Geopolitics (Too "Whataboutery" for Other Threads).

MTF

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All of which makes me wonder why the US continuously reports that NATO in Ukraine is the biggest red-flag to Russia. If it isn't nuclear, and there's good reason above to suggest it isn't, then it has to come back down to basic sphere of influence thought on the Russian side which the Americans have to understand because they outline it in great detail.

Not saying it is so, I'm just trying to understand US rationale for Russia's aversion to NATO in Ukraine even if we assume that Russia is deluded to think that Ukraine being in NATO makes any significant military difference.
You're getting circular. The US acknowledges that Russia believes it to be critical, in that acknowledgement there is no judgement as to whether Russia is justified in its belief.
 

Mciahel Goodman

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What do you mean by the "US rationale for Russia's aversion to NATO"?

Shouldn't it be the Russian rationale for the Russian aversion to NATO?
I mean, let's assume that Russia isn't sincere and that it doesn't view NATO as a threat. Why then does the US understand that Russia views NATO (in Ukraine) as a threat, or as the biggest of all red flags?

Why does the US need a rationale for someone else's actions? Ukraine is an independent country that has been invaded, and it doesn't take too much imagination to see that if that invasion is successful more invasions of more innocent countries will follow. Stopping that is a good idea if possible.
Because it's standard military/strategic thinking, no? They want to understand the other side.

The US acknowledges that Russia believes it to be critical, in that acknowledgement there is no judgement as to whether Russia is justified in its belief.
This is what I mean. The US believes Russia will react to NATO expansion within Ukraine. If it isn't because Russia is genuine in its belief that NATO represents a security threat, then why does the US think Russia will react?

Two scenarios. Russia is sincere and believes NATO is a threat to its security. Russia is not sincere and does not believe NATO is a threat to its security. The US operates from the first scenario though this doesn't mean the threat is real, but that the US understand the Russians to consider the threat to be real. I'm just curious as to how the US reasons this.

Point being that it seems to come back down to spheres of infuence, at least that's how the US would seem to understand the Russian response. Not saying that's legitimate, but it does seem like that's the basic calculation the US was making.
 

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I mean, let's assume that Russia isn't sincere and that it doesn't view NATO as a threat. Why then does the US understand that Russia views NATO (in Ukraine) as a threat, or as the biggest of all red flags?
I don't believe that the nuclear aspect is legitimately viewed as a threat. I do believe that Putin is paranoid about NATO and wants to weaken it, and I believe NATO intelligence services know that as well.
 

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I don't believe that the nuclear aspect is legitimately viewed as a threat. I do believe that Putin is paranoid about NATO and wants to weaken it, and I believe NATO intelligence services know that as well.
OK, fair enough. That's what makes sense to me, too. That being the case, can you understand why people have made the argument regarding NATO expansion even if you disagree that NATO represents a threat? The basic point Mearsheimer was making. It isn't that Putin was justified in his invasion, but that the US would have known such was likely and perhaps decided as it was inevitable they may as well roll the dice. That is, NATO would have understood this to be a possible outcome but considered it worthwhile. Doesn't make them the aggressor, but it is a valid point as made by Mearsheimer and others.

Yes it is, and I could list several possible reasons for Putin's actions, but whatever his reasons are the result is the same, he has invaded, he is the aggressor.
It comes back down to sphere of influence for me, and I agree he is the aggressor.
 

rpitroda

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Maybe Afghanistan as the tribes gave cover to OBL. But not Iraq as Saddam had a long history of keeping terrorists out of that country, mostly because he wanted complete control. Iraq was the high point in American unipolarity. There was no existential threat to the US from Iraq, they just invaded because they could (it had been a goal since the first Gulf War).

There are few comparable examples of the Russian/Ukrainian issue as viewed from a Western POV. Cuba is the closest you can get because it ticks all the boxes.


I think NATO housing nuclear missiles in Ukraine would be seen as an existential threat by Russia and that their reasoning hasn't changed in two decades. I don't think NATO will invade Russia, but I do think they will try exert pressure on Russia, as they have been doing since 2008. Is there an American general who would tolerate Russian nukes in Mexico? No one would assume a Russian invasion was likely, but the presence of the weapons would still be deemed intolerable. Or maybe we would assume an invasion is likely?


Russia maintains escalatory dominance because its entire military is set up to defend its border. It has installations all across Crimea, it has control of the Black Sea, and its Western front is its most guarded. NATO has to ship weapons into Ukraine and those deliveries are subject to Russian strikes. You'd need to bring in a lot more NATO weaponry to achieve parity and that would include a NFZ, fleets in the Black Sea, and feck knows what else. Would lead to a direct confrontation imo. Ukraine matters more to Russia because it is a border security issue, which is the point Obama was making.


Yeah, we won't agree. I can blame Russia for the invasion while also blaming NATO for getting involved. The invasion didn't happen in a vacuum. Doesn't mean Russia isn't responsible, also doesn't mean it wasn't provoked.
Yes we won’t agree. So not too much more to be said. But I really do question your objectivity in this specific matter, because it seems to me you’re using issues with NATO and the west in the past (unrelated to Ukraine) to find a reason to make the Russian invasion not entirely their fault. I really do take issue with the idea that Russia bordering a NATO country which may or may not end up having American nukes as a reason to invade, because a) it already does, b) in todays world and with todays technology a nuke being in Ukraine or Germany doesn’t matter, and c) even if the Russians consider it an existential threat, no reasonably thinking human would. I also find your point that Russia was provoked into this, somehow making it slightly less their fault, absolutely abhorrent. I think it is shamefully disrespectful to Ukrainians.

Edit: yea I don’t really disagree on Iraq.
 

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I also find your point that Russia was provoked into this, somehow making it slightly less their fault, absolutely abhorrent. I think it is shamefully disrespectful to Ukrainians.
But the consensus is that NATO knew its expansion in Ukraine would lead to some version of this. It doesn't mitigate responsibility but it does hint at provocation. Because even if Putin is delusional, and NATO is not a threat to Russia, the consensus is that the US and allies understood that Russia viewed NATO (in Ukraine) as a red flag and continued anyway. You can say the provocation is just because Ukraine has a right to determine its own future, but you cannot say that the provocation's likely outcomes were not understood, in advance, to constitute a provocation. And that's the basic point Mearsheimer and many in US security positions were making all along. All of whom also condemned Putin and his invasion.
 

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But the consensus is that NATO knew its expansion in Ukraine would lead to some version of this. It doesn't mitigate responsibility but it does hint at provocation. Because even if Putin is delusional, and NATO is not a threat to Russia, the consensus is that the US and allies understood that Russia viewed NATO (in Ukraine) as a red flag and continued anyway. You can say the provocation is just because Ukraine has a right to determine its own future, but you cannot say that the provocation's likely outcomes were not understood, in advance, to constitute a provocation. And that's the basic point Mearsheimer and many in US security positions were making all along. All of whom also condemned Putin and his invasion.
For a start ‘provocation’ is an act which has the aim of inciting a response, so unless you are saying Nato was actively looking for a negative response from Russia then you’ve used the wrong term. And it’s without doubt offensive to Ukrainians, possibly deliberately so.
 

rpitroda

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OK, fair enough. That's what makes sense to me, too. That being the case, can you understand why people have made the argument regarding NATO expansion even if you disagree that NATO represents a threat? The basic point Mearsheimer was making. It isn't that Putin was justified in his invasion, but that the US would have known such was likely and perhaps decided as it was inevitable they may as well roll the dice. That is, NATO would have understood this to be a possible outcome but considered it worthwhile. Doesn't make them the aggressor, but it is a valid point as made by Mearsheimer and others.


It comes back down to sphere of influence for me, and I agree he is the aggressor.
It is of course about spheres of influence. Having a Ukraine aligned with Russia is massive for their economy and their political power. I really do think this isn’t about nukes or risk to security. Which is why, for me, there is no reason to not be blaming Russia 100% for this. Putin is purely escalating to an unacceptable position because he lost Ukraine as an ally. Which itself might not have even been the case because joining NATO means less military allegiance but it doesn’t inherently mean less economic and otherwise collaboration. It’s a huge mistake on both fronts. And not justifiable.
 

rpitroda

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But the consensus is that NATO knew its expansion in Ukraine would lead to some version of this. It doesn't mitigate responsibility but it does hint at provocation. Because even if Putin is delusional, and NATO is not a threat to Russia, the consensus is that the US and allies understood that Russia viewed NATO (in Ukraine) as a red flag and continued anyway. You can say the provocation is just because Ukraine has a right to determine its own future, but you cannot say that the provocation's likely outcomes were not understood, in advance, to constitute a provocation. And that's the basic point Mearsheimer and many in US security positions were making all along. All of whom also condemned Putin and his invasion.
The fundamental and critical point you’re missing here is that Ukraine isn’t just some puppet nation. This isn’t just about NATO and the west. Ukraine wanted to join NATO. I also take issue that Ukraine joining NATO was viewed as a risk to Russian invasion. Did they know it would upset Putin? Sure. But I’d like to see evidence to suggest that the west and NATO foresaw a full invasion of Ukraine if Ukraine decided to join NATO.
 

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For a start ‘provocation’ is an act which has the aim of inciting a response, so unless you are saying Nato was actively looking for a negative response from Russia then you’ve used the wrong term. And it’s without doubt offensive to Ukrainians, possibly deliberately so.
NATO forecast the results of its own action. It may have been looking for a response, to bring it to a head as a way of telling Putin enough is enough. If it really is about democracy versus autocracy, for example, why would NATO not push? Either way, it knew the response was likely and that it would be viewed as a provocation. I'm not looking for a moral position so if Ukrainians are offended it's not really relevant. I'm also not looking for blame, here. I'm just reasoning out the moves made by all involved and seeing what seems likely.

I mean the Ukrainians are constantly saying they're willing to fight for autonomy, and proving such, so why would NATO not back them despite knowing it would lead to conflict when conflict in this scenario is the only means of gaining said autonomy? That's actually a defense of NATO, not Russia.

The fundamental and critical point you’re missing here is that Ukraine isn’t just some puppet nation. This isn’t just about NATO and the west. Ukraine wanted to join NATO. I also take issue that Ukraine joining NATO was viewed as a risk to Russian invasion. Did they know it would upset Putin? Sure. But I’d like to see evidence to suggest that the west and NATO foresaw a full invasion of Ukraine if Ukraine decided to join NATO.
That's what they meant by biggest of red flags. It wasn't just about Putin, either, as Burns made clear. It was a general Russian position which went from the Kremlin to the most liberal detractors of Putin (that Ukraine in NATO was a red flag).
 

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But the consensus is that NATO knew its expansion in Ukraine would lead to some version of this. It doesn't mitigate responsibility but it does hint at provocation. Because even if Putin is delusional, and NATO is not a threat to Russia, the consensus is that the US and allies understood that Russia viewed NATO (in Ukraine) as a red flag and continued anyway. You can say the provocation is just because Ukraine has a right to determine its own future, but you cannot say that the provocation's likely outcomes were not understood, in advance, to constitute a provocation. And that's the basic point Mearsheimer and many in US security positions were making all along. All of whom also condemned Putin and his invasion.
My basic problem with this argument is that if we keep thinking like this, then no smaller country ever will be able to get out of some major power's influence if consecutive regimes in that major power don't change course and keep having imperial ambitions. And that counts all ways, including US and China.

Otherwise we'll be hearing complains about "our security concerns" and "provocations" till eternity.

I don't know the solution however though. Maybe it does take a huge loss in Ukraine for Russia to realize that perhaps their days as a major power are over and they'd better start working on their own country and improve quality of life for their citizens.
 

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OK, fair enough. That's what makes sense to me, too. That being the case, can you understand why people have made the argument regarding NATO expansion even if you disagree that NATO represents a threat? The basic point Mearsheimer was making. It isn't that Putin was justified in his invasion, but that the US would have known such was likely and perhaps decided as it was inevitable they may as well roll the dice. That is, NATO would have understood this to be a possible outcome but considered it worthwhile. Doesn't make them the aggressor, but it is a valid point as made by Mearsheimer and others.
No, I do not understand that line of thinking. At no time in NATO's expansion in the 1990s-2000s have they ever attacked, or seemed like they were going to attack, Russia... and they aren't going to, unless Russia attacks them.
 

rpitroda

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That's what they meant by biggest of red flags. It wasn't just about Putin, either, as Burns made clear. It was a general Russian position which went from the Kremlin to the most liberal detractors of Putin (that Ukraine in NATO was a red flag).
1. Is this founded in evidence? That red flag meant Russia would invade and occupy Ukraine?
2. You are still ignoring that Ukraine has a right to choose what it does.
3. Circling back to the original point, it still doesn’t mean provocation. It’s still not justification. It’s illegal, morally wrong, and based on a thought process which can categorically be rebuffed as bullshit.
 

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No, I do not understand that line of thinking. At not time in NATO's expansion in the 1990s-2000s have they ever attacked, or seemed like they were going to attack, Russia... and they aren't going to, unless Russia attacks them.
I mean in terms of extracting Ukraine from Russia's control. Or liberating them. Post above gets at it more. The price of Ukrainian autonomy being an inevitable conflict with Russia is what I'm getting at here.
 

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1. Is this founded in evidence? That red flag meant Russia would invade and occupy Ukraine?
2. You are still ignoring that Ukraine has a right to choose what it does.
3. Circling back to the original point, it still doesn’t mean provocation. It’s still not justification. It’s illegal, morally wrong, and based on a thought process which can categorically be rebuffed as bullshit.
1. Yes. It's repeated over and over again by former heads of major inteligence agencies in the US and Obama and various other strategic thinkers.
2. I'm not. I'm saying Ukraine (or most of it, at least) chose NATO.
3. I think it does mean provocation but that you can understand it much more clearly within the context given above, which includes Ukrainian autonomy.
 

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No, I do not understand that line of thinking. At not time in NATO's expansion in the 1990s-2000s have they ever attacked, or seemed like they were going to attack, Russia... and they aren't going to, unless Russia attacks them.
During your last two posts you’ve changed from saying initially that Ukraine’s actions ARE provocation, to saying they could be *viewed* as provocation. Two very different things, and, I think, typical of your debating style on here. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.
 

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During your last two posts you’ve changed from saying initially that Ukraine’s actions ARE provocation, to saying they could be *viewed* as provocation. Two very different things, and, I think, typical of your debating style on here. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Aimed at me I think. "Provocation" and "viewed as provocation" has the same material consequence which is Russian reaction. Follows on from whether you think Russia is sincere or not, and part of a much broader debate.
 

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Aimed at me I think. "Provocation" and "viewed as provocation" has the same material consequence which is Russian reaction. Follows on from whether you think Russia is sincere or not, and part of a much broader debate.
But they are very different things is my point, and you can’t segue between the two to suit your argument at the time.
 

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But they are very different things is my point, and you can’t segue between the two to suit your argument at the time.
They have different moral distinctions. But I'm not talking about blame here. Last two pages have been purely abstract.
 

rpitroda

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1. Yes. It's repeated over and over again by former heads of major inteligence agencies in the US and Obama and various other strategic thinkers.
2. I'm not. I'm saying Ukraine (or most of it, at least) chose NATO.
3. I think it does mean provocation but that you can understand it much more clearly within the context given above, which includes Ukrainian autonomy.
1. Not asking for you to tell me what you said… please show me evidence that Obama thought Ukraine joining NATO would lead to a war by Russia invading Ukraine.
2. Don’t see that forming part of your analysis, evaluation and conclusion thought.
3. Even if we agree that provocation is the right term, what does it mean anyway, if not justifying Russia’s invasion? Just another inappropriate reason/explanation of what Russia is doing? You’ve said yourself it isn’t justification. So I’m missing something or I’m not sure why, for your argument, it matters?
 

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Pages and pages of the NATO expansion issue. The fundamental issues are:

1. Great power spheres of influence have no place in Europe in 2022.

2. Point 1 is even more self-evident when the “great power” in question is a decrepit kleptocracy whose current strategic direction reduces it to a Chinese satrapy.

3.Since 1945 (and earlier to be honest), no European country has made the democratic decision to align itself with Russia over Western Europe (only possible and highly debatable exception being Serbia).

Specifically:

4. At some visceral level, Russia does not recognise Ukraine. Rather it is one of the two little brothers (along with Belarus) to big brother in Moscow, based on tangential and highly convenient interpretations of medieval history.

5. Ukraine has been trying to move towards the West since the Orange Revolution nearly 20 years. The reasons are economic aspirations and the desire to live in a “normal” country with the rule of law. Russia responded by trying to murder the candidate.

6. Ukraine tried again in 2014 and Russia responded by annexing territory and setting up puppet regimes built around criminality and terror.

7. For timing reasons not entirely clear (the leader’s terminal illness?), Russia launched in March this year a brutal war on Ukraine, creating Europe’s biggest humanitarian crisis since 1945 and the true costs of which are not yet known.

In light of that, how to interpret the focus on statements made in the early 90s about NATO other than pro-Kremlin whataboutism and an example of the enduring prevalence of the “useful idiot”in the West?
 

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3. Even if we agree that provocation is the right term, what does it mean anyway, if not justifying Russia’s invasion? Just another inappropriate reason/explanation of what Russia is doing?
It's not about justifying, it's about reasoning.

1. Not asking for you to tell me what you said… please show me evidence that Obama thought Ukraine joining NATO would lead to a war by Russia invading Ukraine.
Don't want to reprise the endless quotations, but they're all here in this thread. It has long been stated that NATO's expansion into Ukraine would lead to a Russian reponse. Post-Crimea, and in the context of the Donbas, it would be naive to assume that the US/NATO did not factor in military action or invasion as such a response. There are strategic war-game papers, too, which make allowance for this. One very recent one which I'll find.

In light of that, how to interpret the focus on statements made in the early 90s about NATO other than pro-Kremlin whataboutism and an example of the enduring prevalence of the “useful idiot”in the West?
These statements were made in 2008 and after, with the context being the Russian annexation of Georgian separatist states post-NATO invitation. Burns, and some others. Will track them down. But the point is that whether you agree or disagree with Ukraine's right to choose NATO (I'm assuming most agree), you have to concede that NATO understood this to represent a red flag for Russia, a provocation. You can defend that as just, as Ukraine choosing its own path, but you cannot say that it was not understood that NATO expansion in Ukraine would likely lead to a Russian response when that has been said by so many for so long.

You can easily hold the position that NATO provoked Russia intentionally but that the provocation is morally defensible because Ukrainian autonomy supercedes Russian sphere of influence concerns. You cannot easily hold the position that NATO had no idea its actions in Ukraine would be seen as a provocation, though.
 

rpitroda

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It's not about justifying, it's about reasoning.


Don't want to reprise the endless quotations, but they're all here in this thread. It has long been stated that NATO's expansion into Ukraine would lead to a Russian reponse. Post-Crimea, and in the context of the Donbas, it would be naive to assume that the US/NATO did not factor in military action or invasion as such a response. There are strategic war-game papers, too, which make allowance for this. One very recent one which I'll find.


These statements were made in 2008 and after. Burns, and some others. Will track them down. But the point is that whether you agree or disagree with Ukraine's right to choose NATO (I'm assuming most agree), you have to concede that NATO understood this to represent a red flag for Russia, a provocation. You can defend that as just, as Ukraine choosing its own path, but you cannot say that it was not understood that NATO expansion in Ukraine would likely lead to a Russian response when that has been said by so many for so long.

You can easily hold the position that NATO provoked Russia intentionally but that the provocation is morally defensible because Ukrainian autonomy supercedes Russian sphere of influence concerns. You cannot easily hold the position that NATO has no idea its actions in Ukraine would be seen as a provocation, though.
I think the right conclusion is NATO knew it would upset Russia. But it’s a stretch to think it was ever considered a reasonably possible outcome that Russia would launch a full scale invasion of Ukraine. A response, sure. But a full scale invasion?

It is clear though that this isn’t really about NATO expansion and nukes. Russia’s response to Swedish and Finnish applications shows as much. There is something else at play for Ukraine. Which all goes to show that I don’t think you can call it provocation. How can you say NATO provoked Russia when it wasn’t NATO who are asking Ukraine to join? Ukraine asked. And what do you do then? Say no, because then Russia would invade them? Isn’t that a choice for Ukraine and its politicians to make?

You still didn’t really explain why it matters, anyway.
 

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I think the right conclusion is NATO knew it would upset Russia. But it’s a stretch to think it was ever considered a reasonably possible outcome that Russia would launch a full scale invasion of Ukraine. A response, sure. But a full scale invasion?

It is clear though that this isn’t really about NATO expansion and nukes. Russia’s response to Swedish and Finnish applications shows as much. There is something else at play for Ukraine. Which all goes to show that I don’t think you can call it provocation. How can you say NATO provoked Russia when it wasn’t NATO who are asking Ukraine to join? Ukraine asked. And what do you do then? Say no, because then Russia would invade them? Isn’t that a choice for Ukraine and its politicians to make?

You still didn’t really explain why it matters, anyway.
I guess Mearsheimer-esque folks would say that yeah. Ukrainian neutrality at all costs.
 

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I think the right conclusion is NATO knew it would upset Russia. But it’s a stretch to think it was ever considered a reasonably possible outcome that Russia would launch a full scale invasion of Ukraine. A response, sure. But a full scale invasion?

It is clear though that this isn’t really about NATO expansion and nukes. Russia’s response to Swedish and Finnish applications shows as much. There is something else at play for Ukraine. Which all goes to show that I don’t think you can call it provocation. How can you say NATO provoked Russia when it wasn’t NATO who are asking Ukraine to join? Ukraine asked. And what do you do then? Say no, because then Russia would invade them? Isn’t that a choice for Ukraine and its politicians to make?

You still didn’t really explain why it matters, anyway.
I'll disagree on the first point, but need to re-read texts to clarify.

On the second, NATO maintained an open-door policy. It was intentionally ambiguous about Ukrainian membership in NATO. Then Ukraine made NATO membership a mandated goal of all its future governments via constiutional ammendment. NATO always refused to rule out Ukrainian membership. But also, the US and NATO moved into Ukraine in 2014 and began militarizing it. The entire Ukrainian army was rebuilt according to NATO doctrine of modernization. A good account of that process is given here.
 

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I mean in terms of extracting Ukraine from Russia's control. Or liberating them. Post above gets at it more. The price of Ukrainian autonomy being an inevitable conflict with Russia is what I'm getting at here.
Ukraine has the right to act as a sovereign state and make its own decisions for its country's future.
During your last two posts you’ve changed from saying initially that Ukraine’s actions ARE provocation, to saying they could be *viewed* as provocation. Two very different things, and, I think, typical of your debating style on here. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.
You quoted the wrong guy there.
 

rpitroda

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I'll disagree on the first point, but need to re-read texts to clarify.

On the second, NATO maintained an open-door policy. It was intentionally ambiguous about Ukrainian membership in NATO. Then Ukraine made NATO membership a mandated goal of all its future governments via constiutional ammendment. NATO always refused to rule out Ukrainian membership. But also, the US and NATO moved into Ukraine in 2014 and began militarizing it. The entire Ukrainian army was rebuilt according to NATO doctrine of modernization. A good account of that process is given here.
I’ll await the first.

On the second, everything you wrote doesn’t change the fact that having an open door policy doesn’t mean forcing Ukraine in. It was their choice. They made those decisions. They made the constitutional changes. Once the process commenced of course there was going to be some integration of military practices. None of that is provocation.
 

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Ukraine has the right to act as a sovereign state and make its own decisions for its country's future.
I agree, but I also think that the logical conclusion, knowing what we know about Russia's view of the matter, from the US side, is that NATO backing Ukrainian autonomy would be seen as a provocation.

On the second, everything you wrote doesn’t change the fact that having an open door policy doesn’t mean forcing Ukraine in. It was their choice. They made those decisions. They made the constitutional changes. Once the process commenced of course there was going to be some integration of military practices. None of that is provocation.
So the current head of the CIA made his views known on the issue:

Back to Bill Burns. To hear the Biden administration tell it, the Ukraine crisis is the product of one man: Vladimir Putin. Putin fears that if Ukraine joins NATO and becomes a pro-Western democracy, Russians will want the same for themselves and thus rise up against his tyrannical rule. The idea that Russians genuinely think NATO poses a security threat is transparent bunk.

The Biden narrative isn’t entirely false. Putin surely does fear that a democratic, pro-Western Ukraine could inspire popular uprisings in his country. But it is partially false because it suggests that were Putin not in power, Russia’s government would have no problem with Ukraine joining NATO. And it implies that the US bears no responsibility for the current standoff. According to Bill Burns, Biden’s own CIA Director, neither of those claims are true.

Two years ago, Burns wrote a memoir entitled, The Back Channel. It directly contradicts the argument being proffered by the administration he now serves. In his book, Burns says over and over that Russians of all ideological stripes—not just Putin—loathed and feared NATO expansion. He quotes a memo he wrote while serving as counselor for political affairs at the US embassy in Moscow in 1995. ‘Hostility to early NATO expansion,” it declares, “is almost universally felt across the domestic political spectrum here.” On the question of extending NATO membership to Ukraine, Burns’ warnings about the breadth of Russian opposition are even more emphatic. “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin),” he wrote in a 2008 memo to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.”

While the Biden administration claims that Putin bears all the blame for the current Ukraine crisis, Burns makes clear that the US helped lay its foundations. By taking advantage of Russian weakness, he argues, Washington fueled the nationalist resentment that Putin exploits today. Burns calls the Clinton administration’s decision to expand NATO to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic “premature at best, and needlessly provocative at worst.” And he describes the appetite for revenge it fostered among many in Moscow during Boris Yeltsin’s final years as Russia’s president. “As Russians stewed in their grievance and sense of disadvantage,” Burns writes, “a gathering storm of ‘stab in the back’ theories slowly swirled, leaving a mark on Russia’s relations with the West that would linger for decades.”

As the Bush administration moved toward opening NATO’s doors to Ukraine, Burns’ warnings about a Russian backlash grew even starker. He told Rice it was “hard to overstate the strategic consequences” of offering NATO membership to Ukraine and predicted that “it will create fertile soil for Russian meddling in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.” Although Burns couldn’t have predicted the specific kind of meddling Putin would employ—either in 2014 when he seized Crimea and fomented a rebellion in Ukraine’s east or today—he warned that the US was helping set in motion the kind of crisis that America faces today. Promise Ukraine membership in NATO, he wrote, and “There could be no doubt that Putin would fight back hard.”

Were a reporter to read Burns’ quotes to White House press secretary Jen Psaki today, she’d likely accuse them of “parroting Russian talking points.” But Burns is hardly alone. From inside the US government, many officials warned that US policy toward Russia might bring disaster. William Perry, Bill Clinton’s Defense Secretary from 1994 to 1997, almost resigned because of his opposition to NATO expansion. He has since declared that because of its policies in the 1990s, “the United States deserves much of the blame” for the deterioration in relations with Moscow. Steven Pifer, who from 1998 to 2000 served as US ambassador to Ukraine, has called Bush’s 2008 decision to declare that Ukraine would eventually join NATO “a real mistake.” Fiona Hill, who gained fame during the Trump impeachment saga, says that as national intelligence officers for Russia and Eurasia she and her colleagues “warned” Bush that “Putin would view steps to bring Ukraine and Georgia closer to NATO as a provocative move that would likely provoke pre-emptive Russian military action.”

Burns’ criticisms of past US policy toward Russia and Ukraine don’t mean he opposes Biden’s policy today. He may believe that while pushing NATO expansion helped bring about the current standoff, it would be a mistake to pull back from it now—at the point of a Russian gun.
With the part in bold being my primary point. You can understand the idea of provocation without also saying that Russia was justified in its invasion, and that's the broader point made by almost every academic source cited in this thread. I don't think it's controversial or that it implies a mutually exclusive premise.
 

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@Mciahel Goodman you keep repeating the same ideas about NATO expansion, and about NATO and Ukraine "knowing" the "possible consequences" of their actions and so on. And you are also saying that Russia is not justified to invade.

I am curious, what do you think would be a realistic course of action for Ukraine and NATO? Should Ukraine just say "okay, we will stay in Russia's influence forever, and accept any dictator that Putin sends to us"? Is that what you consider "pragmatism"? And should NATO just dissolve to make the Russians happy? Can you give a simple and clear answer about the alternative you would consider ideal for Ukraine? Even if it is theoretical only.

It seems to me that Ukraine is like a woman who is repeatedly beaten by her husband. She finally decides to leave the husband and go to a women's shelter, and the husband catches up with her and kills her. In such a situation, why would you talk about the woman "knowing the consequences" of leaving her husband? Who would talk about the responsibility of the women's shelter, because just being there obviously aggravates the husband? And what options do you think this woman had? Stay with her husband forever? And what should the women's shelter do? Just dissolve, to make the abusive husband happier?



(And actually NATO already rejected Ukraine in 2008. And many NATO countries like Germany were happy to depend on Russia for their energy needs, which clearly shows they never had any intentions to get into conflict with Russia. It seems to me that if NATO had accepted Ukraine in 2008, we'd have no war. Latvia wasn't invaded because it is in NATO. But obviously that's not what you are saying. )
 

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I agree, but I also think that the logical conclusion, knowing what we know about Russia's view of the matter, from the US side, is that NATO backing Ukrainian autonomy would be seen as a provocation.


So the current head of the CIA made his views known on the issue:



With the part in bold being my primary point. You can understand the idea of provocation without also saying that Russia was justified in its invasion, and that's the broader point made by almost every academic source cited in this thread. I don't think it's controversial or that it implies a mutually exclusive premise.
I’ll ask again, how can it be provocation when it is Ukraine who decides if they do or don’t join NATO? The US and NATO can incentivise countries as much as they like. Russia must have tried to incentivise Ukraine to align with itself too. But neither decide. If Ukraine decided to align to Russia, it’d be just as bullshit an argument to suggest NATO and the rest of Europe were provoked into invading Ukraine if it were the other way round.
 

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@Mciahel Goodman you keep repeating the same ideas about NATO expansion, and about NATO and Ukraine "knowing" the "possible consequences" of their actions and so on. And you are also saying that Russia is not justified to invade.

I am curious, what do you think would be a realistic course of action for Ukraine and NATO? Should Ukraine just say "okay, we will stay in Russia's influence forever, and accept any dictator that Putin sends to us"? Is that what you consider "pragmatism"? And should NATO just dissolve to make the Russians happy? Can you give a simple and clear answer about the alternative you would consider ideal for Ukraine? Even if it is theoretical only.

It seems to me that Ukraine is like a woman who is repeatedly beaten by her husband. She finally decides to leave the husband and go to a women's shelter, and the husband catches up with her and kills her. In such a situation, why would you talk about the woman "knowing the consequences" of leaving her husband? Who would talk about the responsibility of the women's shelter, because just being there obviously aggravates the husband? And what options do you think this woman had? Stay with her husband forever? And what should the women's shelter do? Just dissolve, to make the abusive husband happier?



(And actually NATO already rejected Ukraine in 2008. And many NATO countries like Germany were happy to depend on Russia for their energy needs, which clearly shows they never had any intentions to get into conflict with Russia. It seems to me that if NATO had accepted Ukraine in 2008, we'd have no war. Latvia wasn't invaded because it is in NATO. But obviously that's not what you are saying. )
A very crude but scarily relevant example.
 

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I’ll ask again, how can it be provocation when it is Ukraine who decides if they do or don’t join NATO? The US and NATO can incentivise countries as much as they like. Russia must have tried to incentivise Ukraine to align with itself too. But neither decide. If Ukraine decided to align to Russia, it’d be just as bullshit an argument to suggest NATO and the rest of Europe were provoked into invading Ukraine if it were the other way round.
Ukraine doesn't make that decision alone. NATO has to ratify it. And NATO made advances within Ukraine post-2014.
 

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I am curious, what do you think would be a realistic course of action for Ukraine and NATO? Should Ukraine just say "okay, we will stay in Russia's influence forever, and accept any dictator that Putin sends to us"? Is that what you consider "pragmatism"? And should NATO just dissolve to make the Russians happy? Can you give a simple and clear answer about the alternative you would consider ideal for Ukraine? Even if it is theoretical only.
I just gave a defense of NATO and Ukrainian right to self-autonomy above. But you can't give that defense without also acknowledging that it would be viewed as a provocation.

Read the article on Burns. None of that precludes Ukrainian autonomy but nor does it preclude the idea that NATO action in Ukraine would be seen as provocation.
 

rpitroda

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Ukraine doesn't make that decision alone. NATO has to ratify it. And NATO made advances within Ukraine post-2014.
This is getting silly now. The first two sentences, I don’t really know what to say. By your logic anything which needs approval somehow means the approver could be seen as making the original decision? (Or provoking anyone against such approval) Please, don’t die on that horse but that’s your call.

The second point is not relevant because those advances only occurred because of Ukraines desire to join NATO. If Ukraine says no, those NATO “advances” (totally incorrect word again, by the way), don’t happen.
 

rpitroda

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I just gave a defense of NATO and Ukrainian right to self-autonomy above. But you can't give that defense without also acknowledging that it would be viewed as a provocation.

Read the article on Burns. None of that precludes Ukrainian autonomy but nor does it preclude the idea that NATO action in Ukraine would be seen as provocation.
So in his example, the shelter and it’s existence provoked the husband?