Charles Krauthammer complains that Obama isn’t doing more about protests in Ukraine:
The U.S. response? Almost imperceptible. As with Iran’s ruthlessly crushed Green Revolution of 2009, the hundreds of thousands of protesters who’ve turned out to reverse this betrayal of Ukrainian independence have found no voice in Washington. Can’t this administration even rhetorically support those seeking a democratic future, as we did during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004?
It would be appropriate for the U.S. to warn Ukrainian authorities against using force against peaceful protesters, but beyond that there wouldn’t seem to be anything that the U.S. could or should do publicly in this instance. If there is one thing that the administration should have learned over the last four years, it is that Obama should not offer even limited rhetorical support to a foreign protest movement unless there is some intention to follow it up with real support. In the Ukrainian case, U.S. interference would be especially unwise. As corrupt and bad as Yanukovych and his government may be, they have been duly elected to their positions. It cannot be the role of the U.S. to take sides in purely internal political disputes in countries with elected governments. The protesters are currently seeking to force the removal of a democratically-elected president, so one could say that they are interested in a “democratic future” provided that the right people are in power.
At least in 2004, Yanukovych and his allies had reportedly rigged the election for their benefit, so there was potentially some justification for public criticism from Western governments. Nonetheless, it was still foolish for the Bush administration to interfere and take sides in Ukraine’s internal dispute, and it would be even more foolish for Obama to do it after having made so many unnecessary comments on foreign uprisings over the last few years. There is no reason for Obama or other U.S. officials to lend support, rhetorical or otherwise, to one side in a Ukrainian political contest. It would be wrong for the U.S. to express preferences for the outcome of an election campaign, and it would likewise be wrong for the U.S. to throw its support behind one political faction. Not only is it the wrong thing to do in principle, but it also will make it that much more difficult to deal with the Ukrainian government in the future while it is controlled by the party that the U.S. has publicly opposed.
Krauthammer wants the U.S. to throw a tantrum and then to throw some money at Ukraine. He asks, “Why not outbid Putin?” The better question is: “What conceivable U.S. interest is served in bribing the Ukrainian government to accept a trade agreement that will probably provoke a severe Russian response?” Krauthammer doesn’t bother considering the consequences of what he proposes, but just throws a fit about something that displeases him and then moves on.