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Ukraine Crisis through the lens of American foreign policies

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Samudra Roychowdhury
Samudra Roychowdhury
An IT professional for living. Passionate about Indian history and current affairs. Runs a blog and YouTube Channel. Does not follow any religion, does not have any trust on God. Proud Hindu by culture and heritage. Does not go by today’s Left and Right divide. Supports any idea that is morally right and good for India, irrespective of where it belongs in Left-Right ideological pole.

People in Ukraine are going through tremendous hardship. People all over the world are saddened by the news of loss of lives and destruction of properties. They are the one facing the brunt right now and probably Russians will face different types of hardships, at least in the near future, through the economic sanctions. Everyone else is, more or less, sitting on the fence or in the gallery, and watching the events unfold.

The question is why all diplomatic negotiations failed and why the war could not be averted? Moreover, where does India stand here? India has already abstained from the UNSC vote on deploring Russia and India has taken the absolutely right step here. When drum beats of war fade a little, there must be someone, who took a neutral stand, to mediate between two waging sides. India can take a crucial part there. In order to understand how the world landed in this situation, we need to follow some events of the last few decades. Calling Putin, a fascist, a new avatar of Adolf Hitler is just a lazy escapist idea taken directly out of some mainstream media outlets. No, I am not a Putin apologist. There is no doubt Putin has demonstrated enough totalitarian behavior in Russian domestic affairs. Here I will provide a brief and dispassionate description of some of the American foreign policies that will help us to understand both sides better from a neutral standpoint.

Monroe Doctrine and Cuban Missile Crisis

Monroe Doctrine was first brought into effect in 1823 by US President James Monroe. It defines the Western Hemisphere as the area of American influence. Originally it was designed in order to keep the European colonialists away from setting up bases in the Western Hemisphere.

United States of America has been involved in multiple military imbroglios in the Latin America on the basis of this doctrine. In early 1900 during the Venezuelan Crisis, United States locked its horn with three European powers – Britain, Germany and Italy to protect Venezuela from European intervention and retain its own influence. During the Cold War America trained multiple rebel groups in order to fight Soviet friendly government in Nicaragua.

The most famous one was the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought US and Soviet Union very close to a nuclear war. USA wanted to overthrow Soviet friendly Cuban communist government. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), authorized by US President John F. Kennedy, carried out multiple covert operations against Cuba and planned to topple the government by 30th November 1961. The project was named ‘Operation Mongoose’.

In response, Soviet planned to install several nuclear capable missiles in Cuba to deter America from the intervention. Soviet ships carrying the missiles were enroute to Cuba. Once the news reached Whitehouse, America threatened to launch full-blown war if missiles were installed in Cuba. Crisis deepened to a critical level and finally secret negotiations happened between the two parties. Finally, the Soviet ships turned back and America agreed to remove the missiles it had installed in Turkey targeting Soviet. A threat of war, possibly a nuclear war, was avoided.

Now, we need to ponder if America does not allow any adversary to build up military bases near its shore and ready to start wars, why would any other nation be expected to allow it? In the case of Ukraine, if it becomes part of NATO, American missiles will be right beside the Russian border.

What was Putin’s demand before start of the war? Firstly, a legal commitment that Ukraine will not be part of NATO. Secondly, NATO to withdraw forces from Russian borders to where they were stationed in 1997, before the eastward expansion. Were the negotiations so difficult? It could avert a war and the humanitarian crisis that we are seeing today. New York Times reported on 2nd February that “basic message to Moscow was American and NATO resolve not to bow to Russian demands”. If Russian action today is unjustified and act of aggression, isn’t refusal to achieve a diplomatic solution an act of incitement too?

Wolfowitz Doctrine

It is an unofficial name given to America’s defense planning guidance published in 1992 by US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz. Later it was incorporated into foreign policy principles of the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush. It was officially called ‘Bush Doctrine’.

It makes clear announcement that after dissolution of Soviet Union, America must “prevent the re-emergence of a new rival” and ensure that it remains the only superpower. Both the doctrines advised to use unilateralism and use of preemptive war to suppress rise of any other nations. It is very unequivocal in this regard, “Finally, we must maintain mechanisms, in concert with our allies, to deter potential aggressors from aspiring to a larger regional or global role”.

The doctrine also mentions the risk of having a resurgent Russia. It states “Russia will remain the strongest military power in Eurasia and the only power in the world with the capability of destroying the United States”. We might be surprised to see such audacious and inflammatory ideas in official documents of a country. The idea is a direct challenge to the sovereignty of other nations. But if we go by the examples that America has set, especially post-WW2, it is not that surprising. It has been involved in direct wars or in secret missions to topple governments almost all the time in one corner of the globe or another. As per a report by Al Jazeera, USA has established over 750 military bases in 80 countries. Over 173,000 US troops are deployed to different countries.

Is this not naked aggression and incitement to conflict? Possibly, instead of containing Russia, if America tried to cooperate with it at an equal level, Ukraine situation may not have snowballed into today’s crisis.

NATO Expansion

Before the dissolution of Soviet Union in December 1991, Russia was promised that NATO will not expand eastward. NATO started with 12 member countries in 1949 and had already grown into 16 countries before 1990.

When Germany Unification was on the table, US Secretary of State, James Baker met Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev on 9th February 1990. There it was agreed that NATO juggernaut will not move to the east beyond West Germany where NATO was already present.

We understand that not only for the Soviet Union but for other European countries as well, it is important to have guarantees that if the United States keeps its presence in Germany within the framework of NATO, not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction”, James Baker told Gorbachev.

Current Russian President Vladimir Putin has referred to this conversation multiple times recently during his speech. Though American argument, at present, counters it by saying that the commitment was made in terms of not deploying NATO troops in East Germany only and no commitment was given that NATO would not expand to other countries.

In another instance, on 17th May 1990, NATO general Secretary, Manfred Woerner made a speech “The very fact that we are ready not to deploy NATO troops beyond the territory of the federal Republic (West Germany) gives the Soviet Union firm security guarantees”. Would it be really wrong, if Russia now asks the West to keep this promise, asks for this security guarantee? Did America and NATO keep this promise? Absolutely not! Post-Cold war, NATO expanded 5 times and kept on coming closer to the Russian border. Count of member countries increased from 16 in 1990 to 30 at present. Three more (Ukraine, Georgia, Bosnia & Herzegovina) are in various stages of membership process.

European NATO Countries (in Blue) as on 2022

Russia protested multiple times. President Boris Yeltsin said in 1997, “We believe that eastward expansion of NATO is a mistake and a serious one at that”. In 2008, Vladimir Putin objected vehemently, “appearance of a powerful military bloc on Russia’s border would be taken as a direct threat

Not only Russia protested this expansion, many Western experts warned America. “Beginning of a new Cold War. It is a strategic mistake”, said American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan. American secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates warned in 2008 when NATO planned to include Ukraine and Georgia in the alliance. “Trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching. This move was a case of recklessly ignoring what Russians considered their own vital national interests”, said Mr. Gates.

NATO expansion only means further expansion of American military bases in even more countries and a threat to others who are not a part of this group. Because, the United States of America is the primary security provider of this alliance. In 2021, USA spent 811 billion dollars in defense. Whereas rest of the 29 countries together in NATO spent 363 billion dollars. It is another way of conforming to the Wolfowitz Doctrine of maintaining American supremacy.

Where Do We Stand?

India has very rightly taken the neutral step. It is not just about our dependence on Russian arms export and its maintenance. It is even more than our decades long strategic partnership with Russia where they helped us numerous times when we needed it badly. We cannot forget Russia’s support with Kashmir issue, Goa liberation, India-Pakistan war during 1971, India’s nuclear test in 1998 or more recent event of Article 370 revocation. America and the West in general took a very different stand almost all the time. We need to remain neutral for even a bigger reason. American foreign policy of unilateralism and refusal to allow a multi-polar world will only increase its conflict with rising China. India falling into the American lobby will put us in direct conflict with China. Whereas Russia being a close friend of both India and China, may help diffuse Indo-China tensions. Why should we fight somebody else’s battle?

Written by Samudra Roy Chowdhury

Writer is a software professional with keen interest towards Indian history and current affairs. He runs his own blog

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Samudra Roychowdhury
Samudra Roychowdhury
An IT professional for living. Passionate about Indian history and current affairs. Runs a blog and YouTube Channel. Does not follow any religion, does not have any trust on God. Proud Hindu by culture and heritage. Does not go by today’s Left and Right divide. Supports any idea that is morally right and good for India, irrespective of where it belongs in Left-Right ideological pole.
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