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A Coup in Crimea—or in Russia?

As has been foreshadowed for weeks, Vladimir Putin has “reunited” Crimea with Russia. Putin spoke resonantly [1] of the deep historical ties between Moscow and Crimea. One need not go back, as Putin did, 1,000 years to see it: Crimea’s “Russian-ness” is quite visible in, for instance, the memoirs of Winston Churchill, who opens his chapter on the Yalta Conference (held in February 1945—perhaps the last time Russian, British, and American leaders were on good terms) with the following:

The Soviet headquarters at Yalta were in the Yusopov Palace, and from this centre Stalin and Molotov carried on the government of Russia and control of their immense front, now in violent action. President Roosevelt was given the even more splendid Livadia Palace, close at hand, and it was here, in order to spare him physical inconvenience that all the plenary meetings were held. This exhausted the undamaged accommodation at Yalta. I and the principal members of the British delegation were assigned a very large villa about five miles away which had been built in the early nineteenth century by an English architect for a Russian Prince Vorontzov, one time Imperial ambassador to the Court of St. James.

Before getting to the negotiations, Churchill goes on to describe Crimean architecture, climate, and the English portraits in the home of Prince Vorontzov, who had married into a British noble family, as well as the extraordinary efforts the Russians made at hospitality. No goldfish in a large glass tank in the hallway? A few days later, goldfish would arrive. No lemon peels for gin and tonics? “The next day a lemon tree loaded with fruit was growing in the hall.” This in February 1945.

One would search Sir Winston’s account in vain for a hint that one day this territory would be incorporated into an American-led anti-Moscow alliance. Churchill rightly worried about Soviet ambitions in Europe, but the idea that Crimea was not a part of Russia would have struck him as simply absurd.

Nevertheless, such incorporation has not only been contemplated but has been American policy. Crimea was gifted (drunkenly, it is said) to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954, an event of seemingly little consequence as it was then all part of the Soviet Union. Then the Soviet Union split apart, leaving a Ukraine internally divided and comprising a segment which was always considered part of Russia. Had Western policy been to preserve a neutral or “Finlandized” Ukraine, the issue of Crimea’s status might never have come to a boil. But almost from the beginning, Western strategists put Ukraine’s integration into NATO on the table, an act that was perceived by Russia as unbelievably aggressive and threatening.

Several days ago, a delegation of senators led by John McCain decamped to Kiev, where they issued the expected statements about freedom and democracy. McCain promised bipartisan support for Ukraine’s “territorial integrity”—meaning Crimea belongs to Ukraine—and against “Russia’s baseless violation of these principles and efforts to divide the country.” He promised to lobby for long-term American military assistance to Ukraine. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy promised to “deliver a blow” to Russia to make clear the price to be paid for “aggression.” Dripping patronizing scorn, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake reminded Russians, “This is not your grandfather’s war.”

It’s not simply senators, of course. John Kerry lectures Putin about being stuck in a 19th-century mindset while condescendingly offering him an “off-ramp”—a face-saving way to allow the Western alliance to move right up to Russia’s borders. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton tells reporters that she is “trying to send the strongest possible signals to Russia … trying to ensure that they understand the seriousness of the situation.” But who is it really who fails to “understand the seriousness?” The senators who parachute into Kiev for a frisson of media coverage or the Russians who gag when the United States tries to push NATO down their throats, contradicting assurances given to Moscow as the Soviet Union broke up? As John Mearsheimer pointed out [2] in an important Times op-ed:

Washington played a key role in precipitating this dangerous situation, and Mr. Putin’s behavior is motivated by the same geopolitical considerations that influence all great powers, including the United States.


What is the goal of the West here? If you listen to some, it is to provoke Maidan-type demonstrations in Moscow, to overturn Putin. National Endowment for Democracy’s chief, Carl Gershman, one of the major dispensers of the “pro-democracy” money being spread about in Kiev, warned last year that Putin risked losing not just his “near abroad” but Russia itself. “Dear Vlad,” McCain tweeted two years ago, “Arab Spring is coming to a neighborhood near you.”

The Beltway hawks want to defeat Putin, depicted as a new Hitler by Hillary Clinton, to punish the Russian leader who put a stop to the oligarch looting spree of the 1990s that had sent Russia into a death spiral. Their dream: humiliating Putin, setting off “freedom” demonstrations in Moscow, perhaps a civil war to bring Putin down.

Why, one must ask, is this an American interest? Why would we want chaos in a state which possesses 8,000 nuclear weapons? If the neocons and neoliberals got their way and Putin is defeated and falls, who then assumes power? Or does Russia break into warring fiefdoms with various warlords vying for control? And in this scenario, who, if anyone, commands Moscow’s nuclear arsenal? Is this really the future—with all its attendant uncertainty, desperation, and humiliation—Americans want to see? Truly it is hard to imagine anything more stupid or shortsighted.

A postscript: Writing in the National InterestDavid Hendrickson [3] pours much needed cold water on the notion that the coup which brought Moscow’s enemies to power in Kiev ought to be heralded as a victory for “democracy.” It overthrew a democratically elected leader, and even the mob-influenced vote to impeach Yanukovych fell short of the constitutionally-required supermajority. So we have John Kerry lecturing the Russians about democracy and the rule of law on the behalf of a regime that came to power in chaos, in violation of the most important of democratic norms, which is that elections count more than which crowds which can be mobilized in the street. And one more thing—the snipers the senators refer to on their revolutionary tourism visits to Maidan? Apparently they fired at both policeman and demonstrators equally, suggesting that the goal was to escalate the violence and chaos in the Maidan. Of course who ordered the snipers is not yet known, but as Hendrickson suggests, it’s hard to see how that kind of provocation would have been in Yanukovych’s interest.

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative.

49 Comments (Open | Close)

49 Comments To "A Coup in Crimea—or in Russia?"

#1 Comment By norman ravitch On March 19, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

It is hard to believe the nerve of the proponents of American imperialism and the Military Industrial Complex in calling those opposed to endless wars “isolationists.” This is equivalent to calling them Nazis. Men like Senators McCain and Graham need psychological help; their endless calls for war and interventions in the affairs of others are certainly deranged. With the end of the Cold War we looked forward to some peace but withn a decade Bush, Jr. managed to lead us into two more wars, one of which is still going on. I generally abhor most of what Obama stands for domestically: his socialism, his racism, his negritude; but in foreign policy he is right. He is also right in not giving Israel its usual blank check.

#2 Comment By James Canning On March 19, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

I think Russia has largely tried to work with the US and EU, in a cooperative spirit.

Do we hear shouts about “democracy” from John McCain, when the subject is occupied Palestine?

#3 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 19, 2014 @ 1:16 pm

I can’t help but think that there will soon be the war that was frustrated because of Putin’s intervention to stop it in Syria; that Edward Snowden’s revelations will be said to be merely Cold War enemy propaganda; and no agreement will be forthcoming with Iran.

It seems that someone’s security is to depend on an eventual world of puppet regimes dominated through use of our military abroad, their responsibilities to their own populations denigrated in favor of foreign elite interests and the firm hand of a pervasive and complete surveillance of our own domestic population, with the most important laws made and carried out in secret. Empires cannot be democracies long in other than name only, for they can only be enforced through tyranny.

#4 Comment By John Sobieski On March 19, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

I don’t know where Mr. McConnell gets his news, but the snipers did not fire equally on policemen and demonstrators. An overwhelming majority of the people killed were regular citizens, not policemen. One must assume that the police were acting on behalf of Yanukovich–they were in uniform, and acted in an orderly fashion–hardly the stuff of rogue actors. I’m disappointed to see the standards of realpolitik applied to Putin, but the standards of Robert’s Rules applied to demonstrators who were being shot at. The American Revolution, defended in the pages of this magazine, had much less justification. As for undue American influence in the former Soviet states, it takes two to dance that tango. Mr. McConnell might ask why the people who were suffering under the KGB just one generation ago continue to beg for Western armaments. I am also interested in seeing a stable Russia, but Mr. Putin has to do his part. He did not, contrary to Mr. McConnell’s assertion, end the looting by the KGB oligarchs. He perfected and extended it. There is no middle class in Russia to speak of. The Maidan protesters have no geo-political ambitions. Tired of getting robbed by oligarchs of the fruits of their labors, they are fighting against pandemic corruption. You’d think they’d get more sympathy here in these pages in which the principles of subsidiarity, law, and order are otherwise celebrated.

#5 Comment By collin On March 19, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

Let us not sugercoat what Putin did in Ukraine and Crimea here. His original Ukraine bailout was offered with the rejection of increased EU trade agreements and his ‘invasion’ of Crimea certainly created a lot of concern in tactics. Luckily (at this point), Putin knew the value of an exit strategy and kept his goals limited to annexing Crimea to avoid an extended war.

In the end for the US we are left with:
1) How much did Russia annex of Crimea hurt orddinary US citizens? Nothing I can see other than it proved how little citizens knew or effected by the evens of The Ukraine.
2) How much did it hurt our European Allies? Since most of Europe is under-reacting to this, then it is reasonable to do the same.

#6 Comment By Clint On March 19, 2014 @ 2:34 pm

Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny,who has been placed under house arrest,
“When the time comes, and it may well come, when I will ask you to take part in unsanctioned demonstrations, to overturn vehicles and light flares, I will tell you straight out.”

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 19, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

“Mr. McConnell might ask why the people who were suffering under the KGB just one generation ago continue to beg for Western armaments”

One might observe that the Russians used to suffer under the Communist Party and the long-gone KGB as well, but now hold elections. From all appearances, the Crimeans, who also suffered under Soviet rule, prefer not to be discriminated against by their ethnic rivals installed by putsch, who have made clear their animus against ethnic Russians. To be Russian is not now to be Soviet; but the revengeful are forever fighting ghosts from the past, as a consequence conjuring up flesh and blood villainy now.

The new Ukrainian government has reinstalled the same corrupt oligarchs who were voted out in an earlier election judged legitimate then by western observers. The billionaire Gas Princess is back with a bang. Does anyone seriously believe such are any more democratic than their ousted rivals and that they are other than self-interested, who see billions more to be made by casting in with the new winning side, this time installed not by ballot, but by bullet? The only difference I can see from a western perspective is that, yes, they really are gangster S.O.B.’s, but by gawd, they are OUR S.O.B.’s, and that makes the difference as to whether our own donor-ruled politicians tell us they are freedom-loving patriots or autocratic despots.

“I generally abhor most of what Obama stands for domestically: his socialism, his racism, his negritude; but in foreign policy he is right. He is also right in not giving Israel its usual blank check.”

Giveaways and bailouts to Wall Street could only be termed corporate welfare. He’s hardly a racist, except in the sense he’s more of a minstrel entertaining status quo power than someone who’s improved the economic status of those who are marginalized, which includes untoward numbers of minorities. Officially, “negritude” was a French movement that opposed imperialism and colonialism, but his administration’s regime change policies are instead those of military and economic domination, its very antithesis. One might observe, too, that the checks endorsed over to Israel are larger than ever. Until recently, the foreign policy rhetoric was more subdued than the Cheney regime’s, although the policies are the same. Now the inflammatory and bellicose statements have both words and deeds matching. But the deeds were always the reality.

#8 Comment By Leo H On March 19, 2014 @ 3:14 pm

If there has been a more failed and tedious and tiresome and, yes, stupid refrain for the last 15 years it is : Putin is unpopular, the Russians want to overthrow him and the American flag will soon be flying over the Kremlin. Just…shut…up already! The Russians hate us, for good reasons, more and more. The EU is cracking up, more and more. America is bankrupt, morally and fiscally, more and more. If Russia takes Eastern Ukraine it will be because the people that live there want it and no longer give a damn what the pseudo- “West” promises or thinks or mostly imposes. I no longer give a damn either. Why would any self-defined conservative?

#9 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 19, 2014 @ 3:32 pm

John Sobieski:

I’m not sure why you bother to continue to spam these pages with your blatantly one side, clearly propagandistic posts. No one here, blogger or commenter, is impressed with or persuaded by your standard issue list of talking points. We have all heard the claims that you make, many, many times, and most of us simply don’t buy them. Even those among us who are sympathetic to the new government in Kiev do not believe in your Manichean, black and while, Maidan good/everything else bad version of reality.

So, again, why bother? Maybe you would do better peddling your BS at a neo con, lib interventionist, or mainstream media site.

#10 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 19, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

The USA has been working to destabilize Russia for years… promoting (ironically) separatist movements and all sorts of fake “dissident,” and “human rights” organizations, and so called “journalists.” All of whom are, in reality, paid agents of the USA and other Western countries, with the money coming through cut-out “non governmental organizations” (who get their funding, oddly enough, from governments, especially that of the USA).

See here, for example:


#11 Comment By Jaylib On March 19, 2014 @ 3:50 pm

Thank you for reminding us of facts, even some one such as myself who knows this history, can be temporarily driven into questiining his own sanity: i’m now listening, for instance, to John Bolton on some neocon radio show (Laura Ingraham, I think) ranting about how Russia has “invaded” Crimea. fhis morning it was Glenn Beck ranting about the alleged resurrection of the Soviet Union. I have to get hold of myself and say: “Wait: these people, not me, are the dangerous lunatics.” Thanks for helping the sane part of the populace stay sane.

#12 Comment By Jaylib On March 19, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

The Crimean people, of course, have voted to return to Russia. As one who served as election judge in a State primary yesterday, I have to say I envy the people of Crimea, who got to hand-mark paper ballots which were then deposited into clear plastic boxes. I hope their vote-counting procedure was equally transparent. Regardless, at least they’re not saddled with the balky, error-prone and completely hackable computer voting equipment we have to deal with in many US localities.

#13 Comment By Panthera Pardus On March 19, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

“Sobieski” .. is actually a Polish name and the post was very much in line with the current Polish political line, let be it. There are however some factual mistakes, the biggest one is to depict the maidan movement as ‘tired to be robbed by the oligarchs’ just look at the biographies (or better at the bank accounts) of the freshly nominated regional presidents .. The maidan movement is, in short, a group of goons hired by some rich guys to grab power from the other faction under the democratizing eyes of the USA/EU – plan backfired when it turned out that the goons had plans on their own. Sic Transit.

#14 Comment By Clint On March 19, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

More than half of Russians actually like The United States.


#15 Comment By James Canning On March 19, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

@Leo H – – The EU is emerging from its financial crisis. And not “cracking up”.

#16 Comment By seydlitz89 On March 19, 2014 @ 8:38 pm

Thanks Scott. Nice analysis . . .

Speaking as a old Cold Warrior, there was a time, back when the “bad ole days” were coming to an end, that some of us military intel types thought that that best idea would be a sort of alliance with Russia. Or rather an exchange program, since it was clear at the time that we hadn’t really “won” the Cold War so much as had been able to survive it. We could learn from each other. There were things we could teach the Russians and things the Russians could teach us. There was so much good will. Send 10,000 of us there and 10,000 of them to us and we learn from each other . . . as equals . . . the value of state institutions and how communities work. Instead, it was all pissed away in a mood of intoxicated “we won ism” when most of those shouting the loudest had not been involved at all . . . only cashed in after the fact.

The tragedy of both America post 1991 and of these times . . . we have become an agent of chaos in the world.

#17 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 19, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

“Giveaways and bailouts to Wall Street could only be termed corporate welfare. He’s hardly a racist, except in the sense he’s more of a minstrel entertaining status quo power than someone who’s improved the economic status of those who are marginalized, which includes untoward numbers of minorities.”

Yo. cough. cough.

#18 Comment By Escher On March 19, 2014 @ 9:44 pm

This is the same dirty river of power politics that has been flowing through human history. The only difference from the past is that the ruling class pays lip service to “democracy” and “will of the people” through their mouthpieces in the corporate media.

#19 Comment By Bob Wilcox On March 19, 2014 @ 9:55 pm

Prometheanism redux?


#20 Comment By Hibernian On March 19, 2014 @ 9:59 pm

@Panthera Pardus – My paternal grandfather was born with the surname Dzuirkiewicz. (He later changed it to Jordan.) Dzuirkiewicz is also “actually a Polish name.” Neither my grandfather nor my father nor I were ever agents of the Polish government, and I’d wager that nether is Mr. Sobieski. (A Polish King named Sobieski helped save Vienna from the Turks.) One’s ethnicity should not disqualify one’s opinions.

Other surnames in our family are Sullivan, Corcoran, and Fitzgibbon – thus my screen name.

#21 Comment By KHW On March 19, 2014 @ 10:57 pm

“The tragedy of both America post 1991 and of these times . . . we have become an agent of chaos in the world.”

you nailed it. during the cold war, it was easier to justify our behavior abroad as “the lesser evil” or if you’d like to take a more positive view, “an agent of good”. since the end of the cold war and our incessant triumphalism, we have acted as indeed, an agent of chaos. we destabilize governments through coercive, duplicitous ways, bomb countries, occupy lands, and kill innocents in the name of “freedom”. every problem abroad this country faces is a creation of its own doing

#22 Comment By WRW On March 20, 2014 @ 12:36 am

“Nice analysis”? Baseless speculation about the US promoting a coup in Russia? AmCon seems to becoming as tedious and predictable in foreign policy as the neocons just in the other direction.

#23 Comment By karol On March 20, 2014 @ 2:18 am

At the time of the Conference in Yalta Crimea had been Russian for about 150 years. So if Churchill was convinced Crimea was Russian he simply didn’t read history books much.

#24 Comment By David T On March 20, 2014 @ 11:20 am

I could actually believe the 97 percent figure if it were the result of a boycott by opponents. But they also claim 80 percent turnout. The combination of these two figures is impossible unless large numbers of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars voted for incorporation into Russia. If you believe that, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you. (We’ll leave aside such details as that a fair election requires more than a week’s preparation, that no pro-Ukrainian media were allowed to operate in Crimea, that the voters were not even offered the pre-March status quo as an option, etc.)

The fact that the election was a sham does not mean that the hawks are justified in their calls for provocative measures. But to be a non-interventionist does not mean–or should not mean–to be a Putin apologist, yet some of the authors here, and a great many of the commenters, seem to think you have to be the latter to be the former. (We are told that Putin is popular in Russia. Granted that this is true, so what? GW Bush’s popularity in the US was sky-high after the “liberation” of Iraq. And at least Bush got those high ratings without suppressing opposition newspapers or blocking web sites.)

By the way, Russia is now expressing “concern” for Russian-speakers in Estonia and explicitly drawing a parallel with Ukraine. [7] I think this is meant as pressure rather than as a prelude to invasion. But if he did invade Estonia, I can see the Putin-worshippers here justifying it…

#25 Comment By Michael N Moore On March 20, 2014 @ 11:48 am

New York Times of March 19, 2014, print edition interviewed Ian Bond of the Center for European Reform in London. He seems determined to start World War Three.

“Agression in Crimea Brings NATO Into New Focus”

“Instead, Mr. Bond said, he would prefer to see active (NATO) military excercises, and soon. He said that the US Army in Europe was scheduled to have an exercise in Ukraine, ‘and that it might be worth moving that up.’”

This element of the report was removed from the online edition.

#26 Comment By John N On March 20, 2014 @ 12:36 pm

Uncommonly high quality of comments to this piece. Thanks all.

[an “Arab Spring” to unseat Putin] Truly it is hard to imagine anything more stupid or shortsighted [because of the massive instability it would bring about].

I’m always skeptical of claims that decision-makers are behaving stupidly. I think far more often their actions would be stupid in pursuit of the objectives they claim, but not in pursuit of their actual goals. If it would be stupid and shortsighted, either the true objective is something other than unseating Putin, OR, they see a prize worth the risk and the problems.

First, Putin is the strongest leader with the greatest resources to use to oppose “them” where and when he chooses. He supports two of the pre-eminent members of the current “Axis of evil,” Iran and Assad. They would prefer another Yeltsin who can be easily manipulated, negotiated with and/or controlled, but maybe “they” have decided — I think they have — that they can accept chaos as a step in the right direction.

Second, even a chaotic situation in Russia might facilitate easier Western access to Russia’s vast natural resources which include: oil and gas, gold and silver, as well as aluminum; arsenic; asbestos; bauxite; boron; cadmium; cement; coal; cobalt; copper; diamond; fluorspar; iron; lime; lithium; magnesium; mica; nickel; nitrogen; palladium; peat; petroleum; phosphate; potash; rhenium; silicon, sulfur; titanium; tin; tungsten; and vanadium. [paraphrased from Wiki]

Yes, attacking Putin over Crimea/Ukraine is “stupid and shortsighted” if one’s objective is peace, stability and vital U.S interest (as opposed to the interests of U.S. movers and shakers) but not so stupid if removing an obstacle to the ambitions of scumbags is the goal.

#27 Comment By Max Planck On March 20, 2014 @ 3:00 pm

“Uncommonly high quality of comments to this piece. Thanks all.”

Really? I’m aghast at the piece AND the comments. It seems in it’s rush to disavow past American overreach and strategic missteps,AmCon & Company must now tolerate Russian ones no matter what the implications.

” Churchill rightly worried about Soviet ambitions in Europe, but the idea that Crimea was not a part of Russia would have struck him as simply absurd.”

So, too, would Kazakhstan, or any one of the new Post Soviet Republics. Who is being “absurd?”

Fifteen thousand Russian troops and other infiltrators entered Crimea, intimidated the local population, and held an “election.”

The author writes: “The Beltway hawks want to defeat Putin, depicted as a new Hitler by Hillary Clinton, to punish the Russian leader who put a stop to the oligarch looting spree of the 1990s that had sent Russia into a death spiral.”

And the oligarch looting spree continues to this day, just with the ones who support Putin. Is the author suggesting Putin has established a free market economy in Russia?”

This is a modern day version of Max Mosley!

What we have here, in the (justified) rejection of our past follies, is substituting a tolerance of this putsch, and taking no substantive action against it. I wonder what excuse the author will have if Putin marches into the rest of Ukraine- that WE pushed him into it?

I used to like this site, but between Mr. Dreher’s religious narcissism and the comments made in the light of recent events, maybe I had the wrong idea about it.

#28 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On March 20, 2014 @ 5:53 pm

The cultural ties between the Crimea and Russia go back centuries, so it is no surprise that Putin would want to see the Crimea become part of Greater Russia. The Ukraine is a country that is divided by ethnic Ukrainians (mainly Roman Catholic) in the west and ethnic Russian (mainly Orthodox Christians) in the east. This is Russia’s problem, not ours. Nor is it the problem of our NATO allies.

#29 Comment By John N On March 20, 2014 @ 6:22 pm

“AmCon & Company must now tolerate Russian ones no matter what the implications.”

Perhaps rather than “no matter what” it’s a difference in perspectives on what the likely “what” is. You seem to see far reaching implications, including further territorial overreach by Putin, and I do not.

I see Putin as having done exactly what any thoughtful person should have expected that he would do given the situation presented to him by meddling of such as the worse-than-useless McCain&Co.

Outlawing of the official use of the Russian language by the new crop of scallywags was a dramatic forewarning.

#30 Comment By charles hurst author On March 20, 2014 @ 8:28 pm

I wonder how Russia would have handled knowing that every household was well armed and willing to engage in an urban war. How the Russian soldiers would have felt knowing they could be shot at any time from any window. People who could merge in and out of crowds with concealed guns in their jackets.

You see that is why we need to continue the Second Amendment. Not just for personal protection. From protection against tyranny. Whether that tyranny comes from another country or your own federal troops. Tyranny tends to not evolve when it knows it will be met with underground armed rebellion.

Barry, might want to pay close attention as the people of the Ukraine are rebelling and do not even have the Second Amendment. I’ve predicted in my fiction what happens in a collapse of a nation–a collapse which we are heading to more every day. And the knee jerk response will be that of New Orleans in Katrina. To confiscate firearms of the law abiding. Be warned Barry, the people of the America will give you a great deal more trouble than the unarmed in the Ukraine.

Charles Hurst. Author of THE SECOND FALL. An offbeat story of Armageddon. And creator of THE RUNNINGWOLF EZINE

#31 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 21, 2014 @ 12:31 am

Max Plank:

Sometimes I think an issue arises in which folks who think that others agree with them are disabused of that notion.

I can’t speak for the TAC folks, or the other commenters, but I do not think that the actions of the USA since the end of the Cold War are mere “follies.” Because that would imply that the only problem with them is that they were not successful enough. Rather, the problem with them is that they represent an attempt to dominate the world, which is a bad objective in and of itself. And thus I do not “reject” those actions merely as an exercise in rhetoric, merely to hear myself talk, merely to indulge in moral preening, or merely to “get it over with” and go back to business as usual.

And, because the USA has spit on international law and its most important principles in its drive to dominate the world, I do not believe that the USA has any moral or legal right to complain about Putin’s actions in Crimea, given the USA’s own record in Kosovo, Iraq and elsewhere (including egging on the coup in Kiev). At most, the USA can raise the issue in the Security Council, and then when Russia vetoes any action with real teeth, just as the US would do, and has done, repeatedly, in similar circumstances, the USA should shut up about it. Just as Russia and France did about our invasion of Iraq in 2003. A country can’t go around invading other countries, overthrowing their governments, and making up extra legal rationales for doing so, particularly when its own interests are only tangentially implicated, and then expect to be taken seriously, on a moral basis, when it complains about similar actions of other countries, especially in situations like this in which that country does have vital interests, and in which the putative complaining country did, in fact, help bring about the crises to begin with. And, as for legality, only the Security Council can authorize force, except in self defense. And the SC would no more authorize it against Russia than it would against the USA in 2003 or 1999. Because of the permanent member veto.

I do not think Putin is the next Hitler. I am done with “next Hitlers” (Saddam, Gaddafi, Milosevic, Assad, the ayatollahs, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc, etc, etc). And calling us Max (or even Oswald) Mosely is not going to shame us into thinking otherwise. And you can tell Hillary Clinton I said so.

As for looting oligarchs and free markets and so forth in Russia, that is for Russians to decide. I, for one, have not signed up to make the world safe for laissez-faire economics. YMMV.

And, since force is ruled out, legally and morally, and practically and realistically too (are you willing to start WWIII with nuclear armed, ICBM having Russia over Crimea? the rest of Ukraine? or, indeed, Kazakhstan–if Russia wanted it?), what more is there to say? That we will push for ultimately meaningless and leaky “sanctions.” Sanctions which will strictly be only for those “willing,” and not have UN backing? Perhaps we will skip the soccer World Cup in 2018? Otherwise, aren’t you going to “tolerate” what Russia has done just as much as those who you condemn? But you are going to insist that the USA squawk about it hypocritically and self righteously first. And that will demonstrate your moral superiority, I suppose….

#32 Comment By Panthera Pardus On March 21, 2014 @ 4:23 am

@Hibernian /@Sobieski ” One’s ethnicity should not disqualify one’s opinions.” – I regard ethnicity in political debate the same way as team affiliation during a soccer (football) match i.e.:

(side 1) “your player scored while in offside/making hand foul/committing previous foul” etc.. etc.. (you name it)
(side 2) “he did not”
(side 1) “he did” (..continues in eternity)

introduction of slow motion TV reply greatly improved relation between side WHEN THERE IS INTEREST TO DISCUSS ABOUT FACTS.

I would rather discuss with you the biographies of recently appointed “new governors”.

It is interesting to notice RT with title [8] “Rule by oligarchs: Kiev appoints billionaires to govern east” whereas another source of different affiliation [9] “Ukraine Turns to Its Oligarchs for Political Help”

The affiliation are clear, NYT I understand is a Jewish oriented newspaper strongly tied to US political-military complex and RT is – de facto – the Russian official channel. Fine with that, everyone can choose a favorite team.

Now slow motion TV reply, biographies of the appointed – WITHOUT ANY ELECTION – Oligarchs, just the facts.

Would you define them as a change toward democracy? How do you define democracy?

Would you like to have one of them appointed as major of your town? As governor of your state?

#33 Comment By Panthera Pardus On March 21, 2014 @ 4:34 am

charles hurst author says:
March 20, 2014 at 8:28 pm

“I wonder how Russia would have handled knowing that every household was well armed and willing to engage in an urban war. How the Russian soldiers would have felt knowing they could be shot at any time from any window. People who could merge in and out of crowds with concealed guns in their jackets.

You see that is why we need to continue the Second Amendment. ”

Setting aside the Second Amendment I suggest that you check very well the sources on the ethnic affiliation / language – maybe is better to check out source edited before this political struggle – anyway even the most biased cannot hide the fact that the more you go East the more Russian there are in Ukraine – and actually Crimea was historically a part of Russia! in 1954 !

Let’s stick to the facts, please

#34 Comment By Arvan Dornal On March 21, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

Much nonsense posted and written here. Just two reminders: 1) Crimea is, historically, a Turkic-Muslim land. It has been so from Genghis Khan’s conquests in 13th century (even earlier, just the Mongol conqueror had cemented Turkic ethnic presence in the area). Russians drove most Turkish clans and peoples in the early 18th century out- so much for “always”. Strasbourg/Strassburg is certainly more “historically German” than French, and yet nobody gets hysterical about history’s injustices towards Germans and proposes the return of Strasbourg to Germany, which the “Sun king”, Louis XIV, had stolen in the later part of the 17th century. 2) Crimea was not “given” to Ukraine in a binge drinking spree. Ethnically Russian former ruler of Ukraine, Nikita Khrushchev, has “given” Crimea to Ukraine within Russian-ruled Soviet Union in order to strengthen Russian presence and influence in Ukraine, i.e. to intensify the process of Russification. The dominant minority, the Russians, were given a chance to rule even more firmly in a supposedly semi-independent Soviet republic. They- Khrushchev and comp.- had thought that Soviet Union was eternal, and with it, the Russian rule in Ukraine. But, as Gandhi had said: In the end, deceivers deceive only themselves.

Send my regards to Neville Chamberlain, Mr. McConnell.

#35 Comment By Greg On March 21, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

“He did not, contrary to Mr. McConnell’s assertion, end the looting by the KGB oligarchs. He perfected and extended it. There is no middle class in Russia to speak of.”

I’m curious if you have been to Russia, speak Russian or have any context – because this claim is patently ridiculous. Russia has many problems – many systemic problems – but it certainly has a developed and growing middle class.

#36 Comment By Max Planck On March 21, 2014 @ 7:33 pm

“And, since force is ruled out, legally and morally, and practically and realistically too (are you willing to start WWIII with nuclear armed, ICBM having Russia over Crimea? the rest of Ukraine? or, indeed, Kazakhstan–if Russia wanted it?), what more is there to say?”

I’m not advocating war, but further moves into other former SSRs may indeed trigger it. Don’t look now- but the sanctions are already taking hold, more are to come, and the Russian economy is growing at precisely 0% of GDP. This will not go unanswered, and contrary to AmCon’s near total isolationism, it will not.

#37 Comment By David Smith On March 21, 2014 @ 10:18 pm

It’s hard to keep track of all the enemies without a scorecard. First there was (is?) the War on Terror, in which the official enemy was (is?) Radical Islam. This was (is?) supposed to last for 50 years, a Clash of Civilizations. Then there was (is?) the Pivot to Asia, to confront the new enemy, China, which does not have human rights and is threatening its neighbors. Now we are picking a fight with Russia and its New Hitler. What’s next, three-eyed green men from Mars?

#38 Comment By Panthera Pardus On March 22, 2014 @ 7:25 am

Arvanl Dornval march 21, 2014 at 4:32 has totally won me about the rights of the tatars in crimea, I want now to fight for the rights of the original settlers, colonized once and then put into oblivion by a second wave of colonists even more agressive than the first one!!! It is time to scream it loud ! FREE CALIFORNIA ! I suggest to start bombing the big chief in Washington who speaks with forked tongue ! Incidentally in spite of my feline name I am native californian and plan to re-settle there. P.S. ok, fine, yes, the company in charge of the Oil concession is of my cousin and another partner, what’s wrong with it? P.P.S. ok, ok, ok, his business partner handed over some hundred dollars per day to local unemploied thugs to riot in front of the government, so what’s the issue with democratization ? P.P.P.S. listen, fine, not all are easy about guys wearing swastika but, believe me, I have always thought they were Hindus and I mix up clockwise with counter clockwise since there are digital watch. Are we done here? Let’s bomb Washington!

#39 Comment By Alan MacDonald On March 22, 2014 @ 11:30 am

Excellent and insightful article — which clearly demonstrates to me that highly informed and principled progressive and anti-Empire people on the left, and highly informed and principled anti-war and anti-Empire people on the right can get together and agree that we have to fight this GD disguised Global Empire that has ‘captured’ and now fully “Occupies” our former country.

Best luck and love to the fast expanding ‘Occupy the Empire’ educational and non-violent revolutionary movement against this deceitful and Disguised Global EMPIRE, which can’t so easily be identified as wearing Red Coats, Red Stars, nor funny looking Nazi
helmets —- quite YET!

Liberty, democracy, justice, and equality
Violent (‘Vichy’ disguised)

Alan MacDonald
Sanford, Maine

We don’t merely have a “Big Money”/Citizens United problem, or a domestic tyranny and NSA SPYING problem, or a gun/fear problem, or an MIC problem, or an ‘Austerity’ problem, or an EXPANDING WARS problem, or a ‘drone assassinations’ problem, or a vast income & wealth inequality problem, or a Wall Street ‘looting’ problem, or a Global Warming and environmental death-spiral problem, or the world’s largest political prisoner problem, or a crappy un-healthy insurance problem, or, or, or … ad nauseam — but what we REALLY have is a hidden VEMPIRE cancerous tumor of GLOBAL EMPIRE which is the prime CAUSE of all these underlying, related, and mere ‘symptom problems’.

#40 Comment By Michael Kenny On March 22, 2014 @ 11:57 am

The big winner in all this is the EU. NATO is discredited. Putin is discredited and probably won’t serve out his term of office. The US neocons are discredited. Their allies among the Russian oligarchs who manipulated Putin are discredited. Ukraine will elect a legitimate government on 25 May. The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will come into force and Putin will finish negotiating the similar agreement which he is in the process of negotiating with the EU. Russia will take another step towards re-integrating the European family, which is what ordinary Russians want, the US media blitz to the contrary notwithstanding. And the tide of human history will advance.

#41 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 22, 2014 @ 11:43 pm

Max Plank:

“I’m not advocating war, but further moves into other former SSRs may indeed trigger it.”

Is anyone seriously anticipating any other moves in the other former SSRs? But, even assuming there were, would that lead to war? Would the USA go to war to save Uzbekistan? Anything may happen. Anything may trigger anything. But neither seem likely.

And Putin has now accepted “monitors” in the non Crimean parts of Ukraine, which, to me, signals that he does not want to annex Eastern or Southern Ukraine, that he is satisfied with Crimea.

“Don’t look now- but the sanctions are already taking hold, more are to come…”

Yes, we all understand that there are sanctions, and probably will be more. The question is will they matter much. Russia is a big country. It has lots of trading partners. It has things that people want, including energy and high tech weapons. Russia also has a UNSC veto, so there will be no United Nations authorization, much less requirement, that anyone abide by unilaterally imposed sanctions.

“…and the Russian economy is growing at precisely 0% of GDP.”

That strikes me as either a totally made up or partisan statistic.

“This will not go unanswered, and contrary to AmCon’s near total isolationism, it will not.”

Leaving aside the tired, shopworn cliché isolationist slur, I think “this” (ie the Crimean advance) actually will, in the not so long run, go “unanswered.” And the AmCon’s take on it will seem, in retrospect, much more reasonable and prescient than that of the neo cons, the lib interventionist, the mainstream media and the conventional wisdom peddlers.

#42 Comment By StickAbout On March 23, 2014 @ 8:32 am

I liked the article until the last bit. As someone who’s more a denizen of the left, its always nice to find conservatives who are thinking through an issue and not just offering up war prayers. 🙂

However, the last part got a bit far fetched. Russia is much more stable than the Ukraine. One can already see a return of an old enemy to their borders having a considerable ‘rally round our leader’ effect. The very fact that this has happened in the Ukraine would make for strong opposition to this in Moscow for the very reason that people would assume this is America meddling in Russia and that would not be very popular at all in the post-Kiev coup era.

Russia isn’t falling apart and descending into chaos. The bad news for the west is that after Putin they might get a real nationalistic autocrat if the Russians make their traditional turn to the strong leader in times of crisis. They might miss Putin after all in that case.

#43 Comment By StickAbout On March 23, 2014 @ 8:36 am

BTW, last I checked, Putin’s popularity polling figures are around 75%. Meanwhile Obama is thanking God he isn’t in a parlimentary democracy where someone could vote no confidence and force early elections with his 35% popularity numbers.

Be careful about which leader you think is damaged and won’t serve out a term. Obama may make it to the calendar date, but his days of lame duckness are coming at him hard and fast.

#44 Comment By Michael N Moore On March 23, 2014 @ 11:53 am

Michael Kenney,

I don’t see such an easy ride for the EU expansion eastward. Right now there is a lot of political opposition against Eastern European EU migrants forming in the UK and elsewhere. One-quarter of the vagrants living on the streets of London are Eastern Europeans with reports of Poles living off the rats that they can catch.



#45 Comment By Bill Jones On March 23, 2014 @ 5:55 pm

It is one of life’s great mysteries why any country on the planet allows a plane carrying Insane McCain and his ilk to land.

Half an hour on Google would produce a list of a couple of thousand barking mad warmongers who should never be allowed to leave the US.

#46 Comment By Bill Jones On March 23, 2014 @ 7:56 pm

Michael Kenny.

Congratulations for the most delusional post of the year.

#47 Comment By Panthera Pardus On March 24, 2014 @ 4:27 am

On a “facts only” mode I would like to comment on the status of the EU, which should not be regarded as something related to the European People and if you ask me where are the facts proving it…

well, very soon there are the general political election to elect the “EU parliament; if you cannot wait you can take a look at the poll or look at the comments around the recent success of Marie Le Pen ( [12] ) – if you are not up to speed with EU situation and you want to be it in just 10:00 minutes may I suggest you take a look at its recent past [13] – those are not opinions, those are rules which are bent at the will of an autocracy (or better said, an EU-cracy) so far it is still possible to vote here – albeit with plummeting participation – and being anti-EU is luckily appreciated by the voters.

#48 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 24, 2014 @ 11:31 pm

Bill Jones:

“It is one of life’s great mysteries why any country on the planet allows a plane carrying Insane McCain and his ilk to land.”

Is it really? Can you imagine the howls of protest if some foreign government, particularly one under siege by US supported “protestors,” had the temerity to refuse entry into the country of McCain, any other neo con US Senator, any US Senator at all, or any prominent US neo con? The notion that it is perfectly OK for US Senators and even US diplomats, in their official capacity, to be actively involved in and vociferously, publicly, not only supporting such “protests,” but actually taking part in them, is pretty mind blowing.

Think of the reaction in the USA if an Iraqi diplomat or legislator had taken part in the antiwar rallies of 2002-3 in the USA! Or even a French diplomat or Senator!

No, US government officials and Senators have the unique privilege of going wherever they like and saying whatever they like, no matter how, literally, subversive and seditious what they say is in the context of their reluctant “host” country. On the other hand, it would be an outrage for any “foreign” government official or legislator to even attempt to take part in American politics.

#49 Comment By informania On March 30, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

“The tragedy of both America post 1991 and of these times . . . we have become an agent of chaos in the world.”

You’re delusional; look at what your government has been doing in south america for the past sixty or so years at least. The US has always been an agent of chaos if it serves their needs.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the US was somehow behind the rise of european nazi parties throughout the first half of the 1900s, essentially in order to prevent socialism from spreading around europe.