Most of America — and the world — seems to recognize that Russia, by invading Ukraine, is escalating a crisis for its own benefit. But the editors of The Nation have a different read.
Rather than drawing on Kantian internationalism or progressive Wilsonian ideals to condemn Russian’s occupation of Crimea as a deliberate violation of international law, the country’s preeminent left-wing magazine has taken up the unnecessary duty of acting as America’s apologist for Russian misbehavior.
In an editorial published on Monday calling for “realism” and “common sense” on Ukraine, The Nation shifts the blame of Ukraine’s current international crisis squarely away from Russia’s neo-imperialist foreign policy to the West’s alleged flagrant expansionism.
“With Russia moving troops into Crimea, we are now reaping the bitter fruit of a deeply flawed post-Cold War settlement,” the editorial board writes, adding that the situation has been “inflamed by the short-sighted American decision to expand NATO eastward and pursue other policies aimed at isolating Russia and ignoring Russian interests.”
Under this understanding, Russia invaded Ukraine not to gain back pieces of the lost Soviet empire or ensure access to the Black Sea, but rather out of an understandable fear provoked by the West. “Russian fears arising from instability in its next-door neighbor,” they write, are mostly caused by “the further extension of NATO to its borders.”
“It’s difficult to imagine any U.S. administration accepting a decision by Mexico to join a military alliance with Russia,” the ed board writes, conveniently ignoring the longstanding fear of Russia that drives its neighbors to want to join the Western alliance — a situation that doesn’t apply to U.S.–Mexico relations even at their worst.
If the U.S. did not try to expand NATO, the logic goes, Russia would have not felt it necessary to invade Ukraine, and we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.
For this reason and because the “Western media . . . distorts context and history,” Putin is merely the “designated villain,” when really his actions are quite understandable.
Supporting their thesis that Russia is merely reacting to Western expansionism, The Nation claims that Russia also felt threatened by the possibility of Ukraine’s integration “into the EU military structure,” an assertion difficult to believe considering the EU’s inability to conduct unified, prolonged military operations.
Since the conflict and military maneuvers are ultimately caused by the U.S. and its NATO allies, the proper response is not to show strength or flex our “rhetorical muscles,” as The Nation writes, but simply to craft a compromise. Because Russia is the threatened one just looking for security, an acceptable compromise should be easy to reach.
This sorry performance isn’t very persuasive, but it does prove one thing: that in her struggle against the Yankee capitalist integral, Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel is willing to throw in with any ally — even one that tortures and murders whistleblowers, imprisons feminist punk rockers, and occasionally invades its neighbors.
— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.