Global Independent Analytics

Russian hostility 'partly caused by west', claims former US defense head

William Perry is sure that US contempt toward Russia as ‘third-rate power’ after end of Cold War played a big role in decline of their relationship

Julian Borger reporting for The Guardian: You may wonder why the current level of hostility between Russia and US is so high. There are, of course, many different factors that have contributed to this unfortunate process over the course of several years, but some do weigh more than others, when put on scales of critical thinking.

William Perry, who was defense secretary in Bill Clinton’s administration from 1994 to 1997, specified that for the past several years the radical divide between West and East was the caused by Russia’s military involvement in Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts.

However, he continued his thought, stating that cooperation between the two countries’ militaries had improved rapidly just a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union and that these gains were initially squandered more as a result of US than Russian actions.

“In the last few years, most of the blame can be pointed at the actions that Putin has taken. But in the early years I have to say that the United States deserves much of the blame,” Perry said, speaking at a Guardian Live event in London.

“Our first action that really set us off in a bad direction was when Nato started to expand, bringing in eastern European nations, some of them bordering Russia. At that time we were working closely with Russia and they were beginning to get used to the idea that Nato could be a friend rather than an enemy ... but they were very uncomfortable about having Nato right up on their border and they made a strong appeal for us not to go ahead with that.”

Perry argued against alienating Russia by expanding NATO back in early 90’s when the period of post-Soviet courtship and cooperation had begun. However, his opposition, represented by US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, ultimately proved to be more successful, in large part because of the vice-president, Al Gore, who argued “we could manage the problems this would create with Russia.”

Former head of defense also said the decision reflected a contemptuous attitude among US officials towards the troubled former superpower.

“It wasn’t that we listened to their argument and said he don’t agree with that argument,” he said. “Basically the people I was arguing with when I tried to put the Russian point ... the response that I got was really: ‘Who cares what they think? They’re a third-rate power.’ And of course that point of view got across to the Russians as well. That was when we started sliding down that path.”

Perry considered resigning over the issue “but I concluded that my resignation would be misinterpreted as opposition to Nato membership that I greatly favored – just not right away.”

The second and most obvious misstep by Washington DC under George W. Bush was to deploy a net of ballistic missiles, calling it a defense system, in Eastern Europe, disregarding direct opposition from Moscow.

Perry said: “We rationalized [the system] as being to defend against an Iranian nuclear missile – they don’t have any but that’s another issue. But the Russians said ‘Wait a bit, this weakens our deterrence.’ The issue again wasn’t discussed on the basis of its merits – it was just ‘who cares about what Russia thinks.’ We dismissed it again.”

The third and perhaps the most mysterious one at factor that Perry brought up was direct and indirect Washington’s support for so called “colored revolutions” in former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine. This perhaps was the final nail to the coffin, in which the trust between two powers has been buried.

 “After he came to office, Putin came to believe that the United States had an active and robust program to overthrow his regime,” the former defense secretary said.

“And from that point on a switch went on in Putin’s mind that said: I’m no longer going to work with the west ... I don’t know the facts behind Putin’s belief that we actually had a program to foment revolution in Russia but what counts is he believed it.”

By Stefan Paraber for GIA

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

Let’s examine the claims made regarding the Clinton years.

First, the issue of NATO expansion is a major one. Gorbachev at the time agreed for the unification of Germany despite the Russian trauma from World War II in which Nazi Germany invaded deeply into Russia, only since Secretary of State Baker promised that NATO will not expand. Of course, that promise was broken though Gorbachev was a fool for not demanding this commitment in writing.

Secondly, anyone who looks at the map of NATO missiles in Europe will see that Russia is surrounded by missiles from on both sides. The official reason, that this is meant to deter Iran, makes less sense when one sees how Russia is simply encircled.  Also, Iran has never made even the smallest move to suggest it wishes to attack Europe, although one could argue it may want to attack Israel.
Thirdly, the “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine were not spontaneous as the US claimed but were instigated and pushed for by various US-sponsored NGOs. That is not to say that many in Ukraine for example, do not wish to be part of the EU, although this wish has recently been dashed by Juncker. But as Victoria Nuland admitted, the US spent over $5 billion in what it terms “democracy promotion” in Ukraine. Needless to say, until today, no official investigation has been conducted regarding the snipers in Maidan in Kyiv who fired on protesters and were of the opposition and not sent by the former Ukrainian president.

Finally, According to the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), the US has six nuclear weapon facilities in five countries in Europe: Belgium (10-20), Germany (10-20), Italy (60-70), Netherlands (10-20) and Turkey (60-70). For what purpose? 

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