Once again Americans are watching their government involve itself in an issue in which the United States has nothing at stake economically and no genuine national security interest at risk. Ukraine is a place that is worth neither a single American dollar nor more than a brief scan of the headlines by US citizens. And yet Obama and his fellow European interveners and democracy mongers are conducting themselves in a bellicose manner that could lead to some kind of military conflict in eastern Europe. Indeed, they already are conducting warfare against Russia via economic sanctions, a punitive exercise they promise to make more severe in the next few weeks.
And for what? When all is said and done Obama and Team Democracy appear to prefer a war to publicly admitting that it was their democracy crusading last winter in Kiev that brought on this worrying and sharpening confrontation. Into an increasingly bitter political battle between the Kiev regime and its domestic opponents, the EU as an organization and individual European governments sent a steady flow of diplomats, officials, and money to help the Ukrainian opposition prevail over the Kiev regime. This foreign intervention in a purely internal domestic dispute was clearly designed to overthrow the legitimate Ukrainian government. It is the kind of imperialist exercise that the UN was created to condemn and stop, but that organization’s recent history shows that it now exists solely to support unjustified -- and usually unjustifiable -- US and Western political and military interventions.
We will never know how the internal Ukrainian dispute would have worked itself out if the Ukrainians had been allowed an exercise in self-determination, but what we do know is that the EU’s arrogant intervention in the country’s internal affairs tipped the scales in the opposition’s favor and led to the Kiev regime’s collapse. And we know that Obama, Kerry, and Biden steered clear of the problem until they saw that the EU’s intervention might succeed. Faced with that reality, these US leaders put their best interventionist foot forward and joined the Europeans to wreck both Ukraine and European stability in the name of a democracy that will never see the light of day in Kiev. Washington, NATO, and Brussels are now well on their way to creating in Ukraine the same kind of democratic paradise they previously delivered in Egypt, Libya, and South Sudan.
They are also striding cluelessly along a road that could lead to a war in eastern Europe. Why? Simple. The democracy mongers operate on the assumption that only the United States and Europe have legitimate national interests. Actions taken by non-Western states to defend what they perceive to be life-and-death national interests are labeled by Washington and NATO as illegitimate, aggressive, war-causing operations. But hold on for a moment. Was it Russia that intentionally fomented revolution in Ukraine? No, there is no evidence of that. Was it Moscow that publicly threatened the Ukrainian opposition with force and trials for war crimes? No, it was the West and the UN who treated the legitimate Ukrainian regime in that manner. So it was, in fact, Washington, NATO, and the EU who took a solely internal Ukrainian conflict and, by intervening in favor of anti-Russian Ukrainians, made it into a showdown between the West and Russia.
About Mr. Putin. One must say that he is not a particularly likeable man, and he is, after all, the legatee of a political system that killed and starved-to-death 60-plus million people. (NB: Odd, is it not, that the West spends years and billions of dollars tracking down a handful of two-bit Serbian and African murderers, but never utters a word about Russian and Chinese genocide-merchants who have killed far more than 100 million people?) Anyway, what has Putin done that makes him and Russia the sole bad guys in this sorry Ukrainian drama?
Well, Mr. Putin had the gall to see that the aggressive but always effete democracy mongers were mindlessly intent on a regime-change operation in Kiev that would put an anti-Russian regime in power, increase animosities between the country’s ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians, and destabilize Ukraine and perhaps have a knock-on destabilizing impact along much of Russia’s western border. Faced with this prospect, Putin unleashed his armored columns and took Kiev and all Ukraine, right? No. Faced with what the West was doing to make Ukraine an anti-Russian bastion and promote civil war in the country, Putin simply did what genuine Russian national interests required, he took what always has been and always must be Russia’s, Crimea and its naval bases. Any Westerner who claims he was surprised by this action -- or the cause of it -- is either a liar or ignorant of Russian history. Given the state of Western education, the latter is at least as likely as the former.
So Putin takes Crimea and it votes to join Russia. End of crisis? No. Even though it is obvious that U.S.-NATO-EU intervention caused the crisis in the first place, the democracy mongers sanction Russia for protecting its national interests and then pick-up the pace of intervention by pumping funds into the anti-Russian regime in Kiev, deploying US military forces in NATO’s Eastern European members, and Obama trying to prove he is not the terminal adolescent that Putin knows he is by waging war against Russia via sanctions. And, of course, there on the sidelines, are America’s neoconservatives urging the West to threaten the use military force against Russia and at least heavily arm the illegitimate government now operating in Kiev.
Like the terminal adolescents they are, the leaders of both parties in the United States and their counterparts in NATO and the EU cannot bring themselves to admit the clear and simple fact that they are responsible for the festering problem in Ukraine. They have encountered in Putin a man who is unsavory and no hero but one who is a thorough-going nationalist who will not roll over and play dead and abandon his country’s security interests because the intervention-addicted Western democracy mongers demand he do so. Western pride, historical ignorance, and hubris makes admitting a mistake impossible, so we continue meandering toward war.
A final word on sanctions. Western interventionists ought to recall that (a) economic sanctions are attacks on the targeted nation that amount to acts of war, and (b) economic sanctions that savage an already fragile economy -- like Russia’s -- can make the attacked state opt for war as a last resort. Americans still debate whether FDR’s sanctions against Japan were an attempt to change Tokyo’s foreign policy or to force Japan to start a Pacific war FDR wanted to fight but the American people overwhelmingly opposed. Which side of that debate is accurate is irrelevant here, and perhaps it is unknowable. What is irrefutable fact, however, is that FDR’s sanctions forced Imperial Japan to decide between war and the withering away of its economic and military power and the eventual termination of its status as a Great Power. Even the West’s ill-educated leaders must know the decision Imperial Japan took as the result of FDR’s sanctions.