After the fall of the Soviet Union, he told the Senate that expansion would lead us to where we are today. The Ukraine crisis was preventable.

By Ambassador Jack F. Matlock Jr., Responsible Statecraft

Today we face an avoidable crisis between the United States and Russia that was predictable, willfully precipitated, but can easily be resolved by the application of common sense.

But how did we get to this point?

Allow me, as someone who participated in the negotiations that ended the Cold War, to bring some history to bear on the current crisis.

We are being told each day that war may be imminent in Ukraine. Russian troops, we are told, are massing at Ukraine’s borders and could attack at any time. American citizens are being advised to leave Ukraine and dependents of the American Embassy staff are being evacuated. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian president has advised against panic and made clear that he does not consider a Russian invasion imminent. Vladimir Putin has denied that he has any intention of invading Ukraine. His demand is that the process of adding new members to NATO cease and that Russia has assurance that Ukraine and Georgia will never be members.

President Biden has refused to give such assurance but made clear his willingness to continue discussing questions of strategic stability in Europe. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has made clear it has no intention of implementing the agreement reached in 2015 for reuniting the Donbas provinces into Ukraine with a large degree of local autonomy — an agreement with Russia, France, and Germany that the United States endorsed.

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