The antics of the US foreign policy establishment continue to rivet us. Syria, which seemed ripe for a NATO bombing, has been temporarily set aside while our so-called decision-makers stir the pot in Ukraine, backed up by the fan club of the Greater European Community. And they are poking a stick in the Russian eye with regard to the Republic of Georgia, while they are at it. I don’t know what these guys who run the world from Washington think they are going to achieve. Do they really believe Russia will back down when the US rattles its saber? The only thing to stiffen the Russian spine more than a threat from the US would be a threat from Germany, which since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union has been assiduously re-gathering the Austro-Hungarian chicks into its own military alliance. The USG has swung between the dangerous utopianism of Hillary Clinton and the vain fist-shaking and provocation of the Kerry State Department. Remember when Mrs. Clinton called for an “overload” of US-Russian relations instead of a “reset?” Oops, she only had an entire School of Languages at her disposal, any number of whom are Russians. Perhaps they used a Ukrainian translator? Whatever the case, it seems to be true. We are now seriously overloading the US-Russian relationship and a circuit is going to blow soon.
If you cut through all the media hyperbole, here is the genesis of this blossoming confrontation: Russia agreed to allow East and West Germany to unite after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in return for which the leaders of France, the UK, Germany and the US (that would be Chirac, Thatcher, Kohl and Bush Sr.) pledged no further expansion eastward of the Alliance. When the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO (with Clinton at the US helm) rushed to expand into all the former Warsaw Pact countries (initially as “partners” if not full-fledged members) and then into the former Soviet states. It was clear from early on that the western powers did not plan on inviting Russia into the Alliance. It was too big and potentially too powerful. The US and its chief allies did not want to share their dominion. The Western political-economic-military encirclement of Russia is now nearly complete, with the US egging on Georgian as well as Ukrainian pro-westerners to defy (or in the case of western Ukraine, overthrow) their governments. And on the other side of Russia sits China.
The US position since the latest round of Ukrainian street violence has been to get itself in as deep as possible, almost drooling at the chance to cut the Russians out of Ukraine. What a coup! But as in other areas of the world, the US is focused on the short-term, lacking perspective beyond a brief victory. Our so-called leaders are woefully insensitive to the net impact and ramifications of what they encourage and make possible. Ukraine is and has been a deeply divided country with a heavy German and Russian influence — Catholics and Orthodox, fascists and communists, west and east. The divisions have now come to the fore with the injection of the great game of the West versus Russia, the Evil Ogre. The US and its western allies are pushing as hard as possible to break through in Ukraine and bring it into the EU/NATO fold, despite knowing (or at least historians and diplomatic professionals know) that such a push will provoke a push-back from the other parts of the country and most importantly, from Russia. I have no inside dope on what the Russians are planning; my only observation is that the total silence from the Russian media on what the Kremlin might have up its sleeve is very reminiscent of the total media silence in the Soviet Union every time something big happened (e.g. the invasion of Czechoslovakia). We do know that the Russian military is holding massive exercises near Ukraine and the Russian parliament has raised the possibility of granting all citizens of the Crimea Russian citizenship. Of course they have to go through eastern Ukraine to get to Crimea, so you figure out what that means. Do you remember Granada and Reagan’s pretext for intervention? He said “our citizens were in trouble.” They know how to say that in Russian, too. Another international precedent set by the US that Russia can now follow.
The most embarrassing part of all this is to hear our Secretary of State John Kerry telling Russia that there will be “grave consequences” if Russia violates the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Ukraine. And Kerry is determined to provoke: he also demanded that Russia get out of two secessionist areas of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia (which Russia could now simply annex at the separatists’ request). Kerry argued in the face of the obvious that what is going on in Ukraine is not part of an East-West chessboard from the Cold War, which he coupled with a call to bring Georgia into NATO. The West, and in particular the US, has never been able to shed its Cold War thinking, and now we are coming full circle.
The problem for NATO is that the US has set international precedent in favor of the use of military force in response to an endless list of nebulous threats to NATO or even to the citizens of another country with whom NATO doesn’t have a defense agreement. Their record demonstrates that their chief interests in bombing other countries are usually political and economic. The US has conspired with Western Europe to transform what should be deemed blatant violations of other nations’ territorial integrity and national sovereignty into a matter of subjective judgment for the aggressors. If you have a “good reason” you can wage war against your target, oust the government, and set up your own puppet government. For that matter, frankly, Russia would be responding to a more legitimate call for military assistance, one from ethnic Russians to their south, than the US ever had in Iraq. Or Serbia. Or Libya.
I don’t know what military plans NATO has in store for Russia, if any — most NATO member populations do not want any confrontation with Russia — but I think the West has seriously miscalculated on Ukraine. EU/NATO may end up with western Ukraine, but Russia would be more likely to annex the southeastern sector of Ukraine. The end result: Russia gains a warm-water port, important resources, and additional territory. NATO and the EU get a headache.