional and neuralgic’ issue for Russia, but strategic policy considerations also underlie strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.

“In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.”

Ambassador Burns continued: “Russia has made it clear that it would have to ‘seriously review’ its entire relationship with Ukraine and Georgia in the event of NATO inviting them to join. This could include major impacts on energy, economic, and political-military engagement, with possible repercussions throughout the region and into Central and Western Europe.”

Burns’s closing comment: “Russia’s opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia is both emotional and based on perceived strategic concerns about the impact on Russia’s interest in the region. … While Russian opposition to the first round of NATO enlargement in the mid-1990s was strong, Russia now feels itself able to respond more forcefully to what it perceives as actions contrary to its national interests.”

We don’t know whether Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice read Burns’s prescient remarks, but Lavrov’s warning clearly fell on deaf ears. On April 3, 2008, the NATO summit in Bucharest issued a formal declaration that “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.”

Now, with events quickly spinning out of control in Ukraine, some policymakers need to tell President Obama that there can be even bigger trouble ahead, if Russia’s national security interests are not taken into account.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He came to Washington over 50 years ago and worked as a CIA analyst under seven Presidents, one less than Gates. Ray now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Reprinted with permission from Consortium News.

http://original.antiwar.com/mcgovern/2014/05/15/how-nato-jabs-russia-on-Ukraine/