NATO’s unabated expansion towards the east had always raised alarms in Kremlin’s corridor. Russia, as a response, started amassing troops across the Ukrainian border by the end of 2021. The start of 2022 marked the beginning of the Russian blitzkrieg into Ukraine with the end objective of installing a puppet regime in Kyiv. If Kremlin successfully installs the regime, it would mark the beginning of an even more protracted conflict. Many notable strategists had warned against NATO’s expansion so close to the Russian borders terming it “stupid,” “mistaken,” and a “strategic blunder.”
George Kennan, the architect of the American cold war strategy and arguably one of the greatest foreign policy strategists of the country, warned that the expansion of NATO was a “tragic mistake” that ought to ultimately provoke “a bad reaction from Russia.” When spoken to immediately after the Senate ratified NATO’s expansion, Geoge Kennan, on May 2, 1998 said that “it would mark the beginning of a new cold war,” further adding that the debate in Senate was “superficial and ill-informed,” especially because the United States has “neither the resources nor the intention” to protect a series of countries.
Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977, thought the Ukrainian issue was misunderstood by many as a “showdown” and territory of “confrontation.” He suggested that as a principal of foreign policy by the West, Ukraine needs to be understood as a quasi part of the Russian Federation, for its roots are grounded in the country, and it could “never be just a foreign country” to Russia. Henry Kissinger said that “Ukraine should not join NATO” and stressed that this needs to be understood as a principal and not a prescription. Talking about Russia’s role, he said that if it ever decides to move its borders again, Moscow would be doomed “to repeat its history of self fullfing cycles of reciprocal pressures with Europe and the United States.”
John J Mearsheimer, an American political scientist, and an international relations scholar said that “The West is leading Ukraine down the primrose path and the end result is that Ukraine is going to get wrecked,” and he believed that using Ukraine to push their strategic agendas and building competition with Russia on one side and NATO on the other “is in fact encouraging that outcome.”
The U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987-1991, Jack F. Matlock, believed that after the end of the cold war no country was threatening to re-divide Europe and “therefore absurd to claim” that “it is necessary to take new members into NATO to avoid a future division of Europe”. The ambassador even called for the inclusion of Russia into the European security model rather than excluding it. He believed the concept of expansion of NATO to be “misguided” and “as the most profound strategic blunder.”
Naom Chomsky talking after the Crimean annexation of 2014, said that “the idea that Ukraine might join a Western military alliance would be quite unacceptable to any Russian leader.” When the Soviet Union collapsed, Gorbachev agreed for Germany to be unified and join NATO with a quid pro quo that NATO would “not expand one inch to the east.” Talking about Ukraine’s prospective entry into NATO and whether it would protect the country, Naom Chomsky added that “it is not protecting Ukraine, it is threatening Ukraine with a major war”.
Stephen Cohen, a famed scholar of Russian studies, warned in 2014 that “if we move NATO forces toward Russia’s borders […] it’s obviously gonna militarize the situation [and] Russia will not back off, this is existential.”
This is famous Russian-American journalist Vladimir Pozner, in 2018, who says that NATO expansion in Ukraine is unacceptable to the Russian, that there has to be a compromise where “Ukraine, guaranteed, will not become a member of NATO.”
CIA director Bill Burns in 2008: “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for [Russia]” and “I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.”
Paul Keating, former Australian PM, in 1997: expanding NATO is “an error which may rank in the end with the strategic miscalculations which prevented Germany from taking its full place in the international system [in early 20th].”
Former U.S. defense secretary Bob Gates in his 2015 memoirs: “Moving so quickly [to expand NATO] was a mistake. […] Trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching [and] an especially monumental provocation.”
Sir Roderic Lyne, former British ambassador to Russia, warned a year ago that “[pushing] Ukraine into NATO […] is stupid on every level.” He adds, “if you want to start a war with Russia, that’s the best way of doing it.
Pat Buchanan, Former White House Communications Director, in his 1999 book A Republic, Not an Empire: “By moving NATO onto Russia’s front porch, we have scheduled a twenty-first-century confrontation.”
William Perry explains in his memoir that to him, NATO’s enlargement is the cause of “the rupture in relations with Russia” and that in 1996 he was so opposed to it that “in the strength of my conviction, I considered resigning”.
This is merely a glimpse of what the most notable strategists thought would happen if NATO was ever to expand towards the East. Evidently, all their efforts were in vain.