Monday, February 23, 2015

It's not worth a war over Ukraine

I'm getting sick and tired of neocons arguing that we need to arm Ukraine, and train its troops, and confront Russian nationalism/imperialism/whateverism.  They're trying to play us for suckers.

Consider these realities.  First, Christopher Booker:

Over Ukraine, I cannot recall any issue in my lifetime when the leaders of the West have got it so hopelessly wrong. We are treated to babyish comparisons of President Putin to Hitler or Stalin; we are also told that this crisis has only been brought about by Russia’s “expansionism”. But there was only one real trigger for this crisis – the urge of the EU continually to advance its borders and to expand its own empire, right into the heartland of Russian national identity: a “Europe” stretching, as David Cameron once hubristically put it, “from the Atlantic to the Urals”.

The “expansionism” that was the trouble was not Putin’s desire to welcome the Russians of Crimea back into the country to which they had formerly belonged; or to assist the Russians of eastern Ukraine in their determination not to be dragged by the corrupt government in Kiev they despised into the EU and Nato. It was that of an organisation founded on the naive belief that it could somehow abolish nationalism, but which finally ran up against an ineradicable sense of nationalism that could not simply be streamrollered out of existence. We poked the bear and it responded accordingly.

Next, Chris Martenson lays it on the line.

As I’ve written previously, the West, especially the US, was instrumental in toppling the democratically elected president of Ukraine back in February 2014. US officials were caught on tape plotting the coup, and then immediately supported the hastily installed and extremist officials that now occupy the Kiev leadership positions.

In short, the crisis in Ukraine was not the result of Russia’s actions, but the West’s. Had the prior president, Yanukovych, not been overthrown, it’s highly unlikely that Ukraine would be embroiled in a nasty civil war. Relations between Russia and the West would be in far better repair.

Russia, quite predictably and understandably, became alarmed at the rise of fascism and Nazi-sympathetic powers on its border. Remember the repeated statements by Kiev officials recommending extermination of the Russian speakers who make up the majority living in eastern Ukraine? Were a parallel situation happening in Canada, for example, I would fully expect the US to be similarly and seriously interested and involved in the outcome.

The only people seemingly surprised by this predictable Russian reaction toward protecting its people and border interests are the neocons at the US State Department who instigated the conflict in the first place. In my experience, these are dangerous people principally because they seem to lack perspective and humility.

There's more at the link.  It's well worth reading.

I submit the following points.

  1. The US has no vital strategic interest in Ukraine worth defending with the blood of our troops.
  2. There is no possibility whatsoever of the USA sustaining a major expeditionary war so far from our bases, and so near to our potential enemy's, and with such fragile lines of communication.
  3. Russia is not Iraq or Afghanistan. We could destabilize the former with horse-riding Special Forces operators and bombing raids.  We could conquer the latter with lightning strikes and a 'Thunder Run'.  We cannot do likewise to the world's second-largest military power.

All those urging active, armed US intervention in Ukraine are seeking to drag this country into a war we can't win.  We allow them to do so at our mortal peril.



B said...

And yet, these people want freedom. This is what NATO purports to stand for.

While I agree that we have no interests there, do we just let Russia take them again? How about the next country...and the next? What if they take Poland next....or another?

When do we say that the line is HERE? That we stand for something?

I truly do understand your point, and it is valid. But I also wonder where we shall say "STOP!"

Peter said...

@B: I don't think that ever, in the history of the world, has a people ever been given freedom from outside and made it work. They've had to have the gumption, the guts and the willingness to sacrifice to earn their own freedom the hard way.

We've 'given' freedom most recently to Iraq and Afghanistan. What use have they made of it?

If we 'give' freedom to Ukraine in the same way... what use will the Ukrainians make of it?

No. They have to earn it for themselves, the hard way. We can't do it for them.

W. Fleetwood said...

Some connected points. Back when the Soviet Union went belly up the nation of Ukraine had a large number of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. They gave them up in exchange for a public undertaking by the U.S. and Britain (and the Russian Federation for that matter) to guarantee the physical integrity of Ukraine. The world has not forgotten this, but what have they learned since then? Well, the Russian Federation cares about agreements not backed up with force just as much as the good ol' USSR did, which is no surprise to anybody with a brain. The world has also learned that the U.S. and Britain will renege on their word of honor as soon as it involves cost, or risk of cost, or hell, the risk of risk. This too is no surprise to anyone who can identify Vietnam and Cambodia on an unmarked map. Now, so far one might happily echo Bluto in Animal House; "Hey, you fucked up, you trusted us!". But...there is another lesson being learned by the world in the Ukraine. Does anyone imagine that even Putin would have invaded the Ukraine if it still had deliverable nukes? "Not a chance." is the correct answer. So, the world has learned a lesson; if you don't want to be gobbled up, get nukes, get them as fast as you can, and NEVER GIVE THEM UP! You really don't have to be an Evil Jewish Neocon (Spit, and Spit again) to see this as a truly dangerous outcome, really you don't.

B said...

Peter, I would agree that they "need to do it from inside" if this was merely political and we were talking about a form of government..

But we aren't.

Your statement is like saying the 70 lb kid needs to do it himself when the 180 lb bigger kid is stealing his lunch money.

The US and Nato countries promised that we would guarantee the integrity of Ukraine for their concessions of giving up their arms. They did so, Will we stand by our promises? Or will we show the world that when the going gets tough, we cut and run....that our promises aren't woorth anything (again)?

montieth said...

I am struck by the other nearby nations like the Baltic states, Poland and other former Russian/Soviet "territories" who really don't want to be gobbled by Russia again.

Peter said...

@B: You're absolutely right about the guarantees offered by the West. They were made, and they're real.

Unfortunately, they're also completely worthless. They should never have been made, not on the grounds that they're bad in and of themselves, but because they couldn't then, and they cannot now, be given force and effect.

If someone makes a promise that is clearly impossible to fulfil, one should never rely on it. If one does, one deserves all one gets. I fear that too many people have relied on politicians' promises over Ukraine and Eastern Europe. The politicians who made them are (mostly) long gone. The bill to meet them has been handed to us - but we can't afford to pay it.

There's an old saying that 'politics is the art of the possible'. What's possible in Ukraine is nothing like what was promised. It's a matter of simple fact. For once, we must conform our behavior to the facts and realities of the situation, because if we don't, we're going to get chewed up.

Anonymous said...

Russia; IF it is "The worlds second largest superpower" is second only to China, as the US long ago downsized it's military to pre-WW2 levels. The greatest problem we in America face today is the constant belief that the propaganda spouted by the federals is somehow truth. We won't fight a real "ground war" with Russia because we CAN'T. Our military is GONE. Nothing but myth and memory. Downsized, used up, or just frittered away as "aid". Our ability to make war on a first world nation is pure propaganda and bluff. It almost seems like someone in DC wants what is left of the US military exterminated.

Montieth said...

Looking at the size of militaries of other first world nations (mostly Europe) we could make war on them and we'd win hands down. I'm uncertain of Russia's current OB, but ours is FAR larger than most of Europe's. What it would come down to is the attrition rate.

Some of those European nations have less than a division of combat troops and armor.

Paul said...

Well, we do have a democrat as a commander in chief and they are not known for making the best descisions

Unknown said...

@B: You are wrong. At Budapest the US promised not to invade Ukraine. There's nothing about defending it in that agreement.

Xoph said...

The US has NATO obligations and those could drag us into a war - if we keep them. I learned the hard way a few years ago to only help those who work to help themselves. If people aren't willing to help themselves, they are lazy scam artists looking to take whatever they can get.

Russia is Europe's problem (not really, they are also a problem for the US, but much more so for Europe) and Europe is in denial and appeasement. Sorry, I'm not willing to help such people.

However, what is the long game here and can we tolerate it? Russia and China are working together against the US dollar. Russians and Chinese do NOT think like us, their logic and goals are different. I don't know the answers, only the questions.

I do know that if we keep going down our economic path we won't have the national health to do anything. Our own politicians are more of a danger to the US than is Russia or China. We have a huge available labor force, huge energy reserves, huge natural resources, everything we need for our economy to take off - if we will free ourselves to do so.

Anonymous said...

Hitler and the Sudetenland. Putin and the Russian volk. There is no limit, since Russian officials have said that there are many Russians in the US who are being mistreated and deserve to be liberated.

This Russia is not the USSR at its peak. It is not even Russia at its peak.

No need for you Yanks to go to war. Just make it too expensive for Putin to go to war. You can do that can't you?

Arc Light said...

Exactly! Smart people would see the many choices available. It is not a simple choice between bending over and pulling down your pants, vs. going to war with Russia. Limiting choices is the stuff of propaganda.