July 27, 2014

A Few Random Thoughts About the Ukraine

A spirited discussion on this topic has sprung up in the comments. My latest reply went long so here are a couple of random observations and opinions on the topic..

Russia is being a jackass in the Ukraine. However, their interest in Crimea and Sevastopol in particular is of vital importance to their nation. The Crimea is overwhelmingly ethnically Russian and Cossack so even if we were going by Wilsonian as opposed to Westphalian doctrine the ethnic self determination angle might give Russia a defensible position in that case. 

We don't HAVE a doctrine at the moment , Wilsonian, Westphalian or even Carteresque, so that's irrelevant. 

Which is one reason the parallels to 1930's Chekoslovakia cause concern.

Ukraine has grievances against Russia that are numerous and legitimate, including a large swath of their country that's uninhabitable for extended periods and mass graves filled by by Stalin with their brethren. 

However, Ukraine is not a bunch of angels, with some very vocal members of their polity having anti-semitic and even neo-nazi ties. They have been using the Balkan conflict as a how-to manual rather than a cautionary tale. They are also pretty much a failed state.

We (the US) have, in the 20th century, normally supported self determination as a matter of national policy and a big chunk of eastern Ukraine is ethnically Russian.

Russia, like us, is fighting islamic extremists and would be a natural ally in this endeavor. In fact Russia has given a lot of assistance in that regard including overflight privileges to facilitate our fighting in Afganistan and providing intel on Chechen terrorists in the US which we ignored, thereby facilitating the Boston Bombing.

The plane shoot-down was a dreadful calamity, but the airline ignored warnings not to fly over a FRICKKING WAR ZONE where 3 transports had already been shot down. I don't think that Russia intentionally shot down an airliner. I cannot conceivably have gained them anything.

Is this patch of black earth which is a huge ethnic and political mess a place we want to really get involved in? 

No.

But there is a problem with that. 

We guaranteed The Ukraine that we would protect their territorial integrity  if they acquiesced to our demands that they give up their nukes. So we actually do have an obligation to do something. It is a matter of global interest that we encourage non-proliferation. this is not achieved if a country that gives up its nukes is dismembered by others that did not.

Like, you know, Libya, who we promised not to poke at if they gave up their nuclear program. A promise we honored until the president leveraged the fact that the UK and France wanted to pay less for oil to support Muslim Brotherhood affiliated revolutions. Now North Africa is awash in weapons, thousands of MANPADS are in the hands of terrorists and Boko Haram is spreading pain and woe with weapons they got from Quaddaffi's arsenals. OTOH the oil is not flowing near as  much now.


So the "We gave our word" and "nonproliferation" carts have left the barn. The sort of brinksmanship necessary to protect Ukraine's integrity would be fraught with opportunities for catastrophic, 1914 style miscalculation and tragedy even if we had level-headed, grounded professionals running our foreign policy. 


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We don't have that. We have the crew that threw away an admittedly phyrric victory, in the process giving Mesopotamia to ISIS, set North Africa aflame, and has been making fools of themselves in the Levant.  

Given that the Libyan fiasco has pissed away any non-proliferation mojo that might be preserved by an adventure in Ukrania, poking the bear* does not survive even the most cursory cost benefit analysis.  The moral calculus is dubious at best.

The only realistic way to deal with the destabilizing and dangerous situation that is our shattered credibility is to wait two years and say "Sorry...he was a fluke. We're back now".

Even then, our policy in this squalid European mess probably ought to be to bolster our newest NATO allies and provide humanitarian aid. 

*the actual bear

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 03:36 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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