In The New Yorker’s How Russia went from Ally to Adversary, (published in the June 19, 2023 print edition as “Eastern Promises”), author Keith Gessen tells some of the history of post-Soviet Russia.
Unusual for mainstream journalism, the article indicates that U.S. policy contributed to the rise of Putin and other authoritarian leaders in Russia and former Soviet bloc nations. via brutal economic policies the U.S. imposed on them. Gessen writes that while some people in the Bush (1) and Clinton administrations wanted to lend Russia a helping hand — arguing that such aid would be more likely to lead to a democratic Russia — the consensus was to treat Russia as a defeated adversary.
By the logic of co-transformation, we urged brutal free-market policies on Eastern Europe, and then imposed them on ourselves. Having participated in the creation of the Russian monster, we are now forced to become monsters to battle it, to manufacture and sell more weapons, to cheer the death of Russian soldiers, to spend more and more on defense, both here and in Europe, and to create the atmosphere and conditions of a second Cold War, because we failed to figure out how to secure the peace after the last one.
The article points out that Gorbachev had expressed to Secretary of State James Baker a desire for Russia to be integrated as an equal partner in a new pan-European security arrangement. But Baker responded, “It is an excellent dream but only a dream.”
So, the article goes half way towards describing partial U.S. responsibility for provoking the war in Ukraine but takes pains to say things like: “The development of Russia in the post-Cold War period was not the result of a Western plot or Western actions. Russian officials chose, within a narrow range of options, how to behave, and they could have chosen differently. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, in February, 2022, was no more inevitable or foreordained than the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in 2003. Still, it’s worth asking what other course we might have followed.”
Moreover, in his discussion of the 2014 Maidan Revolution (aka as the Revolution of Dignity), Gessen doesn’t tell the whole story. He writes:
In the winter of 2004-05, Putin watched helplessly as thousands of protesters in Kyiv demanded and won a new vote after large-scale fraud had seemed to give Viktor Yanukovych the Presidential victory in Ukraine. Yanukovych managed to mount a successful Presidential bid in the next election cycle, but in 2014 vast protests over his refusal to sign an association agreement with the E.U. once again chased him from power. That same week, Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms appeared in Crimea. The invasion of Ukraine had begun.
That summary leaves out the great role that the U.S. played in aiding the 2014 revolution, which can also be called a coup.
In the New York Times’ The War in Ukraine May Be Impossible to Stop. And the US Deserves Much of the Blame, Christopher Caldwell writes “In 2014 the United States backed an uprising – in its final stages a violent uprising – against the legitimately elected Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych, which was pro-Russian.”
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said in an interview in 2014: “With respect to Ukraine, we have not sat on the sidelines. We have been very much involved. Members of the Senate have been there, members of the State Department who have been on the square …. I really think that the clear position of the United States has been in part what has helped lead to this change in regime…. I think it was our role, including sanctions and threats of sanctions, that forced, in part, Yanukovich from office.”
Then there is the infamous recording of a phone call between Victoria Nuland and U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffey Pyatt, in which they discuss who should be next leader of Ukraine.
And what about U.S. involvement in various color revolutions in Eastern Europe, via funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (a regime change auxiliary to the CIA) and NED’s documented aid for Ukrainian opposition groups.
The Gessen piece also ignores the well-documented presence of far right, anti-Russia political and military groups in Ukraine — something even the U.S. Congress tried to deal with. See here for a list of scores of articles in mainstream media documenting their presence.
And while the article points to statements by James Baker that Gorbachev interpreted as a promise not to expand NATO eastward, the article doesn’t tell the story of additional promises made to Russian leaders. See Truthout’s Claims Over Broken Promises About NATO Simmer at the Heart of the Ukraine Crisis.
See How the U.S. provoked Russia in Ukraine: A Compendium for copious quotations and links to articles about U.S. provocations in Ukraine.