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Interests

James Joyner [1] responds to my post on Kagan:

The question, though, is whether American policymakers should care if Georgia’s fate is controlled by Russia.

All right, then the answer is no. 

Joyner goes on to say that “I nonetheless believe the United States has a strong interest in seeing Georgia, Ukraine, and other Eastern European states continue their path to democratization rather than devolving back into Russian satellite states,” which is all very well, but what I don’t understand is why anyone believes this.  I believe the contrary, so should we just call it even and leave things as they are? 

Joyner adds:

Poland, Latvia, Slovakia, and others have made remarkable strides since joining the West via membership in NATO and/or the EU.

Well, it’s mostly joining the E.U. that has had something to do with making those strides, and it has even more to do with not being ruled as communist-ruled parts of the Soviet empire, but the heavy dependence of Baltic states on Russian energy has not stopped them from thriving and I see no reason why it would necessarily matter that much if Russia “held sway” over the Baltic states once again.  Yet again, it is simply taken for granted it is “very much in our interests” that eastern European and ex-Soviet states “revamp their institutions, modernise their society, and otherwise become more Western” without any explanation of how or why this is “very much in our interests.”  Pursuing these things to the detriment of U.S.-Russian relations and regional stability seems to me to be very much not in the national interest, and taking on additional security commitments we either cannot or will not fulfill seems very risky.  I simply don’t see the positive rationale behind incorporating Georgia or Ukraine into NATO, and I didn’t see any rationale for incorporating other states during the last three expansions.  It made more sense to bring Romania into NATO than it does to bring in Georgia, but it never made any sense to bring in Romania in the first place.  Repeatedly saying “we have an interest” to do something does not persuade when it appears clear that there is no measurable or concrete benefit for the United States that outweighs the risks in doing it.  Usually the “we” involved is not the commonwealth or the American people, but an entirely different “we” whose interests are not necessarily those of our country or people, yet the ones who will bear the risk and the cost of the venture will be American citizens who will be called on to pay for the commitments that are being blithely made in the name of “our interests,” which is all the more remarkable when we recognise that these interests belong, in fact, to a relative few. 

P.S. Joyner also refers to “natural allies” at the end, and argues that we should not turn our back on them, but I completely disagree with the idea that there is such a thing as a “natural ally.”  Allies are those with whom one has a common interest and a common set of goals, and I have yet to understand what interest or goal we share with the governments of Kiev and Tbilisi that would necessitate granting them the highest allied status our government can bestow.

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