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Origins of the Russian Invasion

How The US and NATO Contributed to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

By James Rice

While we collectively watch in awe the horrors of the “Ukraine invasion” or “special military operation” as the Russians call it, we are globally united in our sadness for the loss of life and people caught in the middle. And, just like every story, there are at least two sides, with the truth finding itself somewhere in between. In this case, the warnings were made years in advance and known red lines were crossed with everyone watching. Why the media does not discuss this, I am not sure, but, as I researched, I found the facts to be most eye opening.

World War II losses of the Soviet Union from all related causes were about 27 million lives, both civilian and military, so Russian suspicions of the west are not unfounded. Their physical buffer zone from the west, held since the end of World War II, began to erode with the reunification of Germany in 1990 and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact.  In February 1990, western government officials negotiated with Soviet officials to eliminate an awkward remnant of the cold war: the Soviet military presence in Germany. At the time, verbal commitments were made to the Soviets that were later denied and debated but have since been confirmed by transcripts from those meetings.  German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said, “NATO should not expand its scope”; NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner said, “the NATO Council and I are against the expansion of NATO”; and the then US Secretary of State James Baker negotiated a compromise with the ultimate promise: the Soviet Union would accept a reunited Germany inside NATO, and the loss of its military presence in East Germany, in return for a U.S. promise not to enlarge NATO “one inch more” eastward.(1)

9 years later, former Warsaw pact nations Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined NATO, and the organization published its Membership Action Plan, or MAP, as a roadmap for countries wishing to join. Since 1949, NATO membership expanded from 12 founding members to now 30 countries.  By 2008, there were rumors of NATO planning to offer membership to Georgia and Ukraine, but this was too close for the Russian leadership, particularly since Ukraine was the traditional route to attack Russia, from Napoleon to Hitler. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned then U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Burns that “Nyet Means Nyet.”(2) And that Russia will react strongly to any move to bring Ukraine into NATO. Russia has always been clear that Ukraine was the red line for NATO expansion. In a 1997 speech to the Atlantic Council, then US Senator Joe Biden acknowledged that eastward NATO expansion into the Baltic states would cause “the greatest consternation,” which could “tip the balance” and result in a “vigorous and hostile reaction” by Russia.14

In 2010, Ukraine elected President Viktor Yanukovych, who attempted to balance interests of the European Union and Russia. He stopped his predecessor’s plans for Ukraine to join NATO and preferred to keep Ukraine unaligned.(3) His policy was that Ukraine’s current cooperation with NATO was “sufficient” and had no interest in joining NATO. But the Maidan Revolution of February 2014 ended in the ousting of the democratically elected President and the overthrow of the Ukrainian government.

There is considerable evidence of open US government involvement in this coup d’état, including a recorded phone call of US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s last-minute instructions to U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt regarding their pick for the new Ukrainian prime minister(4), Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and other plans for the coup d’état. The 6 February 2014 call clearly indicated an intent by the US to override European interests and take an active role of regime change in Ukraine. Concurrently, a significant number of US elected officials, like Senator John McCain, attended opposition rallies in the Maidan Square leading up to the government’s overthrow.

Immediately following the Ukrainian government’s fall, Russia invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin made it publicly clear that Ukraine’s new Prime Minister Yatsenyuk’s statement about Ukraine joining NATO, and the U.S./NATO plans to deploy ABM systems around Russia’s western periphery, were the prime motivating forces behind the re-incorporation of Crimea into Russia.(5)

Prior to his election as President of Russia in 2000, there was no record of anti-western or anti-US rhetoric from Putin. In fact, after his election Putin asked to join NATO and the EU, but he was rebuffed. Then, he slowly watched the US and its NATO alliance move eastwards towards Russia, but not without speaking out. At the G20 meeting in February 2007, Putin said, “We have the right to ask to whom is the expansion intended? And what happened to the assurance of our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?”(6)

Volodymyr Zelensky was elected in 2019 with 73% of the vote and two campaign promises, one to eliminate corruption and the other to end the war in Donbas, both of which were never met.  Zelenskyy was inaugurated on 20 May 2019, and on 14 September 2020, he approved Ukraine’s new National Security Strategy, “which provides for the development of the distinctive partnership with NATO with the aim of membership in NATO.”  At the end of November 2020, it became known that the NATO Summit in 2021 would consider the issue of returning to “open door policy”, including the issue of providing Georgia with a MAP. Ukraine subsequently asked that it receive an action plan for NATO membership at the same time as Georgia.(7)

Again, on 30 November 2021 Putin publicly stated that an expansion of NATO’s presence into Ukraine, especially the deployment of any long-range missiles capable of striking Moscow or missile defense systems like those in Romania and Poland, would be a “red line” issue for the Kremlin. He said that “In a dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on working out specific agreements that would exclude any further NATO moves eastward.”(8) Yet military training exercises with US, NATO, and Ukrainian military units continued throughout 2021, while the Russian military gradually built up their presence on the other side of the border.(9)

Strangely, President Biden may have accidentally greenlighted a Russian invasion during a press conference on January 19, 2022. The US President appeared to say that, if Vladimir Putin were to make only a minor incursion into Ukraine, then Russia would not face consequences.  His exact words were: “Russia will be held accountable if it invades. And it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we (NATO) end up having to fight about what to do and what to not do, etc.”(10)

The Biden Administration had plenty of opportunity to avoid a Russian invasion of Ukraine by defusing the Russian concern of Ukraine joining NATO. Prior to its invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, the Russian government sent a 10-page diplomatic letter to the US about Ukraine joining NATO. The Kremlin said its issues were not taken seriously.(11) Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s public response was “NATO’s door remains open”.(12)

On the evening before his army invaded Ukraine, Vladimir Putin outlined his motivations in a televised speech. His first and main argument was NATO expansion. He blamed the expansion of the military alliance continuously closer to Russia’s border and accused western leaders of breaking promises made earlier never to do so.(13) The invasion had been preceded by a prolonged Russian military buildup, as well as numerous Russian demands for security measures and guarantees against Ukraine joining NATO which could have been agreed to by the US and NATO.

About the Author: James Rice is a former CEO of an international food company who now serves as the CEO of the charity UkraineDistasterRelief.Org that delivers food and humanitarian aid into the crisis zones of Ukraine. He and his all-volunteer team have been in and out of Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion in 2022.

About the Author: James Rice is a renown CEO of international food companies who now serves as the CEO of the charity UkraineDistasterRelief.Org that provides logistics and delivers food and humanitarian aid into the crisis zones of Ukraine for civilians. He and his all-volunteer team have been in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion in March 2022.

www.UkraineDisasterRelief.org

James Rice, CEO

Ukraine Disaster Relief

100 Commons Drive, Suite 7-1

Dripping Springs, TX 78720

jrice@ukrainedisasterrelief.org

Phone +1-737-710-8418

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