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China Daily Global / 2022-03 / 09 / Page012

NATO expansion bid triggered conflicts between Russia, Ukraine

By Francis A. Boyle | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-03-09 00:00

Russia and Ukraine are engaged in a fierce military conflict, with the whole world following even small details of the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine.

Disinformation is being spread at every turn thanks to the information war initiated by various parties. The media and politicians in the US-led West condemn Russia, saying its actions violate international law. But we need to look at the actual circumstances of the case.

Given the United States' numerous illegal invasions of other countries, especially its invasion of Iraq, based on lies conjured up by the US administration and institutions, it is in no position to lecture other countries on protecting human rights or abiding by international law.

People should understand the root cause behind the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The bid to expand NATO poses a serious threat to Russia. A couple of days ago the Ukrainian leadership even called for immediately making Ukraine a NATO member so it can get direct military support from the cross-Atlantic alliance and acquire nuclear weapons, which would effectively reverse the 1994 Budapest Memorandum that facilitated the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a nonnuclear state.

The situation in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine is grave, with the Ukrainian leadership refusing to implement the Minsk Agreement, which Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe signed in 2015 to end the ethnic conflict in the region.

No Russian leader would have accepted the continuous eastward expansion of NATO. Imagine what the US would do if Mexico were inclined to join a military alliance led by a rival power and talk of acquiring nuclear weapons.

Former US president John F. Kennedy was prepared to invade Cuba if he could not get the missiles out of that country through negotiations during the Cuban Missile Crisis. For 13 days in October 1962, the world waited, seemingly on the brink of a nuclear war, hoping for a peaceful resolution. Thankfully, better sense prevailed over the US and Soviet leaders.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin didn't get a similar response from his US counterpart Joe Biden. Putin held negotiations with Western leaders, particularly Biden, to elicit a promise that NATO would not accept Ukraine as a member. But Biden ignored Russia's concerns. As such, the US and its allies don't have good reason to condemn Russia.

However, the military conflict in Ukraine must be immediately terminated, lest it expand and suck in the European member states of NATO and the US. Toward that end, Biden must publicly announce that NATO will not expand eastward, and Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova will not be made NATO members.

Biden must also call an international peace conference which will establish the permanent neutrality of Ukraine guaranteed by the United Nations Security Council under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.

Following that, negotiations can take place between the US and Russia over the de-nuclearization of Europe including the removal of US tactical nuclear weapons from NATO states which violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and restoration of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that was recklessly terminated by the Donald Trump administration.

The origins of World War I and the World War II hang like twin swords of Damocles over the heads of humankind. So, concerted efforts should be made by all parties, the US in particular, to prevent another man-made disaster.

The author is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois.

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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