Jack Matlock Lambastes U.S. Policy Toward Russia

February 13, 2015

The Committee for the Republic, an organization established by former diplomats and government officials attempting to re-establish the Constitution in U.S. government policy, went on the counter-offensive against the war policy Feb. 11, sponsoring a presentation by Amb. Jack Matlock, the ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Reagan Administration. Matlock was instrumental in the negotiations with the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War.

Approximately 200 people gathered at an evening event arranged by the Committee at the National Press Club in Washington. Ambassador Chas Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, introduced Matlock.

"We are here to consider some very consequential and timely questions," Freeman said. "Is Russia on the prowl or in a corner? Where does Russia fit in the European state system? What kind of Ukraine would serve the interests of peace and stability in Europe, and might Russia be persuaded to cooperate in creating such a Ukraine? What is the risk of war with Russia? What would be the consequences of such a war? Might it be nuclear?"

Matlock accused the Administration and the Congress of conducting "an autistic foreign policy". He honed in on the dangerous debate of sending lethal weapons to Ukraine. "I just wonder what is actually going on in this town," Matlock said.

"People are saying that Russia is only a REGIONAL power. But the elephant in the room is the nuclear issue. No country with ICBMs is merely a REGIONAL power."

"If the United States gets involved in territory that was historically THEIR country, we cannot prevent a new Cold War,"

he warned. He then went through the history of the relations with the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War and the promises made to Gorbachev.

"There was no treaty on the issue, but in the agreements negotiated with Bush in 1989 and 1990, he was told that if Gorbachev let Eastern Europe go free, we would not take advantage of it,"

He then went through exactly how the U.S. did take advantage of it, not only in maintaining NATO but even expanding it to the very borders of Russia.

"I argued against the original NATO expansion," he said. "If you really want a Europe whole and free, Russia must be part of the system."

He then went on to explain that the Russian initial reaction to the creation of an independent Ukraine had not been negative. After 9/11, Putin was the first one to offer help, he noted, eliminating the Russian "listening post" in Cuba and removing Russian vessels from Cam Ranh Bay.

"In turn, we withdrew from the ABM Treaty and started building a missile defense system... Putin's outburst at the Munich Security Conference in 2007 should have been a wake-up call as to how they were feeling. But we ignored the Russian reaction."

Matlock also contrasted Reagan's diplomacy with the dangerous diplomacy now being practiced.

"Reagan underlined four key points in his policy. 1) He urged that consideration be taken to the fact that Gorbachov must be able to sell this agreement to the Politburo. Secondly, the key issue was arms control, and other issues that would create mistrust should be avoided; thirdly, not to be "up front" on human rights, as it might only hurt the people you wanted to help by it; and fourthly, we must not consider this a "victory". "Reagan had to convince Soviet leaders that the agreements were not directed against them, and he NEVER denigrated any Soviet leader."

He then went on to lambaste Obama for using the State of the Union to personally attack Putin. "His comments were totally out of place," Matlock said. He also attacked Congress for their own interference in passing the Magnitsky Act. "The Russians are reacting to a policy of insufferable arrogance and humiliation," he said. He criticized the whole policy with regard to Ukraine and "regime change".

"If you can think that you can solve all problems by removing a leader, you're wrong. Didn't we learn the lessons from Iraq?" Matlock asked.

He also noted that there was no single voice coming out of Ukraine since, as a recently developed "nation" it encompassed a variety of peoples who had never culturally been part of this "nation" and had not been consulted with regard to its formation. "Eastern Ukraine was always part of Russia, while the Western part was not," he said.

Matlock also said that the alleged "threat" against the Baltic states was something of a red herring. "They have Russian-speaking populations as well," Matlock said, "but they aren't discontented. Their conditions are better than if they lived in Russia. Otherwise they would have moved.

He also warned against selling arms to Ukraine.

"If you sell arms to Ukraine, only more Ukrainians will die,"

he said. Resolving the situation will take a long time, perhaps years, Matlock said.

"And there will have to be confidence on Putin's part that Ukraine will not end up under NATO influence," he said. "If you really [want] a Europe whole and free," he said, "it will have to be one with open borders and encompass countries with different systems."