Senior US Officials Knew That NATO Expansion To Ukraine Would Force Russia To Intervene

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Senior officials in the US government knew back in 2008, that adding Ukraine to NATO would be seen as a serious “military threat” by Russia.

They were well aware that NATO expansion to Ukraine would cross Moscow’s security “red lines” and force it to intervene.

Even so, Western leaders have continued to insist that Ukraine would join the US-led military alliance.

MultiPolarista reports: At the annual NATO summit back in 2008, the George W. Bush administration publicly called for adding Russia’s neighbors Ukraine and Georgia to the military alliance. NATO’s secretary-general declared that the two countries would eventually become members.

But privately, US diplomats knew that this move would be seen as an existential threat by Moscow, and could provoke Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

The former US ambassador to Russia, William J. Burns, who is now director of the CIA, warned in a February 2008 embassy cable that Ukraine constituted a security “redline” for Moscow.

The confidential State Department cable was titled “Nyet Means Nyet: Russia’s NATO Enlargement Redlines” (“nyet” is Russian for “no”).

Burns cautioned that the issue of NATO membership for Ukraine “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.”

Burns wrote that Foreign Minister Sergey “Lavrov emphasized that Russia was convinced that [NATO] enlargement was not based on security reasons, but was a legacy of the Cold War.”

The former US ambassador to Russia, and current CIA director, published a prescient analysis that would foreshadow Moscow’s actions in 2022:

Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region. Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests. Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face.

Burns’ warnings came true just a few years later.

Niamh Harris
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