Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Russia, Ukraine, and the Unfortunate Reality

The background of the crisis in Ukraine is tremendously complicated and it would be of no use to make an attempt to go into details on the story. It is clear that a large number of Ukrainians want closer ties with the West, which is most easily obtained with a membership in the European Union*. It is also clear that a substantial number of Ukrainian citizens (that group seems to  consist of a disproportionate amount of ethnic Russians) want no part of a move away from the Russian orbit.

* There are also reports that George Soros and his boys are providing financial backing tp the pro-EU groups

I for one hold the the EU is, in the long run, extraordinarily destructive to national sovereignty. I see in that body an organization that has all the earmarks of a super-socialist state in the making. Of course Ukrainians have good reasons - given their experience under Russian domination during the horrors of the USSR, but I wonder if they have not considered the results that many Europeans have gotten from the EU. The economies of Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, and Ireland are in tatters, and German taxpayers are growing weary of paying ever-increasing amounts of their income towards bailouts of the struggling nations.For me, I would fear an EU-installed banker at the head of my bankrupt country (instead of an elected chief executive) more than I would having to deal with a powerful and domineering northern neighbor.

It is one of the great "IF's" of history to consider how things would be today if Kiev had been able to prevent the sacking of the state by the Prince of Sudzal and remain a powerful principality. If they then had been able to ward off the later waves of Turkic and Mongol tribes, we could have had a Russia dominated by her southern neighbors. It was the remoteness of the northern Russian states that allowed them to remain as tribute-paying entities, while Ukraine (sitting in the main avenue of approach of enemies from the East)  languished under yoke of the nomads (The Crimean Khanate later became vassals of the Ottomans), and gave them a platform to later assert the dominance that still is in effect today.

I waited a few days to treat this subject as I wanted to see what the press and social media "friends" were saying. In the beginning, it was just as I expected; they were upset that the US was doing nothing to put a stop to the movements Russian troops onto Ukrainian soil. I have friends who wanted NATO and the EU to take military action. I would ask them what they would think if Russia sought to ally with and give military support Latin American nations in the event if we made moves into Mexico prevent the creation of a full-blown narco-state. Of course it is not the same thing as the situation in Ukraine, but it still would be an understatement to refer to the last month (being the worst month by far) in the latter as a period of instability.

Then, reality began to sink in.

Russia has all of the strategic factors in her favor. All of the Russian military is right where it needs to be, and it is not tied up all over the world as is ours. As I have written in previous posts, the US has already done substantial damage to US-Russia relations by bringing former Warsaw Pact states into NATO and installing missiles in some of the same nations. Russians cannot be blamed for feeling suspicious of and hostile to the US. Europe is heavily-dependent on Russian natural gas**, and I don't expect the Germans to grab saws and axes and commence to to clear-cutting the Black Forest for firewood. The US is living on borrowed money and is headed for either bankruptcy or hyperinflation followed by bankruptcy; we can ill-afford a small war let alone risk a major one. Russia is not the importer of the massive amounts of food that we knew in the days of the USSR; indeed, she is far more self-sufficient than she has been for a very long time. Sanctions and cancellations of business deals will only force Russia to increase her ties with our quasi-economic suzerain/creditor, China. In fact, it was G.W. Bush's bizarrely arrogant treatment of a backsliding Russia that was the main reason that Russia turned to China for her business ties (many of which could have been with the US) in the first place.

**Ukraine is also dependent  on Russian natural gas, and Russia would want to ensure that the gas pipelines that run through the former are not threatened in any way - even if the "threats" are purely do to the disorder that has plagued  Ukraine of late.

Even the situation was not exactly as I described, and the diplomatic agreement to assist Ukraine (a reward for surrendering USSR-inherited nuclear weapons) was in fact an actual US Senate-approved treaty, I still hold that the West would be beyond the point of insanity if it were to allow itself to be drawn step-by-step into what could become WWIII. The beginning of the  first world war was also a series of small steps that in short order came to bleed all involved nations almost dry

In short, this is a case of realpolitik. There is little that the world can do for Ukraine other than protest and offer economic assistance that is itself (in the case of the US) nothing more than borrowed money on which we will someday likely default when our creditors come knocking at the door.

We may perhaps see what Samuel Huntington predicted as a possible outcome in The Clash Of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order - with the Eastern  and Crimean sections of Ukraine effecting a formal or informal de facto secession and an aligning of these regions with Russia and the rest of Ukraine moving closer to the EU. Another possibility is a relatively intact, but federated Ukraine maintaining closer ties with  Russia.

To paraphrase Colin McEvedy when in the Penguin Atlas of Ancient (Or Medieval - right now I can't recall) History, when he describes the choice of map-shadowing for linguistic purposes for the Armenians-

"History has never been fair to the [Ukrainians] and it is too late to start being so now"

1 comment:

  1. To me, the bottom line is "In that whole situation what is our national interest?"

    My answer is "Containing Russian expansion is in the best interest of America's economy".

    Given that, what do we do with Ukraine, if anything, to contain Russia?

    Is it to prevent them from annexing Crimea, which until the 1960's, was always part of Russia? It is 58% Russian, 12% Tartar (the remants of one of Stalin's genocides have returned), and the rest Ukrainian. It is hard to make an argument that we go to war over that piece of territory.

    Is it to prevent Russian expansion into eastern Ukraine? This makes more sense. Russia would have little argument here, other than the fact that Ukraine, especially the east, was part of the Russian/Soviet for centuries. A case can be made for a Ukranian federation, with some autonomy for the east, while not allowing any form of annexation or Russian interference. We let them alone to do their own thing except that we provide moral support for their autonomy.

    Providing economic, financial, and military support for the Kiev government will help contain Russia. I would support this if it is done wisely. Military support could be in the form of some bases in the west and perhaps the east. We want to deter Russian expansion. The Russians get their base in Sevastopol, we get ours in Ukraine proper.

    We periodically patrol the Black Sea to give notice to Russia that it is, in fact, international water.

    Whatever action we take should not try to intervene directly in Ukrainian affairs. It should be always be done through an analysis of American interests. For too long our foreign policy has involved nation building, supporting budding democracies, and human rights. These are all decent things but they may or may not advance our own interests. Its about time we took a good, hard look at our foreign policy in terms of "what's in it for us". There isn't much about Ukraine that's in it for us, other than helping to contain Russia.