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Don’t Isolate Russia

The downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17 was a great tragedy, and the world wants to make sure that such an event never happens again. People all over the globe, not least Australians and the Dutch who have lost more than 230 civilians, have been understandably angry about the failure of the Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine to respond satisfactorily to this calamity.

But it is imperative that we think clearly and, if necessary, coldly, about the underlying cause of the Russia-Ukraine standoff, which sparked the military blunder. If we fail to do so, we’ll have little hope of trying to solve it. Alas, there is a real danger that the West’s response—more sanctions against Russia, diplomatic isolation of Vladimir Putin, increased military support to Ukraine—could exacerbate tensions.

The conventional wisdom in the West blames the turmoil on Putin’s goal to recreate the former Soviet Empire. The Bear is on the prowl again, we’re told, and it must be put back in its cage.

But the United States and the European Union are hardly blameless. As John Mearsheimer, one of America’s leading experts on international relations, points out in a forthcoming issue of Foreign Affairs, it was the West’s efforts to pull Ukraine away from Russia’s strategic orbit that was guaranteed to cause big trouble.

By expanding NATO up to Russia’s borders in the Clinton and George W. Bush eras, and by helping bring down a democratically elected, pro-Moscow—albeit corrupt and thuggish—government in Kiev last February, the West has poked at the Bear and failed to see how those decisions look from its perspective.

It has repudiated the implicit agreement between president George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990-91 that the Atlantic alliance would not extend into Eastern Europe and the Baltics, a region that Russia has viewed as a necessary zone of protection long before Stalin appeared on the scene. In so doing, the West has taken no account at all for Russian susceptibilities and interests.

For Moscow, unlike Washington and Brussels, Ukraine is a matter of intense strategic importance: it covers a huge terrain that the French and Germans crossed to attack Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries. As Professor Mearsheimer asks: why would any Russian leader tolerate a cold-war military pact to move into his nation’s backyard? And why would he acquiesce in a Western-backed coup to replace an ally with an anti-Russian regime in Kiev?

Since the collapse of Soviet communism, Western liberals and neo-conservatives have declared the demise of power politics and triumph of self-determination. But Putin’s calculations are based on an old truth of geopolitics: great powers fight tooth and nail when vital strategic interests are at stake and doggedly guard what they deem as their spheres of influence.

This is unfortunate, but it is the way the world works, and always has. Imagine how Washington would respond if Russia had signed up Panama in a military pact, put rockets and missiles in Cuba, or helped bring down a democratically elected, pro-U.S. government in Mexico.

It was inevitable that Moscow would push back somewhere. But if Putin were the reincarnation of Hitler, as Hillary Clinton and Zbigniew Brzezinski suggest, why hasn’t he annexed the rebel strongholds of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine? (Putin even discouraged the insurgents from holding their referendum on independence in May.)

Where were the signs of the Kremlin’s intentions to invade Crimea before the downfall of the pro-Russian Yanukovych government in February? It was this episode, remember, that sparked Putin’s military incursion in the Ukrainian peninsula, the traditional home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Which suggests that he is acting defensively.

For the West to further isolate Moscow and at the same time escalate military support to Ukraine is fraught with danger. Russia is a declining power, but it maintains a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. If made desperate and humiliated further, it could be dangerous, like a cornered, wounded animal.

Strident talk about banning Putin from the G20 in Brisbane will only backfire against the West’s interests. The point of such institutions is not that they are a reward for obliging behavior, but rather that they provide a means to deal with common challenges. Moscow’s help is needed in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran.

At a time when Americans are tired of the world, moreover, it would not seem prudent to pick a fight over a region where no U.S. army has even fought before. Although American views of Russia are less positive today than at any time since the end of the Cold War, few consider Putin a critical threat to the U.S. According to recent Chicago Council survey, only 30 percent of Americans support military intervention in Ukraine if Russia invades the rest of the country.

Rather than extend economic sanctions against Russia and boost military support to Ukraine, our leaders should tone down our bombast and understand the motives for Putin’s conduct. He wants Ukraine to be a neutral buffer state (which is neither a NATO nor EU member) and its government to respect minority rights of ethnic Russians in this bitterly divided country. If Moscow and the Western-backed Kiev regime can’t reach a settlement, and if the latter continues to bomb cities in eastern Ukraine, more disasters like the downing of a passenger jet can’t be ruled out.

Let me be clear: my aim here is not to defend anything Putin has done, but simply to explain his response to what he deems a genuine threat to Russia’s vital interests. If we understand Putin’s motivations, his conduct is easy to understand, which is not to say we have to like it.  We need to understand what caused this crisis to have any hope of trying to solve it.

Tom Switzer is editor of the American Review, published by the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre. 

36 Comments (Open | Close)

36 Comments To "Don’t Isolate Russia"

#1 Comment By Dan Davis On July 28, 2014 @ 2:41 am

” We need to understand what caused this crisis to have any hope of trying to solve it.” The same could be said of 9/11.

#2 Comment By David On July 28, 2014 @ 8:10 am

Very good article and perspectives. Thank you for sharing.

#3 Comment By John Sobieski On July 28, 2014 @ 9:03 am

To call Russia’s action defensive is a stretch–almost makes it sound moral. The Ukrainians can rightfully claim the high moral ground here. They are the ones fighting a defensive war.

The writer here makes a few other odd remarks. With Yanukovich as his satrap, Putin had no need to invade Crimea, he was in control of it already. As for Luhansk and Donetsk, he is in the process of annexing them now. As for the bombing of eastern cities, the situation is bit more complicated than Switzer seems to know. The rebels have deliberately set up mortar positions in civilian centers, and what’s more, they and the Russians are bombing civilians and blaming Kiev.

The Ukrainians needed no encouragement from the West to pull away from Russia and look toward Europe. The failure of the Russians to reform is almost entirely responsible for that.

Better a cornered, wounded animal than a strengthened and emboldened animal.

#4 Comment By EliteCmmInc. On July 28, 2014 @ 9:26 am

“The conventional wisdom in the West blames the turmoil on Putin’s goal to recreate the former Soviet Empire. The Bear is on the prowl again, we’re told, and it must be put back in its cage”

The Bear has never not been on the prowl. And I am unclear what is meant by prowl, it carries a negative connotation. Russia has been a global player. And despite her respite (if that is the correct descriptor)she never had any intention of not being a player. I am unclear why anyone would have thought otherwise. And instead of engaging her fully, we sought to strangle the life out of her, minus a full scale internal dissolution, that was unlikely. And it is not just her leadership. The Russian people were never going t walk with their heads eternally bowed in some existential shame.

But this is for certain she has been more of a responder than a provocateur. Whether in Georgia or the Ukraine, they were not the instigators of violence.

And this is what makes our foreign policy a bit hard to comprehend. We want a subdued bear, but at every opportunity have sought to provoke the bear by encouraging, and or participating in poking her with sticks and stones.

And then feign surprise when she responds, as should have been expected.

Let me be clear, circumstances make not defending Russia very difficult.

It made no sense to foment a revolution in the region when a simple change by ballot would have been the resolution, if the government in the Ukraine was as unpopular as was contended.

#5 Comment By vashper On July 28, 2014 @ 10:05 am

Well, if you find that the perpetrators of the disaster Boeing were not insurgents, but the Ukrainian military – does direction of military dances will change or remain the same?

#6 Comment By Jim Dobbin On July 28, 2014 @ 10:22 am

Interesting balanced article which I think explains the situation in Ukraine quite well. But then out of nowhere the author lands this bombshell..

“Russia is a declining power..”

I’ve no axe to grind with regards Russia or the US but that is a ludicrous statement to make and has left me questioning the author’s rationale or at worst this motives for adding such a statement.

At a time when Russia is rising militarily and politically after shaking off its near collapse from the soviet era; at a time when Russia’s global influence is at an all time high under Putin; at a time when Russia is leading the way in BRICS and their rival bank to the IMF just set up (in which we will see a new world order formed moving influence from western powers to the east). At a time like this how can anyone say that Russia is actually “declining”?

The author must ask himself why, if Russia is a “declining power” the west and NATO are so intent to encircle her, destroy her economy, weaken her geopolitical influence (see Syria & recent attempts to talk China out of gas deal), isolate her and to demonise her leader? Why would anyone care to spend the time, effort and finances on going to all this trouble if she is “declining” anyway?

9/10 MSM articles one reads these days speak of “Rising Russia” and how Putin is more popular than Obama, Cameron etc – last year he took Forbes’ World’s Must Powerful Person accolade. How he can gain such a title if leading a “declining power’?

I think the point has been made now and I will close with this quote from Forbes:

“This year’s snapshot of power puts the Russian President on top. Putin has solidified his control over Russia and anyone watching the chess match over Syria has a clear idea of the shift in the power towards Putin on the global stage. The ex-KGB strongman–who controls a nuclear-tipped army, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves–is allowed to serve another six-year term, which could keep him in office until 2024.”

#7 Comment By Sander On July 28, 2014 @ 11:45 am

This article missed one crucial point. Ukraine is not a plaything – not of Russia and not of the West. It is a sovereign state, and as such it should be free to determine its own destiny. They don’t have to ask their neighbours for permission for that. If they want to cozy up to either Russia or the West, let them. It’s their, and not Moscow’s or Washington’s decision. Simply put, neither East nor West has any right of interfering in Ukraine. What Putin did – and does – is wrong in all possible ways.

Now, you can say “But country x, y and z did the same thing a few decades/centuries ago!” That hardly makes it right. A tu quoque argument isn’t at all convincing. Now, I’m not saying that we should outlaw Russia and start bombing in five minutes, but we shouldn’t come up with lousy excuses for Putin.

#8 Comment By Edison On July 28, 2014 @ 11:52 am

@John Sobieski

“To call Russia’s action defensive is a stretch–almost makes it sound moral. The Ukrainians can rightfully claim the high moral ground here. They are the ones fighting a defensive war.”

Wrong. There’s no high moral ground when you wage war on your own people, as US has learned the most painful way from the Secession Civil War. And it’s the Eastern Ukrainians that are truly fighting a defensive war, for they never intended to invade Kiev and depose the government.

“The writer here makes a few other odd remarks. With Yanukovich as his satrap, Putin had no need to invade Crimea, he was in control of it already. As for Luhansk and Donetsk, he is in the process of annexing them now.”

If Russia always wanted to annex Crimea she would have done it in 1991 when Ukraine was a complete mess and there was plenty of loyal Soviet soldiers to do the job. Fact is Russians were pleased just to retain their military bases. After the demonstrations Yanukovich had already agreed on antecipating elections, and the only thing Russia asked was for a guarantee of Crimea status quo. So if Ukrainians were more patient they would be free to join EU and still retain Crimea. But they were ill advised and allowed Nazis to storm public buildings and threat the Russian population in the country. And they paid the price for this stupidity.

“As for the bombing of eastern cities, the situation is bit more complicated than Switzer seems to know. The rebels have deliberately set up mortar positions in civilian centers, and what’s more, they and the Russians are bombing civilians and blaming Kiev.”

This is the same lame excuse that Israel uses today, and Russia used when fighting against the Chechens in the 1990s. Again, you claim to be on a “high moral ground” by doing exactly what “low moral” countries do.

“The Ukrainians needed no encouragement from the West to pull away from Russia and look toward Europe. The failure of the Russians to reform is almost entirely responsible for that.”

Ukrainians may look towards anywhere, but they cannot turn their backs on the eastern Russian-speaking population. No country can do that to its minorities. Unless Ukrainians are willing to fulfil your prophecy and give the whole Donbass to Russia.

“Better a cornered, wounded animal than a strengthened and emboldened animal.”

Nope. Cornered and wounded animals do bite, and Ukraine is likely to suffer the most if Russia really becomes the animal you foresee. To understand Russia’s interests in the region and try to cope with them is the best way (and in fact the only way) to ensure Ukraine’s bests interests are served too. So far Ukraine has neglected this fact and that’s why today, instead of a flourishing democracy it became a maimed, failed country in the midst of a bloody and seemingly endless civil war.

#9 Comment By John Sobieski On July 28, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

@Edison

“War on their own people”? Excuse me, how did you expect Kiev to respond exactly? Just hand over Donetsk to Strelkov because he says he wants it?

“allowed Nazis to storm public buildings”? What Nazis? Are you referring to the people who got a whopping 2% of the vote? If you’re looking for the resurgence of 20th century totalitarian ideologies, look to Moscow where they parade with icons of Lenin, Stalin, and Beria.

“This is the same lame excuse that Israel uses today” Let me be clearer: the rebels and the Russians are the ones bombing (and kidnapping and torturing) civilians in eastern Ukraine. Kiev is attempting to restore order, and with a handicap as they’re reluctant to declare war.

“No country can do that to its minorities.” Do what to their minorities? Nothing’s happening to the minorities.

“Ukraine is likely to suffer the most if Russia really becomes the animal you foresee” I think the Ukrainians look jealously to the example of Poland.

#10 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 28, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

Well,

here’s some food for thought.

From Russia Direct

[1]

#11 Comment By Patrick D On July 28, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

John Sobieski,

“I think the Ukrainians look jealously to the example of Poland.”

The United States already has too many free-loading dependents. No thanks.

#12 Comment By Sander On July 28, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

“Ukrainians may look towards anywhere, but they cannot turn their backs on the eastern Russian-speaking population. No country can do that to its minorities. ”

They can’t sell their country to a foreign despot because a minority wishes so either.

#13 Comment By Andrew On July 28, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

But it is imperative that we think clearly and, if necessary, coldly, about the underlying cause of the Russia-Ukraine standoff, which sparked the military blunder.

It is utterly impossible at this stage.

#14 Comment By Edison On July 28, 2014 @ 6:01 pm

@John Sobieski

Thank you for the most straight and reasonable answers I could ever expect. I’m pretty sure you right about everything on Ukraine: not even US State Dept spokespersons could provide such a clear view of the problem. I just don’t understand why don’t you take your argument to its ultimate conclusions. If this is all about jealousy, then maybe Russia’s aggression can be explained in this basis too. Ukrainians envy the Poles and so do Russians: they simply can’t stand the fact that Ukraine decided to pursue such a wonderful future and chose to leave them behind in the darkness. I guess this pretty much sums it up.

@Sander

Minorities can’t sell a whole country. But they do can rise against the central government and seize control of their own land. There are basically 2 ways one state can prevent that: by sharing its political power with them or by continuous repression and brute force. Ukraine clearly chose the latter.

#15 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 28, 2014 @ 9:15 pm

“It’s their, and not Moscow’s or Washington’s decision. Simply put, neither East nor West has any right of interfering in Ukraine. What Putin did – and does – is wrong in all possible ways.”

Yet Nuland-Kagan, the U.S.neo-con instigator, first chortled over stabbing the E.U. in favor of U.S. hegemony and installing her favored “Yats” as the post-coup leader, after spending U.S. $5 billion for “regime change.” The ethnic Russian Ukrainian population’s rights were handily and cynically disposed of in favor of untrammeled U.S. subjection they objected to, to be administered by ethnic enemies willing to do western bidding.

#16 Comment By I Don’t Matter On July 28, 2014 @ 10:04 pm

“But it is imperative that we think clearly and, if necessary, coldly, about the underlying cause of the Russia-Ukraine standoff, which sparked the military blunder.”

And then proceed doing nothing of the sort. The whole article is based on a bizarre premise that Ukrainians can’t possibly want to decide their own fate, and can’t possibly get so pissed at thief and liar Yanukovich, that they just couldn’t take it anymore. The strange idea that no feather ever falls in a faraway land without meddling from the US is on a stark display here.

#17 Comment By Edward Hale On July 28, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

Tell your child he’s bad everyday rather than spending ‘quality time’ with them; usually leads to negativity and bad behavior. Most often a child’s ‘bad behavior’ stems from imitation or responding to our own negative traits.
Stick that ‘bad child’ in a corner; they may turn into a rebel or monster. Just like the monster that forced them to stand there.
Toss your child in their room and take away their food and entertainment.
Man, that’s a recipe for war with nuclear disaster.

#18 Comment By Northernsoul On July 29, 2014 @ 6:43 am

@John Sobieski says: “, they and the Russians are bombing civilians and blaming Kiev.”

That’s a blatant lie.

It’s the Ukrainians that are on the offensive and bombing civilian areas in Novorossiya to force them into submission to this new NATO-backed neo-fascist-pretending-to-be-democratic regime. While Washington is supporting separatism in Syria and Kurdistan, it is against it in Ukraine. It’s only about geopolitics. Ukraine is ruthlessly shelling the eastern separatist cities.

Some reports from the east with video clips
[2]?

#19 Comment By Seva S. On July 29, 2014 @ 7:33 am

Just imagine 9/11 2001
Don’t isolate Bin Laden. His action was of course act of war, but it was response to aggressive US foreign policy.

Is appeasing really good policy? Or it is only good, when it is someone’s else ass kicked by the aggressor?

#20 Comment By Colorado Jack On July 29, 2014 @ 11:42 am

“a region where no U.S. army has even fought before.”

Not so. US troops intervened in the Russian Civil War in 1918-19, granted not on a large scale. Not many Americans are aware of this. I expect lots of Russians are.

#21 Comment By constantin ionescu On July 29, 2014 @ 12:23 pm

But the opinions of Eastern Europe and the Baltics matter? We are also here in so called transatlantic civilization.

#22 Comment By Sander On July 29, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

@Edison

“Minorities can’t sell a whole country.”

Yet that was what they were doing under the Yanukovich administration. That doing such a thing was harder than expected they found out on the Maidan.

#23 Comment By Zac On July 29, 2014 @ 6:14 pm

Let us remember that the Ukrainian government, besides the current president Proshenenko, is made up largely of unelected persons. Thus, even though the Nazi groups did not “gain” in elections, they still retain appointed positions, many extremely vital, Tynabok and other for example. A large majority of the army is made up of Svaboda and Right Sector, both are criminal groups, some even sporting the Azov Wolfsangel insignia (based on old German Nazi insignia). They are motivated by extreme hatred, and are known to use very devious methods (their founders are responsible for mass murder of Jews, Poles and Russian in West Ukraine during WW II). The current powers in Kiev have openly referred to the Eastern population as,”sub-human”, “Colorado bugs” (potato bugs, a despised agricultural menace), “parasites”, etc. It is very dangerous when an advisary dehumanizes its foe. This general hatred for Russians has long been in the West Ukraine. I was there once speaking Russian with a friend (I spent a number of years in the Ukraine) and was threatened and verbally abused until I was able to convince the folks that I was from the US and simply spoke Russian. This hatred is at times irrational and based in historical grievances that most of the people alive today in Ukraine have not directly experienced. But National hatred becomes national tradition; it has become part of Ukrainian Nationalism to hate Russia, Moskoli (the derogatory term for Russians used by Ukrainian nationalists). As it seems our own Government is frequently willing to do, they have found an existing local fire and have decided to fan it and see if they can’t get at Russia. A dangerous game. But the Ukrainians, right now, are too blinded by hatred and the promise of the “goods life” (a carrot dangled by the EU & US) to stop and rationally think about the possible global outcome of their short sighted actions. Instead of taking social responsibility for the past and present problems of their country in a reasonabl and democratic way (Maidan was anything but democratic), they have resorted to encouraging hate, blame and violence; it is much more satisfying and alleviating to blame all their woes on Russia, and Washington is more than happy to help. The main game changer does not lie with Russia (if Russia was looking for war they have had plenty of reasons up until now), but with the Ukraine (and our own Government). Can they stop the hatred and war? Can they stop virulent rhetoric, can they choose the path of peace and brotherly kindness? If they cannot, then the flames may get out of control. The world is watching Ukraine. I hope “we the people” are not short sighted and prejudiced by nebulous “Russian bear” smoke to offer goodwill to Russia, Ukraine and others. Good balanced article, a relief in the fire of warmongering and propaganda I encounter elsewhere.

#24 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 29, 2014 @ 9:55 pm

‘Minorities can’t sell a whole country.’

“Yet that was what they were doing under the Yanukovich administration. That doing such a thing was harder than expected they found out on the Maidan.”

What was neocon Victoria Nuland-Kagan buying with the $5 billion she was caught bragging about having invested in a coup? In that bidding war for billionaire oligarchs’ loyalties, it was no-holds-barred raw competition for the sell-out, hence her “F— the E.U.”

You can be sure neither the American public, ordinary Europeans or the Ukrainian people are to benefit in any way from the spoils being fought over.

#25 Comment By Madhu On July 30, 2014 @ 12:36 pm

I posted this elsewhere and I thought the comment might be useful here. I won’t make this into a habit, posting other comments of mine around here. I hope this comment follows the site rules:

“If Ukraine is a crisis of sovereignty, then how did the conversation switch to Putin-as-devil? Taking land is the worst of it, arms from outside the second worst of it, but early on, did our advice help or hurt the Ukrainians in asserting their sovereignty and creating a healthy state?

In the Council, a commenter from Estonia I believe, said something along the lines of, “we told them to control the borders and grab Russian passports.”
Ukrainian border patrol asked for help early on. Did they get it? The oligarchs that are in control raided the state and isn’t that partly why the border control doesn’t have the resources it needs? How did this issue of border control–and including ethnic Russians into the larger state order–become all about the US/NATO/EU and its battles with Russia?

I worry about the Ukrainians–look what internationalizing the issue did to the Kashmiris. Just because outsiders want to help, doesn’t mean that their help will actually work.

And how much of the NATO stuff is various constituencies using the crisis to get particular things, increasing budgets, directing the course of the EU. Some Eastern European nations are going to get big subsidies. What does this do to sovereignty and the ability to resist outside interference?”

There is a very good literature on the internationalization of internal conflicts and the way even well meaning outsiders prolong conflicts. I think that literature is applicable to the Ukrainian crisis of sovereignty which has many components – internal governance and outside interference.

#26 Comment By Chris D. On July 30, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

Is Ukraine really one country or just another post-colonial fiction? To my mind it’s just a former colony of the Soviet and Czarist empires. Why should we hold Ukraine together any more than Yugoslavia? Let the Russians go with Russia and the more Western-minded Ukrainians join the rest of the world. I have never understood the desire to uphold the sovereignty of territories that were engineered to give one ethnicity the upper hand in order to serve external interests (e.g., Iraq). It’s better for American foreign policy in a realpolitik sense to have as many fragmented competitors and enemies as possible. Who gives a damn what lines were ratified by the U.N. after WWII?

#27 Comment By Thomas On July 31, 2014 @ 12:42 am

Communism failed. “Crazy Abe” Lincoln was egregiously wrong. States do, in fact, have the inherent right to secede (i.e. USSR). Invasion and conquest are archaic, obsolete. Egoism and egotism are bad. Derelict and negligent homicide is a crime of manslaughter. Putin and his co-conspirators committed a crime. Putin and his co-conspirators must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Russia must obey the law and extradite Putin for trial.

#28 Comment By Thomas On July 31, 2014 @ 12:55 am

North American and European interests exist. The NATO boundary can be agreed to be Ukraine. These allies have no leader among them. Russia can subsume whatever it chooses of the West, or the West can coalesce and stop it in its tracks. If the West is bereft of leadership, Putin will fill the void. Maybe the line is Ukraine or maybe the line is the Potomac. And that’s OK too, right?

P.S. What came first, the chicken or the egg? What came first, the leader or the followers? Putin isn’t waiting around for the answer.

#29 Comment By Madhu On July 31, 2014 @ 9:44 am

@ Chris D.:

Good points and interesting comment. Ukrainian sovereignty is for the Ukrainians to decide and work on–why are we so involved anyway?–and states are always a bit made up, anyway, they needn’t always be about ethnicity. If they were, the US would be purely native American.

As an American, I’m not sure why we are still in NATO and why it even exists post Soviet Union. Oh, I know the history of its expansion and why certain domestic and external ‘blocs’ pushed for it, but it makes no sense in terms of American security. Other European defense arrangements were floated in the 90s and we could have engaged with them for basic military-to-military relationships without taking on the baggage of European defense.

The billions poured into Eastern Europe for democracy promotion seems, similarly, to be more about the Washington Consensus and its perceived needs than American security.

I guess my point in my previous comment is that if this is all about concern for sovereignty, some people are being VERY disingenuous because that would be more low-key. Instead, it’s the same old power politics and desire to control others that “the West” has gotten an extreme taste for….

#30 Comment By Vladimir Makarenko On July 31, 2014 @ 3:46 pm

@John Sobieski

You use the term “Ukraine” I am afraid without much knowledge of what exactly compose the Ukraine:
1) Western Ukraine or so called Galicia. Never was a part of Russia divided in different ages between many others (mostly Hungary and Poland), still have sizable minorities of Hungarians an standing alone ethnic group which call themselves Russins (note the lack of “a”). Almost all Poles who lived there (to my knowledge) were either exterminated during WWII by Bandera groups or escaped to Poland proper. Motherland of SS division “Galicia”. More than 100,000 volunteered only (again if my memory doesn’t betray me) only 17,000 we taken in by Nazis. It is important because I guess a few of participants here are puzzled by mutual outright – for outsider incomprehensible – hostility between the East Ukraine and the West: SS “Galicia” was used to “pacify” the East which was a guerrilla war center.

2. Central Ukraine – most educated part of the country, the base of liberal intelligetsia – doesn’t want to have anything in common with either West (Nazis) or East (rednecks). Today’s obscene alliance with the outright Nazis of the West – well, it tells you how much “believes” of liberal intelligetsia worth. At least the rednecks in the East they scorn so much because they do not use Kleenex to wipe their noses, these rednecks they do what they say they will.

3. The East Ukraine or Novorossiya. Never before Soviets had been a part of Ukraine, heavily industrial (think Detroit), heavily miner (think West Virginia) part. Population is very mixed but leaning to Russia because just few miles away across the border they see Russian miners and factory workers are making three four times more than they do. The male youth is used to go across the border (it is legal) to sign up for a contract with Russian Army (migrant contract takes about a day to be done – literally, – in the case of Ukrainian migrants), it is a way – for a while – from poverty and hopelessness: Russian Army if I remember it right (the check is needed) because of lack of funds only a quarter or third is contract. So it is the elite part which is contracted: hi tech, special forces, etc which requires prolong training: conscript term is 18 months, the min contract is 3 years.
Here is the news for CNN and White House – Russia doesn’t send its boys to Ukraine, it let the Ukrainian boys go home: special forces, paratroopers, etc. Severance paid with many extras. I mean I am an amateur – how come I figured this out and all these overpaid people in the US government did not?
Sorry for any gramm/spell errors.

#31 Comment By John Sobieski On August 1, 2014 @ 6:38 am

@Chris D.

The Ukrainians will tell you that they are not a fiction, that their origins are not a hundred years old but a thousand years old. They are the Kievan Rus–and the Russians are not. The Ukrainians are not fighting and dying for some quasi-arbitrary congressional district.

#32 Comment By Gazza On August 1, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

@Thomas

“Putin and his co-conspirators committed a crime. Putin and his co-conspirators must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Russia must obey the law and extradite Putin for trial.”

My, my, someone simply is not living in the real world, are they? You may be upset over the Crimeans upsetting the neo-con plans to evict Russia from its Black Sea fleetbases and replacing them with NATO, but its hypocritical to claim your feeling are due to a concern over violations of international law. The US and its Eurocrat satraps break international law anytime the wish, but do you rail against that?

Crimea had autonomy within Ukraine and a large majority ethic Russian population, so with the obscene spectacle of the Maidan mobs engaging in pre-organised anarchy and violence led by neo-nazi/fascist extremists like Svoboda and Pravy Sektor, why are we surprised that the collapse of the elected parliamentary government and the subsequent overthrow of the elected President resulted in the Crimeans deciding to secede from Ukraine? It is now clear that Igor Kholomoski (the Oligarch who took over Dnepropetrovsk and is the main benefactor of Pravy Sektor) instructed Dimitry Yarrosh to move his militias to Crimea and seize control from the ethnic Russian majority. The Crimean government rid itself of Kiev loyalists, requested Russian assistance to secure the peninsula, and held a free and fair referendum to validate their decision. Its a reasonable proposition that if a timid Russia had sat on its hands, the Crimeans would have experienced their own Odessa-experience, courtesy of Yarrosh’s head-kicker thug-squads.

I have no doubt that evicting Russia from its Black Sea fleet bases was a primary goal of the neo-con regime change operation. Imagine the stategic advantages that US and its NATO vassals could have gained:

1) Russian navy rolled back to a small base (yet to built in Novorossisk) and the Black Sea becoming a NATO lake
2) NATO warships operating against Russia’s southern flank with minimal logistical concerns and seamless air support from Crimean land-based aviation.
3) Ability to threaten Russia with amphibious landings simultaneous to an armored thrust through Poland
4) Ability to project sea-based long-range strikes against Moscow with minimal/no warning
5) Ability to project air power against Russia’s southern borders to either interdict Russia airspace or launch air-based cruise missile attacks
6) Opportunity to cultivate a hard-line anti-Russian proxy land force comprised of Western Ultra-nationalists as a constant threat against Russias borders (far more fanatical than Poles or Balt nationalists)

This would represent a existential threat to the security of the Russian state, and if Putin did not to protect Russia’s interests in the way he did (ie peacefully without a shot fired) then he would have failed in his responsibilities to his nation & people. Thankfully, both he and the Russian state have so far proven to be up to the task.

#33 Comment By Wojtek On August 1, 2014 @ 10:26 pm

@Edward Hale

It is a big mistake to think of Putin (and Russia) as if he was a child.

#34 Comment By Wojtek On August 1, 2014 @ 10:40 pm

@Tom Switzer

A very childish piece of thought. For example this quote: “it would not seem prudent to pick a fight over a region where no U.S. army has even fought before”.

Really? Is this how we think about global politics these days? You only pick fights over territories which you have “visited” before? Not where it hurts the opponent the most?

I would welcome a serious analysis of whether Russia is a threat to the “civilized” world. But this simplistic piece about just leaving them alone, and leaving a few hundred million people under Russia’s influence to keep it happy, this has nothing to do with conservatism.

#35 Comment By Joe A On August 6, 2014 @ 6:15 pm

When Obama doesn’t act to get us involved in messes like Syria, the right attacks him for being a weak-kneed Chamberlain. Now when he does, the right tells him to ease up.

Make up your minds.

#36 Comment By Ricardo On August 7, 2014 @ 6:43 pm

I heard someone from AC met with the Russkies at some shindig not too long ago, along with Ron Paul groupies and other weirdos, as well as some far leftists. Seems AC is in the Kremlin’s pocket, as is stupid Buchanan and his “Christian” Putin fantasy.