Remember the fall of the Soviet empire and controversial essay by Francis Fukuyama (later turned into a book), The END of HISTORY?
I always regarded that notion as shortsighted, even stupid, that is the notion that Western liberal democracy would march on and perhaps represent the final form of governance. Moreover, the end of the Cold War would not necessarily lead to a decline in bloodshed around the world. Moreover, as the rise of fundamentalist Islam attests, ethnic and religious loyalties (worse, fanaticism) certainly frustrate the spread of secular, liberal democracy.
And I confess thinking at the "end" of the Cold War, what's to stop Russia from gradually reasserting its imperial ambitions?
And then there's China.
Some of you, on this very blog (upstate), have wrestled with whether the U.S. could coax China to join the West against a Russian resurgence in neighboring lands. Ain't going to happen.
Italian journalist Francesco Sisci (Il Sole 24 Ore, Asia Times on line) explains why -- including a few arguments I hadn't considered. He also describes the circumstances affecting key countries...
Meanwhile, former Reuters Moscow correspondent Oliver Bullough (Author, The LAST MAN in RUSSIA) brilliantly captures why the Brits - usually more inclined to side with the United States in international confrontations than most other Europeans - are playing it low-key. As usual, follow the money! But interestingly, this analysis also illustrates Vladimir Putin's Achilles' Heel: If the Brits and other Europeans could only bring themselves to make life miserable for elite Russian families living in London and elsewhere, these Russian elites could turn on Putin...
A grossly underreported fact is that 20 years ago Bill Clinton signed the Budapest Memorandum along with Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma, first post-Soviet president of Ukraine. The treaty guaranteed the U.S. would protect Ukraine from a Russian invasion if the Ukrainians would agree to disarm, which they did. Ukrainians got rid of all their nukes and practically all their military capability.
Additionally, with Obama took office in 2009, he reaffirmed that treaty. And now he wants to back out? Once again, this is what you get when you put Kavips, Bill Smith, and Dunmore in charge of defense.
Thu, Mar 6, 2014 8:36am
"Some of you, on this very blog (upstate), have wrestled with whether the U.S. could coax China to join the West against a Russian resurgence in neighboring lands. Ain't going to happen."~Loudell
I agree with you completely on that one.
Another possible Achilles' Heel for Russia is its current energy monopoly over Europe... what would happen if the U.S. started exporting our excess natural gas to Europe? What would happen if Europe no longer needed to fear freezing if Putin shuts off the pipelines?
Thu, Mar 6, 2014 8:49am
I've brought up that very point with some of my guests.
Longer-term, that would appear to be a factor, but not a factor during this immediate crisis.
Plus, please read the article I posted above about how, for example, the British economy (even more so, London's) is so intertwined with the Russians.
You're absolutely correct about the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.
We often forget, but with the break-up of the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Ukraine technically was a nuclear power, with the world's 3rd largest nuclear weapons stockpile, from 1994--1996 (ahead of China, Britain, and France!).
In return for Ukraine giving up that stockpile to the Russian Federation (incredible, if you think about it!), the United States, the United Kingdom, and ironically, the Russian Federation gave security assurances to Kiev against any threats or use of force against its territorial integrity (read: Crimea) and/or sovereignty.
(However, the memorandum did not include any enforcement provision for military assistance in the event of an attack, so it's not the same as the NATO defense umbrella. That's why Ukraine sought entry into NATO!)
Also, Russian President Boris Yelstin reached a lease agreement with Ukraine to continue basing Moscow's Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol until 2017. Then, the lease deal was extended to 2042, but the interim government now installed in Kiev is trying to tear up that deal.
Actually, in a little reported earlier Kiev/Moscow confrontation, a Russian construction project was construed as a threat to Tuzla Island off the Crimean coast. Kiev raised the issue with NATO, but not a whole lot happened. In 2012 though, Kiev and Moscow reached a consensus that Tuzla Island was Ukrainian territory.
But I don't think the current problem reflects a lack of U.S. resolve. It's western European resolve. Again, please read the article I posted above about Russian oligarchs in London!
Thu, Mar 6, 2014 9:48am
I read the New Republic article and agree that would be a quicker way to cut Putin off at the knees...funny how the rules never apply for the elite (Russia and worldwide). Communism is fine for the "lower classes" but not for the wealthy or well-connected.
Mike from Delaware
Thu, Mar 6, 2014 10:14am
EarlGrey said,"funny how the rules never apply for the elite (Russia and worldwide). Communism is fine for the "lower classes" but not for the wealthy or well-connected."
Funny how the rules never apply for the American elite either. Note the Hollyweird stars who keep breaking laws and never do real jail time in a real jail; or how the American elites have their stooges in Congress who will allow granny to lose her Social Security, or for kids to starve, but would go to their grave making sure their fellow elite [that upper 2%] never pay a dime more in tax.
Elites - be they capitalists or communists - seem to have one thing in common, they protect their fellow elites to the detriment of the rest of their respective nation's people.
Thu, Mar 6, 2014 10:20am
Mike from Delaware---
I say "amen" to your observations.
But it may just be human nature.
Just as the Russian critique of the new Ukrainian government (See RT's analysis I posted) is that the new government in Kiev has merely installed different oligarchs, but they're still oligarchs!
Thu, Mar 6, 2014 10:25am
Georgia, Sochi and now Ukraine...is Putin "marking his territory" to re-assemble the U.S.S.R.?
Thu, Mar 6, 2014 10:44am
Remember the old political aphorism (don't know who it is attributed to):
Under Communism, man exploits man.
Under Capitalism, it's the other way around.
Thu, Mar 6, 2014 1:11pm
Henry Kissinger offered up a few good ideas on how to deal with Ukraine.
"Leaders of all sides should return to examining outcomes, not compete in posturing. Here is my notion of an outcome compatible with the values and security interests of all sides:
1. Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe.
2. Ukraine should not join NATO, a position I took seven years ago, when it last came up.
3. Ukraine should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people. Wise Ukrainian leaders would then opt for a policy of reconciliation between the various parts of their country. Internationally, they should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland. That nation leaves no doubt about its fierce independence and cooperates with the West in most fields, but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia.
4. It is incompatible with the rules of the existing world order for Russia to annex Crimea. But it should be possible to put Crimea’s relationship to Ukraine on a less fraught basis. To that end, Russia would recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea. Ukraine should reinforce Crimea’s autonomy in elections held in the presence of international observers. The process would include removing any ambiguities about the status of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.
These are principles, not prescriptions. People familiar with the region will know that not all of them will be palatable to all parties. The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction. If some solution based on these or comparable elements is not achieved, the drift toward confrontation will accelerate. The time for that will come soon enough."
You're right, Allan. It's the old adage of "follow the money."
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