Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
If the United States and Europe were thinking rationally, the NATO summit in Wales last week would have been an opportunity to discuss a lasting resolution to the violent crisis in Ukraine, which has claimed thousands of lives and crippled the country’s economy. Instead, amid a fragile cease-fire agreement between Kiev and pro-Russian rebels in the east, the assembled world leaders used the summit for more belligerent talk and reckless saber-rattling, with their ultimate goal increasingly unclear. The goal seemed more preparing the NATO alliance for a new Cold War with Russia than exploring how to make peace, even as Moscow was helping to bring about the cease-fire agreement.
The meeting was just the most recent disturbing example of how cavalierly and cynically the NATO leaders—including President Obama—have escalated tensions, while dismissing opportunities to bring the conflict to a reasonable conclusion quickly. Absent from the discussion in Wales, among other things, was any recognition of NATO members’ own roles in triggering the crisis. Despite the dominant narrative that Russia is to blame for Ukraine’s uncertain future, history tells a different story—one in which the West’s provocative behavior has had predictable repercussions.
There would have been no civil war if the European Union’s leadership had not insisted on an exclusive association agreement that prejudiced Ukrainian industry in the east and trade with Russia, or if the United States and European nations had used their influence with the demonstrators to abide by the February 21 agreement then-President Viktor Yanukovych signed, which would have handed more power to parliament and called for elections in December, or if the United States and Europe had been willing to work with Russia to restore the February 21 agreement and calm worries in Crimea and the east about the rights of Russian-speaking Ukrainians.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.