September 16, 2008
Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush, Tear Down that Wall!

Noam Chomsky explores the stupidity of the policies toward Russia pursued with such idiot enthusiasm by both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Their ignorant and childish provocations are far more dangerous to the world than a hundred Bin Ladens.

As the USSR collapsed, Mikhail Gorbachev made a concession that was astonishing in the light of recent history and strategic realities: he agreed to allow a united Germany to join a hostile military alliance. This “stunning concession” was hailed by Western media, NATO, and President Bush I, who called it a demonstration of “statesmanship … in the best interests of all countries of Europe, including the Soviet Union.”

Gorbachev agreed to the stunning concession on the basis of “assurances that NATO would not extend its jurisdiction to the east, ‘not one inch’ in [Secretary of State] Jim Baker’s exact words.” This reminder by Jack Matlock, the leading Soviet expert of the Foreign Service and US ambassador to Russia in the crucial years 1987 to 1991, is confirmed by Strobe Talbott, the highest official in charge of Eastern Europe in the Clinton administration.

On the basis of a full review of the diplomatic record, Talbott reports that “Secretary of State Baker did say to then Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, in the context of the Soviet Union’s reluctant willingness to let a unified Germany remain part of NATO, that NATO would not move to the east.”

Clinton quickly reneged on that commitment, also dismissing Gorbachev’s effort to end the Cold War with cooperation among partners. NATO also rejected a Russian proposal for a nuclear-weapons-free-zone from the Arctic to the Black Sea, which would have “interfered with plans to extend NATO,” strategic analyst and former NATO planner Michael MccGwire observes.

Rejecting these possibilities, the US took a triumphalist stand that threatened Russian security and also played a major role in driving Russia to severe economic and social collapse, with millions of deaths. The process was sharply escalated by Bush’s further expansion of NATO, dismantling of crucial disarmament agreements, and aggressive militarism. Matlock writes that Russia might have tolerated incorporation of former Russian satellites into NATO if it “had not bombed Serbia and continued expanding. But, in the final analysis, ABM missiles in Poland, and the drive for Georgia and Ukraine in NATO crossed absolute red lines.

“The insistence on recognizing Kosovo independence was sort of the very last straw. Putin had learned that concessions to the U.S. were not reciprocated, but used to promote U.S. dominance in the world. Once he had the strength to resist, he did so,” in Georgia.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at September 16, 2008 08:00 PM
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I was in Russia when NATO bombed Serbia. The people had nothing but goodwill towards Americans, but they were genuinely afraid of U.S. intentions in the Balkans. They saw (rightly) that we were taking advantage of their weakness to encircle them with a ring of hostile satellites. They've finally got their shit together and they aren't taking our bullying anymore. The Russians aren't angels by any means, be we've pushed them against the wall. They're responding accordingly.

Posted by: ohollern on September 16, 2008 9:34 PM

This is what one gets when you let the fourth grade playground bullies take over the game.

Posted by: Hoffmann on September 16, 2008 9:42 PM

I agree with both comments, but I'd add that this particular set of playground bullies is not as much the issue as the systemic tendency to put such folks in powerful offices. We don't have these leaders by accident. In fact, calling them leaders is a bit misleading; avatars might be better. Bush is the avatar of idiot confidance; Cheney of oil and war profiteering; McCain of militant militarism; Obama, he hopes, of hope. That is a winning hand, as even the amazingly crappy politician Ronald Reagan proved. But it's hard to carry off past November.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on September 17, 2008 11:56 PM
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