2 JUNE 2023 by

In the spirit of stimulating debate on relevant issues, we now publish Jeffrey Sachs´s comments on Ian Bremmer’s article released yesterday by Other News. Mr. Sachs is professor at Columbia University s Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He has served as adviser to three UN Secretaries-General, and currently serves as an SDG Advocate under Secretary-General António Guterres.

By Jeffrey Sachs*

As I recently wrote, the Ukraine War was provoked by NATO expansion and by the US role in the violent overthrow of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych.  Ian Bremmer denies these points.  He’s wrong.

Bremmer claims that US promises that NATO would not enlarge eastward are a myth.  They are not. Here is the summary of the National Security Archive at George Washington University: “U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents…”

Bremmer claims that “Putin’s beef” was not with NATO enlargement but with Ukraine’s sovereignty.  This is wrong.  Readers should consult, for example, Putin’s address to the Munich Security Conference in 2007, the Russian National Security Council meeting on February 21, 2022, Putin’s Address to the nation on the same day. America’s own leading diplomats concurred that NATO enlargement to Ukraine was recklessly provocative.  Readers should consult William Burns (in 2008 US Ambassador to Russia, now CIA Director), George KennanHenry KissingerJack Matlock (former US Ambassador to Russia), and William Perry (former Secretary of Defense).

Bremmer himself notes that “The West then failed to anticipate that the EU’s and NATO’s eastward expansion would enhance Russia’s threat perception in their backyard, something Russian officials in the early 1990s made clear and key US officials seemed to understand at the time,” and that “the West should have foreseen that this would feed Russia’s already acute sense of insecurity and humiliation.” 

Yes, Bremmer is making my point.   

Bremmer wrongly assets that Putin’s real beef was and is with Ukraine’s sovereignty.  Readers should carefully read the document that Bremmer cites, which concludes as follows: “We respect Ukrainians’ desire to see their country free, safe and prosperous… And I will say one thing – Russia has never been and will never be ‘anti-Ukraine’. And what Ukraine will be – it is up to its citizens to decide.”

Bremmer asserts that the Maidan overthrow of Yanukovych was a peaceful protest without the US hidden hand.  This is wrong.  Readers should listen (again) to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland (now Under-Secretary of State) and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt planning the post-Yanukovych government weeks before a violent insurrection stormed the government in Kyiv. 

Bremmer’s claim that over 100 Maidan protestors were killed by Yanukovych’s security services was also debunked long ago.  As University of Ottawa Professor Ivan Katchanovski showed, “The Maidan massacre trials and investigations have revealed various evidence that four killed and several dozen wounded policemen and at least the absolute majority of 49 killed and 157 wounded Maidan protesters were massacred on February 20, 2014 by snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings and areas… The analysis shows cover-up and stonewalling of the investigations and trials by the Maidan governments and the far right.”    

Bremmer is right about another point that reinforces my arguments.  The West utterly failed to help Russia in the 1990s when Russia was struggling to recover from the economic and financial ruin left by the Soviet Union.  I was one of the few voices in the United States calling for a Marshall Plan for Russia, an idea that Presidents George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton flatly rejected.

In 1991 I wrote in the Washington Post: “Inside Russia, Western aid would have the galvanizing psychological and political effect that the Marshall Plan had for Western Europe. Russia’s psyche has been tormented by 1,000 years of brutal invasions, stretching from Genghis Khan to Napoleon and Hitler… In a collapsed Soviet Union, we have a remarkable opportunity to raise the hopes of the Russian people through an act of international understanding.”

In 2014, I wrote for the BBC, “NATO’s continued desire, expressed again just recently, to add Ukraine to its membership, thereby putting NATO right up on the Russian border, must be regarded as profoundly unwise and provocative… In Ukraine, we face a Russia embittered over the spread of NATO and by US bullying since 1991.”

As I write these words now, the Washington Post is carrying the headline: “Biden shows growing appetite to cross Putin’s red lines.”  A few reckless and arrogant Americans, including Biden, Antony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, and Victoria Nuland, are literally “gambling with Armageddon.”  They are in a long line of reckless US politicians who have pushed the US and Russia to the brink of nuclear war.

Sixty years ago almost to the day, on June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy laid down the ultimate test of foreign policy sanity: “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy—or of a collective death-wish for the world.” Biden, Blinken, Sullivan, and Nuland are doing the opposite of JFK’s advice.

For more than 30 years, US policy towards Russia has been reckless and provocative, and increasingly so.  It’s time to stop the provocation, most urgently by ending the push to enlarge NATO to Ukraine as part of a negotiated end to the war.