How did the United States create Vladimir Putin?
Vladimir Pozner, Russian-American journalist born in France, talks about the impact of US foreign policies against Russia after the Soviet Union was dismantled; Furthermore, he emphasizes how those decisions have led us to the confrontation between the two superpowers. Four years after Pozner’s Yale conference, much of that information has been ignored by the corporate media in explaining the current conflict in Ukraine.
Pozner says upfront that he does not represent anyone, any organization, agency or government. He is just a freelance journalist. He clarifies that it is important to underline his independence because these are extremely dangerous moments and, he emphasizes, the relationship between the United States and Russia has never been at this level.
He also says that the Russians were never against the Americans. They had problems with the government, yes, but not with the people. Today is different.
This is what the journalist had to say:
“Not long ago we were more optimistic about the relationship between the two countries, in the times of Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan. Some say that the Soviet Union collapsed. Not true, it didn’t crash. Three leaders agreed to dismantle it: the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus at the time. They get rid of the Soviet Union and at the same time they get rid of Gorbachev. That was what happened.
“At that time, the United States had to decide what kind of policy it was going to take with Russia and vice versa. In 1992 Boris Yeltsin arrived in the United States and in a session of Congress offered his hand to build a better future for the country and the world. That is truly what Russia wanted. But what was the answer: for 40 years you had a nuclear weapon on us (USA) and now you are defeated, you are going to pay for it.
“In 1992, the document that came to be called the Bush Doctrine emerged, then it was published in the New York Times and he said: the United States must never allow another challenge from another country once again, they must remain the superior country in the world. But watch out for Russia because she may come back.
“Edward Kennedy said that it was an imperialist document that no country should accept. But he was accepted by Russia, and he also understood that he was seen as a second-class country, not the power that he had been. The United States helped bring the two Germanies together, but James Baker, George H. Bush’s representative at the United Nations, told Gorbachev that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would not grow an inch east of Europe. Many denied that Baker said that, but in 2017 the documents from the George Washington University National Defense archive were declassified, and there is the statement where the US and other countries made the promise to Gorbachev. Russia accepted it as a promise, but in 1996, with Bill Clinton, NATO includes Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
“Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, called, in 1998, George Kennan, one of the brightest political minds, in his opinion, who sought peace and not war with Russia and who laid the foundation for foreign policy after World War II, but through peace. Friedman asked him about the US decision to expand NATO, and he replied:
“May 2, 1998. ‘I think it’s the beginning of a new Cold War. I think the Russians will gradually react adversely and it will affect the policies. I think it was a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this.’
“This decision -in the opinion of the journalist- is what started the whole current problem. The reaction of the Russians was: You promised us that you would not do this, said Yeltsin; How can we trust you now?
“From 1985 to 2007, with Vladimir Putin in power, 22 years have passed and there is not a single established Russian policy that affected or disappointed Americans. But what did Russia receive in return? First, the expansion of NATO, then the NATO-led, US-led bombing of Yugoslavia from March 24 to June 10, 1999, and not even the United Nations condemned the action. Then came the invasion of Kosovo, which had belonged to Serbia for centuries and was recognized as a nation. Russia complained, but nothing happened. Yeltsin was angry, and he said about the United States: we are not Haiti, you can’t treat us like Haiti. We have a great past, Russia will return!
“One of the first things that Putin did when he came to power was to ask that Russia be part of NATO to work together and protect all European countries together. They did not accept it; he then asked for a membership to be part of the European Union, but they did not accept him either. That reminded Russia that it was not very important to Western countries. Like the Americans, the Russians feel that fate chose them for a mission in life and the Russians cannot be ignored as the West did, this was received as an insult to them, who claimed that Gorbachev and Yeltsin had not defended the nation. Currently both leaders are very unpopular in Russia, if they have a 5% approval rating.
“After 9-11, Putin spoke to George W. Bush to offer his support in Afghanistan. He wanted them to fight terrorism together and they did, they helped him, but they didn’t get anything in return.
“Finally in 2007, in Munich, Germany, Putin said in a speech on February 10 to the group of 20: I think that the extension of NATO has nothing to do with the security of Europe, but it does represent a provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust; So we have the right to ask, against whom is this expansion directed? And what happened to the security that Western countries did after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, where are those statements today? Nobody remembered them.
“But Putin reminded them of General Mr. Berner’s speech in Brussels on May 17, 1990, where he said that not placing a NATO army in East Germany gives security guarantees to the Soviet Union. Where are those guarantees? The answer was: those guarantees were for the Soviet Union and you are Russia.
“What reaction can you expect to such a response. In 2017 Putin said that one of his biggest mistakes was that Russia had trusted the United States too much and they took advantage of that. It was not the Russians, but the decisions of the governments that led Putin to be the way he is now. Putin does not trust the United States or Western countries, and what is complicated now is that we are in a Cold War that affects us all.
“The danger of a nuclear war has grown. There are no longer any talks or protests calling for getting rid of nuclear bombs, and the possibility of terrorist groups having a nuclear bomb is great.
“Finally, as someone who works in the media, the Russian press paints Americans in a negative image and the mainstream media in the United States does the same. But there is supposed to be freedom in America, different from the Russian, but I don’t know what happens. Those journalists who do that, in my opinion, are not journalists. They play a destructive role in creating a moment of fear and mistrust between the people of both countries, but the fact that no one questions the media is significant.
“I want to end with a quote from Hermann Göring, Hitler’s right-hand man, who after leading the air force was sentenced to death by hanging; but he escaped and then committed suicide. But this is what he told an American media outlet before he died.
“Something we all need to remember:
‘Normal people generally don’t want war, not the Germans, Russians or English. But after all it is the leaders who determine the policy and the people are dragged along, whether through a dictatorship, a democracy, a parliament or a communist government. Voice or no voice, people can always be led to war by their leaders. That’s easy, you just have to tell them that they are being attacked and denounce the defenders of peace for their lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to the danger of war. That works in any nation of any ideology’.
“I think he was absolutely right, and we let ourselves be led by the media, the politicians in that direction in all countries.
“For my part, the only thing I can do now is speak and I will continue to do so. There must be a voice that says what happens. They are manipulating us, they put Putin worse than Hitler, even Hillary Clinton says so.”
So far the message sent by the journalist Pozner.
Not included in this presentation was support for the US coup against Ukraine in 2014, and Putin’s constant pronouncements that Ukraine cannot be part of NATO because it is an existential issue for Russia.
Before the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine started, the Ukrainian president said that he wanted to be a part of NATO and that he wanted nuclear weapons. This week, Hilary Clinton again went on MSNBC with Rachel Maddow and said that Russia’s unprovoked attacks were aggression, so it was important to send more weapons to Ukraine.
The transcription does not include all of Pozner’s words verbatim, but the translation keeps the main message intact.
Link the conference: