Common sense and self-preservation go mainstream in Washington, D.C.: capitulation to Russian demands becomes discussable

It is one month since the Russians presented first to American diplomats and then to the world community their brazen demands to roll back NATO to its configuration status quo ante in May 1997 before the accession of former Warsaw Pact countries.

Those demands were taken up with seeming seriousness by the U.S. Government, then by NATO, whose Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, initially dismissed them out of hand as unacceptable. In short order dates were sketched in for a meeting of U.S. and Russian delegations in Geneva on 10 January. Then at U.S. insistence further meetings were scheduled with NATO in Brussels on 12 January and with the OSCE in Vienna on 13 January.

Western media were invited by their ‘high level but anonymous’ information sources in Washington to see these astonishing developments as required to de-escalate tensions at the Russian-Ukrainian border, where the Russians had amassed over 100,000 troops.  Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his minions said repeatedly the troop concentration was in preparation for a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Such an invasion would spell a blitzkrieg victory for the Russians and would undo the 2.5 billion dollar U.S. investment made under two U.S. presidents to turn Ukraine from one more “catch” by the American team, as described by Gideon Rose, then editor in chief of Foreign Affairs magazine when it happened in February 2014, into a major military asset in the policy of threatening and containing the Russian Federation. Instead, this looked to become the second U.S. foreign policy debacle in less than a year after the shameful chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last August.

It is astounding that none of the major Western media picked up the fact in front of their noses: that on the pretext of an invasion they had no intention of staging, the Russians had succeeded in lining up high level meetings with the United States and its NATO allies to discuss total revisions to the security architecture in Europe, something which was the laugh of the town when first proposed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2008-2009 and led to nothing back then.

I would call this the first Psy-ops success scored by Moscow.  The second success was the admission by the United States, the United Kingdom and France in the run-up to the meetings in Geneva and Brussels that they would not send a single soldier to help defend the Ukrainians if they were invaded!  This was the loudest possible signal to Kiev to sober up its rabid nationalist militias and forget entirely using their shiny new U.S. military gear to stage the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that remain in open rebellion against the central authorities.  Was this foreseeable on the part of Joe Biden, who in 2008 had been inciting the Georgian president Saakashvili to similar folly of recovering rebel provinces by force of arms in the face of Russian opposition?  No, it resulted directly from some folks on Capitol Hill knowing what’s what with respect to comparative U.S. and Russian military strength, capabilities and will in Russia’s Near Abroad today.  Victory two for Psy-ops!

Now today I am delighted to share with readers an article just published by The National Interest in Washington urging what would be, in effect, total capitulation to Russian demands for NATO’s downsizing. I am especially delighted that the author’s lever for his argumentation is precisely the definition of “military technical means” that I have provided to an otherwise clueless community of Russia experts in the U.S. and Western Europe. It is all set out on page one of his essay.

That this was dynamite is confirmed by its immediately being reposted by a news portal in Latvia, which would be one of the countries whose anti-Russian, pro-American government would be finished, kaput should the recommendations in this article be implemented.

I hasten to add that the publishers of this article are just one step away from U.S. mainstream in terms of respectability. The officers of the parent organization, the Center for the National Interest, formerly known as The Nixon Center, include not only dual citizenship former Soviets, whose patriotism might be put in question by political foes, but also some high serving former U.S. government folks who made the right sounds of patriotism when given a microphone in the past. Not entirely unimpeachable, but pretty solid.  And now we read this call for capitulation in their journal!

It is entirely logical that the author has used my little linguistic exploration as the starting point for his argumentation. Because language is key to what is before us: the American foreign policy community is largely lacking all competence in Russian thanks to policies that go back more than a decade.  I recall my semester on Columbia campus in 2010-11 when I refreshed my knowledge of The Harriman Institute and discovered they had dropped all language requirements for their master’s degree in regional studies relating to Russia and Eurasia. Instead, they required students to concentrate on numerical skills, which presumably would be more useful for their obtaining jobs after graduation in banks and international organizations.  And Columbia was not at all alone in its downgrading of language skills.

The net result is that journalists who report today on crises like the ongoing crisis between the United States and Russia are heavily reliant on handouts from the State Department and Pentagon, i.e. on state propaganda which they are unable to interpret critically and just pass through to their readers without comment.

But there is a bigger issue that cannot be resolved just by starting up language courses:  it is the unwillingness of institutions of higher education presently to listen to our adversaries and try to understand the logic underlying their behavior.  In the case of Russia, anyone presenting the Russian side of things has been instantly labeled a ‘stooge of Putin’ over the past decade.  I know very well, because all of my efforts as a public intellectual during this time have been precisely to present the thinking of the other side to my readers. Not to be an advocate or modern day “Tokyo Rose,” just to let the facts fall where they may.

Now that the Russians are saying “move or we will move you,” which they can back up with superior tactical and strategic military hardware, it is obvious there is a price to pay for ignorance.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022

24 thoughts on “Common sense and self-preservation go mainstream in Washington, D.C.: capitulation to Russian demands becomes discussable

  1. It is good that views like that of The National Interest appear in Washington but I am a born skeptic and don’t believe they will go anywhere near mainstream any time soon. Problem is that the U.S. policymakers are addicted to, and heavily invested in, a hostile policy toward Russia. Russia is a political “coke” for Washington strategists, after political hard line and arms buildup competition destroyed the U.S.’s geopolitical rival of the era, the USSR. Washington quickly came to regard the newly emerged RF as its suzerainty and its former sphere of influence as its own sandbox. When the Russian admiration of and goodwill toward the U.S. quickly receded with Putin’s rise to power, the US came to regard the return of Russia to its traditional values and interests with scorn and derision. The robbery of Russia’s influence and pressure on its core interests became something of a sport, akin to the Russian boyars hunting their serfs in the woods for fun. Eastern Europe, with its variety of traditional hates and distrusts of Russia, suddenly became the only place on the planet (!) where the U.S. not only was not losing influence, but enjoying stature that perhaps surpassed Western Europe’s in the first two decades after the war. So in my reckoning, it will be as hard to convince the Biden’s admin to consider Russia’s demands – fair as they are – as it would be convincing a coke head after three “lines” that he is not a superman.
    As for the Russian side, there are two things that I am doubtful about. After what Vladimir Vladimirovich said in the last year about the historical ties of the two countries, and the continued insanity of Kiev in its policies toward Russia and the Russian-speaking minority on its territories, it is somewhat disingenuous for Peskov and Zakharova to claim that Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine. No ? Such contingency cannot arise, so we are not planning for it ? Yeah, right. It would be far better and speed things up to whatever conclusion it is destined for, for the Kremlin to make the acceptance of the continued existence of Ukraine in its present borders contingent on its willingness to live within Russia’s security parameters. It would be not only much more honest, not only allow the West to gauge Russian intentions more realistically, but it would rob Mr Sullivan of a big propaganda cudgel in accusing Kremlin of lying. What’s the point to the numerous Russia president’s references to Novorossiya, if he has no contingency to take it back if all else fails? It’s historically a Russian land, no? (Look up Winston Churchill’s “mystery-puzzle-enigma” speech of Sept. 1, 1939)
    The other thing is that Mr Ryabkov and others should not threaten the U.S. with existential threats too much. Keep them guessing what you would do if you had to. They know you can reach them. There is no Cuba-Venezuela option that Russia has and if it does it should be quickly scrapped. The last thing Russia needs is mouthing off idly or engage in building some cockamamie schemes of “symmetrical threats” with the U.S. I have no doubt that the Potomac think-tank crews read this is a “mouse that wants to roar more than it can”. Stick with your focus on Ukraine and NATO in Eastern Europe: that’s your best bet.


  2. It will be difficult for Biden to do anything whilst the White House is riddled with neo cons, the Blinkens, Nulands, Kagans, Applebaums, Boltons, Pompeos, DC has to clean house and get rid of them once and for all. The same old faces with the same old hatreds paid for by the same old people and companies. Progress could be made, and quickly, if Biden does what Trump never managed, call time on the Russophobes, deny their power base and get on with helping America where it needs it, at home and not abroad. I’d love to think it could happen but cynicism does get the better of me. I shall retain hope, perhaps a short sharp shock as a warning to the US may now be in order. Your previous list of ‘maybes’ would be an excellent place to start.


  3. For some time I’ve suspected that the Americans are something akin to the Wizard of Oz. All bluster and bravado, but when the curtain is pulled away a feeble old man is discovered. It seems like my intuition was at least partly true.


  4. USA is pretending that Russia’s dogs can’t bite, because the USA has no way out of the predicament other than to call Russia’s ‘bluff’. The longer the USA can play for time, the higher the probability the USA will have enough LEO satellites to track and target Russia’s hypersonics. If the US loses in Europe, then the US will have lost not only China but also Germany. China and Germany allied with Russia is the nightmare every US/UK strategist has feared . That would reduce the USA to a second rate power in less than a generation.


  5. Can someone tell me why the US is in an “adversarial” relationship with Russia in the first place? I thought it was supposed to be communism but that’s over, right?


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