The article below was written by John E. Pepper, Jr., who for 40 years was in management at Procter & Gamble, and in year 2000 was made CEO and Chair of the Executive Committee of the Board at P&G. He also has served as Vice President of Finance and Administration at Yale University and has been a director of The Walt Disney Company since 2006. He was responsible for P&G's successful move to Russia.
During the 2000s, John also Chaired the Board for the St. Petersburg State University's new Graduate School of Management which partnered with Berkeley University. I sat on that Board, and CCI oversaw the funds contributed to and paid out for the renovation of two palaces for the new School of Management. John has a deep appreciation for Russia's history, culture and literature, and he has had long experience dealing with numerous Russians in high places over the years. He, like many of us, has deep concerns about today's relationship between the two countries.
June 24, 2015
U.S., RUSSIA AND UKRAINE – “TIT FOR TAT” –
DUELING “EXPERTS” AND DUELING NARRATIVES – THE DANGER ESCALATES
As we all know, it is hard for an individual or nation to view the world or a particular situation through the eyes of another person or nation.
I have never seen this more true than what is transpiring now over the Ukrainian crisis as it is viewed by the United States and Russia.
This is a subject of deep concern because the security of our world is threatened and we risk losing the need for collaboration on such transcendent issues as nuclear proliferation and terrorism in Iran and Syria.
I could only look with irony at the statement of Defense Secretary Ash Carter as reported in the Wall Street Journal last week that the Pentagon is committing military gear to a NATO task force designed to deter Russian aggression because Moscow is, in Carter’s words, trying to “reestablish a Soviet-era sphere of influence.”
How precisely that echoes Russia’s concerns—that the West, and particularly the United States, has, over the past 20 years, extended its “sphere of influence” by extending NATO well beyond what was expected in the early 1990s, even to the point of considering expansion to Ukraine and Georgia.
There is a great danger in the affairs of humans and also of nations in self-fulfilling expectations. These self-fulfilling expectations can be for the better and they can be for the worse. The expectations held by Russia toward the United States and the United States toward Russia today are all “for the worse.”
We hear veiled and sometimes bald assertions that Russia intends to enter countries previously part of the Soviet empire--the Baltics, Poland and all of Ukraine. Putin described such a nation as “insane.” He is right. Can you imagine the sheer idiocy of Russia undertaking to move into those countries? Why would they do this? There is no driving ideology as there might have been in the case of Soviet Communism. Surely, Russia has no need for more land.
Russia, quite understandably, looks for long-term economic and social ties with Ukraine. But to try to take over a country where the majority of people would be repelled by being part of Russia makes no sense. It would make Russia the pariah of the world and give them nothing in return but trouble.
We are failing to seriously examine what is the true strategic intent of Russia. I am not suggesting that they haven’t supported the Separatists in Eastern Ukraine; I feel quite sure they have, probably to help ensure that a constitutional settlement is finally reached that gives appropriate rights to the ethnic Russians living there.
The interests of the United States and Russia should be very simple and the same. We should support what has been so long coming--the creation of a unified Ukraine, with federalization much as it exists in other countries. Pulling Ukraine together is a huge challenge. The fissure between Eastern Ukraine and the rest of the country is large, ethnically based and now deepened by a civil war.
Russia, the United States, all of us, should do everything we can to support this constitutional settlement. We should not allow anything in our control to get in the way of that settlement, for nothing other than that will bring peace to the Ukrainian people. And that’s what they want. That’s what the people in every country want.
I fear that most people are so far removed from the horror of war today that we have forgotten what it’s like. It might serve everyone to go back and look at the movie “Platoon” or “Saving Private Ryan” again to be reminded what the cost of war is to human life.
I believe we are at a historical precipice. I am extremely worried by the unfettered “propaganda,” and that’s what it is, on both sides of the issue. This has had the insidious effect of bringing the people of Russia and of the United States to view the “other” as “evil.” And in fact they are not. They are committed to their own national interests.