A quest for peace in Europe
By: Bobby M. Tuazon - @inquirerdotnet
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:30 AM March 16, 2022

As war surges in Ukraine, there is a proposal for a new European security architecture. The idea came from Russia, Turkey, and global think tank groups. It seeks to work for a balanced security system, guaranteeing the security interests of Russia and, at the same time, making sure that Moscow will not use the Ukraine war to get back at the threats that endangered its own security.

The historical roots of the Ukraine crisis show that Russia was provoked by the US and its Nato allies to apply a military solution. The armed option was the only way to counter a threat that has come to Russia’s doorsteps.

Three years after the founding of Nato in 1949, secretary general Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay sounded out the call to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Formed at the start of the US-USSR Cold War, Nato was an alliance against Moscow under the US’ 1949 containment strategy that sought to encircle its enemy and bring down its ruling regime.

The Cold War ended with the collapse of the USSR in 1990 where Russia, Ukraine, and 13 other republics parted separately. The cataclysmic breakup should have disbanded Nato and brought peace in Europe. No sooner had the breakup happened than the US found a rationale to keep Nato. In 1992, the Wolfowitz Doctrine pledged to ensure America’s new unipolar power and global dominance by preventing any other country from dominating any part of the world.

Nato’s 15-year expansion began four years later by adding Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Albania, and Croatia — just west of Russia. The military encirclement of Russia stationed troops, military arsenal, and missile sites in the new Nato countries.

The accretion alarmed the architect of the US’ 1949 anti-Soviet containment strategy. Shortly before he died, top diplomat George Kennan warned: “Expanding Nato would be the most fateful error of American policy in the post-Cold War era. [It will] inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion.”

In 1999, a close Russian ally, Yugoslavia, was carpet-bombed for 78 days by US-led Nato, leaving 1,200 civilians dead and 5,000 wounded. Then it was carved out into seven separate states including Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. It was also a dire warning to Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in 2007 at Munich: “Nato expansion … [is] a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust.”

Nato finally closed in on Ukraine bordering Russia. As documented, on Feb. 26, 2014, the US through the CIA plotted the “Maidan Revolution” led by trained neo-Nazi Ukrainians replacing the freely-elected, neutralist President Viktor Yanukovych with the pro-US and neo-Nazi Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Overseeing the coup was Victoria Nuland, US President Obama’s central agent. Volodymyr Zelenskyy took over in 2019.

An incremental war was launched by neo-Nazis from the Ukrainian army against Donetsk and Luhansk eastern region. The strikes killed 15,000 ethnic Russians. France and Germany brokered peace talks leading to the Minsk Agreement II in 2015. The pact called for the withdrawal of foreign armed groups, arms, and mercenaries; charter reform and decentralization of Donetsk and Luhansk; and elections. Sadly, the agreement has not been enforced by Ukraine to date. Soon, Ukraine revised its constitution by providing for its Nato membership.

That was the final straw for Russia with the red line crossed and a gun pointed to its head triggering the deployment of troops and tanks near its border with Ukraine. An incensed Putin blurted last December: “You promised us in the 1990s that (Nato) would not move an inch to the East. You cheated us shamelessly.” Russian forces crossed the border on Feb. 24.
As we write, Ukraine and Russia have agreed to meet for a new round of talks brokered by Turkey. Russia also announced a “regime of silence” to allow refugees to leave from war zones. Chinese President Xi, France’s Macron, and German’s Scholz agreed on a de-escalation of the conflict and full play of diplomatic initiatives. But war flames are fueled by more economic sanctions imposed by the US and EU on Russia including a ban on its oil.

The proposed new European security system needs a space in the diplomatic table to allow a peaceful solution to conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere. It will create a security balance which means a freeze if not a complete halt to Nato expansion. This, of course, is complex and demands similar concessions from Russia. What should follow is a blueprint toward a new European security order. Cooler heads must prevail.

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Bobby M. Tuazon is the director for Policy Studies of the think tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) and teaches politics and international relations at UP Manila.

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