Magazine article Foreign Policy

Jack Matlock: U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1987-1991

Magazine article Foreign Policy

Jack Matlock: U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1987-1991

Article excerpt

The post-Cold War order that reigned over Eastern Europe for more than two decades is cracking-some might even say shattering. In Kiev, the tumultuous Maidan revolution gave birth to a fragile new government, and Ukraine is still teetering on the verge of civil war, The Crimean peninsula now belongs to Russia, which has also massed troops for months along Ukraine's eastern border. And amid the chaos, Washington and Moscow have relentlessly traded angry insults over which of them is to blame for the unrest. Indeed, relations between the United States and Russia have arguably reached their lowest point since the fall of the Soviet Union. As Jack Matlock sees it, the situation likely could have been avoided: From 1987 to 1991, Matlock was the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, where he had a front-row seat to the end of the Cold War, and he sees current tensions as largely the result of poor policy choices in the intervening decades. Foreign Policy spoke with Matlock in June about U.S.-Russia diplomacy, NATO expansion, and whether all the furious criticisms of President Barack Obama's foreign policy hold water.

The Ukraine crisis was a product, in large part, of the policy of indefinite expansion of NATO to the east. If there had been no possibility of Ukraine ever becoming part of NATO, and therefore Sevastopol becoming a NATO base, Russia would not have invaded Crimea. It is as simple as that.

Americans have lived for nearly two centuries with the Monroe Doctrine. Why don't we understand that other countries are sensitive about military bases from potential rivals not only coming up to their borders, but taking land which they have historically considered theirs?

These are extremely emotional issues--issues that are made to order for any authoritarian ruler that wants to strengthen his rule.

It was our goal in 1991 to try to keep the republics of the Soviet Union, other than the three Baltic states, together in some sort of federation. …

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