An article by: Edward Lozansky

At a recent seminar sponsored by the two primary Washington think tanks, one American and another European, the subject of the war in Ukraine was discussed, as was how two upcoming significant elections in the European Parliament in June and the U.S. President in November might affect Western support for Ukraine and thus the course of the war.

The impression is that the West is not interested in looking for new ideas to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine

The questions proposed for discussion were: What is public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic during these critical elections? Are Americans souring on the war? Are Europeans prepared to take the slack if the United States leaves the field? What will it take for both European and American leaders to continue supporting Ukraine?

None of these questions was related to the search for ideas on ending this war that might escalate to nuclear WWIII. According to the seminar’s agenda, this was of no interest to the panelists or the audience, but as it turned out, on the second point, I was wrong with one caveat. This interest was expressed during the follow-up reception when some people walked to me and thanked for raising this issue during the Q&A.

After hearing the academic analysis by all panelists of opinion polls in the U.S. and Europe, which showed mainly what to expect in case of Trump’s victory and whether there is growing fatigue of this war, my question was directed to all of them: wouldn’t it be essential to conduct another poll asking about the roots of the current crisis; do they believe that Putin wants to restore or even expand Soviet empire after victory in Ukraine, and how to end this war that might escalate into Armageddon?

I further used 2 minutes to present my opinion until being interrupted by the moderator. This is, at least, what I managed to squeeze: the leading cause of the current crisis happened in February 2014, when the democratically elected President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich, who was against his country joining NATO, was overthrown by the coup plotters and his Western backers who were for the Ukraine’s entrance to this alliance. I also added that before the coup, the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians, especially in the South-East region, were against joining NATO.

Before being interrupted, I was able to quote some prominent American experts who were against NATO eastern expansion in the first place, like NY Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said that NATO expansion is “a curiously ironic outcome that at the end of the Cold War, we might face a nuclear Armageddon” and George Kennan about this being a “fatal foreign policy error.”

I wanted to end this sort of introduction to my question with a quote from a Congressional hearing when then-Senator Joseph Biden, while calling Moynihan “the single most erudite” and “informed person serving in the Senate,” said he disagreed with him and instead pushed together with the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for NATO expansion, but the moderator stopped me.

It looked like the panelists were unprepared to answer my questions or engage in a serious discussion. Only one of them mumbled something, saying that Putin’s words about Russians and Ukrainians being the same people were the main reason for his invasion.

People who think differently from the White House are branded as “useful idiots”

At this point, the seminar ended, but, as I mentioned earlier, the most interesting part occurred during the reception when several audience members walked to me to continue this discussion, some honestly explaining why they didn’t ask similar questions.

According to them, nowadays, in Washington this could get you a “useful idiot” label at best or “Putin’s stooge” at worst.  The “Russiagate” saga started by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Presidential campaign is alive and well.

Fortunately, many prominent experts, both in the U.S. and Europe, have enough courage and expertise to provide answers and ideas for solutions to this crisis about how to avoid a worst-case scenario. The present Western leadership is not listening to them, so one thing that the organizer of this seminar got right is that the upcoming 2024 elections might be existential for our survival.

That is if the smart people with a strategic vision got elected and attract foreign policy advisors among these experts.

President and Founder of the American University in Moscow

Edward Lozansky