NATO Defense Ministers are meeting in Brussels on June 24-25. To mark the occasion we are publishing George F. Kennan’s May 1998 interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. In it, Kennan foresaw the perils of NATO expansion, telling Friedman “I think it is the beginning of a new cold war…I think it is a tragic mistake.”
In February, ACEWA Founding Board Member and NYU and Princeton Professor Emeritus Stephen F. Cohen gave a lecture on the crisis in Ukraine and the state of US-Russian relations and the very real possibility of a new and even more dangerous Cold War between the two nations. Coming as it did in the days leading up to Minsk II it makes for relevant viewing today.
It may be considered a singular success for Western statesmanship to have brought two old rivals for power and influence in Central Asia…The US, especially, missed opportunities to integrate both countries into a single world system, by rebuffing reforms of the International Monetary Fund that would have strengthened China’s decision-making influence, and by blocking Russia’s overtures for NATO membership. This led both countries to seek an alternative future in each other’s company.
Four months after the Minsk II accords, the Ukraine crisis continues to simmer, with occasional violent eruptions. The ceasefire in Donbass has not prevented some 1,000 people from losing their lives since February, adding to the previous fatality count of more than 5,000. Some of the heavy weapons that both sides should have pulled back from the line of contact are still positioned close to that line, and are active.
The U.S. Department of Defense reportedly has plans to place tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and other heavy weapons in the Baltic countries and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. It is easy to see what this is about. It is an attempt to send a signal—a warning, of sorts—to Russia amid the continued tensions that events in Ukraine have heightened.
ACEWA Founding Board Member Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussion of the broadening US-Russian cold war and confrontation over Ukraine. The main focus is on escalating challenges to the agreement reached by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Sochi in May to implement the Minsk plan for ending the Ukrainian civil war through negotiations.
On June 11, Ambassador Jack Matlock delivered the 2015 Fulbright Lecture at the University of Edinburgh. In it the Ambassador and ACEWA Founding Board Member observes that the Cold War ended by negotiation, not by the victory of one side. Nevertheless, the unfounded triumphalism by the “West,” and the exaggerated Russian reaction to it has produced a new, cold-war-type confrontation over the governance and orientation of Ukraine.
Days before his death on February 8, 1725, Tsar Peter the Great gave his last will and testament. He exhorted his successors to fulfill Russia’s destiny and conquer the world. The keys to this great endeavor were Constantinople and India, the former for its symbolism and the latter for its wealth.
Neither the actual records nor documentation of Peter’s instructions have ever been found. It is likely that he never issued those deathbed commands. Yet, the legend has endured.
The desire of many Ukrainian politicians to “seal off” rebel-held territories in the Donbas may be coming to pass. The head of Poroshenko’s bloc in parliament, Yury Lutsenko, has declared that the president desires to extend the present automotive blockade of the so-called Luhansk Peoples Republic to all separatist held territories. Passage into them will be possible only by foot or compact car.
Renewed fighting in Ukraine has in turn renewed calls to arm Ukraine, including in the United States Congress. Yet there is an enormous and largely unacknowledged flaw in the argument to provide the Kiev government with lethal weapons