In Search of Western Values

In connection with the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion in Iraq, those responsible for this tragedy and many other American wars keep repeating that it was done to promote freedom, democracy, and other values of the Western civilization.

According to the project “Costs of War”   done by a large group of scholars from Brown and American universities over 929,000 people have died in the post-9/11 wars, and several times as many due to their reverberating effects; over 387,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting; 38 million is the number of war refugees and displaced persons; the U.S. federal price tag for the post-9/11 wars is over $8 trillion.   

Now let us turn to the current war in Ukraine.

After the collapse of the USSR, who would have benefited more than Ukraine, to whom the Creator gave the richest fertile land, favorable climate, no deserts, no volcanoes, access to the sea, more than sufficient drinking water supplies, and a strong industrial base left over from the Soviet days.  Having Russia as a neighbor was not a disadvantage but a huge benefit due to their deeply rooted historical,  religious, economic, cultural, and one of the supposedly most precious among western values –  family ties.

However, some powerful forces in the West who had a different agenda for Ukraine were the same democracy promoters from Washington. 

Those who recall or witnessed the momentous changes in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and in the post-Soviet space in the early 1990s, remember only too well the overwhelming euphoria of those times.

The dark years of totalitarian communism were receding into the past, and the Russian people were ready and eager to join the great family of Western civilization and enjoy its basic values like democracy, human rights, the rule of law, market economy, and other real or imaginary benefits associated with them.

That was the time when fresh from the yoke of communism, the Russian, Ukrainian, and other people of the former USSR were eager to embrace all of these ideals, and confidently expected them to materialize with the help, first and foremost, of the United States.

Instead Russia’s economy crashed worse than in World War II. Millions lost their jobs and the means of earning a livelihood. The freedom of pursuing economic prosperity morphed into the freedom of bandit capitalism which became the prevailing economic order.

It was not only the Russians who believed that the West actually abetted this state of affairs with its numerous advisors and IMF officials. Many Americans, including members of Congress, felt the same way as this was clearly portrayed in the 2000 Congressional report “Russia’s Road to Corruption.”

It’s important to recall that from the late 80th all Russian leaders were going out of their way to please America. Gorbachev dissolved the anti-NATO Warsaw military block, withdrew all Soviet troops from Eastern Europe, and allowed reunification of Germany.  

This is what Boris Yeltsin said during his address to the joint session of Congress in June 1992: “Today, free and democratic Russia is extending its hand of friendship to the people of America. Acting on the will of the people of Russia, I am inviting you, and through you the people of the United States, to join us in partnership in the quest for freedom and justice in the 21st Century.”

Vladimir Putin offered U.S. an invaluable help in the first war in Afghanistan in 2001, and during Putin’s November 15, 2001 visit to President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch, the U.S. leader, speaking at a local Crawford high school, declared his Russian counterpart “a new style of leader, a reformer… a man who’s going to make a huge difference in making the world more peaceful, by working closely with the United States.”

Let us now take a look at America’s response. NATO, which during the Cold War had just 16 member states to contain the real Soviet threat, went on an expansion spree in 1998 to almost double its size.

Bush followed with a big “thank you” note in the form of unilateral abrogation of an ABM treaty and a push to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO.

Obama gave his Vice-President Joe Biden a Ukrainian portfolio which, besides making money through his son Hunter, he used to direct the February 2014 coup over there with the help of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland as explicitly proved by the leaked phone conversation between Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. 

Here we are also told that the overthrow of the legitimate president had nothing to do with geopolitics but rather the further promotion of democracy and “Western” values.

But the reality is the goal was to turn Ukraine into strategic anti-Russia beachhead by bringing it into NATO through the backdoor since President Yanukovich, and the majority of Ukrainians did not want their country to join this bloc

There are many more examples to prove the hypocrisy of those who keep repeating the “unprovoked” to Russia nature of the current U.S. war which Chris Hedges called “Ukraine’s war by proxy”  that has a high potential to escalate into WW3 between the nuclear powers.

The chances for Washington to change its stand on Ukraine with the current administration are close to zero. European poodles, as Nuland rightly observed, do not count. That means that the probability of direct military collision between America and Russia is growing on a daily basis.

But some questions nevertheless remain. Among them, what are the Western values these days or so-called Washington’s new world order rules that everyone is obligated to observe?

Edward Lozansky is President of the American University in Moscow.