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OPINION | Playing Russian Roulette in Ukraine With Rep. Adam Smith

by Donald A. Smith

Congress, the media, and the public are almost unanimous in their support for what has become a proxy war with Russia, as Ukraine tries to repel Russia’s February invasion.

Anyone who omits the word “unprovoked” when referring to that invasion or who questions the wisdom of the proxy war risks being called a Putin apologist.

After the lies and debacles of the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, you’d expect people to be skeptical of what the neocons running U.S. foreign policy served up in Ukraine.

Yet it’s not just “far left” antiwar activists and extreme MAGA Republicans such as Tucker Carlson who question U.S. support for the war.

Senior U.S. diplomats — including George Kennan, former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and C.I.A. Director William Burns, former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, and even Henry Kissinger — have criticized aggressive NATO expansion.

For example, Matlock says in “Ukraine: Tragedy of a Nation Divided”:

“Interference by the United States and its NATO allies in Ukraine’s civil struggle has exacerbated the crisis within Ukraine, undermined the possibility of bringing the two easternmost provinces back under Kyiv’s control, and raised the specter of possible conflict between nuclear-armed powers. Furthermore, in denying that Russia has a ‘right’ to oppose extension of a hostile military alliance to its national borders, the United States ignores its own history of declaring and enforcing for two centuries a sphere of influence in the Western hemisphere.”

Thomas Friedman wrote a New York Times essay, “This Is Putin’s War. But America and NATO Aren’t Innocent Bystanders.” Friedman quotes George Kennan, senior U.S. diplomat during the Cold War: “I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the founding fathers of this country turn over in their graves.” And failing to acknowledge U.S. culpability risks an extreme backlash from Putin that can include nuclear or chemical attacks.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, immortal Hague fugitive Henry Kissinger says the U.S. is acting in a crazy and irrational way that has brought it to the edge of war with Russia and China:

“Mr. Kissinger sees today’s world as verging on a dangerous disequilibrium. ‘We are at the edge of war with Russia and China on issues which we partly created, without any concept of how this is going to end or what it’s supposed to lead to.’”

Evidence that the U.S. provoked Russia in Ukraine can be found in the 2019 RAND Corporation study Overextending and Unbalancing Russia. It “examines nonviolent, cost-imposing options that the United States and its allies could pursue across economic, political, and military areas to stress — overextend and unbalance — Russia’s economy and armed forces and the regime’s political standing at home and abroad.” It includes the paragraph, “Providing lethal aid to Ukraine would exploit Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability. But any increase in U.S. military arms and advice to Ukraine would need to be carefully calibrated to increase the costs to Russia of sustaining its existing commitment without provoking a much wider conflict in which Russia, by reason of proximity, would have significant advantages.”

The New York Times published this past May an opinion piece, “The War in Ukraine May Be Impossible to Stop. And the U.S. Deserves Much of the Blame,” by Christopher Caldwell. It includes the line “In 2014 the United States backed an uprising — in its final stages a violent uprising — against the legitimately elected Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych, which was pro-Russian.”

The libertarian Cato Institute published “The U.S. and NATO Helped Trigger the Ukraine War. It’s Not ‘Siding With Putin’ to Admit It.”

In short, it’s not pro-Putin to question U.S. support for the war in Ukraine. One should condemn Putin’s invasion of Ukraine while also condemning both the glaringly obvious U.S. provocations and American eagerness to escalate the crisis. The U.S. would never allow similar expansion of Russian client states along its borders. (Indeed, the CIA tries to overthrow any vaguely socialist country in South America.) The U.S. should push for a negotiated peace in Ukraine, instead of another endless, costly, inflation-causing war that risks nuclear holocaust.

Due to Ukrainian advances in the war, and due to Russia’s calling up of additional troops to fight back harder, there are heightened fears among commentators that Russia will need to expand the war or resort to nuclear weapons.

Yet Rep. Adam Smith (Democrat, CD-09, chair of House Armed Services, no relation) has been a cheerleader for aggressively arming Ukraine with advanced weaponry, including long-range missiles, as reported on RFE/RL and Politico. He has repeated the slogan that the war in Ukraine was unprovoked. Moreover, he has been aggressive in funding the U.S. arms buildup near China and in supporting Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan (“There is nothing combative about the Speaker going to visit Taiwan. Members of Congress go to Taiwan all the time, and have for decades. And I’m just worried about letting China decide what’s provocative.”). Sadly, he has been one of the largest benefactors of campaign contributions from military contractors. Meanwhile, the 2022 Pentagon budget is slated to be between $800 billion and $1 trillion.

How sad that Seattle, which is supposed to be progressive, has a Democratic House member who is totally on board with a costly, destructive, hyper-militarized foreign policy.

The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.

Donald A. Smith, Ph.D., is a Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, CodePink activist, and editor of

📸 Featured Image: Collage created by Donald A. Smith using images within Creative Commons.

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