Wednesday 30 January 2019

George Kennan in May 1998 on NATO expansion


''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. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs.'

''What bothers me is how superficial and ill informed the whole Senate debate was. I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don't people understand? Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.

''And Russia's democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, as any of these countries we've just signed up to defend from Russia. It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then they will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are -- but this is just wrong.''

George Kennan's thoughts in full are here.


  1. Yes, tell your children, and your children's children, that you lived in the age of Bill Clinton and William Cohen, the age of Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger, the age of Trent Lott and Joe Lieberman, and you too were present at the creation of the post-cold-war order, when these foreign policy Titans put their heads together and produced . . . a mouse.

    We are in the age of midgets.

  2. Dying countries often attack - it's the only way for the current group in power to consolidate more power. Russia has proven willing to invade its neighbors since the Cold War (Georgia and Ukraine, for example), to keep troops in other places (e.g., the Transdniester), and to intervene in Syria and elsewhere. If you spend time talking to day to day Russians (I have), their outlook is still quite expansionary, and it's impossible for their government not to reflect that.