The Russia-Ukraine war did not begin Feb. of 2022. There are many well documented events, agreements, and warnings leading up to the current situation where we find ourselves threatening nuclear superpower facing an existential threat to their country. U.S. foreign policy and NATO expansion fanned the flames of escalation and the Ukrainian people are paying the ultimate price. Supporting the Ukrainian people is not pledging billions more in weapons, it is through diplomacy. In order to move beyond the rhetoric, we must step back, consider the history, and move beyond the cheap tactics of "Putin Puppet" claims etc. Move beyond the popular refrain "You're either with us or with them."


John Saulie-Rohman

10 min read

The Russia-Ukraine war is popularly characterized as being the result of Russia’s imperial conquest, attempting to regain what was lost after the dissolution of the Soviet Union,  and how it is imperative we “defend democracy” from the ‘murderous dictator’ Vladimir Putin. 

The continued funding of this conflict is not only reckless, but the narrative is disingenuous, as our elected officials are loath to be honest with the American people as to the true nature of the evolution of the events leading up to where we are now and the complicity of our foreign policy establishment in urging this conflict along.

As “U.S. officials” continue to assert, “Russia's invasion and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine is today not just an assault on Ukrainian freedom and liberty, but also a threat to global order.” Our bought and paid for representatives continue to echo this sentiment and debate, not whether these funds should continue, but 

But, as is often the case with most conflicts we find ourselves mired in, the story of how we got to where we are, has been obfuscated by a carefully curated narrative, seeking to ensure continued public support. A narrative which fails to recognize key events leading up to the February 2022 invasion. 

Let me be clear. Admittedly, I am not a Russian/Soviet history expert, but this, in my view, is not a prerequisite in establishing, what I believe to be, a more honest representation of what led up to this disastrous conflict. What is important though, is that we seek out uncompromised scholars, and independent media with their dignity still intact. Individuals with an unflinching ethical imperative to accurately recount events as they unfold. Individuals who are willing to face the onslaught of character assassination and ridicule they encounter due their unwillingness to compromise their reporting as they refuse to accept the blatant falsehoods of the established narrative.

It is understood, and widely accepted, that Russia did in fact start this war. I do not disagree. However, the U.S. and its allies’ complicity in fanning the flames of conflict, by way of pursuing policies which were well known for decades to result in conflict, cannot be overlooked or overstated. 

So, let’s get into it.

John Mearsheimer, is one of the preeminent voices of truth and reason in matters of foreign policy. In a June 16, 2022 lecture he stated:

“The war in Ukraine is a multi-dimensional disaster, which is likely to get much worse in the foreseeable future. When a war is successful, little attention is paid to its causes, but when the outcome is disastrous, understanding how it happened becomes paramount. People want to know: how did we get into this terrible situation?...Given that the United States and its NATO allies played a crucial role in the events that led to the Ukraine war—and are now playing a central role in the conduct of that war—it is appropriate to evaluate the West’s responsibility for this calamity.”

On February 9, 1990, leading up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, US Secretary of State James Baker famously assured Soviet President Mikael Gorbachev there was no need to concern himself about NATO expansion, “...there would be no extension of…NATO one inch to the east”.

Four years later, in January 1994, the Clinton administration, attended the Brussels NATO Summit. Following this summit, NATO members declared [they] “would welcome NATO expansion that would reach to democratic states to our East.”. 

While President Clinton and future Secretary of State Albreight were very much in favor of pursuing NATO expansion, a well respected diplomatic scholar, George Kennan warned this approach would be “the greatest mistake in Western policy in the entire post-Cold War era.” as it would be perceived as a great threat to the sovereignty of Russia.

3 years later, in June of 1997, following the Helsinki and Paris Summits, 50 foreign policy experts signed an open letter declaring “We, the undersigned, believe that the current U.S.led effort to expand NATO, the focus of the recent Helsinki and Paris Summits, is a policy error of historic proportions.”

Unsurprisingly, in March of 1999, a NATO press release confirmed the accession of Hungary, Poland, and Czech Republic to NATO.

At this point, when considering U.S./NATO “agreements” to not expand east, and the numerous warnings of provocation, it is important to view these transgressions from the perspective of the other side. And honestly assess, if the U.S. were in their position, what would be the reaction? 

Moving on.

If the accession of the previous three nations to NATO was not sufficiently inflammatory, in 2002, seven more countries began talks to join. In 2004, the seven countries were officially admitted. Per official NATO documentation The Enlargement of The Alliance “Seven partner countries officially became members of NATO on 29 March 2004: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, bringing the total membership of the Alliance to 26.”

Following the 2004 expansion, The Orange Revolution transpired, heralded by the West as a grass-roots democratic revolution, but perceived by Russia as follows: 

“The presidential election in Kiev has been held up by analysts, politicians, and journalists in the Russian Federation as another worrying example of Western attempts to “manufacture democracy” in former Soviet space. Under the guise of mass popularity (“unpaid spontaneity” being considered a political oxymoron), Western-funded international organizations that advocate democracy—such as the OSCE, as well as U.S.- funded NGOs such as Freedom House, the U.S. Democratic Party’s National Democratic Institute and the Republicans’ International Republican Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Open Society Foundation—are considered to have underwritten the “revolution.”

The 2004 election, and mired in election fraud, pro-Western president Viktor Yuschenko was sworn into office, defeating Viktor Yanukovich with wide support of the Russian speaking Eastern flank of Ukraine. However, six years later in 2010, Yanukovitch was elected president, which according to the Organization for Security and Co-operation Parliamentary Assembly (OSCEPA) “Ukraine's presidential election, the fifth since the country regained its independence when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, was democratic and "organized in a transparent manner,".

February 10, 2007, in response to the continued NATO expansion, at the annual Munich Security Conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin pointedly addressed the Munich Conference on Security Policy. 

“It turns out that NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders, and we continue to strictly fulfill the treaty obligations and do not react to these actions at all.” 

He continued 

“I think it is obvious that NATO expansion … represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?”

With the world keenly aware of Putin’s concerns, in February of 2008, then US Ambassador to Russia William Burns (current Director of the CIA), responding to Ukraine and Georgia’s initial intent to join NATO membership, sent a confidential memo titled Nyet Means Nyet. The summary of the memo cleary states:

“Foreign Minister Lavrov and other senior officials have reiterated strong opposition, stressing that Russia would view further eastward expansion as a potential military threat.  NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine, remains "an emotional and neuralgic" issue for Russia…In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.  Additionally, the GOR and experts continue to claim that Ukrainian NATO membership would have a major impact on Russia's defense industry, Russian-Ukrainian family connections, and bilateral relations generally.”

In the face of the clear and present concerns for Russian sovereignty, two months following William Burns’ memo, on April 3, 2008, NATO officially declared “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.” 

Promptly following this declaration, on August 20, 2008, the U.S. Department of State announced the “establishment and operation of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) interceptor facility in Poland” 

As the oncoming crisis continued to unfold, Ukraine once again would be mired in yet another, this time much more consequential, revolt. As Prof. John Mearsheimer wrote in 2014 Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin: “The West’s triple package of policies—NATO enlargement, EU expansion, and democracy promotion—added fuel to a fire waiting to ignite. The spark came in November 2013, when Yanukovych rejected a major economic deal he had been negotiating with the EU and decided to accept a $15 billion Russian counteroffer instead.”

Clearly demonstrating willful disregard for sustaining peace and pushing the region into conflict while pursuing the goal of ensuring a more Western friendly Ukraine. On January 28, 2014, the U.S. was found to continue its efforts of meddling in the affairs of Ukraine. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt conducted a phone call discussing their regime change intentions. Their phone call was intercepted, posted on YouTube and reported by various news outlets. The intercepted phone call transcripts clearly implicate the U.S.’s undeniable involvement in Ukrainian internal politics. At the conclusion of the phone call and after clarifying who these officials believed to be the best candidate to be put in power. Nuland states “So on that piece Jeff when I wrote the note Sullivan's come back to me VFR saying you need Biden and I said probably tomorrow for an atta boy and to get the deets (details) to stick. So Biden's willing.”

Shortly after this, in late February, 2014, the Euromaidan Coup began to escalate and the pieces began to fall into place. With blatant U.S. support of the coup, “Sen. John McCain (R‑AZ), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, went to Kiev to show solidarity with the Euromaidan activists. McCain dined with opposition leaders, including members of the ultra right‐​wing Svoboda Party, and later appeared on stage in Maidan Square during a mass rally. He stood shoulder to shoulder with Svoboda leader Oleg Tyagnibok.” 

Additionally, Victoria Nuland, in a much more flagrant display of support when “[Nuland] noted in a speech to the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation on December 13, 2013, that she had traveled to Ukraine three times in the weeks following the start of the demonstrations. Visiting the Maidan on December 5, she handed out cookies to demonstrators and expressed support for their cause.”  

As civil unrest continued to surge, an Agreement on the settlement of the political crisis in Ukraine was reached. The democratically elected president Yanukovich agreed to hold early elections, well aware of his certain failure to secure the election. However, the democratic process was unsurprisingly interrupted by a violent coup of armed groups demanding the immediate ouster of Yanukovitch.   

With full U.S. support, and a complete subversion of the democratic processes which we espouse, the hand picked [see previously intercepted phone call] Ukrainian politician, Arseniy Yatsenyuk was put in place as Prime Minister.

Clearly, this was an affront to Russia’s sovereignty as the West’s blatant support for the coup resulted in imposition of their hand picked, pro-West candidate. Prof John notes “For Putin, the time to act against Ukraine and the West had arrived. Shortly after February 22, he ordered Russian forces to take Crimea from Ukraine, and soon after that, he incorporated it into Russia.”

In an attempt to ensure peace on the embattled Eastern flank of Ukraine The Minsk Agreements were negotiated and signed by Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE special representative. Ultimately, the Minsk II agreement included the previous Minsk I as a “package of measure” in 2015 under the unanimously backed UN Resolution 2202. As the European Council on Foreign Relations points out, they covered four main areas:

Security, including: the establishment of a ceasefire, monitored by a special OSCE mission; the withdrawal of forces and heavy weapons on both sides of the line of contact; the disarmament of illegal groups; and the withdrawal of foreign fighters.

Humanitarian aspects, including the exchange of prisoners and provisions regarding humanitarian access (to which de-mining was subsequently added as a key item for discussion).

Economy, including: firstly, the establishment of an economic development plan for Donbas; and, a few months into the war, a dialogue on the resumption of economic relations across the line of contact.

Political issues, which revolved around three main points: the status of Donetsk and Luhansk regions (with Ukraine meant to undertake a constitutional reform to introduce decentralization and a law on self-government for these regions); the holding of local elections in these regions; and an amnesty for participants in the “events that took place in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” (the phrase adopted due to the lack of a common definition of these events).

Unfortunately, these agreements turned out to be nothing more than a ploy, as noted by Russian ambassador to Canada, Oleg V. Stepanov: 

“Though, as it turns out now, the West wanted not a win-win situation, but a zero-sum game, in order to achieve not a consensus, but the defeat of Russia within a broader geopolitical game at the expense of the Russians living in Ukraine. In their recent candid remarks, European politicians, including German ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and previous French President Francois Holland were pretty frank about that, as well as about the real purpose of the Minsk agreements aimed at deceiving Russia and give Kiev time to accumulate forces for striking Donbass and Crimea.” 

And so, here we are. Once again committed to seeing through a failed policy, intent on expanding our interests at the peril of hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. As our elected officials continue to readily sacrifice the lives of so many Ukrainian people in the name of “democracy”. 

However, the true nature of the intent, according to the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin [is] “that one of the U.S.'s goals in aiding Ukraine is to “see Russia weakened” so that it cannot “do the kinds of things that it has done.” Quick to realize he had said the quiet part out loud, he added “We want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country able to protect its sovereign territory.”

Our elected officials, bought and paid for by their Military-Industrial Complex lobbyists, continue to send billions of dollars to sacrifice untold numbers of lives while our national debt, now at $34.58 Trillion continues to balloon. Leading us along like puppy dogs as we’re told victory is still a reality.

The true nature of this conflict, in its current phase, is anything but close to victory. After failed peace talks, at the behest of the U.S. and the U.K. as they would not accept anything but victory, regardless of the numbers of lives destroyed, the U.S. and NATO are intent on seeing their project through with potential for nuclear war closer than anytime in our lifetime.