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The American elite, in particular its foreign and national security policy elite are clueless as to what time it is, where it is and to where it is going. This is exceedingly true when it comes to the NATO-Russian Ukrainian war or the war for and against NATO expansion. Recall that just months ago US President Joe Biden said: "Putin has already lost this war." Soon former US ambassador to Moscow and National Security Council advisor for Russia and Eurasia chimed in: "Ukraine is winning!" Now everyone acknowledges Ukraine has lost the war. Odd that, as elections approach. The Washington DC apparatchiki and nomenklatura live in an isolated bubble of misinformation constructed by their own disinformation. They believe their own lies, producing their world populated by simulacra, denial of responsibility and a special lack of self-awareness. Only when the lies are exposed and maintaining the fiction becomes a hopeless, self-destructive pursuit or the domestic political struggle dictates another line does something akin to reality is able to stick out its ugly head.

The closest thing to but still far from any realism or honest assessment of the war in the first year of the war for NATO expansion came from former CIA chief Robert Gates and Former National Security advisor Condoleezza Rice. Contrary to the universal propaganda machine meme that Ukraine has all but won the war and Putin can soon be toppled from power, their recent article rose above that low bar analysis to acknowledge that Kiev's army is on the ropes. The authors also spared us the inspirational though not inspired nonsense regarding 'Ukraine's democracy' standing at the gates of civilization holding off the Muscovite-troglodyte hordes. The sad news is that their realism was driven by the needs of domestic politics: Both are Republicans and so have an interest in countering the Democrat Party-state line.

How low the bar that they managed to rise above is can be seen from the armchair generals and spooks on US media pumping out stories such as former US/NATO General Ben Hodges recent absurdity that Ukraine will take back Crimea "by the end of August": "Nonsense! Of course time is on Ukraine's side. They have no manpower issues and their logistics situation gets better every week. Not one single Russian Soldier actually wants to be there and sanctions are hurting. Ukraine liberates Crimea by end of August" ("Ex-Army General Predicts Ukraine Liberates Crimea 'by End of August'";; and Of course, the reality is that rather than tightening the noose around Crimea, Ukraine's counteroffensive badly failed and Russia's already mounting winter campaign will put the Ukrainian army in danger of collapsing. Hodges claim was all over the Internet, reinforcing the illusion of imminent Ukrainian victory. On January 14th as Russian forces mopped up Soledar and were preparing to assault Bakhmut/Artemsky, which will open the entire Donetsk front to collapse of the Ukrainian defense line, US mainstram media was truly delusional and/or disinformational. 's three 'Top Stories' were "Putin facing Kremlin mutiny as Ukraine uncovers real reason behind military reshuffle", "Ukraine Could Strike Devastating Blow to Putin as Military Struggles", and "Ukraine credits local beavers for unwittingly bolstering its defenses โ€” their dams make the ground marshy and impassable". Good stuff.

Back to Gates and Rice, well they at least were on target in admitting that it is Volodomyr Zelenskiy's Ukraine that is running out of time and thus recommending a major ramping up of military assistance to Ukraine if the goal is to defeat Russia at war โ€” however unlikely it is that goal can be achieved. True to recent Washington form, such a policy risks the collapse of escalation management. By forcing Moscow to attack Western aid convoys and/or cut off the land supply rout from Poland to western Ukraine by sending south from Belarus a new invasion force could backfire by leading Russia to form a pincer movement to encircle Kiev with the other prong sent south from Belgorod through Chernigov and/or Sumy.

As usual, Gates and Rice bombard the reader with propaganda bromides: Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy is the "Churchill" of today and the goal of Putin's 'special military operation' is the conquest of all Ukraine. I personally do not recall Churchill having millions of dollars in offshore accounts, being sponsored by a mafia don-like oligarch once banned for entry into the US, closing opposition political parties and media, or being in alliance with fascists, awarding a medal to one who expressed hope he could one day feed his dogs the bones of Russian children. As I recall matters, Churchill led a fight against fascists and supported republican governance. I wonder why it is that Putin, who supposedly wants to recreate the Soviet Union, had only sixty miles and the remainder of a weak Georgian army between his Russian troops and Georgia's capitol Tbilisi during the August 2008 war (begun by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili) but did not try to take Georgia. This occurred when the authors were in the White House in the younger Bush administration. Odd that.

The authors also exhibit more of the now quintessential American lack of self-awareness by wholly ignoring the US and West's own responsibility for the war and any need for diplomacy. Instead, they focus solely on more Western military escalation as the only path to the war's end. Thus, overall, Gates and Rice continue in the manner of NATO expansion by proposing a policy that pursues further weakening of Russia's national security โ€” the very cause of the war in the first place. This is not surprising, since this rare glimpse into an actual reality comes from two establishment 'rino' Republicans afterall.

The self-delusion on the other side of the aisle goes beyond befuddling, even astonishing. The Democrat Party-state nomenklatura lives entirely in its own world โ€” one of fakes, arrogance, self-righteousness, and the disinformation, obfuscation, and simulacra necessary to maintain them. In their world, men can give birth; there are 150 genders and counting; children should change their sex; censorship is freedom of speech; fraudulent elections are free and fair; authoritarianism is democracy; foreign states' sovereignty must be protected but US sovereignty must not; Russia does not oppose NATO expansion; Putin wants to 'recreate the Soviet Union' or the Russian Empire โ€” take your pick.

Democrat Party-state simulacra and self-delusion leaves most of the American 'elite' in a mirage-filled cocoon regarding Russia and the Ukrainian war, conjuring fairy tales for the American and Western publics. One recent example was a talk Michael McFaul gave to an audience of Stanford alumni that left them in a fog of illusions topped off by self-righteousness and demonstrated why American diplomacy is so feckless, reinforcing the reliance on military power and economic coercion (e.g., sanctions) in US foreign policy. The former US ambassador to Russia argued there are three causes of the war in Ukraine: power politics, NATO expansion, and Russian domestic politics. Although there is much fodder for criticism in his discussion of 'power politics' and Russian domestic politics, I will confine my remarks to his picture of NATO expansion and Russia's response for the most part.

In McFaul's Democract Party-state McWorld, Russia was never opposed to NATO expansion. Its protestations are a ruse for other purposes - at present - of justifying Putin's efforts to conquer all Ukraine. His evidence is that the Russians never raised the issue of NATO expansion during his tenure overseeing the fictive 'US-Russian 'reset'. We may never know if any Russian officials raised the issue with McFaul, but they, including Putin, routinely raised it in their public remarks. If they did not raise it with McFaul or the Obama administration, could it be that Moscow already understood it was useless? Washington would push NATO expansion in lieu of any serious Russian pushback (e.g., Georgia 2008) at any rate, and the Russians may have held off raising the issue in order to preserve the 'reset' such as it was. Moreover, McFaul made his remarks also in the present of 2022. Meanwhile, the groundwork for Ukraine's eventual entry into NATO continued to be laid and Moscow knew it. It is worth noting first that McFaul's claim cannot be disproved until Obama era documents are published in some 15 years and second that McFaul (not Putin) has asserted that lying is diplomacy and that diplomacy with Russia is "appeasement". We now know form Ukraine's chief negotiator in the Gomel-Istanbul talks that an agreement had been made, obviating the need for the war, and that Russia's main demand at those talks was that a neutral Ukraine remaining outside of the NATO bloc (; and; ).

McFaul also claims that neither Ukrainian nor Georgian membership in NATO were 'on the agenda' during the reset. Putting aside the foggy term 'on the agenda', we know that Washington and Brussels were deepening military-to-military ties with Kiev throughout the entire decade leading up to the Maidan revolt they both cultivated. Also, during the 'reset' NATO summits repeatedly issued resolutions asserting that both Ukraine and Georgia would one day be in NATO [for more on NATO-Ukrainian cooperation during the decade before Maidan, see Gordon M. Hahn, Ukraine over the Edge (McFarland Publishers, 2018)]. When I raised this with McFaul in a written exchange 5-6 years ago, his response was: 'You don't understand diplomacy.' Presumably, this would be that same 'diplomacy', the essence of which is lying.

McFaul's discussion of NATO expansion and the Russian response is, well, faulty. His account leaves out the fact that it is not just the authoritarian Putin, who has opposed it, but semi-democratic Russian president Boris Yeltsin and other Russian liberals well before him who also vehemently opposed it both during the heyday of US-Russian rapprochement in the early to mid-1990s and over the years since. Regarding McFaul's third cause of the Ukrainian war (Russian domestic politics), this is instructive. Indeed, it was NATO expansion as much as the post-Soviet economic depression that discredited democracy on the Russian domestic scene, facilitating the turn to a soft (but now harsher) authoritarianism engineered by Putin. Russian weakness and disorientation after the Soviet collapse severely limited any policy response to NATO's enlargement, but the reckoning was inevitably to come sooner or later. It is here now. Many (George Kennan, John Mearsheimer, present CIA chief Nicholas Burns, and I, among many others) warned McFaul and those who talked like him for years that NATO expansion would lead precisely to the war we see today. Those who were right have been excluded from mainstream discussions and much of the public square, while those like McFaul continue to poison relations with Russia and thereby the overall international security.

In line with this, McFaul carefully avoids all discussion of the ways NATO expansion, in particular to Ukraine, would damage Russian national security. Logic - as opposed to wishful thinking and dreamy faith in some American democratic Providence - would dictate that if NATO expansion damaged core Russian national interests and security, then Moscow would be against it. Thus, McFaul's and others' discussions of NATO expansion that deny any real Russian concerns hinge on ignoring whether it has any security effects. Silence, therefore, must surround Russia's Black Sea Fleet based on Crimea at Sevastopol, for example. Obviously a Ukraine in NATO would not allow a Russian naval base on its territory, and a post-Maidan Ukraine would surely be in NATO eventually, as NATO repeatedly has asserted, unless Russia somehow countered a Maidan Ukraine by, say, annexing Crimea by stealth or invading parts of Ukraine.

The Maidan coup itself has been repeatedly misrepresented by McFaul over the years as simply a peaceful popular protest movement. That coup - putting aside the blow to Russian honor as a result of the West's condoning the Maidan protest movement's violation of the Russo-European brokered agreement to end the protests by the Maidan's neofascist element and its sniper attacks that were blamed on Maidan's target Viktor Yanukovych - was in itself a blow to Russian national security. Therefore, there came Putin's stealth occupation and annexation of Crimea โ€” a move that cost far less of life than the neofascists' Maidan snipers' massacre and Kiev's anti-terrorist operation against Donbass separatists. The inception of the post-Maidan regime and the anti-terrorist operation against Donbass that accompanied it were followed by massive NATO military support to Kiev, making Ukraine a de facto NATO member for all intents and purposes. In short, NATO expansion was followed by Western escalation after Western escalation (of which I have discussed but a few here). Putin's escalations amounted to three: the Crimean annexation, support for Donbass rebels during the anti-terrorist operation or civil war, and last year's 24 February invasion.

The escalations by both sides continue during the war to this day, and McFaul and his Democratic Party-state colleagues as well as their Republican opponents are calling for more. Vindication for them might come perhaps. Kiev might take Crimea and Donbass (in some virtual universe), or Putin might take all Ukraine. Indeed, the attempt to accomplish the former is likely to bring about the latter, with all the risks of a nuclear holocaust for humankind such events are fraught. Clearly, the last thing one needs now is lying; excuse me, I mean diplomacy.
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, and

Dr. Hahn is the author of the new book: Russian Tselostnost': Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored five previous, well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the "New Cold War" (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia's North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia's Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia's Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.

Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group.