This Segment was a Stinker


May 20, 2023.  Democracy Now had a segment about “high-ranking national security officials” who bought a full-page ad in the New York Times calling on Biden to “end the Russia-Ukraine War speedily”.   Right up front their spokesperson, retired Master Sergeant Dennis Fritz, said “candidly, Amy…we are fighting a proxy war with Russia to weaken them.”  As soon as I heard that I knew the segment would be garbage.  Of course the U.S. power structure sees this as an opportunity to weaken its Russian rival , but what do the “we” who are the lower echelons think of the matter.  “We” shouldn’t care about the rivalries of thieves.  We properly are in solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are being brutally invaded by a set of capitalists, militarists and their power-mad leader.


It's been a year.  Do any sizable number of Ukrainians think they are just proxies for the U.S.?  Is there any significant opposition to military defense of the country in Ukraine?    A proxy war is like what the U.S. arranged to attack Nicaragua in the ‘80s or going back further the cobbled-together “South Vietnam” government used to thwart popular will in that country.  Ukrainians know what they’re doing is defensive warfare to prevent obliteration as a nation and massacres of a good part of the population.


Taking a look at the ad in the NYT I’ll critique (in red) some of its arguments.


The ad makes the obvious point that the death and destruction has been a disaster.  However, it states,


The solution to this shocking violence is not more weapons or more war, with their guarantee of further death and destruction.


The new-found pacifism of these former “security officials” to the most heavily-armed and violent country on the planet is touching.     However, as a matter of fact the weapons sent to Ukraine have saved Ukrainian lives.  As Ukrainian economist Tyimofiy Mylovanov writes “Western weapons allowed Ukraine to liberate Bucha, Kharkiv, Kherson, stopping torture, rape and executions there”  He further explains that before Ukraine had anti-missile weapons the country was defenseless against missile strikes.  Now most are shot down.


The immediate cause of this disastrous war in Ukraine is Russia’s invasion. Yet the plans and actions to expand NATO to Russia’s borders served to provoke Russian fears.


The whole ad repeats the sentiments of the second sentence over and over again.


A failure of diplomacy led to war.


We’ll in 1994 there was a supposed triumph of diplomacy.  Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear weapons (at the time it had the 3rd largest holdings of nuclear weapons in the world) in return for a written agreement by Russia, the U.S., Britain to honor its existing borders.  It’s called the Budapest Memorandum.  Nowhere in the ad to these security officials mention this diplomatic triumph, perhaps because Russia brazenly violated it.


Russia sees NATO enlargement and presence on its borders as a direct threat. 


The ad includes two maps.  One scarry one shows how horrible it would be if Canada and Mexico had bases all along their borders with the U.S.  What’s not shown is that until Russia invaded Ukraine NATO countries right on the land border with Russia were just Latvia, Estonia, the northern tip of Norway.  (Poland and Lithuania touch Kaliningrad, part of Russia not contiguous to any other part of Russia, hardly an invasion route).


We reject the idea that diplomats, seeking peace, must choose sides,


So you’re mediators now, not people standing up for justice and law?


We cannot and will not endorse the strategy of fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian.


Your sympathy for Ukrainians does you much honor.  Have you ever spoken to a Ukrainian and asked what they wanted?


Deliberate provocations delivered the Russia-Ukraine War. In the same manner, deliberate diplomacy can end it.


There we have it.  These former officials tell us the U.S. plotted to start this war.  It’s all the fault of the U.S., etc. etc.   

The ad then goes into the verbal promise not to expand NATO given by James Baker and then lists Western provocations and tells us:


Russia further singled out NATO expansion into Ukraine as especially provocative.


Which NATO has not done even though it has expanded into Finland and Sweden.


 A big section in the ad is called:  Seeing the War Through Russia’s Eyes


The title itself is false. These are Putin’s eyes, or better yet Putin’s excuses, not the views of thousands and thousands of Russians in exile or in prison.


The Russians made their red lines clear. In Georgia and Syria, they proved they would use force to defend those lines.


How dare you bring up the example of Syria as if Syria was a Russian province or on the Russian border.  Russian participation in Assad’s massacres was hideous.


 In 2014, their immediate seizure of Crimea and their support of Donbas separatists demonstrated they were serious in their commitment to defending their interests.


“their interests”, the language of hard-boiled diplomats who excuse the crimes of big powers


The ad goes on to quote a number of U.S. diplomats, generals and politicians like Henry Kissinger and others of our enemies who stand for the empire, but had particular differences over strategy in expanding NATO.  It quotes a former statement by CIA head William Burns


“Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region”


Sure, that’s what all the big powers say when they bully their neighbors.


Why did the U.S. persist in expanding NATO despite such warnings? Profit from weapon sales was a major factor.


True, but unmentioned is how Putin made this easy.  Unmentioned are Putin’s provocations, his ending of democracy in Russia, his conquest of Crimea, his turning the political dispute in the Donesk section of Ukraine into an armed conflict.


The Russia-Ukraine War has opened a new arena of confrontation and slaughter. This reality is not entirely of our own making


“not entirely”, very big of you all


The ad has these signers

Dennis Fritz, Director, Eisenhower Media Network; Command Chief Master Sergeant, US Air Force (retired)
Matthew Hoh, Associate Director, Eisenhower Media Network; Former Marine Corps officer, and State and Defense official.
William J. Astore, Lieutenant Colonel, US Air Force (retired)
Karen Kwiatkowski, Lieutenant Colonel, US Air Force (retired)
Dennis Laich, Major General, US Army (retired)
Jack Matlock, U.S. Ambassador to the U.S.S.R., 1987-91; author of Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended
Todd E. Pierce, Major, Judge Advocate, U.S. Army (retired)
Coleen Rowley, Special Agent, FBI (retired)
Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor at Columbia University
Christian Sorensen, Former Arabic linguist, US Air Force
Chuck Spinney, Retired Engineer/Analyst, Office of Secretary of Defense
Winslow Wheeler, National security adviser to four Republican and Democratic US
Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Colonel, US Army (retired)
Ann Wright, Colonel, US Army (retired) and former US diplomat

I’ll only comment on one of the signers, Jeffrey Sachs.  I don’t see how this economist can be considered a former “national security official”.  His biggest achievement (sarcasm) was to give the newly ex-Soviet Union disastrous advice, “shock therapy”, which it followed, and which gave rise to a form of capitalism that directly reduced the Russian population by millions and gave rise to the Russian Gangster Capitalist Class. More about him here.


All in all an awful segment on Democracy Now.