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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/27/21

2022 - Year of Major Power Conflict Over Ukraine

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The United States, wrapped in its self-made cloak of so-called "American exceptionalism", is loath to undertake any action that can be construed as weakening its geopolitical posture, or strengthening that of an adversary, actual or potential.

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Under normal circumstances, such a foundational approach toward negotiations would be seen as logical and necessary. Of course, defining "normal conditions" is very much a subjective exercise in Washington, DC. What American diplomats embrace as the status quo ante is seen in many corners of the world as the United States taking what it wants, when it wants, how it wants, regardless of the cost such actions impose on the rest of the world.

How else can one explain the actions of the world's sole remaining superpower in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union thirty years ago and the subsequent end of the Cold War?

The bombing of Belgrade, Serbia in 1999 (the only time a European capital has been so attacked since the end of the Second World War) void of any legal authority recognized under international law?

The invasion of Iraq, using a manufactured pretext, in open violation of international law? Two decades of illegitimate occupation of Afghanistan under the false premise of nation building?

The destruction of Libya in the name of illegal regime change?

The eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) despite verbal assurances from various senior NATO diplomats and leaders that this would not happen?

The dissolution of foundational arms control agreements, such as the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) and Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaties, in a manner which failed to conceal America's desire to deploy missile defense systems and offensive intermediate-range missiles on the European continent that directly threaten Russian national security?

The Last Chance for Peace?

This list of complaints does not reflect exaggeration or fabrication. The points raised are reality-based, founded in fact, and incontrovertibly true. Moreover, they serve as the foundation for a pair of draft treaties submitted by Russia to the United States and NATO last week which the Russians claim represent the last chance for peace in Europe.

Students of diplomatic history will note, accurately, that rarely do parties engaged in serious negotiations open with a gambit that includes complete, ready-for-signature draft treaties. Serious negotiations are defined by the principles of cooperation and compromise between equal partners to the treaty under discussion.

Usually take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums appear only after armed conflict between nations where one party has emerged decisively victorious over the other. Any diplomat from either the United States or one of its NATO partners would be right to note that neither the U.S. nor NATO have been defeated by Russia.

Moreover, by placing all its demands up front, Russia has weakened its hand by allowing NATO to pick and chose what, if any, of these demands might be open to potential compromise where NATO will refuse to yield and where NATO will push back with demands of its own. Simply put, by publishing its demands in draft treaty form, these experts contend, Russia has seriously weakened its hand.

The problem with this point of view, however, is that it is founded on the belief that what Russia is proposing is an old school diplomatic negotiation. It is not. One need only refer to the list of perceived sins, outlined above, to understand that Russia believes it has already yielded as much as it possibly can to what it believes is an overly aggressive, anti-Russian agenda being actively implemented by the U.S. and NATO.

These grievances are not assembled by reviewing decades of Russian diplomatic commentary, but rather by viewing one speech given by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Russian Defense Ministry, earlier this week. The status quo ante, Putin has declared, is no longer acceptable. The U.S. and NATO must be open for the need to change, or else Russia will be compelled to change them on its own.

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Scott Ritter served as a former Marine Corps officer from 1984 until 1991, and as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He is the author of several books, including "Iraq Confidential" (Nation Books, 2005) and "Target Iran" (more...)

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