If Austria and Switzerland Are Exempt from NATO Then Why Not Ukraine?

Moscow insists that its demand for halting NATO expansionism is inviolable. Washington insists on rejecting that. The gap in diplomacy is becoming a dangerous abyss.

American and NATO officials contend that Russia has no right to demand that Ukraine be excluded from membership of the military alliance. Such a demand is a non-starter, they say.

Meanwhile, Russia insists that it is an “absolute imperative” that Ukraine and other former Soviet Republics such as Georgia are not admitted to NATO. And Moscow wants a legal treaty stating this exclusion.

A quick reality-check amusingly reminds us that Moscow has precedent on its side of the argument. The talks between U.S., NATO and Russian officials this week are being conducted in Geneva and Vienna, the cities of two European countries, Switzerland and Austria, that are obliged to remain neutral from any military alliance.

That non-aligned status is part of the Swiss and Austrian constitutions. But part of the neutrality also stems from international consensus based on the sensitive geopolitical position of both countries in the aftermath of wars in Europe.

It is therefore not unprecedented that Russia is asking for a legal assurance that Ukraine, Georgia, or other neighboring states remain outside of the NATO military bloc.

However, the way the U.S. and NATO officials present things, it sounds as if Russia’s demands are an outrageous ultimatum that violates sovereignty and freedom. Wendy Sherman, the American Deputy Secretary of State who met with Russian counterpart Sergei Ryabkov in Geneva on Monday said Moscow’s demands were “a non-starter”.

“We will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s open-door policy, which has always been central to the alliance. We will not forgo bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that wish to work with the United States,” Sherman told reporters following her 7-hour meeting with Ryabkov.

Similar self-righteous statements were issued by NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg who claimed the prerogative for the alliance to include any nation to its by-now 30-member ranks. Over half of those members were added since the end of the Cold War.

Such a high-handed view is hopelessly naive or historically ignorant. American and Western European officials may be deluded in their pretense of NATO’s “peaceful” purpose. They seem ignorant of how the alliance was set up in 1949 as a military opponent of the Soviet Union and for the projection of American imperial power.

Since the supposed end of the Cold War in 1991, the warmongering record of NATO is a vividly bloodstained one of destroying nations. For NATO officials to profess peaceful credentials in the aftermath of Afghanistan’s 20-year destruction is a shocking example of their cognitive dissonance.

Ukraine is a classic case for why NATO expansion must be halted. A change of regime in Kiev in 2014 brought to power a Neo-Nazi cabal whose hatred for Russia knows no bounds. To permit such a regime to join NATO is tantamount to allowing a dagger to be pointed at Russia’s throat.

How is Moscow expected to believe peaceful declarations whenever Washington and NATO have plied the Kiev regime with over $2.5 billion in lethal weaponry over the past eight years? The Biden administration is planning to increase the military support, even further emboldening the Ukrainian armed forces to push the civil war in that country on Russia’s doorstep.

The tumultuous events in Kazakhstan also show how regime change can be fomented by external forces in a country sharing a border with Russia. The attempt to destabilize Kazakhstan seems to have failed on this occasion. But who is to say a very different result could not happen in the future, as in the case of Ukraine where a rabid Russophobic regime was installed with the help of the CIA in 2014?

Russia is right to insist on a neutral zone of countries on its border which are excluded from NATO membership. This is not about Russia stamping on others’ sovereignty or setting up a “sphere of influence”. It is about respecting vital security interests. The non-NATO status of Austria and Switzerland are important and obvious precedents.

It is rather disconcerting that American and NATO officials have become so arrogant in their presumptions. Their lack of historical awareness and recognition of Russia’s legitimate concerns are also deeply troubling.

The cynicism shown by America’s so-called top diplomats is breathtaking. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his deputy Wendy Sherman have mooted that Moscow is not serious about diplomacy. They contend that Russia wants talks to fail so that it can proceed with an alleged invasion plan for Ukraine. That is in spite of repeated assurances from Moscow that it has no intention of attacking anyone or that troops on its soil are not a subject for “de-escalation”.

It is virtually impossible to dialogue with such contorted thinking shown by U.S. and NATO officials. American diplomacy, it seems, is finally dead, having succumbed to arrogance, cynicism and irrational Russophobia as well as the outright denial of basic reality.

Moscow insists that its demand for halting NATO expansionism is inviolable. Washington insists on rejecting that. The gap in diplomacy is becoming a dangerous abyss.

By Finian Cunningham
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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