Jack F. Matlock Jr.
Jack Foust Matlock Jr. (born October 1, 1929) is an American former ambassador, career Foreign Service Officer, a teacher, a historian, and a linguist. He was a specialist in Soviet affairs during some of the most tumultuous years of the Cold War, and served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991. After leaving the Foreign Service, he wrote an account of the end of the Soviet Union titled Autopsy on an Empire, followed by an account of the end of the Cold War titled Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended(2005), establishing his reputation as a historian.
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- After the fall of the Soviet Union, I told the Senate that expansion would lead us to where we are today... Today we face an avoidable crisis between the United States and Russia that was predictable, willfully precipitated, but can easily be resolved by the application of common sense. But how did we get to this point? Allow me, as someone who participated in the negotiations that ended the Cold War, to bring some history to bear on the current crisis. We are being told each day that war may be imminent in Ukraine. Russian troops, we are told, are massing at Ukraine’s borders and could attack at any time. American citizens are being advised to leave Ukraine and dependents of the American Embassy staff are being evacuated. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian president has advised against panic and made clear that he does not consider a Russian invasion imminent. Vladimir Putin has denied that he has any intention of invading Ukraine. His demand is that the process of adding new members to NATO cease and that Russia has assurance that Ukraine and Georgia will never be members.
- Can the crisis be resolved by the application of common sense? Yes, after all, what Putin is demanding is eminently reasonable. He is not demanding the exit of any NATO member and he is threatening none. By any common sense standard it is in the interest of the United States to promote peace, not conflict. To try to detach Ukraine from Russian influence — the avowed aim of those who agitated for the “color revolutions” — was a fool’s errand, and a dangerous one. Have we so soon forgotten the lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis?
Now, to say that approving Putin’s demands is in the objective interest of the United States does not mean that it will be easy to do. The leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties have developed such a Russo-phobic stance that it will take great political skill to navigate such treacherous political waters and achieve a rational outcome. President Biden has made it clear that the United States will not intervene with its own troops if Russia invades Ukraine. So why move them into Eastern Europe? Just to show hawks in Congress that he is standing firm? Maybe the subsequent negotiations between Washington and the Kremlin will find a way to allay Russian concerns and defuse the crisis. And maybe then Congress will start dealing with the growing problems we have at home instead of making them worse.
- The problems with Russia are not just NATO expansion. There were also a process that began with the second Bush administration of withdrawing from all of the arms control — almost all of the arms control agreements that we had concluded with the Soviet Union, the very agreements that had brought the first Cold War to an end.... In effect, what the United States did after the end of the Cold War was they reversed the diplomacy that we had used to end the Cold War, and started sort of doing anything, everything the opposite way. We started, in effect, trying to control other countries, to bring them into what we called the “new world order,” but it was not very orderly. And we also sort of asserted the right to use military whenever we wished. We bombed Serbia in the ’90s without the approval of the U.N. Later, we invaded Iraq, citing false evidence and without any U.N. approval and against the advice not only of Russia but of Germany and France, our allies. So, the United States — I could name a number of others — itself was not careful in abiding by the international laws that we had supported.
- ...maybe the greatest threat that nuclear weapons possess today is that though it may be irrational for any government actually to use them because it could bring about a suicidal effect, if they get into the hands of terrorists, of nonstate actors, they can be used with perhaps impunity. And at the end of the Cold War, we had cooperative agreements with the Russians to secure their nuclear weapons, in what we call the Nunn — Sam Nunn and other senators sponsored this. These have all broken down now... And what worries me is there could be a creeping up of another nuclear arms race, because if the Russian government, if President Putin feels he is being pressed and his security threatened — rightly or wrongly, because it’s perceptions that count — then what’s to keep him, since we have walked out of most of the other agreements, from putting, say, intermediate-range missiles in Kaliningrad or bringing them close to the border? Then what are we going to do? So, to get into another insane arms race, when we have so many other common problems we need to deal with, I think, is extraordinarily unwise.
Quotes about Matlock
- We begin today’s show looking at the roots of the crisis with a former American diplomat who served as the last [sic] U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union prior to the collapse of the USSR. Ambassador Jack Matlock held the post from 1987 to 1991. He was first stationed in Moscow in the early 1960s and was there during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Matlock has written extensively about U.S.-Russian relations... His latest article is headlined “I was there: NATO and the origins of the Ukraine crisis.”
... Ambassador Matlock writes about testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a quarter of a century ago and about the possible expansion of NATO.... “I consider the administration’s recommendation to take new members into NATO at this time misguided. If it should be approved... it may well go down in history as the most profound strategic blunder made since the end of the Cold War. Far from improving the security of the United States, its Allies, and the nations that wish to enter the Alliance, it could well encourage a chain of events that could produce the most serious security threat to this nation since the Soviet Union collapsed.” Ambassador Matlock’s words.