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The Containment Revival’s Strategic Shortcomings

Over the weekend, Peter Baker of the New York Times reported [1] that the Obama administration will now shift its long-term approach to Russia from one of engagement (via the much derided “reset” policy) to one of isolation in an attempt to limit Russia’s “expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood” and effectively make it “a pariah state.” According to Baker, the administration is basically updating George F. Kennan’s Cold War policy of containment for the present day, the idea being to forge a global consensus against Russia’s revisionist foreign policy. This is an approach that intuitively makes a good deal of sense; it is, at first blush anyway, an indication that the administration is moving away from what has heretofore been an ad hoc approach to the breakdown in U.S.-Russian relations in favor of a more strategic and long-term vision.

However, there are a few points with regard to Containment 2.0 worth discussing, the first being whether a policy that aims to make Russia a “pariah state” bears any resemblance to Kennan’s conception of what his containment doctrine actually entailed. It seems to me what the administration is talking about is not really Kennan’s vision of containment, but rather that of his friend and ideological adversary, Paul Nitze. As Kennan himself noted over and over again in his voluminous literary output, the original iteration of the containment doctrine he laid out in 1947 was, for the most part, out-of-date the moment Joseph Stalin left the scene.

From that point on—and as the Khrushchev thaw became more and more evident—Kennan advocated for a policy of engagement with Russia; containment was, as he was at pains to point out, not a policy of military encirclement, nor was it a policy of engaging the Soviets in a series of proxy wars over peripheral and strategically worthless third-world outposts. That was, in fact, Nitze’s policy as first put forth in NSC policy paper 68 of 1950. It was that policy that successive U.S. administrations generally adhered to, not Kennan’s, and it is that militarized version of containment that is being urged on the Obama administration by establishment figures like the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum who, in a Slate column last month [2], wrote that a new approach toward Russia was needed because “Russia is an anti-Western power with a different, darker vision of global politics.” To face down the revanchist Russian bear, Applebaum (who is married to Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski) proposed that the West “re-imagine NATO” and “move its forces from Germany to the alliance’s eastern borders.”

Now perhaps the administration really is proposing a Kennan-esque rather than a Nitze-ian containment policy, but there is little to indicate this is so. The new policy, as laid out in Baker’s article, seems to be predicated on the assumption that the Russians have little or no means at their disposal to react. The administration’s focus seems to be on the costs it can impose on Russia, all the while neglecting the fact that Russia can—and will—counter-impose costs of its own. That the Russians have a fair amount of economic leverage over Europe is no secret; yet the costs they may be able to impose on the U.S. are more formidable than generally recognized. Is the administration willing to risk access to the Northern Distribution Network, over which the U.S. transports equipment and personnel to and from Afghanistan, over a crisis of Ukrainian sovereignty? Are efforts to isolate and make Russia an international outcast more or less likely to persuade them to assist in efforts to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon; or to work to help to defuse the ongoing Syrian fiasco; or to work with the U.S. in implementing the provisions of New Start; or to continue cooperating with the U.S. with regard to outer space? How, too, one wonders, would antagonizing Russia in the West affect the administration’s “pivot” to Asia?

The reasoning behind Containment 2.0 also seems to suffer from the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. The administration (and even some of the more sentient members of Congress, few though they are) seems to believe that because Russia’s aggressive approach in Crimea (and, it now must be said, in parts of eastern Ukraine) took place after the reset, then the reset’s “accommodative” approach must be among the causes of said aggression. This is specious. The Russophone populations in eastern and southern Ukraine have for years been explicit in their desire to stay within Russia’s sphere of influence; “reset” or not, Russia was never going to allow Ukraine to leave its orbit for that that of the EU and NATO without a fight.

And then, of course, there is the issue of Obama’s choice to be the next ambassador to Russia. Reports out of Washington seem to indicate Obama is leaning towards appointing career diplomat John F. Tefft who served as Chief of Mission in Tbilisi during the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008. According to Baker, the White House was initially wary of appointing Tefft because of his prior service in Georgia and Ukraine, but now “there is no reluctance to offend the Kremlin.” What is it that they think they did when they appointed Michael McFaul as the American ambassador to Russia [3]? In lieu of agitating the Kremlin (as seems to be the preferred option at present) perhaps the responsible thing for the administration to do would be to re-appoint the now-retired but still widely respected John Beyrle, or to appoint someone with a reputation for both reasonableness and deep expertise like Georgetown’s Angela Stent. Unfortunately the Obama administration, and in particular the current iteration of its NSC, which is sorely lacking in imagination, historical depth, and intellectual ballast, will likely do nothing of the kind.

And so, unfortunately, the new approach as outlined by Baker seems to be (yet another) case of the Obama administration losing the forest for the trees and not realizing that a policy that isolates and punishes Russia over its provocations in Ukraine, while perhaps satisfying in the short run, makes securing U.S. national security interests in far more important areas than Ukraine that much more difficult.

James Carden served as an advisor to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the State Department from 2011-2012.

27 Comments (Open | Close)

27 Comments To "The Containment Revival’s Strategic Shortcomings"

#1 Comment By Jim Evans On April 24, 2014 @ 3:57 am

An excellent commentary.

If the truth were generally known (and maybe it is) among the American public, that the West and particularly the U.S. government (also, evidence has arisen that Poland provided training for the rioters in Kiev) was instrumental in fostering and encouraging the coup in Ukraine, there would be little support for reigniting the Cold War.

The Obama administration has been caught carrying on the Bush neocon policies.

And, just as the Bush administration’s series of aggressive, neocon policies failed in Iraq & Afghanistan, so, too, have the Obama administration policies of aggression (Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine) failed.

These polices, given their own terms and objectives, have failed spectacularly, causing crisis at every turn while providing little strategic or even tactical benefit.

But the Obama administration seems prepared to double down on failed neoconservative policies.

A militarized containment policy?

No.

Better to be realistic, understanding Russia has legitimate strategic interests in Ukraine, and respect those interests.

So, yes, renewing the Cold War because the Obama administration carried on failed neocon policies would be worse than a crime, it would be a blunder of strategic proportions.

Neocon Washington is a disgrace, both Democratic & Republican, alike.

The American People need a new foreign policy.

And neoconservatives need to be tarred & feathered in the arena of American public opinion.

#2 Comment By John Sobieski On April 24, 2014 @ 7:39 am

“‘reset’ or not, Russia was never going to allow Ukraine to leave its orbit for that of the EU and NATO without a fight”

Somehow I doubt that, if the Ukraine had stronger defenses, Russia would have moved into Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Let’s not pretend as though Putin had no options. He could have reformed his country, uprooted corruption, and made it a more attractive business partner for Ukraine than Europe.

#3 Comment By gmat On April 24, 2014 @ 8:38 am

Even if this policy had merit, does the US have enough other countries on board to make it work?

#4 Comment By Lukas On April 24, 2014 @ 9:30 am

returning to the cold war isolation and demonization of Russia is idiocy done to perfection by the leftist neocons, neocons who are strongly linked to Israeli necons.

Draw the line in the sand that Russia will should not annex more of Ukraine and should not annex Odessa. Threaten NATO Troops if necessary. Park US NAVY and NATO ships in Odessa if necessary. Station missiles and troops in Bulgaria and Romania which are NATO countries if necessary.

But Im a believer in stating your position and acting strongly on it. All this media demonization and political isolation is just counterproductive and stupid. If your going to be that stupid then close the US embassay in Russia and sever all ties.

#5 Comment By Stephen Reynolds On April 24, 2014 @ 10:37 am

It’s all well and good to point out the perils of a “Containment 2” policy, but it leaves unanswered the question of what policy Washington and its European partners should follow. The Maidan protest occurred because the Ukrainians greatly preferred a political and economic system similar to that of Poland to one patterned on and subordinate to the current Russian structure. We have yet to see whether Putin intends to partition Ukraine again and annex the eastern part, but at the least he certainly intends to bugger up the elections scheduled for May, which threaten to install a government that he can no longer denounce as a fascist putsch. That certainly looks like the act of a rogue state. What do you suggest we ought to do about it? Clearly diplomacy by itself is not going to restrain Moscow; the very real fear felt by the Baltic countries and Poland will not be alleviated by diplomacy. (And by the way, why mention Anne Applebaum’s marriage to Sikorski unless you mean to imply that it somehow taints her ability to see the situation clearly?) Russia feels threatened by NATO, does it? So far NATO has kept its forces in western Europe except for occasional joint exercises with member states farther east. Now the latter states have much more reason to feel threatened than Russia. Going back to the days when “better relations” with the Soviet Union were regarded as a good in themselves and allowed to trump any concern for the victims of the USSR is unlikely to produce any good results.

#6 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 24, 2014 @ 10:48 am

The economic “national security” of the military-industrialist-financial complex depends entirely on perpetual war for its profits. It is the only growth industry in an unraveling economy. Enemies can and will be found. It is very easy to start fights – and enormously profitable.

Who and what drive foreign policy? Certainly not the interests of the average American. How can politicians be so out of step with their voters” interests? Look at who they hobnob with, who funds their campaigns and you have the answer.

#7 Comment By wycoff On April 24, 2014 @ 11:06 am

Why not consider a macht politik trade?

NATO should station significant forces in Poland and Lithuania, as well as a sizable fleet in the Baltic around Gdansk, essentially blockading Kaliningrad.

With forces in place, NATO could work some sort of deal in which Russia could take Ukraine east of the Dneiper, including Kiev, as well as the Black Sea coast, including Odessa. Throw in Transdneistria as well.

In exchange, Russia cedes Kaliningrad / East Prussia to the EU and encourages Russians to move from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

Western Ukraine- with a capital in Lvov / Lemburg, would then become a NATO member / EU protectorate, and it would be renamed Ruthenia or Galicia or Lodomeria or Halych-Volhynia or some other name reflecting the historical distinctness of the borderland.

The result of this land shifting would be a settlement much more in line with historical spheres of influence in the region.

#8 Comment By JohnG On April 24, 2014 @ 12:16 pm

@John Sobieski: “Somehow I doubt that, if the Ukraine had stronger defenses, Russia would have moved into Crimea and eastern Ukraine.”

A deeply divided country, even if large, well-armed, and seemingly powerful, simply cannot have stronger defenses. What does one do if some 30-40% of the army sympathizes with the other side, or at least isn’t willing to fight it?

As far as the supposedly “more engaging reset policy,” I doubt that Putin sees it that way. Yeah, we’ll “engage you” but we’ll support (even help?) overthrowing a government should it sign a trade deal with Russia? If anything, that “reset button” probably seems like a condescending ploy in retrospect.

Finally, I am sorry, but I am very skeptical about any faculty coming from Georgetown. Didn’t they give us the worst secretary of state in recent memory? I’d say enough damage for a century.

#9 Comment By James Canning On April 24, 2014 @ 1:24 pm

The US and Russia continue to have many interests in common, and both countries need to work together. For the shorter term, the uncertainty in Ukraine obviously makes this course rather difficult.

#10 Comment By Andrew On April 24, 2014 @ 2:07 pm

@Lukas

Park US NAVY and NATO ships in Odessa if necessary.

There is a number of issues with this concept. One is judicial, namely Montreux Convention and the number of days non-Black Sea nations can have their warships in it. I could be wrong, this is how I remember it and, obviously, no carriers allowed. But even this is not the biggest obstacle, the biggest one being the fact that it merely increases drastically the possibility of confrontation. Russia already deployed number of Bal and Bastion coastal missile complexes. These are not good news for any ship. So, “parking” will accomplish nothing but the accelerated deployment of serious strike and air defense assets to Crimea by Russia. There is one aircraft carrier in the Black Sea–it is Crimea and it is unsinkable.

#11 Comment By Rossbach On April 24, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

@Jim Evans

An excellent comment. Two questions:

1. How would US interests suffer if Russia annexed part (or all) of Ukraine? We seem not to have suffered too much over the existence of the Ukrainian SSR before 1991.

2. What would the US gain from provoking a military confrontation over events in Ukraine?

#12 Comment By KHW On April 24, 2014 @ 6:04 pm

As much as I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Carden on the overall flavor and prescriptions he puts forward, i’d like to play devil’s advocate for a second.

He states: “Is the administration willing to risk access to the Northern Distribution Network, over which the U.S. transports equipment and personnel to and from Afghanistan, over a crisis of Ukrainian sovereignty? Are efforts to isolate and make Russia an international outcast more or less likely to persuade them to assist in efforts to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon; or to work to help to defuse the ongoing Syrian fiasco; or to work with the U.S. in implementing the provisions of New Start; or to continue cooperating with the U.S. with regard to outer space? How, too, one wonders, would antagonizing Russia in the West affect the administration’s “pivot” to Asia?”

I am not sure “losing” access to the NDN is high on the priority list of the Obama administration, especially if he goes ahead and pursues the “zero” option by the end of year, of leaving no troops in Afghanistan and fully leaving the country to the Afghan military and police force. Moreover, I’m not too sure Russia would have been very helpful and constructive on the Iranian nuclear question or the Syrian civil war issue either. The Russians may not want the Iranians to acquire a nuclear weapon, but they would want the US to spend a lot of capital on the question regardless, and on the Syrian question, less than 5% of the chemical weapons possessed by the Assad regime were successfully removed by the task force- the Russians only constructive role in that process has been preventing us from going in militarily. They have played spoiler every chance they have gotten on the issue at large. I think outer space cooperation can probably still resume on a limited initial basis, and risking a new START treaty is not the end of the world. Russia has never been a big aspect of our “pivot” to Asia, as noted by Hillary Clinton’s famous speech where she failed to even mention them among Asian powers in 2009 on her trip to Asia.

I agree that continuously poking the bear and assessing what our proper national security interests are is vital. However, an expansionist Russia is an issue and this is now 2 times in the last 7 years where Russia has invaded another sovereign nation. A stable Europe is higher in our priority list than any of the issues Mr. Carden noted above, and a stable Europe is one where revisionist powers do not invade sovereign countries, send cyber attacks on its neighbors, and create facts on the ground for the excuse of action.

Should we have ever gotten to this point? Absolutely not. The policies of the Bush and Obama administrations have been utter and total failures with respect to Russia, and especially in the post-soviet space at large. But, listening to Putin’s speeches, he seems to be under the impression that things can just go back to normal after this venture, and I do think we must deter him from every advancing any farther. How that will be done is what we must focus on. Clearly stirring unrest in former soviet countries and promoting “democracy” is a recipe for disaster , as I hope we have learned.

#13 Comment By Chris Atwood On April 25, 2014 @ 6:19 am

The reason why isolating Russia is not going to work is that nowadays (unlike in the period before 1989), the G7 economies no longer are the only major players. Most importantly China, but also other major economies are emerging as major powers. And since, as the UN votes show, only Europe, North America, and the US’s Pacific allies (roughly speaking and with exceptions both ways) are at all on board with even the lightest criticism of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the result is, Russia will remain as welcome a partner to the other BRICS economies as it was before Crimea. And again the European economies’ energy situations (and US multinational oil and natural gas giants’ interests) remain opposed to any isolation. So unless Russian actions get considerably more flagrant (and so far, Putin seems to be successfully maintaining plausible deniability as he ramps up pressure on Kiev to say uncle), isolating Russia will join pushing Syria to a post-Baathist future as one of Obama’s not very successful policies.

#14 Comment By seydlitz89 On April 25, 2014 @ 8:28 am

Nice article and interesting comments, but I think it doesn’t get the the heart of the actual problem. The problem is not Russia or Ukraine, but what has become of the US . . .

We have lost the ability to think, let alone act in strategic terms. Syria, Iran, Ukraine, all are isolated issues that show the limits of what “we”, or rather the current US political elite can impose. The assumptions behind all this behavior are that “we stand tallest”, “we are the lone Superpower”, “what we say goes”, “we stand for good, while those who oppose us stand for evil”, that is binary notions of US exceptionalism along with the proclivity to use force as the preferred means in international relations. When these notions come up against resistance, as for instance in the drive to war against Syria last summer, the US reaction is one of anger, petulance and desire for revenge against the upstart who dared to oppose them. Russia of course was the chief opponent to US designs in Syria, so Russia has become a target.

Regarding Ukraine, the US has shown a distinct inability to foster any sort of material cohesion (that associated with institutions of the state) in any of its recent national building experiments: Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya. In Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere we use drone attacks to “eliminate terrorists” undermining the legitimacy of those states. From our actions in Ukraine, it appears we don’t really care what happens to the Ukrainian state or people as long as we can punish Russia, that is a form of strategic incoherence . . . which makes us as it has regarding Syria and elsewhere, the “tool” of influential foreign interests . . .

Russia however is not Iraq, and her leadership think and act demonstrably in strategic terms . . .

#15 Comment By Jude On April 25, 2014 @ 12:07 pm

Military confrontation over the Ukraine is insane. More important, this is a European problem, not an American problem. American should back its European allies, but allow them to take the lead on action.

#16 Comment By Jim Evans On April 25, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

Response to Rossbach’s two questions:

“1. How would US interests suffer if Russia annexed part (or all) of Ukraine? We seem not to have suffered too much over the existence of the Ukrainian SSR before 1991.”

The Eastern European states, former captured satellites of Soviet Moscow, would be terrified and possibly destabilized, even Western European states would be nervous. U. S. leadership & support would be called into question.

Why? Because the fear, whether real or not, would be of further Russian expansion beyond Ukraine.

I, myself, don’t prefer breakup of nation-states.

But as Pat Buchanan has stated, nothing earth-shattering would affect the American People, themselves, rather it would be the elite who would be in a tither. The elite’s power, control, and prestige would suffer the most — perhaps, that it the real kernel of truth.

Some argue Ukraine, itself, is a relatively late construction (during and after WW I) and it not really a cohesive nation-state, but an amalgam of different peoples. But that is a slippery slope, as most nation-states are not completely homogeneous.

“2. What would the US gain from provoking a military confrontation over events in Ukraine?”

For the American People, nothing in my opinion.

But, as war is the health of the state, those wanting more centralization of power in Washington and bigger defense budgets might be quite happy to see a reignition of the Cold War — it sure seems the neocons want to see confrontation — they want to use the U. S. military as their instrument of domination. It’s not clear for what country’s benefit that would be.

Maybe, just their own egos need for dominating others.

#17 Comment By Jim Houghton On April 25, 2014 @ 4:37 pm

Rossbach asks, “What would the US gain from provoking a military confrontation over events in Ukraine?”

The answer to that was provided in a previous comment by Fran Macadam, which I will requote in its entirety: “The economic ‘national security’ of the military-industrialist-financial complex depends entirely on perpetual war for its profits. It is the only growth industry in an unraveling economy. Enemies can and will be found. It is very easy to start fights – and enormously profitable.

“Who and what drive foreign policy? Certainly not the interests of the average American. How can politicians be so out of step with their voters” interests? Look at who they hobnob with, who funds their campaigns and you have the answer.”

#18 Comment By AnotherBeliever On April 25, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

Ukraine is not ours to give away, or to defend, by all rights.

#19 Comment By Edison On April 26, 2014 @ 8:30 am

@John Sobieski

“Somehow I doubt that, if the Ukraine had stronger defenses, Russia would have moved into Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Let’s not pretend as though Putin had no options. He could have reformed his country, uprooted corruption, and made it a more attractive business partner for Ukraine than Europe.”

With all due respect, you’re completely wrong. First, the Russians were already there, so they would still be in position to preemptively strike and shut down Ukrainian defenses, no matter how improved they were. Second and most important, the Ukrainian Army in Crimea crumbled from inside: more than 80% of its personnel chose to join the Russian forces. Because, as obvious as it may seems, they are Russians, as well as most of the people in the peninsula. If the Kiev government decided to deploy more soldiers and weapons in the region, either they would lose even more equipment to the Russians, or “at best” they could transform a bloodless takeover into a civil war carnage.

The last part of your comment makes even less sense. Russia is corrupt but Ukraine is much worse. And yet Russia is the most important economic partner of Ukraine. It has nothing to do with institutions or political choice, but with energy, pure and simple. Russia has it, Ukraine not; neither has the EU. Never mention the Russian “minorities” in the East, who for some inexplicable reason seem to prefer Moscow to Brussels. So Ukraine is, was and will be strongly attached to Russia no matter how its leadership like it. And Putin obviously knows it. But no, he didn’t have too much choices left after the coup – unless he wanted to take the entire country. If he chooses to do nothing, it would encourage Kiev and other neighbors to move forward to join NATO, which is a red line for Russia for quite obvious reasons (the same why US would never allow Cuba to have nukes nor a long range missile defense system). And if he chooses to pretend to do nothing while pushes for massive civil unrest in Eastern Ukraine, soon the whole country would be in flames, so it would only make sense if he intended to conquer all Ukraine from the beginning. Instead, Putin took Crimea almost without spilling a single drop of blood, secured his most important naval base while crippling the Ukraine military power, and then offered to negotiate in his terms. In other words, he was able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And that’s why the Western leaders are so angry.

#20 Comment By Richard Parker On April 26, 2014 @ 7:54 pm

The US military is not use to an opponent that can take a punch and still strike back with conventional forces.

This could all end badly…

#21 Comment By James Canning On April 28, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

I continue to think the US and Russia need to work together regarding common interests. A deal should be made the ensures Ukraine does not become part of Nato, and any EU membership likely would be decades away.

#22 Comment By philadelphialawyer On April 28, 2014 @ 8:31 pm

Jim Evans:

“Response to Rossbach[]….:

“’1. How would US interests suffer if Russia annexed part (or all) of Ukraine? We seem not to have suffered too much over the existence of the Ukrainian SSR before 1991.’

“The Eastern European states, former captured satellites of Soviet Moscow, would be terrified and possibly destabilized, even Western European states would be nervous. U. S. leadership & support would be called into question.”

I doubt it. All of it.

The E European states that are part of NATO know that they are in an altogether different boat than Ukraine. Ukraine is NOT a NATO member. The USA, and the rest of NATO, are not pledged to protect it. Moreover, as has been mentioned a million times, and as Rossbach’s question highlights, the Ukraine has either been part of the Russian state or a satellite of it for almost all of its existence. Its return to a slightly tighter Russian embrace than existed when Yanukovych was president is not going to “terrify” anyone.

Of course, folks sent to troll this board will claim otherwise. And the governments of the E European states will, many of them, anyway, weep and moan and beg for “help” from the USA. But Putin is not invading any NATO states and everyone knows it, including all the little boys who cry “Bear!” every five minutes in E Europe.

As for the rest of the non NATO states in Russia’s near abroad, I think it would actually be a good idea if they learned a lesson here: the USA is not coming over the hill to save YOU if you make the bear angry.

Any repercussions for W Europe are even more attenuated and unlikely. Again, Russia controlled Ukraine from before the beginning of NATO right up to early Nineties, and yet Bonn and Rome did not tremble, never mind Paris or London

I don’t think alarmism is helpful. We can probably cut a better deal with Russia than one in which all of Ukraine is invaded and either annexed or placed under a puppet regime. But let’s keep a clear idea of what the stakes are here.

#23 Comment By philadelphialawyer On April 28, 2014 @ 8:46 pm

KHW:

“However, an expansionist Russia is an issue and this is now 2 times in the last 7 years where Russia has invaded another sovereign nation. A stable Europe is higher in our priority list than any of the issues Mr. Carden noted above, and a stable Europe is one where revisionist powers do not invade sovereign countries…”

That more have more power and consistency coming out of the mouth of an official US spokesperson if the USA had not bombed and invaded two sovereign nations within the space of less than four years (Yugoslavia and Iraq, 1999-2003).

It also seems to me that the “stability of Europe” was not greatly benefitted by the attack on Yugoslavia, which was fought in conjunction with a terrorist organization, and resulted in the break away of sovereign territory, Kosovo. And that territory’s “government” is kept in power by NATO, which keeps the Serbian regime from re possessing it, and keeps the “government” from overly indulging in its penchant for cleansing the remaining Serbs. The US, and its various allies and toadies, claim Kosovo is independent. The Serbs and the Russians, and about half the countries of the world don’t recognize that claim, though, and neither does the UN. A dispute that began with US violation of international law, and international borders, is still going on today, 15 years later. Doesn’t sound like a blow for the cause of “European stability.”

And, indeed, Kosovo is Putin’s exhibit A, when it comes to justifying his acts in Ukraine. If the US thinks that an “expansionist” or “revisionist” Russia is an “issue,” perhaps it would be better to follow the rules itself. Otherwise, the whole thing smacks of hypocrisy, and it is not only the Russians who realize that.

#24 Comment By Banger On April 30, 2014 @ 6:39 pm

The key element to the Ukraine crisis is for the USG to maintain a strategy of tension. More conflict more power to the national security state and its clients in the MIC. The desire to create a new cold war is a result of the “terrorist” con falling through–they played that for all they could and now the “threat” of terrorism and state of permanent war as a result seems a little silly.

Fortunately, the American people aren’t buying this. They clearly rejected the administration’s desire to bomb Syria to the stone age(which according to Hersh they nearly got away with) despite the howls for war coming from the mainstream media at the time. Even now the mainstream has not even bothered to push for war very hard–except maybe the NYT which always favors war anywhere and anytime but even they have backed off quite a lot–I guess their usual bogus stories didn’t cut it.

#25 Comment By SSI On May 2, 2014 @ 11:41 am

We in Africa find it difficult to understand what the west, under U.S. leadership wants. We no longer take what they do seriously,but think they are arrogant. Read the comments of KWH, for example, he complains that Russia had invaded two countries in the last seven years. How do one engage in any meaningful debate with this type of person?who clearly think he is , like Obama, exceptional.

I can assure him, because he clearly is ignorant, that the U.S.invaded Iraq in illegal war, killing over 1,4 million people,devastated Lybia and killed its leader, destroyed Afganistan,destroyed Syria and continually attack and kill innocent woman and children using drones in Pakistan and Yemen.They then arrogantly proceed to call them “terrorists”. All these are crimes against humanity and their perpetrators war criminals, irrespective you call them Bush or Obama.

There is no point to point out these facts to the likes of Bush, Obama and KWH. They are ‘exceptional’and God’s chosen people. People are found only in U.S.A. and E.U. and the rest of us are “terrorists” who pose a serious danger to U.S. “national interest” and therefore must be eliminated from the face of the earth.

Anyway, we ask ourselves, why this type of belligerence from the U.S.A. and E.U.Fortunately, the world has now realized who is the real danger to the survival of humanity on earth. We now know, and it is NOT Russia.

#26 Comment By Bianca On May 6, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

Necons are getting stronger and stronger, and have infiltrated all layers of Government. I remember the heady days when Obama won, and a friend who was a key activist for Virginia held a party for supporters, news broke about appointment of Hillary Clinton to State Department. People wih connections there said that the reaction in the Department was a depression that could be cut with a knife. Everybody knew what that meant, as everybody who followed her primary campaign saw aspects of her that were frightening. In a low-key event in a college, in suburb of Phyladelphia, she and Obama talked about their faith and hopes. Hillary shocked everyone identifying herself with Esther from Iranian history, and given her frightening rethoric against Iranians — it was hard to believe that she would use such imagery to futher cement her agressive, almost genocidal, views. She apparently in a deal struck with Obama prior to Democratic Convention asked for and received full control over foreign policy. Kerry is entirely of her neocon cloth, but his daily contradictions and outright lies makes him look weak and silly. He has actually said that Russian TV lied that Timoshenko said that she would nuke Russians — but it is recorded, and she is not denying it! He also said it is a lie that Victoria Nuland said that US spend 5 billion in Ukraine to get about change, while she is recorded, in a public speach, saying just that. Obama has lied how Kosovo independence came after “carefully monitored” referendum by UN and “international community”, while in reality no referendum of any kind was ever held before declaring independence.

The problem with neocon lies is that US is losing respectability. This latest flirt with neonacism of western Ukraine that are somehow going to put under their control the rest of the Ukraine, where 85% of people speak Russian as their mother tongue, is a curious proposition. It may have worked with Serbs in Croatia, but it will be hard to try that in Ukraine.

Now, they will try to shove down Russia’s throat the “elections” on May 25, with three quarters of the country in silent or open rebellion. While the candidates of the south east have already been beaten up, or jailed. The problem with US approach to Ukraine, is as follows. No country in Europe will go and fight Russia in Ukraine, if Russia has to move in and stop a large scale attempt at pushing population out of their homes. No country in Europe will risk nuclear war over it. Germany will lose its economy if this keeps up, as not only Russia but China as well made it very clear that Europe needs to become independent in order for it to get the much yearned for benefits of energy and trade accross Eurasia.
US may end up having to up the risk — and risk nuclear war. Will Russia really wait to see the first strike?

Our neocons are like spoiled children playing with dangerous toys, and we are just letting them, apparently seeing no harm.

#27 Comment By Andrew Carlan On May 7, 2014 @ 11:36 pm

It has already been noted that the Ukraine and Crimea would naturally be in the Russian orbit regardless of who was in power. What I would like to add is American hypocrisy considering our demand that the whole of the Western Hemisphere be off limits to all European powers because our national security was affected. That is the Monroe Doctrine which Britain signed onto for its own purposes. And we have intervened when Europe thought it could violate our borders as in the Venezuelan affair, the French setting up the Austrian archduke in Mexico while we were consumed in the Civil War, in the Cuban missile crisis, in Grenada, etc. Putin is a politician like all the others, basking in the high approval rating of the Russian people for projecting Russia’s natural concern for her own security.