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Transcript =Welcome to today's discussion, my name is Glenn. I'm joined by Alexander Mercouris and Jack Matlock the US ambassador to the Soviet Union who had a very important role in contributing to negotiating an end to the Cold War in 1989.

GLENN: we wanted to discuss today the rise and potential fall of American hegemony in the world and after the Cold War the USA had a choice between embracing a more multipolar system or pursuing a Security based on hegemony.

US Ambassador Jack Matlock speaking


“ I would say the choice of hedge money was chosen and Justified based on what I would consider being a genuine objective of advancing a more liberal world order more or less according to Francis Fukuyama's ideas and now 30 plus years later one gets the impression that neither hegemony nor the mission of advancing liberal Democratic Values is doing particularly well as the US is experiencing more domestic problems while Global Primacy is contested more and more by other states so one can see also argue that the hegemonic International System perhaps is less capable of adjusting to shifts in the international distribution of power so with this topic in mind I thought we could start with NATO as hegemony largely translated into NATO expansion but Mr. Matlock you and your colleagues such as George Kennan or William Perry were all well I would say fiercely opposed to NATO expansion in your words at the time I think you said it would go down in history as the most profound strategic blunder so I guess I want to start with two questions first why did you see NATO expansion as being a strategic blunder and also second what do you make of the as you were there at the time to what extent was there made a promise to Gorbachev that this would not happen yes did argue strongly along with a number of my colleagues, in fact, many of us who were in senior positions when we negotiated into the Cold War we argued that NATO should not expand..

NATO was formed to prevent the Soviet Union from invading and occupying Western Europe when the Soviet Union first negotiated an end to the Cold War it was not a defeat for the Soviet Union we negotiated an end which was in everybody's interest and as Gorbachev started democratizing and the internal tensions within the Soviet Union caused a breakup the United States although it had advocated and supported the independence of the three Baltic countries actually did not want the Soviet Union to break up at that time we under the first Bush Administration we had hoped that Gorbachev would be able to negotiate a more democratic say Confederation or Federation of the 12 non- Baltic Republics that didn't happen now many people later looked at that as if it was the result of Western pressure it was not it was a defeat for Western policy which wanted Soviet Union to become more democratic but did not want to see it break up the way it did so the idea that many people had later both in the west and Russia and the East that the Soviet Union and then Russia Was Defeated I got it all wrong that was a negotiated end now why was it wrong to begin expanding NATO well first of all NATO had served its purpose and though some thought and I'm sure this is true of Secretary State Baker and president Bush some thought that it was necessary to retain NATO to keep Germany from dominating all of Europe as it had done before and to legitimate some American Military presence in Europe when this was discussed with Gorbachev he accepted it and approved it now later and also as we were negotiating the unification of Germany we definitely we Americans along with the German foreign minister and the British.

The British prime minister gave Assurance his verbal assurances that NATO would not expand to the east now by the late 90s when the question arose we said this first of all it isn't necessary and second if it is continued it could bring about a very dangerous situation now by then by the 90s the Soviet Union had broken up Russia had slightly less than half the population of the Soviet Union the other republics were given their independence under the leadership of Russia now when people say today Russia is always imperialist Russia has always suppressed these people yes the Russian Empire was an Empire like other Empires but actually in the Soviet Union they did a lot to preserve the languages and the cultures of the non-Russian nationalities much more than happened under the Russian Empire each of these nationalities were able to teach in their languages they all had Publications in the native languages even some of the smallest nationalities were able to keep their languages at least in second in primary school and so on now it is true that to be successful in the Soviet Union in a profession you did need to eventually learn Russian but as long as the nationalities the non-realties followed the line politically this was the essential thing they were able to cultivate and preserve their languages and cultures so that and finally what broke up the Soviet Union as I said before was not Western pressure but internal pressures and it was clear to many of us what watching it that if there was a sudden change in the republics other than the three Baltic states which had been brought in to the Soviet Union very late and actually as a result of the Nazi Soviet pact that and they had a history much with much in common with Western Europe so that it was clear that they had a road to what we would call a more democratic system that some of the others probably didn't so that but the idea was why should we expand NATO when after the Soviet Union collapsed Russia was not a threat to Eastern Europe actually Gorbachev had encouraged the reforms in Eastern Europe had accepted what without calm the results of democratic elections and was trying to democratize his own country so the idea that somehow Russia was a threat because it may have been in the past I think was totally mistaken now what we should have understood is that if you start expanding a military Alliance into areas which at once were controlled by another you are going eventually to be seen as threatening the sovereignty and Independence of those other states just as the United States for example went to war in Europe in the first world war when we learned that the Germans were trying to recruit the Mexicans and into an anti-American Alliance that was simply enable and we went to war against Germany in part because of that and for a country which has not for two centuries tolerated any foreign power to colonize or control countries in in the Western Hemisphere the United States first of all should have understood that this is not a good idea now having said that and many people say well after all NATO is not a threat to anybody because it is simply a guarantee against external attack well as I Russian diplomats explained to us in the 90s that it was not so much the title 5 guarantee that worried them as far in NATO expansion they had no intention of attacking any of these countries at that time or even in the future what worried them was bases and he said well if you start putting bases in eastern that will be a threat and is that unreasonable would not the United States reacted very negatively if a foreign power even one that was not that hostile started putting a bases say in the Caribbean or so on so this and certainly we have opposed any French claims over French Canada even though France was a friend so why this couldn't be understood as difficult me to understand and I would also say now the first round of NATO expansion was accepted by Russian reluctantly perhaps but they said well you know as long as you don't put bases there we're certainly not going to attack them but all along they said you know first of all the Balkans had had not when they saw no reason for NATO expansion into the Balkans.

I was in New York when President Putin visited and this was in I think the late 1990s and he was asked then about the expansion to the three Baltic countries and he said well I don't know why that is necessary but if it happens it will not strain our relationship of course the they could be members but no bases and then later when there was talk of expansion to Ukraine and anybody who's in with Russian and Ukrainian history what understand that that would be totally unacceptable to Russia and as a matter of fact when the question was raised in 2008 at that time 2third of the Ukrainians were against NATO expansion it was not something that the country in the hole was asking for so but NATO made that declaration in 2008 that eventually Ukraine and I think also Georgia would be members now I think that that what could only be seen as an offensive thing particularly when NATO began first of all to establish bases in Eastern Europe


Atomic Ballistic Missile Systems

The “Establishment” in the second decade of this Century of ABM systems in Eastern Europe was considered a particular threat and well why one would say these ABM systems are simply defensive that was the argent we made now defense against what was not clear we said it was defense against potentially firing attacks on Western Europe while at that time Iran didn't have the ability in missiles and had no reason to aim them at Eastern Europe and another little detail that needs to be understood is that these systems could easily be converted to offensive they had been designed for use originally on our Navy and depending on the software they could be used either defensively or offensively now obviously this was something that Russia had drawn the line out for a long time but us simply continued now I think these were extremely dangerous I hate to go on with a long lecture but let me say now that meanwhile within Ukraine their internal developments were making it more and more hostile to Russian interests and I'll simply conclude this with one more observation at the end of the second world war the United States had the I would say the wisdom to insist that Germany and France make it up and ensure that their rivalry would not bring us to another world war and they did with American help and so on and that's when we had the development of the what became the EU the European Union at the end of the Cold War particularly once the Soviet Union broke up and was no longer communist the Communist ideology was an offensive and threatening ideology and once that was dropped and Russia was less than half the population of the Soviet Union the task in Europe was to make Russia also a part of Europe and not try to wall it off and threaten it because that combined with NATO expansion was bound to create a reaction in Russia can I just a few things firstly I was of course a complete Observer of the events in the late 1980s but I can absolutely remember the public statements that were made at the time by Western officials including Western officials including Secretary Baker and President Bush and it was absolutely clear to me and before that President Reagan and it was absolutely clear to me that this was not a victory in the Cold War those officials were saying as much this was something that had been agreed and negotiated by the two sides and it's a tragedy that this was lost and an opportunity to work out a long-term relationship with the Russians which existed then was thrown away because I've spoken to a few Russians not people in the Diplomatic or foreign policy world but the one thing I have gained the impression of is that they do not want in fact or did not want to see the United States leave Europe they did not want to see even NATO dismantled as it had existed in 1989 because they did not want to have a situation where Germany might be cut loose and might decide to acquire nuclear weapons itself now I you know that might not have been a realistic possibility 1989 but that is what Russians have actually told me people like a filmmaker I know people like that they wanted a relationship with the United States a stable relationship in Europe which would leave them secure and the rest of Europe secure as well we are now so far away from that now this has been a disturbing day we've had the British and French ambassadors called into the Russian foreign min Ministry today we've had the Russians complaining about statements made by President macron and foreign minister Cameron the Russians have made threats to launch attacks on EUR on Britain or at least on British interests out in outside Ukraine if British missiles land on their territory we have nuclear drills being carried out by Russia all very concerning and worrying things and it does puzzle me why there isn't a wider discussion about how we have got to this extremely dangerous point and people don't look back and ask themselves what did we do between 1989 and 2002 which is perhaps the turn 2003 and which is perhaps the turning point to secure the piece that was there and to avoid bringing us to exactly the position that we're in now sort of question but well I'm not sure what the question was well I'm not I'm not ask a question just making an observation sir because you've explained things very well I think my hearing is not great yeah but I'll just make one more extended analysis and that is that I think in its reaction the United States has begun to make the same mistake that the Soviet Union had made earlier when it my - is here he's very curious when the Soviet the Soviet Union was the in the post-World War II period was following a policy which we call the brief that was based upon the philosophy that the Soviet Union represented socialism which was the first stage to Communism and the result of a proletarian Revolution against the Bourgeois in effect this ideology was a threat to all of the Western countries.

The capitalist countries so that it was rightly seen as an offensive and a threatening Ideology Now and part of the brief doctrine was with if one country had achieved socialism it was the duty of the others to protect it from any opposition whether external or internal and this was the rationale for the Soviet intervention in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968 so that and also its various interventions in Poland and of course the justification for the continue communist control of East Germany now that we seem to the United States seems to have replaced what had been before simply an a defense of countries against an aggressive ideology like communism with an aggressive ideology of its own we are now saying we must protect all rights what we Define them we change the definition at times of which ones are important but and that it is our duty and Destiny to spread democracy in the world now there are two things to be said about that first of all untraditional international law Sovereign countries are sovereign in terms of their internal politics and external interference particularly by coercion whether military or economics is not permissible second the idea that one country can spread its system we call it democracy now whether it is an not weaken debate but the point is that if democracy is ruled by for with the people then an external country can't create it it can only be created by people in that country and furthermore if an external country begins to favor and support certain factions in another country which is seen as a threat to the power that is there it is going to be a damage to that something Americans should understand because we have also been incredibly sensitive to what we consider interference in our own elections so in effect we were trying to extend our jurisdiction over certain things and we can see that particularly in our sanctions program where we sanction other countries over all sorts of things in a way of communicating of compelling them to do certain things that are politically important I might say in terms of trade sometimes sanctions are necessary to get fairness in trade but to use economic sanctions to bring political results particularly those that are viewed as assaults on sovereignty I think not only fail they simply make the situation worse so I think that the American policy of applying either military force or not quite as bad but also bad economic sanctions to achieve political ends particularly to change the nature of internal governments is going to fail just as president's Doctrine failed during the Soviet Union I think it's a interesting parallel you're drawing because much like the Soviet Union which had an idealist internationalism as its ideology one can obviously also apply the same to the United States in which sovereignty has to take backstage for this larger ideological pro project so but it's an interesting argent the American have well effectively their own BR of Doctrine but I was wondering if the problem or the similarities might be even greater because there's also as you mentioned when the Soviet Union it collapsed on its own and this was largely a lot of this internal contradictions for one if you're if you have an ideology based on advancing freedoms and this is pursued through Empire yeah this would be a huge contradiction and it feels as if this is one of the contradictions these days of the United States as well that is and I would like to emphasize I I do believe that the initial objectives were genuine to advance liberal Democratic order but when this is done through hegemon and the Empire it feels too many internal contradictions are building up and especially looking towards conduct in Gaza as well as how the war in Ukraine has been conducted also with escalations as Alexander referred to do you see these internal contradictions as being sustainable there are many contradictions there and I see overall that and my view the danger and I view this as an American this is becoming increasingly dangerous obviously what is happening in Gaza has all the characteristics of genocide and the fact that we have condemned many of the things but at the same time keep supplying to Israel the actual weapons to do this seems to me both hypocrisy and though we're told oh we're trying to contain the Israelis at the same time the Israelis simply are the current Israeli leadership are simply refuting everything the United States and the rest of the world is trying to say so that I think the fact that we today are witnessing a a another genocide at the time of what we call the Holocaust it was the middle of the war most people didn't know what was going on now we do see what was going on and it is not pretty and I think it is increasingly the military involvement of the United States and the behavior of Israel which has acted illegally outside its recognized borders now for several decades creating instability there and so I think that this is very dangerous I would also say there two other things I want to say is that the increasing hostility in the United States political leadership to China and the talk of the possibility of Another War I think is reaching almost what I would call the level of insanity we my whole lifetime in my professional career was devoted to trying to prevent and minimize the chances of a nuclear war now we seem to be following policies which risk it more and more and if not nuclear there are still other very I would say lethal and maybe uncontrollable things that could happen such as cyber warfare the impact of artificial intelligence and the weapons that we currently have I think mankind is really now facing are we going to exterminate ourselves through these things or are we going to try to find a policy that settles disputes peacefully rather than fueling violent changes one more I'm sorry for the long lecture but in doing this let us not forget that the United States is has financing its military buildup and its contribution to these wars with borrowed funds we are now dangerously indebted to the world we have a a national debt of now over $33 trillion and it's Rising by a couple of trillion every year and Congress has shown no inflation to bring the budget into balance much less to begin to paying off some of that debt every war we have fought in this Century has been fought on borrowed funds and yet and yet our economic sanctions against Russia and other countries are beginning to stress the entire trading system and I think at some point this this is going to turn out to be catastrophic for the United States itself so I worry about this as an American ambassador this is a question I I think you're absolutely correct I I cannot remember a time when things have been as precarious as they are now I if we'd had a situation when I think you were Ambassador and the Russians were announcing that they were doing nuclear weapons drills and calling in the western ambassadors and giving them warnings I think that would have certainly created severe alarm Bells when one sees things in the South China Sea and wherever that would cause alarm Bells as well do you I mean do people in government in Washington in the political system in Congress have a genuine understanding of the extraordinary risks that they're taking or is it that they think that the United States has always got through everything successfully in the past and we'll do so again this time because from where I stand it looks so reckless so dangerous so full of awful consequences is if things go wrong that that I can't understand why people are acting like they are it makes no sense to me well again I my hearing is such I have trouble understanding everything there let me add this I know I give very long answers and comments to things but I would just say that I think that the war in Ukraine is a tragedy for everybody I think it is it was unnecessary because I think if the United States had given firm assurances that NATO would not expand to any part of Ukraine that Russia would not have first of all taken Crimea and then supported the separation of the Donbas also I think that if Ukraine had been willing to carry out the Minsk agreements that they could have preserved all of their territory except Crimea and there the great majority of people are Russians speaking and almost certainly if given the choice would prefer to be in Russia given the full choice they would probably want to be independent but they've never been given that choice and they never had a vote as to whether when the Soviet Union broke up they would be in Ukraine or Russia actually the transfer from UK Russia to Ukraine by the Crimea was done simply by stroke of the kin by Niketa and in that case he didn't even transfer all of the Crimea to Ukraine because they Reserve Moscow’s control over

Sevastopol and the Naval Base so the idea that somehow Ukraine has a moral and right to occupy all these areas that in fact were defined by Hitler and Stalin before World War II app Plus K later simply has no has no basis and to fight and kill and destroy people over that idea I think is a moral outrage and that goes for both sides so yes we are faced with a real tragedy there but to keep fueling this war rather than encouraging the Ukrainians to settle even if it means giving up some of the territory I think has been a huge mistake on the part of the United States and Europe and right now. I think that the outcome is going to be to the detriment of all of us do you I guess say this will be my last question do you see any optimistic path forward or any possible path to peace because as you mentioned yourself I think well all Empires tend to weaken over time as resources are diverted from the core to the periphery but as you mentioned all these wars being fought on borrowed money obviously there's limited resources not just in the United States but in the rest of the political West and at the same time there doesn't seem to be any possible path to Victory we certainly we would end up in a nuclear war before we would be able to defeat Russia and even now that the Russians are winning NATO seems to have gone actually attacked Russia with this long range missiles and sending troops so I'm just wondering given that there's no possible good scenario of continuing fighting do you see any political will in Washington or any path to peace a negotiated peace that is it's very hard to protect the future and it is very hard to know what possibilities might be there for peace without you know an knowing the all the communication that may be going on that we don't know about it and I recall that we were able in the Reagan Administration to take us from one of the high points in the Cold War to an end of the Cold War in a mere three to four years but we had a strategy to do that and at the time actually few people were predicting that it could happen and but it did we really can't see the future because there are more aspects of this that are unknown that are known and some of the crucial things you know one of the one of the sayings that I like the most in terms of today is it's not what you don't know that gets you in trouble it's what you know that isn’t so I think that was attributed to one of our theorists in the 20th century but that's true there is so much propaganda out there that simply is not true and on both sides on all sides I would say as far as Ukraine and Russia is concerned they have inherited all of the ability that the Soviet Union has to propagandize things that doesn't mean that everything they say is wrong and that and at the same time we see what I consider propaganda on the western side and so I think that current policies are not sustainable able over the long run in the case of the United States and its economy our own Federal Reserve chairman has said that the current course is not sustainable! and yet we seem to intensify the problems of that course rather than bringing them under control so at some point some things are going to happen we can't predict what they are there could be a change and the Ukrainian leadership that decides it's better to make a deal the best they can and end this and so on it but the idea that simply a few more arms or more economic sanctions are going to preserve the borders of Ukraine that were donated by Khrushchev.


[“Annual Interest on USA national debt (created by Presidents Bush, Obama, & Biden) is equal to $879,000,000,000- with a projected $950 billion by 2026. In 2030, the interest payments will be 30%. In 2024, USA debt is now 100% of GDP and this will grow to 107% of GDP in 2028. The result is USA inflation will rise to two-digit percent and USA Taxes will cripple America as no longer to maintain its political agenda of global wars and its hundreds of global Military bases.” @rtkusiolek]

It seems to be dark times ahead so I wish we had still had the people leaders like yourself and George Kennan or (William Perry) who could navigate through these difficult times I don't see anyone, but we should still be optimistic


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