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The Daily Vertical: Challenging Russia's Humiliation Narrative (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

One of the Kremlin's favorite talking points is that the West somehow humiliated Russia in the aftermath of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Everything from NATO enlargement, to the intervention in the Balkan wars, to criticism of Moscow's military campaign in Chechnya is now described as an attempt to degrade, diminish, and insult Russia.

And if the West had just been nicer to Russia then, we wouldn't be having the problems we are having now.

This narrative is so pervasive, even among many Western commentators, that it's practically become conventional wisdom.

So let's have a little reality check, shall we.

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After the Soviet breakup, the West pressured Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus into giving up the nuclear weapons they inherited and transferring them where?

To Russia, that's where.

Ukraine alone had 5,000 nuclear weapons when it became independent, and had it kept them it would have had the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world.

I was in Kyiv at the time, and believe me, giving up those nukes was not a popular move.

In fact, if anybody was humiliated here it was Ukraine.

And it wasn't only the nukes. With the West's support, Russia was also allowed to inherit the Soviet Union's seat on the UN Security Council.

The United States continued holding superpower summits with Russia, even though Russia was no longer a superpower.

When NATO invited Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to join the alliance in 1997, U.S. President Bill Clinton held a special summit with Boris Yeltsin to win his approval.

This all sure doesn't look like humiliation to me. And it's long past time to challenge the narrative that it was.

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