Editor’s Note: Dr. Martin Hellman, Adjunct Fellow for Nuclear Risk, professor at Stanford, and an expert on crisis risk reduction, asks that FAS members and others who read this post to consider contacting their elected representatives about the crisis in Ukraine. Dr. Hellman sent the following letter to President Obama and his Congressional representatives.
I am writing to encourage you to resist the push for sanctioning Russia over its actions in the Ukraine. While the situation in the Ukraine is deplorable and Russia has made its share of mistakes, it is not solely to blame.
Henry Kissinger recognized this: “We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction. Russia and the West, and least of all the various factions in Ukraine, have not acted on this principle.”
So did Pres. Nixon’s Soviet Adviser, Dmitri Simes. When asked, “how do you assess the Obama administration’s performance so far?” he replied, “I think it has contributed to the crisis.”
So did Ronald Reagan’s former ambassador to Moscow, Jack Matlock: ” I believe it has been a very big strategic mistake – by Russia, by the EU and most of all by the U.S. – to convert Ukrainian political and economic reform into an East-West struggle.”
It is also ancient wisdom: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” If we are going to sanction Russian officials for their actions in Ukraine, what about Pres. Bush, VP Cheney, and others for their actions in Iraq?
Instead of sanctioning perceived evil doers, it would be much more effective to clean up our own act first. That also has the advantage that it would not push Russia to retaliate in some way, for example by selling anti-aircraft missiles to Iran or stopping us from using their territory for our withdrawal from Afghanistan. Most importantly, it would reduce the risk of a Russian-American standoff which could lead to nuclear threats, or even nuclear use.