Ukraine At High Risk: Sophisticated Europe Punts

the_wages_of_appeasementI’ve been waiting for Putin’s speech to be translated. I have a partial translation courtesy of The Guardian leading me here. Why is it when Putin is setting out a new course in Russia’s relations with the West I have such difficulty finding out what he said?

I come at this because I have been reading that Putin has forsworn any further action against Ukraine based upon reported summaries of his speech. Then another report I read seemed to contradict this. So until I get a full translation it will be difficult for me to talk intelligently about it.

I’ve read he said that Crimea went over without a shot being fired. Of course right after his speech his orders to begin cleaning up Crimea were put into effect as his forces attacked the Ukrainian bases wounding killing at least one Ukrainian soldier. We have to be totally on the alert dealing with Putin since he is a brazen liar playing to the xenophobia of the Russian people whose popularity soars with each new aggression.

These are dangerous times. When a close ally of Putin starts waving the nuclear threat then you have to recognize that Russia in some respects is every bit a closed kingdom as North Korea. One way is that it will brook no dissent.

The great trouble that lies ahead is the inability of the West, including the U.S. to recognize the type of people we are dealing with. Tom Friedman called the Russian people great but when over 80% approve of Putin’s aggressiveness that statement has to be taken with a grain of salt.

I suppose what bothered me most over the last day was the statement by Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, when asked why the European sanctions, even in comparison to the tepid U.S., sanctions, seemed so weak, replied: “YES, the United States is from Mars and we are from Venus. Get over it.”

That Mars/Venus dichotomy is set out in an article well worth reading. It was written in 2002 by Robert Kagan: “Power and Weakness” wherein he stated: “It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power — the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power — American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s “Perpetual Peace.” The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might. That is why on major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less. And this state of affairs is not transitory — the product of one American election or one catastrophic event. The reasons for the transatlantic divide are deep, long in development, and likely to endure. When it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways.”

Radek Sikorski went on to say:“Europe is closer and will therefore pay a bigger cost for sanctions against Russia”. 

Robert Kagan would say: “A better explanation of Europe’s greater tolerance for threats is, once again, Europe’s relative weakness. Tolerance is also very much a realistic response in that Europe, precisely because it is weak, . . . “

Kagan wrote in 2002. Europe as a military power has continued to decline. Now with the invasion by Russia of Ukraine it realizes not all European nations will play by the rule of law; it cannot respond militarily; it even fears applying sanctions because of its closeness to Russia; all that is left is to appease Russia. Robert Kagan Would have predicted this. He noted: “But appeasement is never a dirty word to those whose genuine weakness offers few appealing alternatives. For them, it is a policy of sophistication.” 




    Chocolate Plant Shuttered Amid Ukraine Crisis

    LIPETSK, Russia — After three years of court cases involving authorities and competitors, Taisiya Voronina thought she had seen everything in Russia’s rough and tumble business environment.

    That was until a final ruling this month sent dozens of armed police and plainclothes officials through the Ukrainian-owned chocolate factory she manages in southern Russia.

    Her factory now shuttered, Voronina, who wants little to do with politics, fears she may become another victim in a struggle for influence between Russia and the West in Ukraine.

    Dozens of men searched her office, took away armfuls of documents and questioned the general director for most of the night, asking questions she said had little to do with the criminal case which has been opened against her — a case she rejects.

    She is charged with conspiring with unnamed others to use a registered trademark illegally to “extract additional profits.” Her factory workers in the town of Lipetsk suspect they know better.

    “It is because of Ukraine,” they whisper, blaming the lack of work on the factory’s owners, the company Roshen and its billionaire boss, Petro Poroshenko, front-runner in Ukraine’s presidential election.

    With work now stopped and the factory’s accounts frozen, Ukraine has called the move “a dangerous precedent,” a possible prelude to the confiscation of Ukrainian businesses in Russia as punishment for pursuing closer ties with the West.

    • Elmer:

      Russia is not finished with punishing Ukraine. Putin is determined to bring it to its knees for the insult it gave him. We are a long way from any end in this situation.

  2. William:

    How about Nixon? A sizable percentage of those 58,000 deaths occurred during his tenure in the presidency.

    • Khalid:

      The Putin call to Obama seems somewhat unusual given that Obama initiated the four prior calls. The meeting between Kerry and Lavrov is scheduled but those have always left the US on the short end. It appears Russia want Ukraine made into a type of rump state where it will be able to control the east and west parts and undermine the rest of the country. Will Putin force that down Ukraine’s throat with the help of Obama? Remains to be seen.

  3. Make that “rejecting.” My bad.

  4. NC:

    Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., in his book “The Bitter Heritage: Vietnam and American Policy 1941-1968 (1969) noted that “Eisenhower, after ejecting American military intervention in 1954, set in motion the policy of support for Saigon which resulted, two presidents later, in American military intervention in 1965.”

  5. Khalid: The facts that the US gave financial aid to French forces in Vietnam and had CIA-type “ugly Americans” mucking around in Vietnam politics in the 1950s, does not detract from the facts that JFK was the first president to put US soldiers in Vietnam and LBJ expanded JFK’s thousands into several million US troops serving the US theater. The deaths of 58,000 American servicemen are laid at JFK’s and LBJ’s feet, not Ike’s.

  6. NC:

    Frances FitzGerald disputes your claim of blamelessness on the part of Eisenhower, regarding the Vietnam conflict:

    “…the United States had in the early 1950’s begun to transfer it’s European policy of the “containment of Communism” to Asia. With the Korean War, and, the continued support for Chang Kai-shek, it had begun to build a wall of anti-Communist American dependencies around China. Vietnam, as the (US)officials saw it, constituted the crucial southern element of that wall; if Vietnam “fell” under Communist domination, then the whole of Southeast Asia would follow after it. In 1950 the United States began to subsidize the French war in Vietnam, and, by 1954, US military aid covered 80% of the French war expenditures (FitzGerald 67)”.

    “When it became clear that the French could no longer carry on the war by themselves, he (Eisenhower) looked to the Vietnamese government the French had set up in Saigon as a new vehicle for continuing the struggle (Fitz Gerald 67).”

    The Eisenhower administration sent Edward Lansdale (1954), fresh from his counter-insurgency successes in the Philippines, to organize the anti-Communist effort in SVN. Lansdale made the fateful decision to support Diem, and, the Catholic minority, in SVN society rather than the majority Buddhists, and/or, the Hoa Hao, and, Cao Dai, syncretic sects (FitzGerald 78-82).

    Fitzgerald, Frances “Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and Americans in Vietnam” Boston-Toronto: Little, Brown, and, Company, 1972.

    • Khalid:

      We were deep into Vietnam when Kennedy came into power as you suggest. It’s not that we already did not have our own boys the Diem brothers in place carrying out our plans. To pretend otherwise is just being done for the strange purpose of saying Republican presidents were good and Democratic presidents bad. There’s no doubt but for Ike we may have never been there.

  7. Blaming Ike for Viet Nam is completely bogus. Historical revisionism. JFK put the 16 thousand advisors there in 1962. LBJ put the 500 thousand troops there in !965 after promising not to do it. Blaming Ike is comparable to blaming TR or Taft for WW1. Wilson ran on a promise to keep us out of the war and then got us into it. WW1 was the condition precedent for WW2 and 60 million deaths. Assign responsibility where it belongs. Wilson for WW1 and JFK and LBJ for Indo China. 2. Regan was prudent to leave Lebanon. As Ron Paul said those tribes have been fighting for three thousand years. America shouldn’t be in the middle of those disputes. Granada was a three day affair. It was designed to rescue 400 medical students and eject the foreign invaders( Cubans) from the country. It succeeded and today Reagan is a hero in Grenada. They have their freedom and the Cubans are gone. According to Matlock the former Russian Ambassador, at the end of the Cold War 80% of the Russians had a positive view of America. Today 80% have a negative view. Maybe the wars against Russian friends in Serbia, Iraq and Syria have soured the Russian people on the West. 3. Has the idiotic energy policies of the U S and the EU contributed to their ineffectiveness. Has the hundreds of billions of dollars they have poured into green energy been a waste. Back in the 70s Carter poured billions into a synsfuel project that produced nothing. He falsely assumed the world was running out of energy. In the last decade solar panels and wind mills have been the rage on the mistaken belief that man is causing the earth to warm. There has been no increase in temperature in the last 17 years. The Polar Vortex is real. Is Global Warming? Over the last 40 years the great lakes are usually 50% frozen, This year they are 90% frozen. It seems to be getting colder. Even if the theory were true, the U S couldn’t stop Russia, China, India, Brazil and other countries from using carbon fuels for their development. The entire debate is an academic exercise. Similar to the Europeans on military and security issues,is believing in Global Warming the sophisticated view?

    • NC:
      1. “from June, 1954 to June, 1963, that is, until two years after Dulles left office (August, 1961) the CIA was absolutely and exclusively dominant in creating and carrying out the policies which led eventually to the Vietnam War. It was, for example, the CIA which sponsored Ngo Dinh Diem as a “third force” alternative—both to Ho Chi Minh’s communism and French colonialism.” And, “the CIA too must go the credit for the creation of the secret police forces of Diem’s brother Ngo Dinh Nhu which prevented dissent within Vietnam . . . Basically, during 1954–1963 US policy in Vietnam was a CIA monopoly “. “Allen Dulles’s own role in the Vietnam project had to have been considerable; it was the most ambitious of all the CIA projects during his term as Director.” “President Eisenhower was the man responsible for the CIA’s actions in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, and Vietnam. Dulles served with a will, but he did not presume.”
      It seems to me if Ike didn’t get us so involved in Vietnam with Dulles then much of what happened afterwards never would have happened. To try to wash him out of the picture just doesn’t work. Vietnam belongs to Ike, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
      Using a WWI comparison doesn’t work. There was a four year war in progress before we got there.
      2. If Reagan was prudent leaving Lebanon why did he go in there in the first place? Was that prudent? Ron Paul’s strange view of America inherited from his father would have kept us out of WWII, as Pat Buchanan seems to think we should have done.
      Granda laid the precedent for the USA using a pretext to invade another country like we did in Iraq. You do know the medical students were never in danger but that the thought another country was going to fall into the Communist orbit was our reason for the invasion. Russia just recently pointed to Reagan’s action to justify its invasion of Crimea.
      Matlock could remind people that the 80% Russian favorability to the USA (if it ever existed) was undermined by the KGB’s Putin and cronies necessity to come up with an enemy so that their people would focus on that while they robbed the country blind. As far as polling the Russian people, they were certainly a lot freer back in 1990 than they are now. Are they blaming America for that? Or are they afraid to speak the truth.
      The idea Russians really care about Serbia seems amiss. Never knew Iraq was a friend of Russians. That we warred against Syria is wrong, we would have been better off had we done that.
      3. Not so sure you are right about the energy policies having an effect. Germany gets 8% of its energy from wind; France gets 75% from nuclear. The more they can free themselves from Russia’s oil and gas the better they and the rest of Europe will be.
      Most people believe in global warming and live by the theory one mild day does not mean spring is here. The rising oceans and diminishing glaciers and ice coverage attest to that fact. One cold great lakes winter after many warm ones doesn’t mean much. As the Great Lakes froze the West Coast simmered.
      “In the scientific field of climate studies – which is informed by many different disciplines – the consensus is demonstrated by the number of scientists who have stopped arguing about what is causing climate change – and that’s nearly all of them. A survey of 928 peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject ‘global climate change’ published between 1993 and 2003 shows that not a single paper rejected the consensus position that global warming is man caused (Oreskes 2004).
      A follow-up study by the Skeptical Science team of over 12,000 peer-reviewed abstracts on the subjects of ‘global warming’ and ‘global climate change’ published between 1991 and 2011 found that of the papers taking a position on the cause of global warming, over 97% agreed that humans are causing it (Cook 2013). The scientific authors of the papers were also contacted and asked to rate their own papers, and again over 97% whose papers took a position on the cause said humans are causing global warming”:
      That many nations won’t cut back on continuing the damage doesn’t mean all must follow their example. Being responsible (sophisticated view?) doesn’t mean being ineffective or relinquishing the lead. Europe still out produces all those other nations combined. As for military matters, sure Europe brings nothing to the table but that is due to the reliance on the USA over all the years since WWII which has had a bipartisan agreement to keep Europe strong.

  8. What’s going on in Kiev? Who’s the boss? The new government appears weak, and, indecisive. Svoboda, and, Pravy Sektor want to actively defend the resources of Ukraine, while, the “moderate” klepto-crat parties seem mostly concerned with stealing whatever is still left in Ukraine before the Russians take it all. The revolution is half-finished. What is to be done?

    • Khalid:

      If I knew what was going on in Ukraine I’d be professing to know more than those who are there who themselves do not know. It seems everyone is holding their breath waiting to see if Russia is going to launch more attacks against it. Crimea is lost, it was as soon as the Russian troops with unmarked uniforms and vehicles took over. The Ukrainian forces smartly decided not to oppose them – no use having a massacre. Concessions are being made to the east and south about more autonomy but those are being done at the point of a rifle barrel hoping to assuage those populations. Putin has made it clear Ukraine will never be free from his control – the question is how does he reassert this control after Maidan. Crimea was an easy step since he could anticipate no fight back. If he moves more, will there be bloodshed? I’d guess he’s trying to figure that out. What needs to be done and what hasn’t been done is for the West to say if you do X then we will do Y and stick with it. That is the only way he will be stopped. Right now relying on his good will is sort of as sucker’s game.

  9. Europe was the dominant political force in the world for three or four centuries. But in the last 70 years it has been a bystander and a security dependent of the U. S. The best thing the U. S. could do for them is to leave NATO. Force them to realize that they are responsible for their collective defense , not someone else. 2. Why is anyone surprised at the ineffectiveness of BHO? He’s a liberal Democrat in the mold of Carter, Clinton and Dukakis. They all champion defense cuts. They all follow the European model i.e. negotiations can solve all problems. They all specifically reject Reagan’s ” peace through strength” approach. As a percentage of the GDP the defense budget was reduced by five of our last six presidents( Reagan was the exception). Chairman Mao said all political power emanates from the barrel of a gun. If a country has a weak military it follows that it has little political power. Ike and Reagan kept us out of small wars. In 1954 France asked Ike to bomb the Viet minh. He refused. He wasn’t going to dissipate American strength on small wars. Bush ( Panama and Kuwait)Clinton ( Somalia and Serbia) Bush 2nd ( Afghanistan and Iraq) and BHO ( Afghanistan and Libya) all plunged America into small wars. American strength was diminished. 3.Why are our enemies in the world the Shia Muslims( Iran and Syria)? 9-11, the Cole and the African embassies were attacks launched by Sunni terrorists. Fifteen of the 9-11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia. one Egypt, one Lebanon. Al Qaeda is a Sunni creation. America’s number one enemy is Sunni terrorists. Yet the Cia, MI6, the French and others train and equip the rebels in Syria( Sunnis fighting Shia and Christians) All of this is funded by the Saudis and Qatar. Are we really on Al Quaeda, Al Nusra and the ISS’s side? 3. If Ireland had the right to leave Britain, If the U.S. had the right to declare independence, if Kosove can leave Serbia why can’t Crimea leave Ukraine? The vast majority in Crimea want to be with Russia. The West should help Ukraine with it’s energy situation. America has enormous coal reserves. It should ship twenty million tons of coal over to Odessa yearly. Ukraine should ask the Global Energy companies to frack and recover it’s gas reserves. Ukraine may end it’s reliance on Russia. Long range it should strive to be Austria, Switzerland or Ireland. Non aligned, neutral and non entangled. Don’t be a pawn in some East West power struggle.

    • NC:
      1. True – The European nations were great powers for many centuries but during that time they engaged in great wars; even to the extent they had a Big War after “the war to end all wars. Since that Big War ended, the idea of war became less alluring but still one had to defend themselves. Fortunately, the USA was there to provide for their defense which enabled them to have tiny armies which they kept cutting to where NATO is really unable to defend anyone from a Red threat. If the USA folded its hand I’m afraid all the European nations would find out their military power is practically non-existent. It’d be a race among all of them to please the Reds.We are pretty much defending Europe who has as much regard for our military as Harmid Karzai.

      2. Reading Robert Kagan’s piece I have to say that the dawn broke over Rockhead. Obama is more European (Venus-like) in his thinking about the use of military force than what was considered a traditional American view of it (Mars). Thus we have him accepting what in a sense epitomizes the European view, a peace prize from the Nobel Committee. The problem with an American president developing that view point is that there is no super power to protect America as we did for Europe. If there is no cop no matter how nice, peaceful and understanding the neighborhood is the thugs will do their thing.

      I’m not so sure it is a liberal Democrat thing, although they have a bent in that direction. I’d suggest the real problem began when the draft was abolished in 1973 during the latter days of our Vietnam adventure; which by the way, started under Eisenhower (read the book The Brothers about Foster and Allen Dulles: Ike preferred to avoid open acts but to use subterfuge in gaining our objectives) and gladly pursued by both parties. Eisenhower also laid the foundation for present day Iran and perhaps Cuba. You wouldn’t consider Grenada a large war; nor did it show much courage when we cut an ran from Lebanon after the Marine barracks were blown up. Suggesting Reagan avoided junk wars isn’t really true.

      My figures show roughly the following as far as military spending as a % of GDP: Except for WWI where it rose to 15% of GDP and WWII where it rose to 38%, up through the end of WWII it was about 1%; after the war it fell to 4% but the Korean War caused it to rise to 12%.; it dropped to about 8% and rose again as the Vietnam War came along. From 1973 @ 8% it dropped to 6% in 1980; from 80 to 84 it rose back to about 8%, leveled off until 1989; then it slowly fell down to 4% in 2000; it spiked up a little to 4. 3% and has stayed there since.
      Reagan was in from 1981 to 1989. Under him it did rise and level off; but remember he was still confronting the Soviet Union; after 1989 the threat from it diminished as did our defense budget and you note both Republican and Democratic presidents took advantage of that lessening threat. I suggest had Reagan not had the threat his actions might have been the same.

      But I do agree that with Reagan in office America projected strength while Obama projects not so much weakness but indecisiveness.

      3. In listing our enemies I don’t think you can exclude Putin if you listened to how he talks about our country. But for argument sake I’ll talk about the Sunni Muslims and the Shia Muslims. We invaded Iraq and threw out the Sunnis in power and installed Shias. In Afghanistan we have aided the Sunni’s against more radical Sunnis. In Syria we’re supporting Sunnis against the Shias and others. The Sunnis we are supporting are not the radical Sunnis. We are friends with most Sunni nations (Turkey, Egypt, Saudi) and enemies with Shia nations (Syria and Iran) but not Iraq.
      Al Qaeda is a Sunni group as were those who attacked us on 9/11. Basically we want to assist Sunni or Shia dictatorships as long as the radicals don’t take over and they don’t present a threat to us. We’re not particularly concerned with democratic rights in the Arab world, but like under Eisenhower’s presidency we help those who will help us.

      4. Ireland fought to be free from Britain who suppressed it by force for centuries; The US fought to be free from Britain who had ruled it for a couple of hundred years; the Muslims in Kosovo had been brutalized by the Serbians and they sought to be free from them; in Crimea the people there were invaded by Russia (unlike the others) there were no pre-conditions that made that invasion necessary (more have disappeared or died since the invasion than before) and the people there at the end of K47s were disposed to vote to join Russia. Seems starkly different to me; it wasn’t the Crimeans who fought to be united with Russian it was the Russians who fought.
      5 Ukraine doesn’t need coal, it has plenty of it in the east, that is, it does until Russia decides that it wants it. Of course it should end its reliance on Russia but Russia doesn’t want that to happen. The objective is to have access to the European markets like Poland and Germany and to develop its own future without threatening Russia or any other nation. Maybe it can become like those nations you mentioned but to do that it has to be let alone. Right now Putin is making demands on them to relinquish power over certain area; let them become highly autonomous; and then when that is done those areas will vote to join Russia which will agree to admit them. The West has shown it is unable and unwilling to protect Ukraine; what it will become is up to Russia. Neither the US, Ireland, or Kosovo after gaining independence had to do what the country it gained it from told it to do.