Clint Ehrlich Profile picture
Foreign policy analyst | Lawyer | Fmr. Visiting Researcher at @MGIMO University

Jan 16, 16 tweets

The world is perched on the edge of an abyss.

We may soon see the worst combat in Europe since WW2 – killing thousands of people, and raising the likelihood of nuclear war.

It didn't have to be this way. A thread. 1/N

What's happening?

Russia has built up a potential invasion force on its border with Ukraine.

Recent photos and video show the Russian military pre-positioning attack helicopters and troop transports.

It looks a lot like final preparations for a cross-border assault.

Why is this happening? Russia has issued an ultimatum.

In the words of their Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergey Ryabkov:

"For us, it’s absolutely mandatory to make sure that Ukraine never — never ever — becomes a member of NATO."

The Russians insist that NATO expansion into Ukraine poses an existential risk to their security.

President Putin argues that NATO missiles in Ukraine could hit Moscow within 7 minutes – or even 5 minutes, once NATO has hypersonic weapons.

The U.S. and its European allies have refused to assuage that concern.

They insist that *someday* NATO will expand to include Ukraine – just as the alliance promised in 2008.

And so, from Russia's perspective, negotiations have hit a dead end. The time for words is ending.

This was all foreseen by the architect of U.S. grand strategy during the Cold War.

George Kennan was the diplomat who devised our plan to "contain" the Soviet Union.

After the USSR collapsed, he warned that expanding NATO would lead us towards war with Russia.

Kennan called the first round of NATO's eastward expansion in 1998 "a tragic mistake."

He said that our differences during the Cold War had been ideological, and that with the collapse of communism, it was no longer necessary to treat Russia as an enemy.

"It is the beginning of a new Cold War," Kennan predicted.

"Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are -- but this is just wrong.''

Kennan went to his grave believing that his efforts to secure peace in Europe had been squandered by his successors.

"This has been my life, and it pains me to see it so screwed up in the end," he said.

The irony is that NATO would prefer *not* to add Ukraine.

The 2008 declaration was mostly symbolic, which is why Ukraine has never been presented with an actual timeline for joining the alliance.

But we're ready to let Ukraine burn for the *principle* that it *could* join.

The Biden administration is preparing to fight the Russians inside Ukraine, based on the template of fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.

The plan is to train insurgents at camps inside NATO member states, then send them across the borden to Ukraine with NATO weapons.

The thesis of this strategy is that NATO can kill Russian soldiers with impunity.

That its member states can launch cross-border raids using NATO-trained, NATO-armed armed foreign fighters.

And that there is no real risk of Russia retaliating.

What if the Russians decide to launch their own cross-border insurgencies inside NATO member states?

What if Russian-trained, Russian-armed fighters start killing NATO forces in Slovenia, Slovakia, or Poland?

Would *we* do nothing then? Or would we retaliate...?

The problem with beginning a chain of escalation is that it's not clear where it ends.

Once our countries are caught in a cycle of tit-for-tat retaliation, we inch closer and closer to destroying the world.

To sacrificing every human life at the altar of abstract principles.

In 1962, Khrushchev wrote to Kennedy to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.

He said that our nations ought not pull on the ends of the rope in which the knot of war is tied, because there will come a time when neither of us can untie it.

Today, our leaders are busy pulling the ends of the rope.

The knot of war is growing tighter, and tighter.

I pray that the day will never come when it shall be cut.

But I am fearful.

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