Us, the U.S.

For someone that started their political interests listening to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, I have since become disillusioned and enlightened after getting familiar with United States’ foreign policies and actions.  For those die-hard nationalists and patriots out there, you will not like what I have to say.  But I make no apologies.  I once was an unwavering supporter of our nation’s interests, but once I realized the value of all of human life (i), I no longer accept our reasons for going to war without extreme skepticism (ii).

On Putin’s Intentions – Motivated by Recent Comments

I am adding this section because certain passages may not be clear.  No doubt, what Putin is doing appears to be nationalistic and expansionistic.  But we do not know what motivated him to do this as this is difficult to ascertain unless we ask the person.  This post provides a hypothesis for Putin’s recent action and is by no means the only one as others point out in the comments section.

This hypothesis states that there is no hard evidence that Putin wanted to expand territory despite the kinship between Russia and Ukraine and Putin’s leanings toward right-winged, perhaps even fascist, ideology.  I am claiming, as others do, that the U.S. may have influenced his decision to invade Ukraine by the U.S. progressively expanding NATO’s reach, which was against Putin’s will.

Now maybe both are true as Putin may have always wanted to invade Ukraine but also felt threatened with NATO expansion.  On the other hand, instead of being threatened, perhaps Putin was angry (more like enraged) because this would interfere with his goals to invade.  The only thing we can do is look for quality evidence and propose more than one hypothesis.   Please see the excellent comments!

Pursuing Our Interests

I am no Putin sympathizer.  But I am curious about what is going on in Putin’s mind besides his need to promote his interests, which has the appearance of being about nationalism (iii).  He may have had the thought, “What about the US pursuing their interests in the Middle East, Latin America, and Southeast Asia?”  Because in every corner of the world we have harshly pursued our interests. History is replete with examples of us supporting dictators since they served our interests and quenched our thirst for hegemony.

The US supported authoritarian forces in 44 out of 64 covert regime changes, including six operations that replaced liberal democratic governments with authoritarian regimes.  The U.S. not only undermined democracy but also aided and abetted repression, torture, and the execution of political opponents carried out by U.S.-backed autocracies. [3]

If Russia was a weaker nation, perhaps Putin would have been our puppet.  The ancient historian, Thucydides reminds us, “The strong do as they can, and the weak do as they must”.  So we leave Russia alone while we have terrorized, for example, Central America throughout the 1900s.  Of course, to gain popular support for our wars and terror, we have to have pretense and propaganda, such as fighting for democracy or against the communists and dictators, that we prop up.  Putin is no exception to the use of deception.

He (Putin) told the Russian people his goal was to “demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine”, to protect people subjected to what he called eight years of bullying and genocide by Ukraine’s government. “It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory. We do not intend to impose anything on anyone by force,” he insisted.

Putin is threatened that Ukraine will join the EU and NATO.  He is threatened because it represents a siding with the West’s democratic ideals—the other side.  It is now time to punish Ukraine for its transgressions.  But we have also carried out illegal invasions in Panama, Grenada, and a proxy war against Nicaragua, violating international law.  We then hypocritically went to war against Iraq, a dictator that no longer served our interests, in the Persian Gulf claiming that they violated international law.

The fact that Iraq violated international law and invaded Kuwait was an excuse for us to secure the region because lots of oil was at stake (iv).  If we look at most of the conflicts that we have been involved in, the reasons given were about fighting the communists, fighting drug trafficking and terrorism, humanitarian, and democracy.  But these were not the real reasons why we would go to war. We would mostly go to war or invade when the dictators that we set up got out of line or our strategic interests were at stake.

We Influenced the Present

The above examples illustrate that we often did not go to war and participate in conflict for benevolent reasons.  We ruthlessly and deceptively pursued our interests which makes our nation a self-seeking bully.  Conservatives and patriots will be quick to point out that perhaps these wars were necessary because it represents strength through the threat of force, a force that we can back up with military might second to none.  This may certainly be true, but most of the foreign threats were a consequence of our meddling.

There will always be new threats on the horizon as long as U.S. leaders pursue global hegemony and parlay this to the American public as “national security.”  It is, of course, a conceit of empire to believe that all nations benefit from the aggrandizement and projection of U.S. power.

Although we may enjoy the comfort of being number one, being a bully means that we were not always trustworthy international partners.  In 1990, the United States promised Gorbachev that they would not expand NATO “one inch to the East” in return for the reunification of Germany.  By 1998, the Clinton administration expanded NATO to Poland, Hungry, and the Czech Republic.  This trend continued with President George Bush in 2008 announcing that Ukraine and Georgia would become members too.

The expansion of NATO would amount to a “strategic blunder of epic proportions” and the “most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era,” as it would “inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion,” “restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations,” and “impel Russian foreign policy in a direction decidedly not to our liking.” [3]

The rationale that the U.S. has used to expand NATO was to promote democratic ideals.  But as former President Clinton has hinted, the real reason may be for international corporations to stretch their reach.  Trump’s administration then sold the Ukraine “defensive weapons”, while more recently Ukraine participated in military exercises with the U.S.  As the relationship between Ukraine and the U.S. strengthened, the more threatened Russia became.  In other words, we disrespected the wishes of Russia.

This interpretation of events is at odds with the prevailing mantra in the West, which portrays NATO expansion as irrelevant to the Ukraine crisis, blaming instead Mr Putin’s expansionist goals. According to a recent NATO document sent to Russian leaders, “NATO is a defensive Alliance and poses no threat to Russia.” The available evidence contradicts these claims. For starters, the issue at hand is not what Western leaders say NATO’s purpose or intentions are; it is how Moscow sees NATO’s actions. [1]

We shouldn’t take this lightly although the hawks would shout appeasement if we didn’t.  But I am not capitulating here but rather performing a root cause analysis on someone’s causes of action.  What happens to us when we are repeatedly not taken seriously and instead snubbed?  It does not matter if we deserve it or not.  We feel anger and indignation over the unfair treatment.  In all likelihood, this is exactly what is going through Putin’s mind.  Regardless, he made a grave mistake by invading his neighbor and will pay the costs.  We, on the other hand, have done similar actions but answer to no one as we veto international law violations.


i) Yes, human life wasn’t that valuable to me because it was not our loss.  After Vietnam, the wars that the United States engaged in would inevitably result in minimal U.S. casualties, but the other side would be devastated.  For example, the Persian Gulf war resulted in a 100:1 (Iraq: U.S.) casualty ratio.  I can’t tell you what has changed in my life, but I simply hold the value of human life to be greater than I used to.  Perhaps it was the undoing of the indoctrination of Conservative radio.

ii) After being a part of the cheerleading squad to go to invade Iraq the second time and then finding out that we didn’t do our homework, I take the reasons given for war much more seriously now since human life is at stake.  Usually, we are given pretense for going to war, such as fighting the communists or upholding democratic ideals, but this time I think the administration actually convinced themselves that Iraq was somehow related to Al Qaeda and that they posed an imminent threat.

iii).  You will have to read the comments to understand that although his actions our expansionistic and nationalistic, I don’t believe that he would have expanded if it weren’t for the perceived threat of NATO.  There is probably an element of doing this out of spite since his “sphere of influence”, i.e., his ego was bruised when the U.S. has repeatedly gone against his will.

iv) The U.S. was prepared to go to war with Iraq for over a year prior to their violation of international law.  Saddam Husein no longer served his purpose as a buffer for Iran.  In other words, the violation was a way to legitimize the U.S.’s invasion.


[1] The Economist. “John Mearsheimer on why the West is principally responsible for the Ukrainian crisis.”

[2] The Economist.  “Sir Adam Roberts rebuffs the view that the West is principally responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.”

[3] The Fifth Estate.

[4] “The Making of the Modern World”.  Robert W. Strayer.


  1. K says

    As an American studying Russian in the early-to-mid 1980s, what I saw was that the Soviet Union was very much afraid of being taken over by us and spent itself into collapse to try to appear stronger and more fierce than they actually were. The early 1990s were a disastrous time for the USSR at it collapsed and the satellite countries mostly wanted to get away from them.

    Putin is a product of the Cold War; this is where he learned his craft. He’s been shown up in this bungle of an invasion, his shortcomings revealed to all. I imagine he is feeling weak and humiliated, and that does not bode well.

    • musing says

      I think Putin initially had feelings of indignation against the US as well as some resentment for pushing NATO. He probably felt like that was his domain and that we “crossed the line”. Read the last comment to get more insight into what he felt. As for now, you are probably right that he may feel backed up in a corner because everyone is against him although he may not have admitted defeat.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    I agree with this post.
    However, I find this a bit puzzling:
    “In fact, the modern-day analysis of the Nazis was not that they were bold but rather threatened by certain ethnic groups.”
    I’m not aware that analyses of the Nazis have changed all that much since the late 1940s, and isn’t this pretty much the definition of all racists?

    • musing says

      I read an article, although I don’t remember the source, that described why dictators commit genocide. Feeling threatened and inferior is one element, but the author came across as this was a relatively new way of viewing Hitler. I am sure there has been a lot of debate and findings from psychology that led to this although it seems obvious. But racism is more than just feeling threatened because we can also view the opposing group as inferior to us. This is expressed when we feel the emotion of contempt, which is that feeling that someone or something is beneath us and less than us. I think it is possible to feel that a group is inferior to us, yet we ourselves don’t feel threatened or inferior. But in the case of Germany and Hitler, the author was clear that their route of racism was about the Nazis feeling threatened.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    I once was an unwavering supporter of our nation’s interests, but once I realized …

    Despite what Hannity, Limbaugh, etc, say over and over, aggression and expansion are not “our nation’s interests”…

    In 1990, the United States promised Gorbachev that they would not expand NATO “one inch to the East” in return for the reunification of Germany. By 1998, the Clinton administration expanded NATO to Poland, Hungry, and the Czech Republic.

    That “promise” was not made in writing or on the record, and Gorbachev was a fool if he believed it.

    By all that I’ve been able to find out, those nations took the initiative to join NATO from fear of Russia, more so than by US machinations. Maybe some of both – Clinton’s a sneaky bastard, smart but not wise.

    • musing says

      Agree on what is not in our nation’s best interest.

      It doesn’t matter if he was a fool or not to believe it. It only matters how it was taken, which was a promise broken.

      That is some important information you’ve provided, which shifts the burden of responsibility a bit.

      • Rob Grigjanis says

        It doesn’t matter if he was a fool or not to believe it. It only matters how it was taken, which was a promise broken.

        A lot has been written about that, and it can be very confusing. Gorbachev gave an interview in 2014.

        RBTH: One of the key issues that has arisen in connection with the events in Ukraine is NATO expansion into the East. Do you get the feeling that your Western partners lied to you when they were developing their future plans in Eastern Europe? Why didn’t you insist that the promises made to you – particularly U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s promise that NATO would not expand into the East – be legally encoded? I will quote Baker: “NATO will not move one inch further east.”
        M.G [Gorbachev].: The topic of “NATO expansion” was not discussed at all, and it wasn’t brought up in those years. I say this with full responsibility. Not a singe Eastern European country raised the issue, not even after the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist in 1991. Western leaders didn’t bring it up, either. Another issue we brought up was discussed: making sure that NATO’s military structures would not advance and that additional armed forces from the alliance would not be deployed on the territory of the then-GDR after German reunification. Baker’s statement, mentioned in your question, was made in that context. Kohl and [German Vice Chancellor Hans-Dietrich] Genscher talked about it.

        The decision for the U.S. and its allies to expand NATO into the east was decisively made in 1993. I called this a big mistake from the very beginning. It was definitely a violation of the spirit of the statements and assurances made to us in 1990. With regards to Germany, they were legally enshrined and are being observed.

        What I take from that: Gorby was no fool, he did not hear a promise about not expanding NATO, but he thought the expansion violated the spirit of the statements made.

        • musing says

          More great stuff! The way I interpreted the interview above was that Gorbachev heard Baker make a promise, but it is very specific on the conditions that seem to be exclusive to military expansion. Historians only get bits and pieces of information that are perhaps out of context and try their best to piece together an argument. This is very challenging.

          This argument isn’t original to me as I provided some sources below. We don’t even need this promise if it turns out to not have been true or true yet didn’t influence Putin. Look at the emotion that Putin displays, and remember that the amount of emotion that we display is proportional to what is important to us. This is taken from the Economist and is by a political scientist that specializes in “offensive realism”. That is, he studies the “sphere of influence” that a leader may have and that if it is not respected, then, well, leaders hold resentments, and sometimes retribution is the result. Pretty interesting stuff.

          The trouble over Ukraine actually started at NATO’s Bucharest summit in April 2008, when George W. Bush’s administration pushed the alliance to announce that Ukraine and Georgia “will become members”. Russian leaders responded immediately with outrage, characterising this decision as an existential threat to Russia and vowing to thwart it. According to a respected Russian journalist, Mr Putin “flew into a rage” and warned that “if Ukraine joins NATO, it will do so without Crimea and the eastern regions. It will simply fall apart.” America ignored Moscow’s red line, however, and pushed forward to make Ukraine a Western bulwark on Russia’s border. That strategy included two other elements: bringing Ukraine closer to the eu and making it a pro-American democracy.

  4. Anonymous says

    Actually it was Thucydides, not Tacitus, who wrote the “the strong do what they can, weak suffer what they must” line. Though the formulation we have it in comes from the famous translation by Aubrey de Selincourt, and is much punchier than the original Greek (closer to “the strong do what they want, the weak have to put up with it”).

    I can understand the confusion, though, because most of the other famous lines about imperial overreach and the abuse of power from the ancient world do come from Tacitus. Most prominently “they create a wasteland, and call it peace”.

    • musing says

      Can you provide a reference as proof of authorship? I appreciate pointing out the inaccuracy, but I was sure that the source I used was reputable.

  5. KG says

    There’s an interesting account of what American and other NATO leaders said here, and here – I wouldn’t necessarily take everything on that site at face value, but there are copious references to declassified documents. But I think this:

    But I am curious what is going on in Putin’s mind besides his need to promote his interests, which are not about nationalism despite the propaganda

    is plain wrong. Putin’s bizarre pseudo-historical article from last year (you would think from reading it that the Russian Empire expanded purely by consent!) clearly indicates that he sees Ukraine as essentially a part of Russia, entitled to local autonomy at most. Putin’s scorn for democracy and social liberalism appears genuine and fear that they will infect Russia appear genuine, he has consistently funded and supported far right parties in Europe and the USA, and he has frequently quoted with respect Russian fascists or semi-fascists such as Ivan Ilyin and Lev Gumilyov (I won’t add links as I don’t know how many are allowed, the article on Ilyin by Timothy Snyder is good). The possibility that a post-Soviet Russia would develop in a fascist direction was recognised by Alexander Yanov in his 1987 book The Russian Challenge and the Year 2000 but the behaviour of “the West” in pushing for the privatisation of public assets at knock-down prices – producing the oligarchs alongside dire poverty, followed by expanding NATO while excluding Russia, made it far more likely; the chance for a peaceful and cooperative relationship with a democratic Russia was lost once Putin consolidated his power, if not earlier.

    • musing says

      We don’t know what Putin’s true intentions are, so these are all hypotheses. We can only make inferences from the available evidence, which depends on what we underscore. So your statement of “plain wrong” is rather strong. I would prefer to say that there may be a stronger case to make that his intentions are indeed nationalistic. That article is too long-winded for me to read. Reading about a quarter of it, the focus is on Russia’s kinship with Ukraine. So far I see no direct evidence supporting ambitions to expand. I am unsure if we can use the fact that he supports right-winged parties and quotes fascists for evidence although it is tempting. What he is doing is nationalistic, but I am hypothesizing that it is not motivated by his need to expand, which he may or may not have wanted to do in the past. This is a reaction to his “sphere of influence” being disrespected (see comments). When preparing the post, I initially had, “which is about nationalism.” I then revised my hypothesis based on there being no hard evidence that invading Ukraine is about gaining territory despite that being the most probable outcome. One particular political scientist had the following to say:

      Mr Putin surely knows that the costs of conquering and occupying large amounts of territory in eastern Europe would be prohibitive for Russia. As he once put it, “Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.” His beliefs about the tight bonds between Russia and Ukraine notwithstanding, trying to take back all of Ukraine would be like trying to swallow a porcupine. Furthermore, Russian policymakers—including Mr Putin—have said hardly anything about conquering new territory to recreate the Soviet Union or build a greater Russia. Rather, since the 2008 Bucharest summit, Russian leaders have repeatedly said that they view Ukraine joining NATO as an existential threat that must be prevented. As Mr Lavrov noted in January, “the key to everything is the guarantee that NATO will not expand eastward.”

      On the other hand, you could be correct and Putin above said that comment on being against expansion to mislead the world. But these are all just hypotheses because it is very difficult to ascertain with any degree of certainty what someone’s intentions are. At the very least, I will change the wording regarding nationalistic intentions to illustrate that this is not a conclusion of absolute certainty.

      • Anonymous says

        I agree that we can’t see inside Putin’s head, but I think his behaviour does indicate expansionist aims. In 2008, he helped separatists in Georgia set up two nominally independent statelets (Abkhazia and South Ossetia); in 2014 he annexed Crimea and helped set up the two “People’s Republics” in eastern Ukraine, and in this invasion, he certainly appeared to be aiming at taking Kyiv, presumably with the aim of setting up a puppet government which would among other things cede the additional bits of Ukraine he wanted to annex directly.

        • musing says

          I would say that that could be evidence towards the hypothesis that Putin’s true intentions have always been about expansion and nationalism. I think as time progresses we will know a more definitive answer. I added a section at the top clarifying my position and the position of others.

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