Ever wondered why Russia is even fighting back? And Is America’s action justifiable?

There are always two sides to every story. Consider both before forming any sort of opinion. Now take a look at the armed conflict in Ukraine, one side is dominating the global narrative, and another side has been proclaimed villain. Yes, it's about NATO and Russia. There's a solid case against Russia and they have their story too. Vladimir Putin’s aggression is being called out and rightly so invading a sovereign country cannot be justified. What led to this invasion? Leaders in Moscow say they are the aggrieved party and they are the victims of NATO’s eastward invasion and only acting in self-defense.

Over the past 25 years, NATO has been creeping closer to the Russian borders. Former Soviet states have become NATO members. This military alliance has completely absorbed the entire security belt of Moscow, the capital city of Russia. Russia sees this expansion of NATO as a provocation and hurts their security interests also cautioned that it won't end well on both sides. The warnings were clear but NATO ignored them and called it their myopia or arrogance. They downplayed Moscow’s concerns and kept proceeding with new rounds of expansion until things blew up in Ukraine. Did NATO push Ukraine into this war?

what is NATO? The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a security alliance between North America and Europe. It was formed after World War 2. The goal they say was to protect democratic freedom. On the 4th of April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed. This treaty was simply an anti-Soviet accord aimed at countering any future aggression by USSR. It established a new balance of power in Europe. It promised all members collective security.

It's core principle laid out in article 5 of the NATO treaty and obliges member states to protect each other in case of a war. The treaty says an armed attack against one ally will be an attack on all allies meaning if one NATO nation is attacked all NATO nations will retaliate. This allowed the nato members to pool and share their military resources. They built efficient defense capabilities but there was more to NATO than just defense. It was an alliance of liberal countries, an engine of democratization that was supposed to promote common values and common interests.

Naturally, Moscow saw this alliance as a threat to its interests. In response, it created the WARSAW pact in 1955. It was a counterweight to NATO. These were the members and their goal was the same. If one WARSAW pact member was attacked all others will defend it.

MAP OF WARSAW AND NATO STATES

In Russian historical memory , there were five reasons why such a pact was justified: five major invasions when the west threatened Russian interests. This includes Polish Occupation of the Kremlin in early 17th century, the Swedish invasion of Russia in early 18th century, the Napolean invasion of early 19th century and the two wars with Germany in early 20th century. In each case, very essence of the Russian state was threatened . So suspicion and fear of the west took deep roots in Russia. Moscow began perceiving NATO as a tool of American imperialism and the assessment was not off the mark. In 1989, the Berlin wall collapsed. In 1991 the Soviet Union disintegrated and the iron curtain was completely demolished.

Europe’s regional order hinged on one question: should Germany align itself with US and NATO or should it join Russia through the WARSAW pact? The US government under George H.W. Bush made an offer to the then Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev. It suggested that if Germnay became a NATO member, NATO would stop expanding not one inch eastwards. Today the US says it made no such promise that no such deal was ever struck but hundreds of memos meeting in minutes and transcripts US archives indicate otherwise.

Nevertheless Moscow bought the offer and it demolished the WARSAW pact in the hope that the west would follow the suit that NATO too would be dissolved but it never happened. NATO refused to seize operations and to add insult to injury they kept the door open for membership. Russia saw it as a stab in the back and NATO kept pushing the dagger deeper.

NATO started with 12 founding members but since the Soviet Union fell it has radically expanded eastwards. In 1999, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic joined NATO. In 2004 there was another wave of expansion, seven central and eastern European nations were made NATO members, some of them were former Soviet Republics and in 2009, Croatia and Albania joined NATO. The most recent entries were North Macedonia and Montenegro both situated in Russia’s backyard. It does not end here. As of 2021, NATO officially recognized three more aspiring members: Bosnia, Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine. From the recent talks, NATO was also in talks with Sweden, Finland and Serbia for membership.

In simple terms, much of eastern Europe which once used to be part of the Soviet Union has now joined NATO despite Russia’s protests and warnings. The last reasonably friendly warning from Moscow came in 2007 when Vladimir Putin addressed the annual Munich conference where he said quoting “ NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders. This expansion represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust and we have the right to ask whom this expansion is intended? what happened to assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the WARSAW pact?

These sentiments have been echoed by host of American strategists. Here are few examples. In June 1997, 50 prominent foreign policy experts signed an open letter to president Bill Clinton calling America’s efforts to expand NATO a policy error of historic proportion. We have George Kennan, father of America’s containment policy during the cold war. He too called NATO expansion a tragic mistake with no reason whatsoever.The warnings went on for decades and in 2008 Williams J Burns the US ambassador to Moscow wrote a letter to the state department where that the Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for the Russian elite. He said that even Putin’s sharpest critics at home consider Ukraine’s entry a direct challenge to Russian’s interests.

ROBERT M GATES

That’s not it, this is Robert M Gates. He was a defense secretary in the Bush and Obama administrations. He wrote in his memoir that trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching. Then we’ve got Strobe Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state describing the Russian perception in a similar way how they consider NATO as a vestige of the cold war and point out that if the WARSAW pact was disbanded then why didn't the west did not dismantle NATO?? Several voices from the west warned that Russia’s protests have merit and that NATO expansion could spell serious trouble yet successive American administrations paid no heed to these warnings. They kept widening NATO’s security Umbrella.

Trying to safeguard the sovereignty of a country is laudable indeed but inviting a state right on Russia’s border into an anti-Russian alliance is a provocation. Ukraine is a sovereign country and has every right to want to join NATO. WHAT’S IN IT FOR NATO? WHY DID THEY PUSH FOR IT? Their moves completely disregard the historical baggage between NATO and Russia. Many Russians were traumatized by the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In an instant, they lost one-third of their territory, half of the population, and most of their military found themselves weaker before western unity. They felt an unjust settlement had been imposed on them and it was done in their moment of maximum weakness and vulnerability.

So They looked at any state leaving Russia’s fear of influence as both a strategic loss and a matter of national humiliation. This is not the justification for what Russia is doing now but the west is not innocent either. They could've done something to avert this.

Here’s my question to you guys. If what Russia is doing is considered a war then what about countries like Libya, Iran, Palestine, Afghanistan, Cuba, and many other countries that are affected by the actions of the west. Why isn't any talking about this? Safeguarding oneself is acceptable but isn’t exploiting other countries for their sake injustice to the other countries and their people. Whats your view on this?

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Zhanna Zakharova

Zhanna Zakharova

“Work is an action, no longer a place.”

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