Faceoff in Ukraine: Links & comments 3/4/14

Ukraine Protest

One of my father’s favorite sayings was that the biggest mistake you could make in life is to start a fight you are not prepared to finish.

I don’t know what President Obama has in mind with his stern warnings to President Putin about military intervention in Ukraine, but I don’t believe he is foolish enough to be willing to go to the brink of war over something that is not a vital national interest with Russia, the only nation with a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the United States.

What Obama probably has in mind are economic and moral sanctions, of the kind that were used without effect following the invasion of Afghanistan.

Click on Why Russia No Longer Fears the West by Ben Judah in Politico magazine for an explanation of why sanctions will be even less effective now than they were then.   The European countries need Russia more than Russia needs them.  The prosperity of the City of London (the British Wall Street) in particular depends on bank deposits and real estate purchases by rich Russian oligarchs.

The European governments could harm Russia by declaring an embargo on Russian oil and gas exports, but I don’t think many Germans, Poles or other Europeans are willing to freeze in the dark to make a moral gesture on behalf of Ukraine.

One possibility is that the belligerent statements of Secretary of State John Kerry are more than the empty posturing they seem to be.  Maybe Kerry, or a neo-conservative faction within the government, wants to provoke Russia into getting bogged down in an Afghanistan-type war in Ukraine, on the false premise that whatever harms Russia is good for the United States.

Click on What Neocons Want From Ukrainian Crisis by Robert Parry of Consortium News for a discussion of this possibility.   Click on Russian Invasion of Crimea Will Create Nationalist Problem in Ukraine by Benjamin Bidder of Der Spiegel (hat tip to Oidin for this link) for reasons why invading Ukraine is not in Russia’s best interest.

Click on either Fact-Checking the Ukraine Revolution by Andrea Chalupa for the case for the Ukrainian revolution.  Click on Ukraine: The Case Against the Revolution by Peter Strzelski Rieth for the opposite view.  Click on Reichstag Fire in Kiev by Dmitry Orlov for the case for Russian intervention.

I would find any of these articles completely convincing if I didn’t read them all.  Having read all three, the only thing I am sure about is that it is a bad idea for us Americans to interfere in conflicts we don’t understand and that don’t concern us.

The lesson of Iraq is that it may be a lesser evil to live under a murderous tyrant — and Saddam Hussein was more murderous than any of the leaders of the current Ukrainian factions — than to have your country be a battleground among factions being funded as proxies for foreign powers.

Making the Ukraine such a battleground is not in the best interest of anyone – not the Russian Federation, not the United States, not the European Union and certainly not the Ukrainian people themselves.   What is in the best interest of all is an independent, intact and well-governed Ukraine, on good terms with both Russia and the EU.  But people don’t always choose what is in their best interest.

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