by Gennady Shkliarevsky
The counter-offensive launched by Zelensky’s government is failing. The most eloquent sign of this failure is the fact that Zelensky is ratcheting up his warlike rhetoric. He is now publicizing an apocalyptic narrative pushed forward by those who have started this war and are now taking it to the next level of violence. In an interview last Thursday, Zelensky insisted that the United States should directly engage the Russian forces. If the U.S. fails to do so, Zelensky warned, it would face the “collapse of NATO.”
The narrative of the warmongers that Zelensky is now promoting is not entirely new. In fact, it has been tried before. However, it acquires a new and more ominous meaning in the context of the failing counteroffensive and the renewed push by the country’s government for the speediest admission of Ukraine into NATO.
The choices that Zelensky lays down are completely false; in reality, his statement offers no choices at all. It tells us that if Russia is not defeated, NATO will collapse; and that the United States and the West have no other option but to engage the Russian forces directly. Zelensky wants us to believe that there is no alternative to the course that he proposes. However, the narrative that he peddles is completely phony.
Is it really true that if Russia is not defeated in Ukraine, NATO will collapse? The avowed reason for the creation of NATO back in 1949 was to defend Western Europe from the Soviet Union. This officially stated reason was merely a selling point, not the real reason. The war that ended in 1945 cost the Soviet Union almost 25 million lives; it left the Soviet Union exhausted and devastated, with its economy in shambles. The Soviet Union would take the next seven years to recover and rebuild its economy. In 1949 it was in no position to enter into another war against the ascending power of the United States.
The real reason for creating NATO was to prevent European powers (primarily France and Germany plus Great Britain that had always tried to keep Europe divided) from fighting with each other. NATO has remarkably succeeded in realizing this goal. There have been no armed conflicts among major European powers since WWII.
It is hard to imagine today another deadly confrontation between Germany and France. (Well, I’ll take it back. Perhaps I should say that such conflict is highly unlikely.) In the years that followed the creation of NATO, this organization has grown into a full-fledged economic and political cooperation between the European states and the U.S. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO, with Russian cooperation, has expanded its boundaries to include all East-Central European countries. Russia has accepted these changes, but it has also stressed its legitimate security concerns about further expansions of NATO.
The destruction of Russia that may result from a direct confrontation with the U.S. and NATO (there is no certainty, though, that the allies will emerge victorious) will not bring peace to the world. It will inevitably precipitate a war with China that may very well involve many other nations and will have a good chance of destroying the world and our civilization.
Is Zelensky’s warning about a possible collapse of NATO credible? Couldn’t NATO simply return to its original and constructive mission of keeping Europe at peace and strengthening the cooperation among the European countries and their cooperation with the United States? Will that mean that Russia, if undefeated, will pose a threat to this alliance? The answer is: not likely.
Despite the Cold War and the arms race, the Soviet Union has never posed a threat to the existence of Western Europe and NATO. On the contrary, there was a prolonged period of peace and even cooperation between the two sides in the Cold War that lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union. There were only relatively brief periods of conflict and tensions that were not particularly significant or consequential and that few remember today.
But many still remember the détente and its most potent symbol: the rendezvous and docking of Apollo and Soyuz spaceships in orbit on July 17, 1975. There were certainly conflicts and tensions after this high point of the détente, but it is worth remembering that the Cold War did not end in a hot war but in a series of agreements signed by President Reagan and President Gorbachev.
If tensions and conflicts between superpowers never threatened the existence of NATO at the time when NATO was much smaller, and the Soviet Union was very powerful, the likelihood of the destruction of NATO now, with its expanded territory and huge economic and military potential, has an asymptotic approximation to zero.
There is no reason to take Zelensky’s claims as credible. They are nothing but attempts to manipulate public opinion and blackmail the U.S. and NATO. Indeed, the likelihood of the destruction of NATO is high if the U.S. heeds the excessively and dangerously exaggerated warnings by warmongers and their spokesman Mr. Zelensky. The only way to preserve NATO and the results of many constructive years of its existence is to end the war in Ukraine as soon as possible.
There is no reason to rush things, but the war must be stopped, and all parties concerned must sit down to negotiate a settlement that would respect the interests of all participants.
At this time, the war in Ukraine has no purpose. It protects neither Ukraine nor its people. It does not protect Europe or NATO. It certainly does not promote any real American interests. It only protects the increasingly defunct rule of warmongers and the discredited government of Zelensky. But even this protection is very ephemeral. The war will not save the political fortunes of those who want to continue it, and neither can it make Zelensky’s government really salvageable.
Gennady Shkliarevsky is Ukrainian and a Professor Emeritus of History at Bard College.
Bio: BA, MA, Kiev State University; MA, Ph.D., University of Virginia. Editor, Committee for Television and Broadcasting (USSR). Head, public relations, Kiev State Museum of Western and Eastern Art. Recipient, DuPont Fellowship and Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship, University of Virginia. He has published numerous articles here and abroad.