Nobody is talking about the blame that must be shouldered by the German government for the crisis and humanitarian disaster in Ukraine.
Sure Russia is guilty of a huge war crime in invading Ukraine, Surely too, the U.S. must be blamed for creating the situation which led Russia and its autocratic leader Vladimir Putin to decide it had to invade to prevent Ukraine from being pulled into the U.S. orbit with the goal that it would ultimately become a base for U.S. offensive weapons — even nuclear weapons — on Russia’s border — something the U.S. would never allow to happen anywhere in its self-proclaimed “backyard” of Latin America and the Caribbean.
But Germany, the largest country in NATO after the U.S., is almost as guilty for this current war in Europe as is the United States.
Germany was only reunified without any difficulty after 45 years of being split in two following World War II, because of a deal struck by the US with Russia in 1990 at which U.S. Secretary of State James Baker stated that NATO would not be expanded “one inch ” eastward past the reunified German border.
Now it is widely known that despite having a powerful economy, Germany remains something of a lackey of the U.S. in its foreign policy. Nonetheless, on this key important issue of expanding NATO, the country has always had considerable potential power. This is because NATO’s own rules require that any new member of the alliance must be approved by all existing members of the organization. That is, to put it bluntly, if Germany were to have said, at some point, that no new members would be given Germany’s approval for admission to NATO, then no new members could have joined, or even entertained the idea of joining.
That would have included — and could still include — Ukraine, which the U.S. since at least the Obama administration’s second term, has been encouraged to think that it might someday be able to come under the protection of NATO, with its Article 5 provision requiring all members to come to the aid militarily of any member attacked by a non-member state.
It is precisely that desire by Ukraine, together with U.S. insistence on the false “right” of Ukraine to determine its own international relationships, that led to Russia’s launching this war. Sure Ukraine can pursue its own foreign policies, but it has no “right” to join NATO. That organization’s member states must as one agree to admit another member. NATO is an exclusive club, not a anyone-can-join book club.
Of all the NATO member states, Germany is the one that should be standing firmly behind that solemn promise by Secretary Baker and then-President George H. W. Bush not to move NATO’s boundary any closer (his actual words were “Not one inch closer”), to Russia than the eastern border of the country.
It was a kind of founding promise of the birth of a reunified Germany.
Instead Germany is supinely responding to the bloody war in Ukraine that its own cowardly acquiescence to U.S. anti-Russia actions has allowed to happen by announcing plans to significantly boost its arms spending (mostly by buying advanced military weapons from U.S. arms makers).
German behavior towards the violation of U.S. promises made to Russia regarding NATO following German reunification is particularly ironic and tragic given that at the time of German reunification in 1991, when the issue of whether the newly unified Germany should be a part of NATO, either by simply adding East Germany to NATO under the existing German Federal Republic (West German) membership, or with a new membership for the new nation of Germany, a poll showed only 20 percent of Germans wanted the country to be in NATO at all.
Indeed, the very existence of NATO after the 1991 deal was being widely questioned even by some mainstream foreign affairs experts in United States. An artifact of the Cold War that began in the late 1940s, NATO was founded on April 4, 1949 (the day I was born!)) as a bulwark against Communist expansion in Europe. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989/90, and the liberation of formerly captive nations of the Warsaw Bloc in those years, plus the friendly relations that quickly developed in the early 1990s between the U.S. and Russia, NATO should have been dissolved.
Instead, President Clinton, elected in 1992, chose quickly after assuming office to begin encouraging its expansion, as well as using the alliance outside of its own boundaries as an extension of U.S. empire, as in the bombings of Serbia and Kosovo, and intervention in the Bosnian civil war. By the time of the Bush Administration in 2001, NATO was operating as a multinational military force outside of the UN in Afghanistan, which is about as far from the North Atlantic as on can get, at least in the northern hemisphere.
And so here we are, with Russia defending what it considers its own regional security with a military assault on Ukraine, and the US being urged to make things worse by shipping lethal weapons to Ukraine’s military and even more insanely, to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine or parts of Ukraine — an action that could quickly lead to U.S. and Russian planes shooting each other down, and potentially very rapidly to a nuclear war between the two nations with that have most of the world’s nuclear arsenal between them. Fortunately the Biden administration has resisted such nuclear brinksmanship.
The U.S. could end this conflict quickly by simply announcing that it will honor the promise made to General Secretary Gorbachev 32 years ago, and will not ever admit Ukraine into NATO, nor seek to put U.S. troops, weapons or nuclear arms in Ukraine.
But if the U.S. won’t do the right thing to stop the bloodshed, Germany should have the integrity and self-confidence to do it: Just announce that the German government wants to honor the promise made that allowed for the smooth reunification of the country that a half century earlier created such death and destruction across the whole European continent, and that it vows never to approve another NATO member state.
If the German government won’t make this promise, the German people should demand it.
My paternal grandfather was brought as a child by his parents to the U.S. from Germany to escape war but ended up being drafted in WWI and earning a Silver Star while driving an ambulance on the French front. I myself spent a year as a Schuler in a Gymnasium in Darmstadt, a German city that was destroyed by a British firebombing attack in World War II and there saw vividly the kind of destruction and slaughter that war causes, and I say to the German people:
Komm meine deutschen Freunde, gib dem Frieden eine Chance! Die Zeit ist jetzt!