Foreign Policy has published a woefully outdated and misinformed op-ed this month that has all the paramount features of an apologist tract that completely misreads Ukraine, Russia, and frankly the entire world system.
In just reading the first paragraph, it is clear that the author is still laboring under the aged delusion that NATO expansion in the 2000s somehow spurred the 2022 unprovoked invasion and attempted annexation of Ukraine, with the shocking line “more far-sighted statecraft by the West might have prevented the war in the first place.” That this notion is still being echoed by foreign policy outlets is frankly surprising, as the most obvious expected outcome of the first invasion of a democracy and attempted annexation taking place in Europe since WWII was a scramble by Russia’s other neighbors to join NATO, and hence further NATO enlargement, which is exactly what took place. The suggestion that Putin couldn’t have predicted further NATO expansion after invading his neighbors, and for the author to instead take at face value the self-stated aims of a war criminal aiming to upend the world system should stop reading dated theoretical tracts based off of 20th century notions of pre-nuclear state survival, and take a hard look at the meaning of the word “realism” before claiming that their thinking is consistent with it.
He then goes on to suggest that if Ukraine succeeds, that it will somehow revive neoconservatism, an ideology dead in America for nearly two decades, without a shred of evidence that such policies are even still being entertained in Washington.
His whole false notion, apparently subconsciously echoing the rhetoric out of both Moscow and Beijing, is that the war in Ukraine is reflective of an East-West conflict. This is patently untrue, clearly evidenced by the lines drawn in UN votes. Other than the few rogue states who have directly taken Russia’s side, it is a conflict between those who stay silent in the face of upending the UN Charter, and those who have are willing to criticize Russia. Non-Western states made up the overwhelming majority of those who voted to condemn Russia’s annexation in the last UN vote. When most of the world actually stands opposed to such actions, framing opposition to the illegal invasion and annexation as “the West” versus Russia is an outdated and incredibly slanted narrative.
The most egregious error of all though is the notion that the center of the war in Ukraine is not the preservation of democracy or territorial integrity, nor the maintenance of the world order, but the furtherance of US interests. In the first 48 hours of the conflict, the US attempted to extricate Zelensky, encouraging him to abandon the capital and form a government in exile, which would have essentially allowed his country and military to collapse and Russia to seize Kiev. Only in defiance of those initial US interests did Ukraine resist American weakness and maintain the democracy whose flag still flies today. The US may be the largest arms supplier to Ukraine, but de facto, other than conditionalizing the use of their weapons, the US clearly has virtually no say in how the war ends.
In a line virtually paraphrasing an Elon Musk tweet, “U.S. efforts fail when Washington abandons genuine diplomacy and negotiates on a take-it-or-leave-it basis: issuing ultimatums, ratcheting up sanctions, and rejecting mutually beneficial compromises.” Such a quote leaves the idea unfinished in his rambling stream of consciousness list of grievances what what it appears to imply is that the US, which is not a party to this military conflict, should negotiate over the heads of Ukraine itself a settlement to end the war. Ceding a third countries territory is not only illegal under international law and deeply immoral, but any arrangement made will be totally ignored by the Ukrainians themselves, just as it was when the conflict began, regardless of US threats to suddenly cut off arms supplies. Such a suggestion is chauvinistic naivete at its worst.
Scholarly thinkers should be willing to learn lessons from their observations, and to be pragmatic in their thinking, two traits that some refuse to exercise.
The last vote on a UN resolution condemning Russia’s annexation:
The original article: