When I was a journalist for The Times (London) in Moscow in December 1992, I saw a print-out of a speech by the then Russian foreign minister, Andrei Kozyrev, warning that if the West continued to attack vital Russian interests and ignore Russian protests, there would one day be a dangerous backlash. A British journalist had scrawled on it a note to an American colleague, “Here are more of Kozyrev’s ravings.”
Andrei Kozyrev was the most liberal and pro-Western foreign minister Russia has ever had. As he stated in his speech, his anxiety about Western behavior was rooted in fear that the resulting backlash would destroy liberalism in Russia and Russian co-operation with the West. He was proved right as we see today. Yet when he expressed this fear, in entirely moderate and rational terms, he was instinctively dismissed by western observers as virtually insane.
The point about this history is that the existing crisis with Russia has origins that go far beyond Putin. Russia has a foreign and security blob, just as does the United States, with a set of semi-permanent beliefs about Russian vital interests rooted in national history and culture, which are shared by large parts of the population. These include the exclusion of hostile military alliances from Russia’s neighborhood and the protection of the political position and cultural rights of Russian minorities.
The Yeltsin government protested strongly against the start of NATO expansion in the 1990s and Russia accustomed itself without too much trouble to NATO membership for the former Soviet satellites in Central Europe. But from the very beginning of NATO expansion in the mid-1990s, Russian officials and commentators—including liberal reformists—warned that an offer of NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine would bring confrontation with the West and an acute danger of war. These warnings were echoed by George Kennan, the original architect of the strategy to contain the USSR and the State Department’s greatest ever Russia expert, as well as by Henry Kissinger and other leading American statesmen.
Read the full article in TIME.