RAY McGOVERN: Will Putin Attack Poland & the Baltics?

Given their lack of information about the Ukraine-Russia deal scuttled by Boris Johnson early in the war, many Americans will be inclined to believe Biden’s evidence-free claims in last week’s CNN debate.

 Trump and Biden during the CNN debate on Thursday. (C-Span still)

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

At Thursday’s debate with Donald Trump, President Joe Biden, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal,” claimed that he “wants all of Ukraine. … Do you think he’ll stop? … What do you think happens to Poland and other places?”

Spoiler Alert: Official Ukrainian sources confirm that Putin did stop in March 2022, after Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky agreed to forswear membership in NATO. This was the key provision in the Ukraine-Russia deal initialed by Davyd Arakhamia, who at the time was Zelensky’s chief negotiator (and his party’s faction leader in the Rada) at the talks in Istanbul at the end of March, hardly a month into the war.

The Russians lifted their objection to Ukraine joining the EU, as the Ukrainians agreed to neutrality. Security guarantees sought by Kyiv (short of NATO membership) would be worked out. The fighting would stop. Agreement on the status of Crimea would be put off to the future.

Putin and Zelensky reportedly were micromanaging the March 2022 negotiations, and at that early stage the Russians expressed readiness for the two to meet. 

At the same time that Biden and other Western leaders raise the alarm that Putin will attack other parts of Europe when he’s through with Ukraine, they claim Russia can’t even take the Ukrainian province of Kharkiv, has lost more than 500,000 men to just 30,000 Ukrainians and its economy is faltering (none of which is true.)  But Cold War Western power was based on an exaggerated Soviet threat and the same is true today. 

Ukrainian Negotiator Spills the Beans

Arakhamia in Ukraine’s Parliament in 2021. (Vadim Chuprina, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

In a November 2023 Kyiv Post report titled “Russia Offered to End War in 2022 If Ukraine Scrapped NATO Ambitions – Zelensky Party Chief,”  Arakhamia confirmed that in the March 2022 negotiations Russia proposed ending the war on the condition that Ukraine abandon its NATO aspirations and adopt a neutral stance.

Arakhamia continued:

“Neutrality was the biggest thing for them, they were ready to end the war if we took — as Finland once did — neutrality and made commitments that we would not join NATO. This was the key point. 

While negotiations continued in Istanbul, former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson unexpectedly arrived in Kyiv on April 9 and said that Ukraine shouldn’t sign anything with them at all – and ‘let’s just fight.’ ”

Arakhamia’s candor was refreshing. But it came as no surprise to those of us following Ukraine in early 2022. On May 5, 2022 — a year and a half before Arakhamia spilled the beans to the Kyiv Post Ukrainska Pravda ran a report under the title “Possibility of talks between Zelensky and Putin came to a halt after Johnson’s visit:

“According to sources close to Zelenskyy, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, who appeared in the capital almost without warning, brought two simple messages.

The first is that Putin is a war criminal, he should be pressured, not negotiated with. And the second is that even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, they [the West] are not. The collective West felt that Putin was not really as powerful as they had previously imagined, and that here was a chance to press him.”

Three days after Johnson left Kyiv, Putin publicly stated that talks with Ukraine had “turned into a dead end.” Putin expressed confidence that Russia would ultimately prevail and added that it would “rhythmically and calmly” continue conducting the operation in Ukraine.

Putin Provides Detail

Putin addressing the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in early June.  (Ivan Sekretarev, RIA Novosti, Kremlin)

In his major speech to the Russian Foreign Ministry on June 14, Putin said the Russian troops approaching Kyiv in February-March 2022 were there “to push the Ukrainian side to negotiations.” 

From Feb. 24 on, the Russians had expressed readiness for diplomacy. Interestingly, Zelensky appointed Arakhamia chief negotiator on Feb. 28.

Putin continued:

“Surprisingly, as a result, agreements that satisfied both Moscow and Kyiv were indeed reached and initialed in Istanbul. … The document was titled ‘Agreement on Permanent Neutrality and Security Guarantees for Ukraine’. It was a compromise but  resolved the problems that were stated as major ones even at the start of the special military operation.

But the path to peace was rejected again. … The former UK prime minister said directly during his visit to Kyiv – no agreements. Russia must be defeated on the battlefield. … Thus they began to intensively pump Ukraine up with weapons and started talking about the need to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia.”

Johnson and Zelensky walking around the center of Kiev on April 9, 2022. (President of Ukraine)

Biden & Pseudo-Experts on Russia

Who has been telling Biden that Putin “will not stop at Ukraine?” Exhibit A would be Fiona Hill, disciple of arch-Russophobe historian Richard Pipes, and national intelligence officer for Russia (2006-09). 

Her insights appeared in The New York Times exactly a month before Russia invaded Ukraine.

On Jan. 24, 2022, the Times featured a guest essay by Hill titled “Putin has the U.S. Right Where He Wants It”:

“This time, Mr. Putin’s aim is bigger than closing NATO’s ‘open door’ to Ukraine and taking more territory — he wants to evict the United States from Europe. As he might put it: ‘Goodbye, America. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’”  [Emphasis added.]

Fiona Hill’s NYT essay about Putin driving the U.S. out of Europe had a short (two-month) shelf life, as Putin’s negotiators in Istanbul extracted a Ukrainian commitment not to seek NATO membership and a stop in hostilities. Hill admitted as much in a September/October 2022 Foreign Affairs article which included, briefly, the substance of the Istanbul agreement.

This may be damning with faint praise but, in this respect, Fiona Hill showed far more integrity than the Times, which continues to deny its readers the facts about the Istanbul accord and how it showed that in March-April 2022 Putin did stop once Ukrainian negotiators agreed to forswear membership in NATO.

With Putin having provided, in his June 14 speech, chapter and verse on the (aborted by Boris Johnson) “Agreement on Permanent Neutrality and Security Guarantees for Ukraine,” the Times wasted no time distorting the terms of the Istanbul accord, mostly by omission and turgid obfuscation, in publishing two highly deceptive articles on June 15. 

Neither article mentions  Johnson’s wrecking-ball role in scuttling the Istanbul accord. And even the subsequent admissions of Ukrainian negotiators are mangled.

Thus, New York Times readers, and the thousands of media outlets that take their lead from the Times, are once again misled on a crucial issue — one for which there is ample official Ukrainian testimony that the Times chooses to omit or fudge. And many Americans will be inclined to believe Biden’s evidence-free claims about Putin’s ultimate objectives, and to acquiesce in the dangerously growing tension with Russia — malnourished as they are on accurate information.

For many it will come down to: Between Biden and Putin, Americans “know” whom to believe!

Putin’s Take

Speaking to Western journalists on June 5, Putin cautioned: 

“You should not make Russia out to be the enemy. You’re only hurting yourself with this … They thought that Russia wanted to attack NATO. Have you gone completely crazy? … Who came up with this? It is just complete nonsense, you know? Total rubbish.”

Sadly, it is the kind of nonsense that could mislead Americans, conditioned to believe the worst of Russia, into supporting some kind of risky escalatory move by an administration determined to show how tough it is, as the November election inches closer and closer. Strap on your seatbelts.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27 years as a C.I.A. analyst included leading the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and conducting the morning briefings of the President’s Daily Brief. In retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

32 comments for “RAY McGOVERN: Will Putin Attack Poland & the Baltics?

  1. Robert
    July 5, 2024 at 09:08

    It would be easy to name a dozen Western government officials who played a key role in the debacle in Ukraine. An absolute monumental blunder, and, hopefully, the last major blunder of the dying US empire. But I’ll limit the names to 3. Blinken, Sullivan, and the truly vile fat war pig Boris Johnson. Blinken and Sullivan can be blamed for sending Johnson to convince the naive Zelensky to reverse course on Minsk 3, but Johnson gets top spot precisely because he got the job done. As disgusting as I find the Boys from D.C., pictures of them don’t create the same level of disgust I have when a picture of Johnson comes up. I hope that the Brits eventually learn the truth about his role in this disaster, but something tells me that 20 years from now he will still be bloviating his way around the world looking for ways to send men other than himself into the cauldron of war. It really is in Johnson’s DNA.

  2. Don Hermiston
    July 4, 2024 at 23:25

    The problem with the West is the cast and supporting cast in a conflict that shouldn’t exist. Where are the George Kennans or the Dean Atchesons of today? Kennan served as the American ambassador to Russia in 1952 and Yugoslavia from 1960 to 1963. Dean Atcheson became the principled creator of Cold War policy in the Truman administration. He was also one of the main figures who created NATO as a bulwark to the Soviet Union. Both men were anti-Communist. But, they were also statesman and understood that diplomacy was always preferable to bullets. The United States of today seems to lack the statesmen and especially the diplomats of 1940. 1950s, and 1960s. The current crop doesn’t seem to know how to communicate with their Russian counterparts or they don’t care. An example of American incompetence is Antony Blinken. If singing a Neil Young song in Kyiv passes as serious narrative and diplomacy, we could be in for a long haul. When he landed in the Middle East a while back he stated to Arab leaders, ‘I’m a Jew and I had family members who died in the holocaust.’ I’m sure that didn’t assure these men that Blinken was unbiased.

  3. vinnieoh
    July 4, 2024 at 15:00

    Don’t know how the rankings are today, but I remember reading several years ago that Russia’s economy is smaller than Germany’s; at that time was about 17th largest in the world. Also, in the last several decades Russia – similar to rest of the developed West, was experiencing a population drop-off, trying to get their of-age population to have more children.

    I do not know the mind of Putin or other Russian leaders, but I know they are not stupid. Those realities are known to them.

    If – as completely far-retched as it sounds – Russia did launch an assault against parts of Europe – what then? Occupy in perpetuity? From the insane to the absurd.

    Ray states that much reportage of Russian losses and Ukraine gains are false. As far as facts on the ground where the fighting is going on I certainly don’t know who to trust. What I believe is that this conflict has been a disaster for Russia: it could ill afford to lose the men and material that has already been lost. But they are driven by the realization that now, as when this began, capitulation would be an even greater disaster.

    US presidents would be wise to refrain from calling other world leaders war criminals. The case could be made that every US president since Truman was a war criminal. Ahh, but the West – at least for the time – controls the global narrative.

  4. julia eden
    July 4, 2024 at 12:37

    thank you so very much, mr mcgovern.

    yes, sanity is what we need so urgently.
    common sense, facts and the will to respect
    – no need to love, but at least to respect! – 
    thy neighbor as thyself.

    alas, the warmongers and the war profiteers are still
    too numerous for the “most pious man to live in peace
    because his evil neighbor does not want him to”, as
    friedrich schiller stated in “wilhelm tell”, from 1802.

    i am just utterly disappointed to see the f.lawmakers of my
    european country still willing to do the hegemons bidding,
    instead of screaming: “it’s long been enough! concentrate
    on issues like environ_mental protection, justice & peace!”

    yet another warmonger reminds me: “peace does not pay!”

  5. hetro
    July 4, 2024 at 09:31

    Thank you, Ray.

    Unfortunately, wave the red flag and the bull protrudes its eyeballs. When will we look at smear with questions and rational exchanges vs. oh yes oh yes oh yes you SOB? Here’s a question which I hope will not automatically raise tempers and dismissals–but could.

    Putin’s recent peace proposal AUTOMATICALLY drew oh you sob how can you propose ripping off eastern Ukraine for your own demonic and thuggish purposes? All this reaction is straight out of nearly 100 years of “red scare” and demonizing applied to the Soviet Union, but today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union. This was the immediate response–including by Austin–to Putin’s proposal that Ukraine should withdraw its military forces from the eastern provinces and the site of most of the battleground.

    The proposal did not say you will cede this territory to us. It said withdraw your military. Then negotiations will take it from there. That would include governing that territory as neutral and without US/foreign bases and influence etc. (Note in this respect Ray’s note on governance of Crimea for later consideration.)

    But no. Myth steeped in “them Russians them Russians” mythology dominates “thinking.”

  6. Dwight
    July 3, 2024 at 20:42

    Thank you for this great and important article. Question about Ukraine joining E.U.: didn’t Ikraine’s president choose not to join because Russia said it would no longer give trade concessions to Ukraine if it joined E.U.? Asking because if true and people don’t know that, they might get the impression that Russia had attacked Ukraine because it wanted to join E.U. Nothing wrong with negotiating trade agreements.

  7. Drew Hunkins
    July 3, 2024 at 14:52

    RAY McGOVERN: Will Putin Attack Poland & the Baltics?


  8. Vera Gottlieb
    July 3, 2024 at 10:13

    GOD DAMN IT!!! stop this never-ending fear mongering!!! Why on Earth should Putin do this? He isn’t INSANE as so many of our Western ‘leaders’…

  9. Duane M
    July 3, 2024 at 10:02

    Thank you for this, Mr. McGovern. And the NYT has at long last released the documentation of the Spring 2022 peace talks, here:
    Ukraine-Russia Peace Is as Elusive as Ever. But in 2022 They Were Talking.

    • Duane M
      July 5, 2024 at 08:51

      Here is a link to the NYT article: hxxps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/06/15/world/europe/ukraine-russia-ceasefire-deal.html?unlocked_article_code=1.400.biH3.KMo4R5l5hpTO&smid=url-share

      Replace the “hxxps” with “https” at the beginning of the link.

  10. Michael Hall
    July 3, 2024 at 08:31

    Thank you, Ray, always great to hear some intelligent commentary on Ukraine. I would imagine that from Fiona Hill’s perspective, if she were President of Russia, she would want “the United States out of Europe”. However, that’s simple projection on her part. Putin appears to have a more nuanced view. Should the US collapse or otherwise withdraw its forces from Europe, should NATO collapse as an offensive alliance aimed against Russia, Russia could then restart its trade and diplomatic relations with (some nations in) Europe without the US’ Cold War mentality hanging over the proceedings.

  11. July 3, 2024 at 08:07

    Thank You Ray

  12. mgr
    July 3, 2024 at 07:58

    Thank you, Ray. This is a good example of how the NYT, the voice of neocon America, works diligently to sabotage any possibility of peace in the world; continuous journalistic maleficence. I hope I live long enough to see it burnt to the ground.

  13. Hypewaders
    July 3, 2024 at 06:31

    Thanks for publishing this Ray of sunshine in the gloom of Duhmerka. Our narcissistic empire of lies may take the world down with it very soon, if we stay stuck on stupid.

  14. Rafi Simonton
    July 3, 2024 at 00:50

    Continuing the Cold War narrative makes sense to neocons because it defines the world in simple, binary terms–an either/or Aristotelian logic of good or bad, right or wrong, with us or against us. Any dissent or call for nuance can only be enmity.

    Consider also Samuel P. Huntington’s book //The Clash of Civilizations.// Anything other than Western Euro and its colonist descendants is inferior, backwards, primitive, violent. As uncivilized, they won’t hesitate to strike first nor to commit bloody atrocities. Therefore in the name of self defense, it is prudent to prevent this by any means necessary. Not only to defend the West, but ultimately for the good of all humanity. The civilization of the West is the best evolution has ever produced, therefore it should be studied and emulated by the rest of the world.

    Certainly this is a rationale for empire, for invading other countries or indigenous lands for their own good. Obviously it applies to the entire Islamic world. What isn’t so obvious is that it includes the entire Eastern Orthodox Christian world as well, which Huntington is explicit about. A world that remembers what the West did in Constantinople, the urbane center of a crossroads of culture for a millennium and source of info that inspired the Renaissance. But why should any contemporary person of importance care about some ancient and irrelevant fable? So the arrogant Crusades of the West roll on.

  15. WillD
    July 2, 2024 at 23:09

    No rational person, grounded in reality, and who has followed the conflcit and done their homework on what lead up to it, could seriously think that Russia has any intentions other than those it has repeatedly articulated.

    Not once has it said or done anything that would justify even an irrational person like Biden claiming it wants to re-establish the Soviet Union, invade and conquer Europe or any other expansionist move. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support such absurd claims.

    However, it hasn’t ruled out attacking those countries in the event they act directly against it or allow their territory to be used in a way that crosses certain red lines. But I think they would only do that if they had sufficient provocation, and therefore justification.

    Americans and Europeans really need to start checking the facts and reality before believing claims that their less-than-truthful leaders want to use as justification to escalate even more.

  16. Hegesias
    July 2, 2024 at 22:58

    The US is setting up the claim that when Ukraine finally surrenders the East, the US will say we stopped Russia from taking all of Europe.

    • Tim N
      July 3, 2024 at 12:46

      Let’s hope so.

  17. Jack Lomax
    July 2, 2024 at 21:53

    The basic question is what will the controlling force in Europe the U S which formed and controls NATO, instruct its European arm to do? I think the answer is that it will continue with its constructive ambiguity Leaving Russia on one side and most of Europe on the other in a constant froth of uncertainty. Not good for any who live here but really good machiavellian policy. And if it fails? It will be short term regrettable. But since failure means WW3 in nuclear form in he medium to long term there is highly unlikely to be any left to regret in Europe and Russian anyway. Andin the slightly longer term possibly none anywhere in the world left to regret it. It sounds very dramatic- and it is.

  18. BigOboe
    July 2, 2024 at 21:42

    Not only did NATO provoke the SMO, but wrecking the negotiations early on will guarantee that Russia will take more territory than they would have otherwise. Ukraine will probably not exist as a political entity when the SMO is over.

  19. Carolyn L Zaremba
    July 2, 2024 at 20:29

    Biden’s comments are not only evidence-free; they are also brain-free as far as I can tell.

  20. wildthange
    July 2, 2024 at 20:28

    It appears there are arch enemies at work hiding behind our full spectrum dominance and with us or against us logic. An age old religious war between orthodox religions here and for Asia too. Monotheism claims God given choosiness rights but it was all stolen as a Roman weapon for an occupation meeting resistance. Then others had to make a copy for themselves for self defense.

    In this century we may have to trust natural forces more and imaginary forces less in order to learn to live within the means of our planet by deciphering the mysterious messages we are getting about playing with religious warfare and firearms wwhile the planet is on fire.

  21. Sam F
    July 2, 2024 at 20:26

    Thank you, Ray McGovern, for this background. Indeed Americans are malnourished on accurate information due to our money-controlled mass media and political parties.

    We must eliminate all spending on elections and mass media beyond limited and registered individual donations.
    And we must have balanced debate of all policy viewpoints, as in the CongressOfDebate (dotcom) under formation.

  22. Adam Gorelick
    July 2, 2024 at 20:10

    It’s staggering how ill-informed and ignorant so many Americans are. In the United States of Amnesia the citizenry can be lied to again and again without healthy scepticism directing them towards quality alternative news sources. Putin’s candor and functional relationship with reality boldly contrasts with the reliable serial B.S. of U.S. and Western leaders. And his red lines are as clear and red as can be. But frustration turns to rage with the obstinate idiocy of Washington when the world is closer to nuclear obliteration than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. The United States’ providing of long-range missiles to Ukraine and blessings to fire them deep into Russian territory amounts to a global hostage scenario for anyone who still reflexively imagines mushroom clouds springing up everywhere when nuclear weapons come to mind. I don’t know what people too young to remember the Cold War think of when this instant Armageddon, just add insanity, tech is mentioned. Given the brainwashing of Americans they may consider ‘winnable’ nuclear exchanges between the U.S.A. and Russia or other ‘evil’ nuclear nations. If such a conflagration effectively ends life on earth human being’s epitaph might as well be : DUH…signed the U.S.A.

  23. David Otness
    July 2, 2024 at 19:17

    I can only hope our numbers as honest realistic assessors of the worldwide geopolitical situation continue to grow as information from such credible sources as Ray and so many of his contemporaries are allowed and welcomed in sources such as CN.
    This is the way forward.

  24. Janet
    July 2, 2024 at 18:18

    The Democrat-fed media was apoplectic about Trump’s lies, while Biden gets a free pass on his Ukraine lies, his Putin lies, his inflation lies, his economy lies, and, yes, even his golf handicap lies.

  25. gcw919
    July 2, 2024 at 17:40

    In the midst of all this hysteria about Russia invading western Europe, I think its worth looking at these Russia-phobes. For 50 years after WWII, we were told that Communism, aka primarily the USSR, was a threat to our very existence. But once the Soviet empire collapsed, and we had no real enemies to speak of, we had to invent one, and the same lunatics in Washington now put their laser-like focus on Russia and Putin, who has expressed his disdain for the Communist ideology. These people need to have something, or someone, to keep the public in perpetual fear, all so they can fulfill their infantile aggressive urges. The end of the Soviet era presented one of the few great opportunities for peace in a world that sorely needs it, but we squandered it, and now the threat of WWIII is very realistic indeed.

  26. Jeff Harrison
    July 2, 2024 at 17:27

    I must disagree with Mr. McGovern on one point – “But Cold War Western power was based on an exaggerated Soviet threat and the same is true today.” Cold war Western power was justified based on an exaggerated Soviet threat and cold war Western confidence was based on an exaggerated sense of the superiority of Western weapons. Of course, Western weaponry has proven itself to be somewhat less than the forecast wunderwaffen and, of course, the Russian Federation is not the Soviet Union. Not to mention that many of the Russian weapons are superior to the Western analogs.

  27. Stephen Berk
    July 2, 2024 at 17:24

    The unhinged Neocon war mongers, who are in the Biden administration, have been trying to start a war with Russia for decades. Russia under Vladimir Putin for over twenty years, has not been interested in expanding its territory into Europe. Historically, they have never been so inclined. The Neocons have bathed the U.S. population in Russophobia for Putin’s entire presidency. This a a Big Lie, like the Big Lie Hitler told in order to get the German people to go to war with much of the rest of Europe. Russophobic Americans need to stop the war mongering and get a clearer view of Russia. If they don’t we will have a Third World War fought over American wrongheaded fantasies abut “Russian aggression.” Russia is not the aggressor. It is the West, led by the U.S. that has us barreling towards war with Russia. The issues between the U.S. and Russia need to be negotiated. We need what used to be called a Summit Conference between the U.S. and Russia. We used to regularly negotiate with the Russians during the C0ld War. And we better get back to negotiating with them. If we don’t then the crazy Neocons will have us in a war with Russia, World War Three, which will certainly go nuclear, and all life on Earth will come to an end.

  28. svay
    July 2, 2024 at 15:41

    The question should be: Will Poland and the Baltics attack Russia? Or, more accurately: Will Poland and the Baltics directly attack Russia, since they’re already deeply involved in doing so via Ukraine?

    • Frank Lambert
      July 2, 2024 at 18:44

      Good comment, svay. If the Poles think the Nazis and the former Soviet Union troops were hard on them during the Second World War, they’re in for an unpleasant surprise if they do which the “survivors will regret. Same with the three Baltic states (Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania) who all supported the Third Reich against the Soviet Union during the war, and now, darlings of the Wicked West as thy are still anti-Russian.

      And Boris Johnson? What a joke!

      And Ray McGovern? I can’t speak highly enough of him for his courage and integrity to tell the truth,ever since 9-11, trying to inform Americans and others around the world who haven’t drank from the Kool-Aid trough of falsehoods and deception fed by the corrupted and biased big corporate media conglomerates. Ray is an American and first-class World Hero!

      And furthermore, there is no such thing as Russian aggression, but U.S. aggression for domination and control of the world. It’s not “rocket science!”

  29. Michael G
    July 2, 2024 at 15:12

    And we have warmongers conning a piece of broccoli at the helm.

Comments are closed.