Is the war in Ukraine the fault of the West? John M. Owen IV. 2022 3 21. UVA: Miller Center. https://millercenter.org/war-ukraine-fault-west How Russia’s Attack on Ukraine Threatens Democracy Everywhere McGregor McCance and John M. Owen. UVAToday. 2022 3 2. https://news.virginia.edu/content/how-russias-attack-ukraine-threatens-democracy-everywhere [New School]
“When the [second] Bush administration came in, they actually used the withdrawal provision to get the country out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that had been in place since 1972. That limited what kind of missile defenses both sides could deploy. [The administration] didn’t want to see any limits at all anymore. And ironically, to this day, we have not deployed defenses that are substantially in excess of those limits. In fact, I think with very slight modifications to the treaty — deployment locations, things like that — we could still be inside it. But the point was more to get rid of the treaties, in my view, than it was to actually deploy a working defense.”
“It may be easy to forget today that after Russia emerged from the ruins of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Europe spent years working to integrate it into a new post-Cold War order. Far from triumphalist vengeance (as the Kremlin would have the world believe) the West provided Russia with substantial financial and technical assistance. All European states, including Russia, as well as the United States and Canada signed multiple agreements pledging to uphold key principles, including refraining from the threat or use of force; renouncing any change of borders by force; and affirming the right of all states to choose their own political and economic systems and security alliances.
Notably, Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, which guaranteed Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity with the international borders in effect at that time, in exchange for Ukraine giving up the third-largest nuclear stockpile in the world. In 1997, NATO and Russia signed the “Founding Act” establishing a Permanent Joint Council and identifying a number of areas where the western alliance and Russia would work together to strengthen security — an “alliance with the Alliance,” as some of its architects in the Clinton administration put it at the time.
Things started to change in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Russia was not happy with the NATO-led war in Kosovo, nor with President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Putin became president of Russia in 2000 and declared his intention to restore Russian greatness. At the time, many Russians and international observers – including some in the Bush administration – welcomed his words. Coming on the heels of a decade of what many saw as wild-west capitalism, corruption, and breakdowns in law and order, Putin seemed poised to make a necessary correction that would strengthen Russian stability and modernization without doing major damage to its democracy.
In hindsight, however, we can see that what Putin meant by Russian greatness was not strengthening the rule of law and building up Russia’s economy and international stature in the world. Upon taking office, he methodically went about rebuilding the Russian military, modernizing and expanding Russia’s nuclear arsenal, reviving and expanding Russian intelligence services and activities. That in itself was not necessarily a problem, except that Putin also started dismantling the nascent Russian democracy: taking control of media outlets, consolidating state industries and undermining opposition to his United Russia party, including by assassination of political opponents. Putin didn’t just tame the oligarchs of the 1990s; he replaced them with his own. He was creating something resembling a Soviet system of Communist Party control, just without the Soviet ideology and a personal structure of rule in place of the old Party nomenklatura.
A clue to his thinking came in 2005 when he described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. Then, in 2007 at Munich, that shift in rhetoric became unmistakable.
Following the speech, Putin matched his words with actions, dismantling the structures designed to keep peace in post-Cold War Europe. Russia formally announced in July 2007 that it would no longer adhere to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. It continued to reject the principle of host-nation consent for its troop presence in Georgia and Moldova, and began ignoring Vienna Convention limits on troop concentrations, exercises and transparency.
In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia, trading its peacekeepers in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia for regular military personnel, and driving tanks toward the capital, Tbilisi. Six years later, Russian operatives took over Crimea and rapidly orchestrated its illegal annexation by Russia. Russia followed up with attacks in eastern Ukraine and continues to engage in low-intensity fighting and to occupy parts of Donbas to this day. Later, Russia violated the INF Treaty and began to deny overflights requested under the Open Skies Treaty.”
“we must understand what Putin has been openly telling us. This requires recognizing that the playbook created in the 1990s, fitting and well-intentioned as it was at the time, needs to be replaced with a new approach that treats Putin’s Russia as a threat to peace and an adversary. And we must sustain such a new approach for as long as Putin remains in power.”