Fiona Hill discouraged Bush from supporting Ukraine’s NATO bid

  • Fiona Hill said in a new interview with NYT Magazine that Bush ignored her advice on Georgia and Ukraine’s NATO bid.
  • She warned Bush that support for their NATO ambitions could be problematic and provoke Russia.
  • Bush publicly supported joining the alliance in 2008. Russia has since fought wars with both countries.

In February 2008, about 14 years before Russia launched an unprovoked war in Ukraine, Fiona Hill met with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the Oval Office and discouraged them from supporting Ukraine’s and Georgia’s NATO hopes.

Bush ultimately ignored this advice and publicly advocated adding both former Soviet republics to the alliance in a move that met with opposition from key NATO allies and which angered Russia’s leaders.

Hill was the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia for the National Intelligence Council at the time, warning Bush that it could be problematic to back NATO’s orders from Kyiv and Tbilisi and be seen as a provocation by Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said. she to the New York Times Magazine in a new interview offering previously unreported details.

“So you’re telling me you’re an opponent of freedom and democracy,” Cheney said in response to Hill’s advice, according to the Times, before grabbing his things and leaving the meeting.

Bush told Hill that the vice president just “jerked your chain,” and asked her to continue “continue what you said.”

Despite Hill’s warnings, Bush apparently believed he would be able to convince other NATO members that it would be beneficial to add Georgia and Ukraine to the alliance. “I like when diplomacy is tough,” he told Hill, she recalled to the Times.

Bush did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider. Moscow launched its military offensive against Ukraine on February 24, in which Putin said the country represented a threat to Russia despite being the only source of aggression.

Putin said Russia was targeting the demilitarization of Ukraine, claiming it was led by Nazis, a baseless claim that experts warn is a euphemism for the Kremlin’s desire to overthrow the Ukrainian government. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signaled that Kiev is willing to assume neutral status – meaning it will accept never joining NATO – as a possible concession to Russia in the midst of negotiations that have so far failed to stop the fighting. The Russian attack on Ukraine has involved ruthless attacks on civilians, leading to widespread accusations of war crimes.

At a NATO summit in April 2008 in Bucharest, Bush said: “NATO should welcome Georgia and Ukraine to the Membership Action Plan,” adding: “The new NATO we are building is not designed to defend against Russia. The Cold War is over “Russia is not our enemy. We are working towards a new security relationship with Russia.”

Russia has long made its opposition to NATO’s enlargement to the east extremely clear, promising in 2008 to do everything in its power to prevent Ukraine and Georgia from joining. Putin attended the NATO summit that year and told Bush that Ukraine “was not even a country.”

In the end, in 2008, NATO did not put Georgia and Ukraine on the formal path to joining NATO, but said that both countries would eventually become members. But to this day, none of them are part of the alliance. “It was the worst of all worlds,” Hill told the Times of the results of the 2008 summit.

And in August 2008 – just months after Bush pushed hard for the two countries to join NATO – Russia invaded Georgia. The war ended in a few days, but Russian troops continue to occupy about 20% of Georgia’s territory – the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia would also continue to invade Ukraine in 2014, annex Crimea in the process, and began supporting insurgents in a war against Ukrainian forces that same year.

In the run-up to Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine in late February, Russia routinely blamed NATO for the tensions and complained about its enlargement to the east. Although Georgia and Ukraine are not NATO members, many former Soviet republics became part of the alliance after the end of the Cold War – including Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania.

Putin said NATO was “cheating” Russia. He claimed that Moscow was “given promises not to move NATO infrastructure to the east, not a single inch.” Experts dispute Putin’s claims, saying he has tried to rewrite history to justify Russian aggression against a neighbor who is trying to strengthen his ties to the West.

“[Putin] claims that NATO exploited Russia’s weakness after the collapse of the Soviet Union to expand to the east, contrary to promises allegedly made to Moscow by Western leaders. But no such promises were made, “Steven Pifer, the US ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000, wrote in 2014 to the Brookings Institution.

Although Ukraine is not part of NATO, many alliance members have provided Kyiv with security assistance – including lethal assistance. This support has increased since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in late April, and NATO has also strengthened its presence in Eastern Europe. But the alliance has also been clear that it does not intend to send troops into Ukraine to fight Russia, and for this reason NATO has rejected calls from Kiev to set up a no-fly zone.

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