Jack Matlock was the last American ambassador to the Soviet Union, serving in that office from April 6, 1987 until August 11, 1991, as the Soviet Union dissolved.
He recently spoke to Democracy Now! about the current turmoil in eastern Europe. Here’s some of what he said:
“I think that what we have seen is a reaction, in many respects, to a long history of what the Russian government, the Russian president and many of the Russian people—most of them—feel has been a pattern of American activity that has been hostile to Russia and has simply disregarded their national interests.
“They feel that having thrown off communism, having dispensed with the Soviet Empire, that the U.S. systematically, from the time it started expanding NATO to the east, without them, and then using NATO to carry out what they consider offensive actions about an—against another country—in this case, Serbia—a country which had not attacked any NATO member, and then detached territory from it—this is very relevant now to what we’re seeing happening in Crimea—and then continued to place bases in these countries, to move closer and closer to borders, and then to talk of taking Ukraine, most of whose people didn’t want to be a member of NATO, into NATO, and Georgia. Now, this began an intrusion into an area which the Russians are very sensitive.
“Now, how would Americans feel if some Russian or Chinese or even West European started putting bases in Mexico or in the Caribbean, or trying to form governments that were hostile to us? You know, we saw how we virtually went ballistic over Cuba. And I think that we have not been very attentive to what it takes to have a harmonious relationship with Russia.”
I think a lot of Matlock’s points are pretty valid, but when it comes to trying to find causes for major political changes, it will always be somewhat unclear how responsible certain past events were.
So what do you think?
Here’s the full video of the interview if you’re interested.