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The Senate’s Bipartisan Ukraine Mistake

Last Tuesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held yet another hearing on Russia and Ukraine. The testimony of two of the witnesses before the committee, the State Department’s Victoria Nuland and the Defense Department’s Evelyn Farkas should be of genuine interest to anyone concerned about the course of action the U.S. is intent on taking in the region.

Ms. Nuland’s testimony was notable for her prediction that Russian citizens will one day ask with regard to their country’s incursion into Ukraine:

What have we really achieved? Instead of funding schools, hospitals, science, and prosperity at home in Russia, we have squandered our national wealth on adventurism, interventionism, and the ambitions of a leader who cares more about empire then his own citizens.

Well, whatever the Russian people think of Putin’s adventurism—and if recent poll numbers [1] are anything to go by, they think pretty well of it—it’s the American people who are sorely tired of American adventures abroad.

Notable too were her comments on the May 2nd massacre in Odessa, which she described as “the death of more than 40 following an afternoon of violent clashes reportedly instigated by pro-Russian separatists…” This is too cute by half. The 46 people who were burned alive were pro-Russian demonstrators who barricaded themselves inside the second story of the trade union building in Odessa to escape the predations of a crowd of Right Sector militants.

Consider the following account of the massacre in the New York Times: [2]

As the building burned, Ukrainian activists sang the Ukrainian national anthem, witnesses on both sides said. They also hurled a new taunt: “Colorado” for the Colorado potato beetle, striped red and black like the pro-Russian ribbons. Those outside chanted “burn Colorado, burn,” witnesses said. Swastikalike symbols were spray painted on the building, along with graffiti reading “Galician SS,” though it was unclear when it had appeared, or who had painted it.

To this our UN Ambassador Samantha Power tweeted: [3] “Fact that #Ukraine has taken steps to try to restore order and take back territory from separatists is what any nation would do.” This is interesting not so much for the moral obtuseness on display as for the hypocrisy. Recall that only two months ago, when former Ukrainian president Yanukovych attempted to “restore order” on the Maidan, he was told by Vice President Biden to pull back his security forces “immediately.” [4]

While Nuland’s testimony was an overlong exercise in dissembling, Dr. Farkas’s was pretty informative. Through her testimony we were assured that the administration’s aim is to “provide reassurance and support without taking actions that would escalate the military crisis.” And with that out of the way we learned:

Left unaddressed: will all this support for the Ukrainian military and the states bordering Russia make it more or less likely that Russia will cease its provocations in the Ukrainian East and South?

In the Q&A that followed, not one senator mentioned the massacre in Odessa. Sens. Boxer and Cardin did however express their sympathy for the missing Nigerian girls. All stressed the need for tougher sanctions on Russia and more “nonlethal tactical assistance” to the Ukrainian government. Some, like John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), complained the administration wasn’t doing nearly enough.

Yet overall the hearing was a show of bipartisanship in the very worst sense; not one senator present dissented from the prevailing view that a) the Russians are the primary cause for the crisis in Ukraine and b) Ukraine represents a core U.S. national security interest. As the violence continues to spiral out of control ahead of the May 25th elections, the Congress and the administration find themselves, for once, in complete and serene agreement that the policy of material support for the regime in Kiev, and of ever-tighter encirclement of Russia, is indeed the right one. Let’s hope they are right.

James Carden is a TAC contributing editor and served as an advisor to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the State Department from 2011-2012.

28 Comments (Open | Close)

28 Comments To "The Senate’s Bipartisan Ukraine Mistake"

#1 Comment By John On May 13, 2014 @ 8:41 am

We owe Putin already for what he did to stop us from doing something stupid in Syria.

Why not make a show of standing in to arbitrate the boundaries of a new Crimean state within the Ukraine? Maybe the Ukrainian government won’t care for it, but it’s their best chance to hold on to something of a state while making sure that Russia sees Putin as a figure of international respect, someone with whom the U.S. will do business.

Meanwhile, a few more large-scale exercises in central Europe inside NATO countries will convey another point to Putin, subtly enough that most members of the press are unlikely to focus on it.

#2 Comment By Sean Gillhoolley On May 13, 2014 @ 9:51 am

The main problem is that the US signed an agreement with the Ukraine to guarantee their security in return for their giving up their nukes. Some argue that the fine details gave the US wiggle room on that, but that means nothing when the USA is trying to convince countries like Iran to give up their nukes. Why on earth would Iran even consider such a foolish decision in light of what has happened around the world over the past 20 years? Nuclear weapons would be the only thing that can guarantee their borders, and we all know it. The US invaded Iraq without a thought, but North Korea? Nope, no way. They are dangerous. If the US fails the Ukraine we can all welcome the new nuclear arms race.

#3 Comment By simon94022 On May 13, 2014 @ 10:15 am

Intelligent observers of U.S. foreign policy can only despair.

We are trapped between the self-righteous and meddlesome incompetence of Victoria Nuland, John Kerry and Barack Obama on the one hand, and the ignorant warmongering of most Senate Republicans on the other.

#4 Comment By Jude On May 13, 2014 @ 10:17 am

I am not entirely sold on the concept that borders are or should be forever concrete. Borders are drawn by politicians, not by the people. Historically, most have been arbitrary or drawn with political motivations and not based on demographics.

Thus, we have Crimea, once part of the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, an autonomous state within the Soviet Union, now an autonomous region within Ukraine.

Dissolving political unions can be complex, especially the balance sheet calculations. Putting this issue aside, don’t the people of Crimea have a say in their region’s status?

Certainly an internationally monitored vote provides political cover for all sides. I admit Eastern Ukraine is a more complex situations as the border is not so easily drawn and the Russian speaking majorities not as great.

#5 Comment By John Sobieski On May 13, 2014 @ 10:28 am

Re: Odessa, Mr. Carden neglects to note that the Ukrainian “activists” were actually soccer fans whose march to a soccer game was rudely interrupted by pro-Russian activists who shot at them in Sobornaya Square (a good distance from the Union Trade Building), killing several.

Re: Ukrainian fascism: this is pure propaganda. Right Sector and Svoboda have a very marginal presence on the political scene, garnering about 2% support in recent polls.

Re: Mr. Yanukovich’s attempts to “restore order” on the Maidan, he had snipers assassinating unarmed citizens, people abducted and tortured, and at least two beheaded. That is hardly a reasonable man’s idea of order.

#6 Comment By Peter Goodman On May 13, 2014 @ 10:57 am

@simon94022

Very well said.

Russia must surely see the situation in Ukraine as an existential threat. They may be willing to go nuclear rather than die the slow painful death through vivasection that the U.S. neocons have in mind for them.

#7 Comment By Escher On May 13, 2014 @ 11:06 am

After reading the excerpt from Glenn greenwald’s book posted on this site, I am wondering if this is also revenge for Putin granting asylum to Edward Snowden.

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 13, 2014 @ 11:21 am

Wow.

If one had removed the some of the identifiers it sounds like a description of our own policy — sad.

This is how promoting revolutions turn on the supporters. We don’t shun the massacre or shame, our ambassador who once advocated that such an incident called for US condemnation and in the extreme further said incidents our intervention to prevent finds herself supporting the unsupportable.

Her morality turned on its head. Dear Ms. Power having compromised yourself in the early stages of your career – it is easy to turn it around by heeling to your roots. Promoting a revolution in a stable reason thereby all but inviting a Russian response was completely unethical as well as strategically unwise.

It is nice to know that both women demonstrate the reality — reinforced by history — that gender alone does not make for more effective policy design, and implementation.

It is sad to learn that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hasn’t leaned much in twelve years.

#9 Comment By Johann On May 13, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

What Nuland said “the death of more than 40 following an afternoon of violent clashes reportedly instigated by pro-Russian separatists…” is not a lie, because there were some (most likely false) reports saying the deaths were instigated by pro-Russian separatists. So she can definitely swear she did not lie to Congress. But its sleazy.

#10 Comment By Johann On May 13, 2014 @ 1:15 pm

And in other news, Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden has been named to the board of directors of Barisma Holdings, the largest private gas producer in Ukraine. He will be the director of the legal unit.

[5]

#11 Comment By Nomansland On May 13, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

“both women demonstrate the reality — reinforced by history — that gender alone does not make for more effective policy design, and implementation”

Already amply demonstrated by Mrs. Albright and the smoking debris marking Mrs. Clinton’s passage.

Hark ye back to that hopeful, confident time when feminists assured us that women were different. They would use love, innate compassion, and magical powers of empathy to soothe away savage male impulses … Lysistratas reborn, and a Golden Age in the offing.

But in the fullness of time we learn that the reality of women in power is shrieks of “when we use force it is because we are America, the indispensable nation!”, “my hero is Xena, warrior princess!”, “I will obliterate Iran!” and “[email protected]@@ the EU!”, all the usual vulgar, insipid formulations of aggression, this time from a bunch of second-rate frumps who frighten no one except the long-suffering American taxpayer.

#12 Comment By Hawk On May 13, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

@John Sobieski provides a regurgitation of every Euromaidan press release related to these issues, each of which is hotly debated by independent journalists, not just the Kremlin:

– On Odessa, the circumstances that led to the attack of the Trade Union building are incredibly murky, particularly because the initial provocateurs were obviously in league with the police to start a fight (both they and police were wearing red armbands to distinguish themselves). The people in the Trade Union building were a completely unrelated group of pro-Russian protestors who had been camped out there for some time. They later died (they being Odessans, not the “Transnistrians” that Kiev initially claimed) when they were killed inside the building, where now even Poroshenko admits the killings were done by pro-Kiev radicals (i.e. Right Sector).

-Regarding Right Sector and Svoboda, they may not be the powerhouses of Kremlin propaganda, but you are intentionally being misleading by pointing to 2% support. They have guns and militia power, and the fact that they hold multiple positions in the current government speaks to their influence.

-The issue of snipers on the Maidan also remains hotly in dispute among independent journalists. No one has conclusively demonstrated who they are or were, and Kiev propaganda on the subject is as useful as its Russian equivalent. In any case, its indisputable that Yanukovich used nowhere near the force on his opponents that the current government is bringing against the people in the East, something that our government simply ignores.

#13 Comment By simon94022 On May 13, 2014 @ 4:25 pm

The main problem is that the US signed an agreement with the Ukraine to guarantee their security in return for their giving up their nukes. Some argue that the fine details gave the US wiggle room on that, but that means nothing when the USA is trying to convince countries like Iran to give up their nukes.

That horse has left the barn. One of the Bush Administration’s few excercises of sober realism was its success in getting Qadaffi to abandon his nuclear weapons program in return for some integraton into the international system. But unfortunately as soon as an opportunity arose, NATO then launched the air war against the nuclear-free zone of Libya, helping the rebels overthrow Qadaffi, kill him and wipe out his family.

Meanwhile, nobody is launching air wars against North Korea or helping rebels take down Mr. Kim. The Kims may be sociopaths, but they are nuclear-armed sociopaths.

I’m guessing most rogue states and unsavory dictators learned the lesson pretty well.

#14 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 13, 2014 @ 9:14 pm

“Hark ye back to that hopeful, confident time when feminists assured us that women were different. They would use love, innate compassion, and magical powers of empathy to soothe away savage male impulses . . .”

I was thinking more along the contention, that women are bridge builders, that their innate sense fo sharing and building consensus would be something finer and more effective.

In my experience many women have been vindictive and altogether vengeful and unforgiving. These same women will be the first to cry foul upon being told — no.

If these were interpersonal exchanges I would get it — but these are women I was old who would reduce tensions —

I am very disappointed in Ms Powers.

#15 Comment By Jim Evans On May 14, 2014 @ 8:24 am

This isn’t a mistake.

It’s intentional, a policy of aggression, in the footsteps of the Libyan and Syrian aggressions.

There is a bi-partisan consensus for neoconservative, aggressive foreign policy, with flack & camouflage provided by the corporate media.

The hypocrisy displayed is only matched or surpassed by the arrogance of publically denying & deceiving about facts on the ground, when those facts are readily known.

Only when the Senate emphatically hears from the American People that we don’t want to get drawn down a rat-hole in Ukraine will we get a new foreign policy.

#16 Comment By John Sobieski On May 14, 2014 @ 10:12 am

@Hawk

re: Odessa I don’t see what’s so murky about what led to the attack. The pro-Ukrainian pre-game soccer march was attacked. Those attacked, with the help of Maidanists, went for the hive. End of story. What happens at the Trade Union Building does indeed get murky. Enter Poroshenko. He did not say anything close to what you suggest. He said it’s clear the dead were victims of a terrorist attack as they were killed by chlorine (not the fire) and disfigured, and their bodies moved around. Twenty of the victims have not been identified or claimed. The suggestion is the terrorists were pro-Russians or Russians covering their tracks.

re: Svoboda and Right Sector, their influence is basically null, despite what you say.

re: snipers, watch the videos and listen to the audio of their communications for yourself. I think you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that they were doing what they were told by Yanukovich’s government. The Maidanists were certainly not bringing down helicopters with MANPADs and taking over airports with the help of “men in green,” so what’s happening in the East bears no comparison. Kiev is rightly (if weakly) quashing attempts to bring about a civil war by Russians and Russian-supported criminal mercenaries.

#17 Comment By Gazza On May 14, 2014 @ 11:05 am

“The main problem is that the US signed an agreement with the Ukraine to guarantee their security in return for their giving up their nukes.”

I fail to see how conspiring with ultra-nationalists and neo-nazis to violently overthrow a legitimately elected President and his duly elected parliamentary government is even remotely consistent with “guarantee their security”….

#18 Comment By Gail Storm On May 15, 2014 @ 2:34 am

The Ukraine situation is just a simple case of people needing to decide for themselves what their borders are and their country is. Clearly the Ukraine is far from an established state or a unified one. The situation will resolve itself because it has to. The people need to go through that process. Interference from the U.S. and Russia only prolongs that process.

#19 Comment By didi On May 15, 2014 @ 6:40 am

Any discussion of the so-called “Ukraine Crisis” without the consideration of other NATO states, especially Germany, is akin to the description of a Picasso painting by a color blind person.
I was recently in Germany. When I was there the crazy Secretary General of NATO Rasmussen called for an expansion (= growth)of NATO forces. The German government reacted immediately with a resounding no and the press comments were that a German no in this case was as good as, if not more powerful than a US no.
All German newspapers which I read (I read and speak German fluently) stated, albeit with a variety of urgency and clarity, that the unchecked eastward expansion of NATO had been a serious political and military mistake and was incompatible with German security.
These are significant facts which President Obama cannot ignore.

#20 Comment By Bianca On May 15, 2014 @ 9:37 am

Typical neocon world. They want us to see whatever they say, and media simply uses their formulas to filter information.

The problem is, to what extent are ordinary people affected/infected by neocon brainwashing. For example, a lots of people accept too easily “sanctions” as appropriate tool of foreign policy. Most do not understand that these have addtional goal — keeping US public uninformed about the target. It is easier to demonize and attack target that we have dehumanized. In fact, neocons that preach forever the evils of isolationism, are in fact masterfull isolationists. We in fact put sanctions on ourselves, insuring that we are ignorant of the target, thus accepting neocon fairy tales of the world. But neocons are DESTROYING what is vital to America, and that is the global economy, the lifeblood of American presence in the world. Sanctions prove that Western-led globalism is nothing more then means of being able to attack and harm those that are exposed to global trade and fiancial flows. The result is a worldwide regionalism that will make it harder for us to participate. From Latin America to Eurasia, many processes are afoot to shield the international trade from the abuses of “sanctions”. Sanctions on Iran are not about nuclear program, but about trying to force Iran to be integrated into Western security and policy world. Short of that, Iran is out. But with the change in Eurasian trade and transport solutions, Iran will be well placed to participate in the development without Western participation. That is why the neocons are shrill. They are shrill when it comes to Putin, because he (Russia) has on more then one occasion foiled their plans. And Putin’s Eurasian Union is a glue that ties the Far East container traffic to Europe. In operation are already container traffic routes that exit China, enter Tariff Union (Kazahstan, Russia, Belorus), and enter EU in Poland, on its way to the major railway transit hub of Europe, Duisburg in Ruhr. South Korea and Japan will also participate, and new routes, norther via North Passage and souther, via Silk Road, Central Asia, Iran, Turkey and Balkans are well under way. Time is cut in transit form five to two weeks, not to mention the long wait for cargo transit in all Euroean ports, and the need to then distribute cargo via rail within Europe. Rail line to Asia will distribute cargo along the way via vast Eurpean rail line network. The shrills can scream all they want, but this Eurasian caravan is going on. Now, only two trains a week leave from China to Duisburg. But there are already over 600 Chinese companies there. Japan is more interested in Russian Far East rail line to connect to Europe, as well as the sea transit over Russia’s far north. Rail traffic can be powered by a variety of energy converted to electricity, while transocean shipping cannot. With the expected shortage of cheap oil (forget the oil sands fads, and alike), that is major consideration. Also, for Russia, it is a way to sell its energy to power the transit, and earn without shipping it. There are just too many forces aligned against neocon view of the world domination — that in the long run they cannot do anything but keep us ignorant and docile.

Ukraine is a deliberate attempt to unsettle Russia, as a key part of the Eurasian bridge. But it cannot stop anything. In fact, Russia quietly put sanctions that will hurt us. Our GPS stations in Russia will cease to operate by July 1, if US does not permit Russian navigation system, GLONASS, to have stations in US. Russia will not sell two models of rocket engines that we use for putting in orbit our civilian as well as military satelites. Will not sell spare parts, or maintenance. We do not have a substitute for these engines, and likely will not have in few years to come. They will resume sale if we sign the agreement that the rocket engines are used for civilian puroposes only. And third, international space station may not be renewed, as Russia has its own space program that it wants to fund more extensively.

All of these indicate that the sanctions stupidity in globalized world will in the end hurt us by far more, unless we reexamine the real value of global trade to us, and not allow the temptation to use it for short-term policies and often whims of neocon world.

#21 Comment By StephenKMackSD On May 15, 2014 @ 9:50 am

The response of the media to the Ukrainian Coup has been predictable, if a bit surprising. The New York Review of Books has featured reports by Timothy Snyder that simply white washes the Victoria Nuland’s involvement i.e. the six billion, or the involvement of the NGO the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. What Ms. Nuland spent to enable the Coup, and the monetary and material aid that continues, as noted in this essay, combined with support from R2P Neo-Liberals like Ms. Power, Christa Freeland and Michael Ignateiff.
One very important lesson of this whole propaganda campaign is that the ‘Left’,NYRB and R2P Neo-Liberals, have been on the wrong side, from the beginning. Paul Craig Roberts, Global Research and MintPress were, in the early weeks of that campaign, the only dissenting voices. One of the indices of a major political shift on this issue is that Katrina vandenHeuvel tweeted a link to this essay!
StephenKMackSD

#22 Comment By Gazza On May 15, 2014 @ 10:05 am

“In my experience many women have been vindictive and altogether vengeful and unforgiving.”

Hillary Clinton. Madeline Albright. Victoria Nuland.

Tyrants, each and every one, without a shred of compassion or a hint of promoting the building of bridges (though Madeline “Serb-Bane” Albright did demolish a fair few in her sick little Kosovo fiasco).

#23 Comment By Gennady On May 15, 2014 @ 1:44 pm

As for John Sobieski’s comments – absolutely wrong. None of the provocateurs (with arm-bands) in Odessa was caught. Now more and more evidence – that those were the guys hired to make soccer fans smash the anti-maidan camp there, which local governor has been unable to disperse for weeks. The bastards just horribly killed dozens of innocent people.
I am both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian – as my ma is Russian and dad is Ukrainian, just like in the case of Klitchko – just as millions here.
We could have settled things all right without a drop of blood spilt – if it were not for outer interference.

#24 Comment By Eileen Kuch On May 15, 2014 @ 11:22 pm

There are some very insightful posts here; but I’m alluding to four that stand out; namely those by Bianca, Didi, Gazza, and Gennady.

Didi mentioned the vital importance of Germany in discussions over NATO expansion and the Ukraine crisis. When NATO Secretary Rasmussen called for further expansion, Germany voted a resounding NO, citing national security. It simply proves that Rasmussen doesn’t care about NATO nations’ security; that he’s downright crazy.

Bianca wrote a lengthy, detailed post on the downside of sanctions in a global economy and on how the “neocons” are the true isolationists. I agree with her on this point. She’s right; nations the “neocons” want to sanction are totally able to get around sanctions by simply trading with Eurasia, the Far East, and Latin America. Already, Brazil, India, Iran, China, and Russia have formed the BRICS group in response to NATO’s aggressive expansions, as well as to sanctions imposed by the US and EU. The fact that the EU’s unwilling to ratchet up sanctions against Russia just adds to the “neocons'” woes. It’s a case of cutting off the nose to spite the face.

I also agree with Gennady. Ukrainians could have settled their differences all right without a drop of blood being spilled, if it were not for outside interference, mainly from the US and its allies. Here again, it was the “neocons” aka Trotskyites who pushed this interference – those like “[email protected]@k the EU” Victoria Nudelman aka Nuland, John “Lurch” Kerry, John “Insane” McCain, et al. These lunatics don’t give a rat’s derriere about Ukraine and its security; only about world domination.

#25 Comment By John Sobieski On May 16, 2014 @ 3:37 pm

@Gennady Not sure I understand your comment. The people with red armbands were on the pro-Russian side.

#26 Comment By PermReader On May 17, 2014 @ 6:35 am

Nuclear power restore it`s empire in the center of Europe.Your evaluation of the events first. Your actions -later.Instead we disuss the “silly” bipartisan actions,dissmissing the problem by the way.

#27 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 19, 2014 @ 8:15 am

“In my experience many women have been vindictive and altogether vengeful and unforgiving.”

These particular women, like their male counterparts, are those driven to their positions by their own internal aggressive lusts to dominate others.

Thus, they are no more representative of the psychology of normal women, than are the men in similar positions representative of the type of reasonable men who make up most of the United States.

Not to mention, that the policy loyalties all of them represent, are those of donorist elites with returns to be made on those “investments” in regime change, i.e. “coups,” not the contrary interests that would be demanded by democratic accountability to ordinary Americans’ own interests.

#28 Comment By PermReader On May 19, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

Comments show that people does not understand the problem.I`s not Ukraine-the problem.It is Russia.This view reflect the West European tradition of scorn: the East Europe was the property of the empires.