An “Off Ramp”

"Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed on Sunday to seek a solution to crisis in Ukraine by pushing for constitutional reforms there, the Russian foreign ministry said. It did not go into details on the kind of reforms needed except to say they should come "in a generally acceptable form and while taking into the account the interests of all regions of Ukraine"."  Reuters


Ahhh!  This could well be the way out of the present escalatory menace. 

– Russia "wins" the referendum.

– Russia abstains at least temporarily from de jure annexation of the Crimea

– The EU and the US insist on meaningful constitutional modification by the Ukrainian state.

– The resulting new Ukraine is not brought into NATO

– NATO reiterates that an attack on a present NATO state is an attack on all.  pl

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129 Responses to An “Off Ramp”

  1. b says:

    Yes. I have also asked the question “what is Obama’s off-ramp”. Now Putin is, like in Syria, offering one.
    The new constitution of the Ukraine, if the Obama administration manages to press the locals to make one, will include federalism with lots of freedoms for the eastern and southern areas to keep their good connections with Russia. This probably with a federal chamber (Senate) that will be able to block major laws and treaties. Russia will then have the benefits of the Ukraine while the “west” will have to pay for their puppets in Kiev (and Gazprom deliveries from Russia) without having its hands on the richer industry and resources in the east.
    NATO and EU membership will, of course, be off.

  2. confusedponderer says:

    … and by all means, they should go for it.
    When I read stuff like that I always wonder – are the Russians really so smart or is the West, and the US more than the rest, just THAT dumb and delusional to be unable to imagine up something like that themselves?
    And I am afraid that the answer is that they really are THAT dumb and delusional.
    Kerry certainly give me the idea when he merrily blathers his various ultimatums, making a grave face to the extent that Botox allows him that.
    Kerry’s ultimatums fortunately seem to have a tendency to come to nothing. That gives me the hope and impression that apparently there are hidden reservoirs of reason and rationality left in DC, who must be working overtime in face of what Kerry, and Obama’s ladies concoct all day.
    They probably must be kept secret and out of sight, lest the neocons, neo libs, and R2Ps descend on them like a horde of howling baboons, fond of escalation ladders, first throw excrement at them, and then stones.

  3. toto says:

    Well, Ukraine will also join the EU “de facto if not de jure”, no matter what. IMO the Russians don’t really care. What’s the worst that can happen? Russian-speakers in the European parliament? Hardly a strategic nightmare.
    The real red line is NATO membership. That won’t happen as long as the East remains part of Ukraine. Which is probably the main reason why Russia didn’t invade it.
    One question is whether some group in the Russian services will try and start some kind of trouble in the East. Apparently, it would be ridiculously easy to start a long-term, low-intensity ethnic conflict there. This would create maximal destabilization in Ukraine, at very little cost for Russia, with complete plausible deniability. What’s not to like?

  4. Highlander says:

    “Howling baboons throwing excrement and stones”…..why don’t you tell us, what you really think of these clowns of the Imperial Capital?
    Unfortunately, I agree with you about the foreign policy elites being dumb and delusional. Not to mention a few dumb as a post republican senators.

  5. Alba Etie says:

    As long as we do not have another moment of ‘strategerry ” where we invade and occupy another country – or worse start a war – even a cold one , with the Russians , in the end we will probably be OK . I also want to believe that President Obama is playing the neocons et al as much as he can in the context of domestic politics . I think it was you that commented once on how we all need to ignore Senator McCain and his well known office wife Senator Lindsey when they both croak & chirp about bombing them or arming those.. And then when you say here about the howling R2P Baboons ,- I had this image in my mind’s eye of Samantha Powers dressed up like the Wicked Witch – releasing her flying monkees -one whose face resembled Bill Kristol ,. Anyway I cling to the belief that President Obama is playing the neocons et al as best he can . We Shall See.

  6. Charles I says:

    That would be sensible, but I look forward to a lot of screaming frustrated wannabe-Nato/European Ukrainians of many incompatible ilks – and their complement of snake-oil salesmen, deleriously happy Crimean Russians, and miserable Tatars.
    Toss in a banana peel, a few loose rounds, sign right here.
    Peace in our time some wag will insist, and then after blaming everyone else for the present fix, set about undermining it all over again.

  7. Charles I says:

    There’s going to be a lot of angry and disillusioned Ukrainians, all feeling betrayed yet again, just for being Ukraine. Between this and the massive anti-corruption needs of any legitimate aspiration to democratic or western style political reform, there will be no need to start anything.
    Anything else, I mean.

  8. kyooshtik says:

    If so, and I believe this may be the case, it’s once again advantage Putin and Russia. He and Russia are two for two now when you include Syria. Putin needs to do and get what he can while he can, meaning there is a great deal of power concentrated in his hands and he’s a good, strong leader. The problem with that is, though, when most of the eggs are in that one basket and that basket falls, there go your eggs. It’s difficult to imagine another Putin after Putin. It will be some rather large shoes to fill and this is the Long Game.

  9. All,
    The critical question, I think, is whether this implies that the U.S. has come found to accepting that a federalised Ukraine is the least worst option. One good reason for doing so is that it might provide a means where different parts of Ukraine could work out how they wanted to relate alike to the Euro-Atlantic world and the Russian world without violence.
    A problem, I think, is that the country’s industry, which is concentrated in the South and East, requires the maintenance of tariff-free access to Russian markets, but, at this point, an absolute avoidance of the demolition of tariffs against EU products. Much of this industry is certainly ‘rustbelt’ manufacturing, with questionable long-term future, but significant parts of it appear not to be – and there are important elements of defence industry which are still strongly linked to parallel industries in Russia. And many industries which have better prospects of finding a ‘niche’ in civilian production in the global economy are actually defence related.
    Accordingly, if the Ukrainian nationalists and their allies in the E.U. and U.S. retain their enthusiasm for free trade with Europe, there may have, in effect, to be trade barriers between different regions in a federal Ukraine.
    So far, it seems to me, the Ukrainian nationalists have been playing into Moscow’s hands. In the past, the fact that people in the South and East of the country – and above all in the centre, and critically in Kiev – might speak Russian in preference in Ukrainian has emphatically not meant that they had the least desire to rejoin Russia.
    However, Victorian Nuland’s little friends have made amply clear both their unremitting hostility to the Russian language and Russian culture, and their identification with the heritage of the ‘Banderistas’: the Ukrainian nationalists who were, among things, the instruments of ‘Lviv pogrom’ of June-July 1941. It seems to me difficult to think of a better means of persuading not simply ethnic Russians but many ethnic Ukrainians that their least worst option, however much many of them may dislike it, is to draw closer to Moscow.
    After all, there are plenty of ethnic Ukrainians who have relatives who served in the Red Army which broke the back of the Wehrmacht. Does anyone in their right mind expect that all such people will accept the self-proclaimed heirs of the Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera as their natural leaders?
    It has long seemed to me that a central priority for maintaining security in Europe was to maintain the independence of Ukraine. Up to a certain point, countering Russian influence was a sensible way of doing this. However, it was also clear that the maintenance of Ukrainian independence required avoiding at all costs ideas of integrating the country in NATO, which must inevitably split it, and also, keeping the skeletons in the cupboard left by the Second World War firmly in the cupboard.
    It is the West, not Putin, who have decisively violated these basic conditions for maintaining a coherent and independent Ukraine. How this has happened I have difficulty understanding. What happens in American universities these days, for God’s sake? Sometimes it seems to me that some kind of lobotomy has to have been practised, to produce people as stupid as Victoria Nuland.

  10. charly says:

    It is not Russia that is blocking Ukraine entry of the EU. It is the EU that is doing it. The treaty that the ex president didn’t sign was a more along the lines of “We will follow EU regulation but will never be allowed to enter the EU”

  11. toto
    You are doubly wrong.
    It is often difficult to explain to Americans how deeply the Second World War resonates among Europeans. After all, it wasn’t an ‘existential struggle’ for you, with thousands of miles of fish to your east and west, and those formidable military powers Canada and Mexico to your north and south.
    Over the past few days, I have been in Shropshire, being introduced to my niece’s first child. Her husband talked about his grandfather, to whom he was close, and who had a large collection of Second World War medals. How he got them was a matter about which he was reluctant to talk – apparently he said they were awarded for ‘stupidity’.
    As to Putin, he was born in Leningrad, as it was then was, eight years after the siege, in which the boy who would have been his elder brother died of diphtheria. It seems to me likely that his childhood was replete with stories told by his parents and grandparents generation of their ‘existential struggle’ with Nazi Germany. Probably some of them were as reluctant to talk as my niece’s husband’s grandfather.
    It appears that, after comparing Putin to Hitler, Hilary Clinton partially backtracked. From the Washington Post, we learn the most recent version of her idiocy:
    ‘“As for President Putin, I know we are dealing with a tough guy with a thin skin,” Clinton said. “I’ve had a lot of experience, not only with him but people like that.”
    ‘Clinton added that Putin’s “political vision is of a greater Russia. I said when I was still secretary of state that his goal is to re-Sovietize Russia’s periphery. But in the process, he is squandering the potential of such a great nation – the nation of Russia – and threatening instability and even the peace of Europe.”’
    (See )
    The actual truth is that, by virtue of his whole background and experience, Putin is deeply conservative. Precisely what he dreads is instability, be it in the Middle East, the Ukraine, and most of all, Russia.
    Some of those very few conservatives that remain among American elites have begun to get some inkling of this.

  12. crf says:

    Thank you for sharing this PL. Hopefully this is now not going to result in WWIII. (I am not an American, so forgive the tone: I’m not meaning to tell you what to do, but everyone in the world has an interest in not turning it into a cinder.)
    Kerry also said yesterday that Russia has interests in Ukraine. Someone has managed to pound that obvious little truth into his steel-woollen hair
    Something needs to be done about the state department. The US cannot afford to let them blunder the US into world war three. It is probably not possible to put individuals who are partially responsible for this in front of literal firing squad. But it must be the moral equivalent. And it must be public.
    The US also needs to remind Europe that nobody can afford Russia becoming a failed state. A nuclear power capable of destroying the world cannot ever become a failed state. This means Europe paying Russia for its gas for the next 50 or so years may well be an imperative of national security.
    The United States long ago made its red lines clear during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I think the USSR genuinely respected them, and this respect was the route that led to a detente, and allowed to Soviet Union, when it was at severe risk of becoming a failed state, to more-or-less carefully disintegrate without risking chaos.
    There needs to be US-Russia summit immediately, in which Russia spells out what its red lines are, and they and the US agree to inform each other whenever they feel they are being approached. It would be good if these red lines were public, but they at minimum need to be shared with appropriate committees.
    The US and Russia ought to agree that Russia pay some token of contrition to Ukraine. Ukraine also cannot become a failed state, if Russia feels it’s interests are so central to it. And so Russia needs to acknowledge some responsibility for allowing it to descend to the point that it has.

  13. b says:

    The Russian “off ramp” documented in this Russian non-paper ( has been accepted by the U.S. This after a strategy session in the White House today.
    Kerry is now selling this as HIS idea and is “urging Russia” to accept its own demands.
    The non-paper says new constitution with strong federalization and a political and military neutral Ukraine, guaranteed by U.S., EU, Russian and a UN Security Council resolution. Crimea would be free to do what it wants.
    Here is Kerry accepting the demand:
    Secretary of State John Kerry called on Moscow to return its troops in Crimea to their bases, pull back forces from the Ukraine border, halt incitement in eastern Ukraine and support the political reforms in Ukraine that would protect ethnic Russians, Russian speakers and others in the former Soviet Republic that Russia says it is concerned about.
    In a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, their second since unsuccessful face-to-face talks on Friday in London, Kerry urged Russia “to support efforts by Ukrainians across the spectrum to address power sharing and decentralization through a constitutional reform process that is broadly inclusive and protects the rights of minorities,” the State Department said.
    Funny how “power sharing and decentralization through a constitutional reform process that is broadly inclusive and protects the rights of minorities”, which Kerry had never mentioned before, must now be “urged” on Russia.
    Putin won this one.

  14. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I forget who it was exactly, but there was at least one editorial that I came across last day or two that suggested “Bosniaization” of Ukraine: the whole country would remain “neutral,” but constituent parts will be given large degree of autonomy and be allowed to gravitate towards Russia or the EU as the locals see fit. This seems to be the best possible situation. At minimum, this avoids the prospect of creating a government that forces the Galicians and the Crimean Russians to cooperate with each in anything meaningful, which I’ve been convinced is impossible in any medium term future. It prevents creation of a hostile state right on Russia’s own borders. It provides sufficient assurance for the ethnic Russians in Crimea that they wouldn’t be able to force Kremlin to take too rash an action while allowing Russia to take enough credit for “protecting” their “kin.” We shall see how this pans out, though…

  15. Dismayed says:

    @ Patrick Lang
    “The EU and the US insist on meaningful constitutional modification by the Ukrainian state.”
    I wonder how receptive the neo-Nazi factions, who reportedly control the army (what there is of it) and police, will be to codification of Russian rights and increased autonomy in the east.
    @ David Habakkuk
    ” Sometimes it seems to me that some kind of lobotomy has to have been practised, to produce people as stupid as Victoria Nuland.”
    It only seems that she is a moron if one makes the assumption that she is consciously seeking to further American national interests. She is a neocon/lib, so I suspect that this is not the case.

  16. Joe100 says:

    All –
    It appears that Putin has basically won, as Lavrov’s announcement appears to reflect in principle Russia’s clearly stated position since the February 21 agreement was signed by the Ukraine government and opposition leaders that called for constitutional reform along the lines of Lavrov’s statement.
    And Kerry is apparently now urging Russia to support essentially these same concepts that Russia’s has been demanding since February 21.

  17. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Seeing how Obama screwed up the healthcare reform and gave us the package that’s barely better than the status quo, I have trouble trusting Obama’s judgments.
    What I think is going on is that Obama is basically a vainglorious weathervane without any conviction of his own (there was a recent piece by David Bromwich on Huffingtonpost, I think–although it was reproduced quite widely–that made this case). This lack of conviction is probably a good thing: Obama will resist making himself look bad publicly, but, otherwise, he will bow to the most forceful argument from his advisors. I don’t think this is unique to Obama: every major American politician nowadays is probably guilty of this.
    If there is enough reservoir of sanity in Washington, this should mean that totally irresponsible warmongering can be avoided, but that also means that the irresponsible warmongers will be doing their best to deplete such reservoirs so that they can merrily blow everyone up in the name of whatever. I am pessimistic that we can always count on such reservoirs being there, as the previous administration has shown so vividly.

  18. William Herschel says:

    It isn’t just botox. That ain’t his hair. That is a rug.
    “In the end the U.S. never held the cards it needed to win this game.”

  19. The beaver says:

    In the meantime, Ukranian hackers have targeted NATO websites, after taking down some Russian ones last week.
    Their complaint ” Stay out of Ukraine”

  20. Dismayed,
    Whose interests do you think Nuland is seeking to further? And, whoever’s interests you think she is trying to further, do you think the means by which she seeks to do this are likely to be well-calculated?

  21. Fred says:

    Two for two? Putin did not create either situation, he responded to the disastrous policies of the United States government.
    After Obama it is hard to imagine another Obama. The neocons, however, will still be around.

  22. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I wonder if this “off ramp” is a disguised path to the proverbial (or perhaps even literal) hell.
    AJP Taylor, in his controversial book examining the diplomatic failure leading up to World War II in Europe, argued that the main problem with Munich was that Britain and France fell squarely behind neither resistance nor appeasement. On the one hand, their leaders recognized that it was politically and militarily infeasible to fight a general war over the status of ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. On the other hand, they did not want to be seen as surrendering to an unsavory dictator so they fudged the details of what they agreed to in order that they might look more, eh, respectable before their publics. The consequence was that the “red line” that Germany should not cross and what the British and French responses to such transgression would be was made clear to no one, including to the British and French themselves. In other words, the problem with Munich was that it a badly drawn up contract that was left intentionally vague on the specifics to save the face of the British and French leaders. Because of this, it did not prevent the war nor save the faces of the British and French leaders.
    So, how much details will be in the present contract over Ukraine? How much influence will Russia have in Donetsk? In Kiev? How will they implement their influence? If, say, Galicians try to subvert Russian influence outside Galicia and do so in a manner that casts Russias in bad light in the West, will the Russians have a mechanism to assert their “rights”? Will the Western politicians be able to accept such Russian actions without embarrassing themselves? If the Russians do overreach, will there be mechanisms for the West to push them back legalistically? Whatever deal that might be reached, it will have to have a lot of secret protocols, secret implementation mechanisms, and cynical deals. In order to work properly, it will have to be both unbelievable cynical and amoral and very much legalistic. I don’t know if it can be easily stomached in the West and attempts to obfuscate what it really is will lead to even greater distrust for everyone involved. I am not at all optimistic about its prospects in the long run.

  23. confusedponderer says:

    I am trying to be polite.

  24. crf says:

    That link goes to a page not found.

  25. rkka says:

    ” On the one hand, their leaders recognized that it was politically and militarily infeasible to fight a general war over the status of ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. ”
    Politically, true enough, but militarily…
    Compare a Skoda T-35/T-38 to a Pz III, and note that in 1938 Czechoslovakia had lots more T-35/T-38 than the Germans had Pz IIIs.
    Then consider the Czechoslovak fortifications in her forested mountains.
    Then consider her alliance with the USSR & France.
    Then consider that the Romanians had given permission for Soviet aircraft to transit Romanian airspace to Czechoslovakia.
    This was one that Adolph was gonna lose. He himself referred to Czechoslovakia as ‘…a spearhead in my side…” paralyzing his strategic freedom of action.
    Chamberlain’s solution for Adolph’s problem was:
    “Supposing it (Czechoslovakia’s alliances) were modified, so that Czechoslovakia were no longer bound to go to the assistance of Russia if Russia was attacked, and on the other hand Czechoslovakia was debarred from giving asylum to Russian forces in her aerodromes or elsewhere; would that remove your difficulty?”
    “Munich” wasn’t about peace. Chamberlain’s own words show that the main problem with Munich was it was about protecting Adolph from Soviet counteraction”…if Russia were attacked…”

  26. nick b says:

    I think you owe baboons an apology. Unlike the neo-cons, neo-libs and r2ps you compare them to, baboons are particularly adept at problems solving and learning from failed efforts. 😉

  27. rkka says:

    ” On the one hand, their leaders recognized that it was politically and militarily infeasible to fight a general war over the status of ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. ”
    Politically, true enough, but militarily…
    Compare a Skoda T-35/T-38 to a Pz III, and note that in 1938 Czechoslovakia had lots more T-35/T-38 than the Germans had Pz IIIs.
    Then consider the Czechoslovak fortifications in her forested mountains.
    Then consider her alliance with the USSR & France.
    Then consider that the Romanians had given permission for Soviet aircraft to transit Romanian airspace to Czechoslovakia.
    This was one that Adolph was gonna lose. He himself referred to Czechoslovakia as ‘…a spearhead in my side…” paralyzing his strategic freedom of action.
    Chamberlain’s solution for Adolph’s problem was:
    “Supposing it (Czechoslovakia’s alliances) were modified, so that Czechoslovakia were no longer bound to go to the assistance of Russia if Russia was attacked, and on the other hand Czechoslovakia was debarred from giving asylum to Russian forces in her aerodromes or elsewhere; would that remove your difficulty?”
    “Munich” wasn’t about peace. Chamberlain’s own words show that the main problem with Munich was it was about protecting Adolph from Soviet counteraction”…if Russia were attacked…”

  28. MRW says:

    “Ukraine will also join the EU “de facto if not de jure”, no matter what. IMO the Russians don’t really care. What’s the worst that can happen? Russian-speakers in the European parliament? Hardly a strategic nightmare.”
    What’s the worse that can happen if the Ukraine were to formally join the EU? Financial destruction for Ukrainians: bond vigilantes taking the public domain as collateral for loans Ukraine could never repay, a destruction of lifestyle and great impoverishment a la Greece, draconian imposition of austerity programs that will enslave the Ukrainians much as at the Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese, Irish, and Italians are experiencing (52% youth unemployment in Spain, for example, a generation lost), financial control from unelected technocrats in Belgium whose currency restrictions (Euro) over Ukraine remove all policy space normally reserved for a country with a sovereign currency. And on and on. The IMF, after Feb 21, gave a hint of what it would require.

  29. MRW says:

    Hear, hear, David. I agree with you. Not to mention that Putin’s international law degree (Master’s) and his PhD in how to bring a nation into the modern age by exploiting its natural resources (can’t remember the details of it) made him better prepared to run his massive country than Clinton’s has hers. Americans have a hard time accepting just how good a free top university education was in the USSR (which Putin was a product of) just as they are unaware that the top schools in this country aren’t the Ivys, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, etc. Our top schools are the US Army War College, the Naval Academy, etc, free only to those in uniform who cut the mustard; there’s no rich daddy buying entrance to those the way you can get into Harvard today.
    I wish my fellow Americans would learn this: “It is often difficult to explain to Americans how deeply the Second World War resonates among Europeans.”

  30. MRW says:

    David, I suspect the money behind the neocons wanting their mitts on Ukraine’s resources, which are considerable. But then I’m cynical. I look at the money trail first. Look at the development of the huge Dnieper-Donetsk Basin east of Kiev. [ Abiotic oil, and it’s Russian technology that Clinton’s Oil Czar sneered was impossible in the early 90s when impoverished Russian scientists offered to share it with them.

  31. walrus says:

    While acknowledging that we should never underestimate the damage stupidity can do, it appears that the off ramp proposal is a good outcome.
    Perhaps the lesson for Putin is that he may not have put as much resources into protecting his Ukrainian interests from the predatory West as he perhaps should have.
    I don’t think he will make the same mistake again.

  32. VietnamVet says:

    I wonder at the profound change in governance in Washington DC; the lack of planning and the increased risk taking shown by the Ukraine revolution. The threat of a nuclear winter by a Ukraine war has apparently resurrection some cold war common sense.
    I worked for the US Federal Government for 42 years; 37 years regulating products marketed in the USA made by Mom and Pop companies to Swiss Multi-National Corporations at a very mid-level technical area. Before I retired even I noticed that industry consolidation had lowered the quality of company representatives and the infection of the Enron lawlessness into the industry.
    I blame deregulation, off shoring of jobs, and the privatization of transportation, security, diplomacy, and education. Corporations and non-government organizations are all out for the quick buck and never look beyond this quarter. Simply, they are not charged with making peoples lives happier and safer but bringing on a revolt if it brings a country into the West and opens it up to fracking. Victoria Nuland’s 5 billion dollar speech at a Chevron sponsored DC event documents this:

  33. Ingolf says:

    “What happens in American universities these days, for God’s sake?”
    Stephen Walt on this question:

  34. WP says:

    I remember reading this blog often during the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. Eventually, a consensus seemed to emerge among many of the correspondents that the reality was that BushCo would invade, but the thing would flame out when the US departed after suffering an occupation from hell. No one was optimistic that anything much good would come from the invasion. The consensus was pretty predictive of what happened.
    Now as a result of that misadventure, American power is greatly lessened. The People simply have no more stomach for foreign adventures. Putin knows this.
    The State Department’s approach to Ukraine seems as misguided as the Iraq and Afghanistan misadventures. Instead of working with Russia to strengthen and improve the situation in Ukraine, they focused on the pipe dreams of using the Ukraine as a stepping stone for the destabilization of Russia, or at the very least extending the border of the “West” right up to the Russian borders.
    The approach has been a disaster because it did not comprehend the cultural strength of the Russia as super-power myth-idea within Russian society and the stupidity of those in the State Department tasked with orchestrating the plan and their uncanny ability to link up with the Ukrainian equivalents of Ahmed Chalibi. Now Putin has been able to engage the Russian ethnics in Ukraine and the strong support of his people against him to reclaim what, under the myth-idea, most Russians think rightfully belongs to Russia.
    So, will Russia invade the greater part of the Ukraine?
    My humble view is that Russia will take all of Ukraine in the next few weeks because it can. All of the posturing aside, Russia has the power and the will to reclaim Ukraine as a part of greater Russia. It will happen because at this cusp of time, the opportunity is there, and Putin knows he can act and succeed. Putin knows that if time passes, the West may figure out work out plays to stop him. His moment of power is now, not later. Putin is not a cautious man. He will act.
    Russia will succeed because it has nukes and natural gas. No one will survive the nukes and Europe cannot be comfortable or prosperous without the gas. Europeans love their warmth and prosperity much more than they love Ukraine. The next few weeks will be much like 1914. The question is whether some stasis can be re-established without frying the planet. Life will not be pleasant for the Ukrainians who oppose Russia and the West will do nothing to help them except try to pass useless UN Resolutions. The Strangelovian American politicians will gain in power and will increase the universal risk of us all being flash fried.
    This is all the result of the delusional madness of the progeny of the Project for the New American Century. Insanity!
    To all, what are the odds Putin will just take it all? Mine are 95% that Putin will take it all by the end of June.
    We might as well have fun taking bets. There is little else of value we can do now.

  35. William Herschel says:

    “Joint statement by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso on Crimea
    Brussels, 16 March 2014 – As stated by all 28 EU Heads of State or Government on 6 March 2014, the European Union considers the holding of the referendum on the future status of the territory of Ukraine as contrary to the Ukrainian Constitution and international law. The referendum is illegal and illegitimate and its outcome will not be recognised.”
    The last time someone proposed a referendum in Europe was in Cyprus at the time of their financial crisis. Well, referendums are anathema to the “European Council”. God forbid the people should speak or get the idea they can speak. The Cypriots got a good taste of where they could put their referendum.
    Of course, when referendums are permitted, they reject “Europe”:
    “The French referendum on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe was held on 29 May 2005 to decide whether France should ratify the proposed Constitution of the European Union. The result was a victory for the “No” campaign, with 55% of voters rejecting the treaty on a turnout of 69%.”

  36. Bandolero says:

    With all respect, I don’t believe that is going to happen.
    “Russia abstains at least temporarily from de jure annexation of the Crimea”
    See Itar Tass today: State Duma to approve laws on Crimea’s accession to Russia quickly – lawmaker
    “The EU and the US insist on meaningful constitutional modification by the Ukrainian state.”
    I think that’s wishful thinking. “Meaningful” means for the east complete federalization, a step neither the Kiev giys nor their western backers are willing to take, because it would mean “losing” the industrialized east to Russia while the west gets only agriculture and poverty. And so, it was only agreed to talk about a “meaningful constitutional modification” – but there is no sign, a compromise will be found. Furthermore, Reuters failed to report the important parts of disagreement in the statement of Russia’s foreign ministry, which can be found here:
    Russia demands from the west that the west will take steps to make the current Kiev rulers take down the right-wing extremists which are their basis. Itar Tass reports:
    “Lavrov urges US to use influence and help Russians in Ukraine
    … “In recent times ultranationalist and radical forces stepped up the activities in Ukraine’s south-east. Victims among civilians are reported. Radicals’ actions seriously destabilise the situation,” Lavrov said in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday.
    Kerry said the USA took necessary efforts that would yield positive results soon.”
    Of course that’s not going to happen, because these riht wing extremists are precisely the guys which are currently holding the real power in Kiev. These rightwing extremists in Kiev can arrest the “interim government”, but the “interim government” can’t arrest them.
    “The resulting new Ukraine is not brought into NATO”
    Here I agree, but for a different reason. Since the “new Ukraine” has territorial claims (Crimea) against a third country (Russia) and a large part of the “new Ukraine” opposes NATO and prefers Russia, the “new Ukraine” will not be brought into NATO. Crimea being made part of Russia is the factual assurance Russia will want to be sure Ukraine won’t be brought into NATO. Russia’s trust in any papers signed by the west is – after what Russians perceive as serial contract breaking by NATO states – close to zero, so papers however they look like won’t be able to make the Russians feel safe without more factual guarantees like Russian “boots on the ground.”
    Finally, let me note that Kerry and Lavrov are not the highest raking officials, and Obama and Putin had also a phone conversation just now:
    Putin: referendum in Crimea fully complied with international law norms – He said it in a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama

  37. Fred says:

    Victoria and her husband are part of the Ivy league educated elite. They hardly represent all Americans. Sadly our elected leaders can’t seem to understand that fact.

  38. turcopolier says:

    We will soon know. pl

  39. Fred says:

    Perhaps the two of them could send the EU army to Ukraine to defend their principles. Except, of course, there is no EU army and the member states might face an immediate revolt of their own citizens if they tried. Which is of course why they bandy about “NATO” so as to make the United States fight their war for them.

  40. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Perhaps. Perhaps not. With regards to how the hypothetical war might have turned out if there was no deal at Munich, no one can really tell. Whether the Russians would have offered effective military aid without a steep price to the Czechs (and the Romanians) is questionable. Poles would certainly not have acquiesced to a Russian military aid and might have joined the Germans in fighting, which would have made things very awkward. Eduard Benes certainly did not want to accept a Russian help without Western counterweights, as he suspected the price would be too high. At any rate, it is not clear how effective a Russian army aiding the Czechs might have been, given their poor performance in 1939-40 and 1941, although a Soviet army being involved in a war in 1938 would have upset the timing of the Great Purges and who knows what that would have implied. It would have been a huge mess and there is some wisdom at wanting to see something like it avoided.
    At any rate, Taylor’s argument was that the British and the French chose neither fighting nor conceding without any ambiguity. They chose to concede, but did so in a manner that was opaque, cowardly, and deceptive to themselves and their publics, all to avoid embarrassing themselves. In the present crisis, maybe the Russian nuclear forces are so limited that a nuclear confrontation is “winnable” for the West and that we should have stood firm at the risk of a nuclear war (this is the logical equivalent of the British and the French opting to resist without ambiguity at Munich). I don’t know if that is true–I doubt it–but the bottom line is that we talked tough but we didn’t act like it. Or, we could have shut up and negotiated quietly with Russia over Ukraine (or, better yet, not stir up unnecessary trouble in the first place). This would have been the equivalent of the British and French conceding honestly and unambiguously at Munich. But, like the British and the French at Munich, we have raved about morality without backing it up with real force and are seemingly entering into an ambiguous and cowardly compromise apparently for the sake of saving face. To repeat, I think we are making a mistake in the long to medium term. Not because we are conceding, but because we are conceding dishonestly with too much ambiguity so that we can equivocate as to whether we really caved in. I don’t see this ending well.

  41. Bandolero says:

    Sure. We will soon know. In the meantime we may have a look to Obama’s presser regarding today’s phone talk with Putin:
    I can’t find much agreement there with the things the Russian side released regarding that call.

  42. Phil Cattar says:

    It is easy to over think this thing.There is a very old Russian proverb “act like a lamb and you will soon meet a wolf”.The real chess player met the golf player…………………When Obama blinked in Syria,Putin took notice.He is probably already 3 moves ahead of our president and John Kerry.

  43. Stephanie says:

    “There needs to be US-Russia summit immediately, in which Russia spells out what its red lines are”
    I’m hardly Big Vlad’s greatest admirer, but Putin’s red line was clearly visible to anyone who cared to look, I think. Emphasis on “cared to look.”

  44. kyooshtik says:

    Much to do has been made of America’s backing and support of Fascist elements in the Ukraine and elsewhere, and for good reason. However, some of those same critics turn a blind eye when Putin uses the very same tactics. Both sides use the Fascists for their own ends, and perhaps at their own peril. I’m sure those who enabled and funded Hitler and his Brown Shirts in the early years thought they were using the Fascist goofball thugs, and they were for a while, but those brutally awkward and silly Fascist thugs eventually morphed into an uncontrollable, psychotic beast with its own heinous agenda. I’m not sure that’s possible in this day and age…raw, naked, in-your-face, brutal, hot, ultra-nationalistic Fascism in charge, but it is notable that these elements are utilized by both America and Russia to achieve their own ends.
    And Fred, it isn’t two for two, it’s three for three. I forgot to include Snowden. With Snowden, Putin is three up and counting.
    From the linked article:
    “The renewed stimulation of anti-Western discourses through the use of “political technologies” is promoting a dangerous undercurrent and accelerating the development of what may be called “uncivil society” in Russia. The anti-democratic faction in Russia’s nonprofit sector represents a network of partly cooperative, partly competing, extremely anti-liberal groups, organizations, and publications. Many, to be sure, are distinguished by the support they receive from government agencies and through active advertising on Kremlin-controlled TV channels. They thus represent GONGOs (Government-Organized Non-Governmental Organizations), rather than genuine civil society initiatives. However, there is a danger that the stepped-up campaign of incitement against the United States may both permanently establish a conspiracy-minded, paranoid world view as the legitimate interpretation of international events and help entrench the clubs that promote this world view as legitimate participants in Russian public discourse.
    As a result, an aggressively anti-Western right-wing extremism seems to be forming within Russian political life as a stable third pole between the authoritarian regime and the democratic opposition. The Kremlin appears to be implementing a risky political scheme aimed at restructuring public life: the increased incorporation of ultra-nationalists into mainstream political discourse appears designed to cause a comprehensive rightward shift along Russia’s ideological spectrum, so that the nationalism of Putin and his immediate associates, which is also quite virulent, seems relatively centrist against the background of the far more radical demands “from the grassroots”, i.e., from the increasingly prominent right-wing extremists…..
    Since the announcement of Putin’s third presidency in September 2011, a restructuring of the ultra-nationalist intellectual milieu has been under way in which the Isborsk Club plays the leading role. Extreme right-wing propagandists lament, sometimes, hysterically, today’s situation in Russia. They frequently conjure up apocalyptical scenarios for the future of their country and the world.
    Notwithstanding their dubious background, questionable academic credentials, and tarnished reputation, they can act freely, often appear on government-controlled television, and are regarded with favor by the Kremlin, if not purposefully promoted. Should these tendencies continue, the already critical Russian public opinion toward the United States will deteriorate even more, and the alienation between Russia and the West will increase.”

  45. AEL says:

    Given the prospective “off ramp” by the Americans,
    how long will it take for Kiev to (re)build a nuclear weapon?
    Could they build a bomb before Russia catches them at it?
    Will they dare take the risk?

  46. turcopolier says:

    Putin’s address to the Duma tomorrow should tell us how this will develop. pl

  47. Eliot says:

    I remember sitting in a classroom as Arab Spring was raging. The professor was very keen on the whole thing, he was sure this was the great Arab awakening and this would bring peace and prosperity. He seemed to have no understanding of the economic or sectarian issues at work. He was puzzled by my pessimism. He couldn’t imagine a sad ending to the story.
    He read a little Arabic and had at least a superficial understanding of the region, but he made the mistake of reading too much into the television coverage. He listened to the Western leaning liberals and assumed they spoke for their countries.
    I don’t think he had much exposure to the common man. If he knew much about Islam, it was by speaking with the most liberal members of the faith. The sort of people who were comfortable living in America and had made their peace with American pop culture.
    I’d love to go back and talk about it again over beers. I suspect he still wouldn’t quite get it though. How could it all end so badly? I don’t think he was able to make the leap, to understand the Arabs as they understood themselves. He believed there was an American inside each one of them, just struggling to get out.
    – Eliot

  48. kyooshtik says:

    I do not believe Putin will invade the Ukraine but I do believe he will annex Crimea. I find it hard to believe he will thumb his nose at their resounding yes vote in the referendum (that the Guardian called a poll, by the way…I suppose since they consider it illegal). The only way he acts on the rest of the Ukraine, at least overtly, is if it turns decidedly to the EU and NATO, so that necessarily means the current arrangement in Kiev will not be honored and respected by Putin and Russia. Still, the last thing Putin wants is a long, drawn-out occupation of Ukraine. I don’t think Russia could survive such an occupation like the U.S. did in Iraq. It doesn’t have the capacity.
    Has anyone given consideration to the fact that Russia’s recent boldness is in part due to Snowden and his revelations? Only in part, but certainly not entirely? If so, and this escalates to the use of nuclear weapons God forbid, how many on the so-called “Left” will be calling Snowden a hero then? Should the worst case unfold, and the Snowden Effect has some part in Russia’s checkmate, we have the classic burning down the village to save the village. Surely there are more choices than obtuse and misinformed notions of Liberty or its binary counter offer, annihilation.

  49. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Yes, I agree with you.
    Western historians have obfuscated the motivations of the English quite well for a long time; it was containment and potential war against USSR.
    The English government spurned the alliance offer of Stalin against Germany which caused Stalin to follow Molotov’s advice and achieve a rapprochement with Germany.
    Until late in 1939 the war plans of the Imperial General Staff called for a war against USSR.

  50. Ingolf,
    Thanks for that link.
    At the start of his 1985 study ‘Rethinking the Soviet Experience’, Stephen F. Cohen set the familiar quotation from Faulkner – ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ He followed it with a parallel quote from the Soviet novelist Yuri Trifonov – ‘History is not simply something that was. History is with us and in us.’ And Cohen went on to argue, in his preface, that ‘unless political analysis rooted deeply in real historical knowledge, it will be marginal, sterile, or wrong.’
    It appears from Walt that what the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard offers is a training which perfectly equips one to be ‘marginal, sterile, or wrong’:
    ‘In schools of public policy and international affairs (including my own employer), the emphasis is on economics, statistics, “leadership,” and other aspects of policy analysis or management, with a smattering of ethics or philosophy thrown in on occasion. Students sometimes learn the rudiments of international relations theory and get some practical skills in memo-writing, and maybe they do some in-depth study on policy areas like arms control or human rights. You’ll undoubtedly learn some basic history if you’re interested in a particular region, but it will probably focus on the post-World War II period and will almost certainly be taught from a U.S. perspective. Neither a wide knowledge of history nor a sophisticated understanding of historical method and reasoning are likely to be offered. And then we wonder why American policymakers often appear to be so ignorant about the past.’

  51. Fred,
    I know that.
    What baffles me — see my response to ‘Ingolf’ above — is why elites, both in the U.S. and U.K., appear to have become so much more stupid than they were.

  52. rick,
    In my view emphatically not. As regards the West Ukraine, what conceivable interest could Putin have in attempting to rearbsorb what, after all, was not historical Russian territory?
    As to the remainder of the South and East, it is likely to be overwhelmingly in Putin’s interest to play a waiting game. On this, some reflections by the former long-serving Canadian government analysis of Soviet and Russian affairs are to the point.
    (See )

  53. William Herschel says:

    DeGaulle abroad (Mali, Libya, etc.), Pétain at home.

  54. rjj says:

    What happens/happened in American Universities…?
    The Little Beige Book (catechism of critical theory lite as taught in US universites for 20 or so years)?

  55. WP says:

    My view is that the principle most predictive of the outcome is that the side most ruthless wins. The next few weeks will inform us as to how ruthless Putin actually is.
    The Banderista insurgency does not have the visions of holy paradise that underlies the Chechnyian resistance. It has the power of a mole when compared to the Bear. It may survive for a time tunneling, but it cannot make the Bear go away and the Bear has long claws that dig very effectively and very fast.
    We should not believe that modernity has moderated the very human instinct to eliminate foes with extreme violence. The history of Russia and the Ukraine include some pretty ruthless acts against internal foes. My estimate is that Putin will act in accordance with the precedents of Russian history. On can expect that the uncooperative remnants of the Banderista insurgency will be efficiently eliminated with extreme and hidden measures. The West will scream, but to no avail.
    The Cold War has resumed and the maxims of war have not been repealed.
    “3. UTMOST USE OF FORCE. Now, philanthropists may easily imagine there is a skillful method of disarming and overcoming an enemy without great bloodshed, and that this is the proper tendency of the Art of War. However plausible this may appear, still it is an error which must be extirpated; for in such dangerous things as War, the errors which proceed from a spirit of benevolence are the worst. As the use of physical power to the utmost extent by no means excludes the co-operation of the intelligence, it follows that he who uses force unsparingly, without reference to the bloodshed involved, must obtain a superiority if his adversary uses less vigour in its application. The former then dictates the law to the latter, and both proceed to extremities to which the only limitations are those imposed by the amount of counter-acting force on each side.”
    von Clausewitz, Carl (2012-09-27). On War: All Volumes (pp. 1-2). Vook, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
    I would think Putin is well schooled in the theories of von Clausewitz. Presently, the effectiveness of counter-acting force is weak.

  56. rkka says:

    “t is the West, not Putin, who have decisively violated these basic conditions for maintaining a coherent and independent Ukraine. How this has happened I have difficulty understanding.”
    As we discussed years ago on Gvosdev’s blog, the Anglosphere Foreign Policy Elite and Punditocracy are determined on Russia’s abject submission as the price of suspending the open manifestation of their long-standing hatred of Russia. I mean, Alfred Thayer Mahan before WWI was writing of the necessity for the US, the British Empire, Germany, and Japan to form an alliance against Russia. This hostility was suspended by WWI, and WWII, only to pick back up after they were over. It was suspended a third time by the continual flow of Russian concessions post-1989. That’s over, so its no suprise the ‘FullSpectrumGlobalDominance’ crowd are mad at Russia again.

  57. rkka says:

    “At any rate, it is not clear how effective a Russian army aiding the Czechs might have been, given their poor performance in 1939-40 and 1941,”
    Hm. An Imperial Japanese Army force of two divisions sufficed to conquer the Philippines. Another IJA force of two divisions sufficed to take Singapore and kick the Brits back to India. A similar IJA force got cut to ribbons by the Soviet Army in the summer of 1939.
    The next year the Wehrmacht trounced Western armies numbering over 3 million in six weeks at a cost of ~27,000 German troops killed. Seven weeks into Op. Barbarossa, the Wehrmacht alone had suffered over 83,000 killed, with thousands more Finnish, Hungarian, Italian, Romanian, and Slovak troops killed as well.
    It is not clear to me there’s many grounds for calling Russia’s armies at the time ineffective, at least by comparison to everyone else’s army that fought the Axis at the time.
    “To repeat, I think we are making a mistake in the long to medium term. Not because we are conceding, but because we are conceding dishonestly with too much ambiguity so that we can equivocate as to whether we really caved in. I don’t see this ending well.”
    I fully agree with this.

  58. DH says:

    Is there any currency to the notion that Munich was about buying time for Britain to ramp up for war?

  59. J says:

    They are hard at work formalizing all the legalize regarding Crimea and Sevastopol entry into the Russian Federation. It’s interesting how they do it, the Russian Prez notifies and consults with both houses. Then comes the international treaty signing, the Russian Prez goes before the Constitutional Court. The Duma ratifies the treaty and sets in motion a draft law of adoption of the new subject of the Russian Federation. Article 65 of the Constitution deals with the composition of the Russian Federation.

  60. Charles Dekle says:

    David Habakkuk,
    Thank you. In reference to your statement “It is often difficult to explain to Americans how deeply the Second World War resonates among Europeans.” I would like to share an encounter that my wife and I had with a young German Engineer. We were traveling from Heidelberg to Stuttgart on the DB. The young man was seated across from us so we struck up a conversation. He was very articulate in English which was fortunate because our German was barely passable in restaurants only.
    During the conversation he pointed out that the beautiful countryside and towns that we were passing through had seen much more strife than Americans understood. Our conversation sticks with me to this day. He said, “You Americans don’t understand. Every square centimeter of the of the ground that we are passing over is drenched in blood. Even though you had a great civil war, you have nothing that approaches our history of conflict. The worst was World War II.”
    I agree with you and him. Unfortunately we have a group of dilettantes masquerading as leaders who haven’t a clue about Twentieth Century history. And now they seem to be leading europeans, who should know better, down the primrose path to a best a return to the Cold War or at worst World War III.

  61. J says:

    Putin with deal with the Ukraine’s Badera Nazis a.k.a. the Ukraine’s right wing extremists at some point in time. I foresee a harsh approach, especially with how WWII’s German Nazis and their associated Nazi Allies heaped carnage upon the Russian citizenry.

  62. toto says:

    But in the present situation, there is a possible non-military response that carries a lot of actual pain (for both sides). If Europe decides to get serious about economic sanctions, they will suffer for it, but so will Russia.
    From the news today, it seems that Europe does not want a true economic confrontation over the *current* situation. Which is great news.
    It seems to me that the implicit red line for economic, non-military, but nevertheless highly painful retribution has been drawn at Russian invasion outside Crimea.
    Considering that there are also strong advantages for Russia in keeping the East as part of Ukraine, if the colonel is right, we may have seen the worst of the crisis.

  63. Fred says:

    “Putin with deal with the Ukraine’s Badera Nazis a.k.a. the Ukraine’s right wing extremists at some point in time. I foresee a harsh approach,…”
    I’m sure he won’t send a blond with a degree from one of the best universities in Russia with a bag of cookies….

  64. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Tough to tell. On the one hand, British were able to make up a lot of ground between 1938 and 1939 in some areas they were lacking: namely, modern fighters that enabled successful defense of Britain in the summer of 1940. On the other hand, Germans made up a lot of ground, not just from their own production, but, as rkka notes, from the Czech army stocks and armament factories, in medium tanks and heavy artillery that they were desperately lacking in as well. While I still doubt whether Czechs would have been able to “win” against Germans, I don’t doubt that without Munich, German blitzkrieg against France in 1940 would have been impossible.

  65. Thomas says:

    Here is the Saker’s view;
    “As for the tactic chosen by Russia, it is a sophisticated one. As the expression goes “when Russia is threatened, she does not get angry, she concentrates”. This is what happening today. The essence of the Russian tactic is the following one: first, militarily protect the Crimea to allow it to break-off from the current Banderastan and thereby set a precedent and an example: While in half of regions currently controlled by the neo-Fascists the pensions are not paid at all, and while the revolutionary regime in Kiev has already indicated that it plans to slash all pensions by 50%, in Crimea all salaries and social services will be paid in full to everybody, even those who resigned rather than recognize the Crimean authorities. The folks in Banderastan are about to find out that there is more to running a country than beating unarmed cops and singing the national anthem. Then, Russia has threatened to use military force should the Banderist forces try to subdue the south (Odessa, Nikolaev, Kherson) and the east (Donetsk, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Lugansk) by violence. This threat both deters the Banderists from going overboard with violence while giving the Russian-speakers somewhat of a “safety net” for their protest and civil disobedience actions. Third, the Kremlin knows that the newly created Banderastan is broke and that the US and EU will never come up with anywhere near the kind of money needed to bail it out. Not only has Russia stopped sending money to the Ukraine, but Gazprom has declared the previous agreement reached with Yanukovich has been violated by the new regime, thus the price of gas for the Ukraine will now sharply rise. Finally, the richest parts of the Ukraine are, precisely, the east and the south of the country which are now attempting not to pay taxes to the illegal regime in Kiev. And if the Banderites succeed in taking over the east, then its entire industry will instantly collapse (it fully depends on Russia). Thus time is on Russia’s side and the new Banderastan is simply not viable. With no money, no energy and without the possibility to rule by terror (at least in the south and east), the new regime will inevitably collapse. Russia will only re-engage the rump-Ukraine once the neo-Fascists are gone and a civilized regime comes back to power in Kiev.”

  66. Thomas says:

    Your linked article is from a publication that receives donations from the NED.
    By the way, the three for three are all US own goals.

  67. Will Reks says:

    kao_hsien_chih, I’m not fond of Obama’s judgement either but there’s plenty he’s done wrong in the realm of foreign policy alone and I don’t think his handling of healthcare reform is relevant. It’s hard to come to a definite conclusion when the program is barely a few months old. The design of ACA and its implementation was terrible but it will take a bit longer to determine if it is truly better than the status quo or not.

  68. crf says:

    You are exactly right about the degenerative elements in Russian society and government. The US and EU ought to be very concerned about such things, since they are, in fact, harbingers of failure. We could say the same thing about the extreme right in Greece and Hungary. But this crisis isn’t about hypocrisy. It’s about Nuclear War.
    It is about the ability of Russia to survive and grow as a world power, in the security that the United States will not a launch a pre-emptive strike in an attempt to win a nuclear war, and that the US would never seek to make Russia a failed state with nuclear weapons. Would you agree that it is an IRON RULE of world affairs that no country with world-destroying nuclear capacity can ever become a failed state? A few months ago, anyone who’s thought about those thing would say yes. They’d probably say it would be the absolutely most central condition of foreign policy of any major nation. They’d say that if a WorldPowerA tried to make WorldPowerB a failed state, then WorldPowerA is run by insane lunatics who want to get to heaven first and bar the doors.
    Russia just realized that that Iron rule no longer seems to apply to the foreign policy consideration of the United States or much of the European Union. You can hear the scales falling off its eyes. You can hear the leviathan thrashing in distress.
    The Cold war was expertly managed by all sides to ensure that Russia never felt insecure enough to launch a pre-emptive strike. The Cuban missile crisis was solved with regret admitted by the USSR (the cuba missile crisis was the attempt by Russia to completely constrain US interests by having the ability to launch a first strike from Cuba, and therefore have a chance of winning a nuclear war). The dissolution of the SU, at risk of becoming a failed state with nuclear weapons, was again expertly solved in a manner that would implicitly guarantee Russia its security and economic health. Everyone understood each others needs.
    The attempt by the US and EU to remove the Ukraine from Russia’s economic and security orbit, by promoting a coup in which only western interests were considered, (even if seemingly on a lark), has utterly shaken Russian faith that the US was not imminently seeking their country’s economic and physical destruction. The seizure of Crimea is a very obvious message from Russia to the West that Russia now believes that trust to be shattered. Perhaps permanently. The seizure of Crimea is NOT the same message as the seizure of Abkhazia. It is very much a “cri-de-coeur”. And we are right now living in a world on the cusp of nuclear war, without an easy way out as there was with the cuba missile crisis.

  69. Medicine Man says:

    Nah, I’m sure Russia has their own version of the carrot and the stick. I’d also wager that their version has less pillow talk.

  70. Medicine Man says:

    I noticed that our (Canada) PM has refused to recognize the results of the Crimean referendum to join Russia. Not a legitimate decision says Prime Minister Sweater-vest. I wonder what constitutes a legitimate national decision if not the will of the overwhelming majority of the people living there. Strangely ethnic Russians living in the Crimean region don’t want much to do with a Ukraine dominated by Ukrainian nationalists. It is almost like they can imagine themselves becoming second class citizens in the future – or worse.
    I know hypocrisy in geopolitics isn’t newsworthy, but didn’t we (the West) once impose exactly the kind of partition in the Balkans that we are now decrying in the Ukraine?

  71. Ingolf says:

    Yes, it baffles me too.
    Perhaps the same spirit of triumphalism that underpinned Fukuyama’s “The End of History” wrought deeper-seated changes elsewhere than has been commonly recognised, including in the foreign policy educational establishment.
    Coming on top of a half-century of utter economic predominance and military superiority, for most of the American policy elite the collapse of the Soviet Union must have wiped away any self-doubts they may still have harboured. The world was theirs, to make of what they wished.
    Hard not to become ahistorical in such circumstances, to presume that one’s own views and interests are necessarily universal. Certainly it’s not a state of mind that lends itself to the detached contemplation of either past or present, or to any empathetic attempts to understand others.
    Terribly obvious thoughts, of course, but there may still be some truth in them.

  72. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Perhaps so (and I hope so). If the clashes between pro- and anti-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine die down, we will know everyone understands the red line.

  73. Alba Etie says:

    I would argue that the Iraq occupation disaster replenished those sane reservoirs completely to capacity by We the People . I am certain we would have seen wide spread civil disobedience if we had starting bombing Syria . The Elites know this too , full stop.

  74. MRW says:

    Phil, I certainly think he’s three moves ahead of Kerry, but I wonder if Putin took away what I did when Obama threw the Syrian War question to Congress that Saturday AM. Four days before on Tuesday, both Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity issued curious urgent warnings similarly worded that we couldn’t go to war with Syria, and implored their listeners to call Congress to stop it, which they did. Shocked the members. My unenlightened and uninformed opinion is that someone put those two announcers up to it. They got the radio crowd and the TV crowd within six hours. Again, Congress was shocked if you remember. So Obama sails in on his Saturday AM radio show and throws the debate and decision to Congress, nullifying the neocons in one fell swoop. Done. If a military ignoramus like me could notice it, why not Putin?

  75. MRW says:


  76. Madhu says:

    Long time lurker, second time commenter. I posted the following in another comment section and thought it fit the discussion here:
    I’m going to have to make do with a Thomas Friedman column (!) from 2008 or so because I can’t find the Washington Post letter to the editor that basically calls out Robert Kagan in 2008 and says that crossing certain red-lines will bring a response.
    “The Clinton and Bush foreign policy teams acted on the basis of two false premises,” said Mandelbaum. “One was that Russia is innately aggressive and that the end of the cold war could not possibly change this, so we had to expand our military alliance up to its borders. Despite all the pious blather about using NATO to promote democracy, the belief in Russia’s eternal aggressiveness is the only basis on which NATO expansion ever made sense — especially when you consider that the Russians were told they could not join. The other premise was that Russia would always be too weak to endanger any new NATO members, so we would never have to commit troops to defend them. It would cost us nothing. They were wrong on both counts.”
    The humiliation that NATO expansion bred in Russia was critical in fueling Putin’s rise after Boris Yeltsin moved on. And America’s addiction to oil helped push up energy prices to a level that gave Putin the power to act on that humiliation. This is crucial backdrop.
    – Thomas Friedman, New York Times (2008)
    Kagan’s essay “Not Fade Away: The Myth of American Decline”, (the New Republic, February 2012, was very positively received by President Obama. Josh Rogin reported in Foreign Policy that the president “spent more than 10 minutes talking about it…going over its arguments paragraph by paragraph.” That essay was excerpted from his book The Word America Made (2012).
    – Robert Kagan wiki
    Not Fade Away. The Myth of American Decline.
    The Americans won the Gulf War, expanded NATO eastward, eventually brought peace to the Balkans, after much bloodshed, led much of the word to embrace the “Washington Consensus” on economics–but some of these successes began to unravel, and were matched by equally significant failures.
    . The New Republic, Jan 11, 2012
    A democratizing Russia, and even Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union, took a fairly benign view of NATO and tended to have good relations with neighbors that were treading the same path toward democracy. But Vladimir Putin regards NATO as a hostile entity, calls its enlargement “a serious provocation,” and asks “against who is this expansion intended?”
    Ideologies Rude Return, Robert Kagan, Friday May 2, 2008
    So, a President with little foreign policy experience because of his background in domestic politics listens to the same failed liberal interventionist/neocon blather that got us into trouble in Iraq, Afghanistan (surge), almost in Syria, and so on.
    The essay on the myth of American decline is seductive, no doubt, but it mixes apples and oranges and conflates many things. Kagan has often written about the bumpy nature of American hegemony and the mistakes made, yet never pauses to consider in his essay whether what he counts as successes are really failures, or potential trouble spots.
    How does this foreign policy deep state continue its intellectual seductions, president after president, year after year, failed policy and intervention after failed policy and intervention?

  77. different clue says:

    ” Ah HA! Now I’ve got you right where you want me!”

  78. crf says:

    The crucial difference is that in the Balkans, they couldn’t stand each other, and there was a genocidal massacre. (Of course, not every member of every Balkan group: but it only takes a small minority of haters to make life intolerable for everyone.)
    Obviously we have to wait until the slaughter starts, to make it legal.

  79. different clue says:

    But if Putin prizes stability along with safety, then wouldn’t he seek the least feasible actions to assure that Ukraine never enters NATO or hosts any NATO personnel? And wouldn’t an outright invasion/occupation into Ukraine Proper bring risks of further falling dominoes of instability that would lead Putin not to want to risk it?

  80. different clue says:

    I think the US governators are were more eager for that war than the EU governators were. Didn’t the EU negotiators try to short circuit the march to overthrow and war with a compromise deal between Yanukovich and the non-naziform non-banderista demonstrator-leaders? And weren’t those snipers acting on behalf of whoever it is that wanted the march to war to continue?

  81. different clue says:

    This and several past posts and threads have been about geopolitical and diplomatic malpractice on the part of American and lesserly EU-member governators. But however Ukraine ends up being resolved, there will still be the same unhappy Ukrainians who were ripe for demonstrations 10 years ago and then today. They themselves might not all have expected their mass-demonstrations to be hijacked by smaller more organized groups with foreign assistance.
    A journalist named Mark Ames spent several years living and writing in Russia until he got someone upset enough with him that he had to leave. He now lives and writes here. He recently wrote something about how there are real Ukrainians under all this with real grievances who may act out again if their situation stays the same.
    Separately, a young Ukrainian living in Kiev wrote an article and sent it to Reddit about what the young people who began this round of demonstrations were upset about and what the social situation was. He claims himself and them (of the early and mid-stages of the demonstrations) to have nothing in common and no shared interests with the naziform Banderists who took over. He paints a sad and depressing picture of ordinary life for ordinary people in the Mid and West Ukraine.
    I know this is off the strict subject of this post/thread but since it is about Ukrainian social mood perhaps it is still tangentially relevant.
    By the way, I have started wondering if the USSR Stalinists took away the indigenous Baltic States Communists (if there were any) the same way Harry tells us he took away the Galician ones. Would anyone here know?

  82. DH says:

    Thank you. Fascinating discussion.

  83. Alba Etie says:

    Would you consider the intervention by NATO in the former Yugoslavia President Clinton years to be in the end a failure ?
    I do not believe the military intervention against Milosvic was necessarily a total failure . Given the alternatives the final outcome in former Yugoslavia while not perfect at least is manageable in the present day . Clearly the Bush Cheney occupation of Iraq was a total disaster. And IMO it would have been much smarter to go to Afghanistan , destroy the AQ training camps, depose the Taliban ,and told whomever was left in charge ( maybe the Haqqani network , maybe the Northern Alliance ) that if the continental United States were ever attacked again they would be held fully responsible for that attack . But instead thirteen years later we are leaving after another failed attempt at nation building . As to the question of why does our deep state foreign policy establishment keep seducing every president into these failed foreign policy and interventions ? That is a very good question , and my belief is the basic reason is that We the People allow ourselves to be led into these bad policies and interventions . But the Iraq misadventure has- again IMO – caused the majority of the voting public to wake up and smell the neocon carnage these bad policies have wrought . The phone lines were lit up in the Congress the days that the AUMF for Syria was being debated -and the great majority of the calls , were against bombing Assad . And now with all the blather from the likes of John Bolton , and the Kaganites – ( to include Ms Nuland ) about punishing Russia for stopping a neo fascist regime from coming to power at its doorstep – I further believe that We the People are saying no to this foreign policy madness of the neocons .
    We shall see…

  84. kyooshtik says:

    David Habakkuk, some evocative insights concerning policymaking bereft of historical perspective. Perhaps what we are witnessing is the real and true failure of Realpolitik. England just prior to the second World War has been mentioned frequently in these recent threads, and I think it’s relevant for yet another reason. England at the time was undergoing a transformation. Increasingly, policymaking, domestic and foreign, was falling to the hands of full-time politicians, and thus Realpolitik was sweeping its way through the Kingdom no longer so United. Prior to Realpolitik, policy was worked out by the gentlemen of the aristocracy who were extremely well educated and embraced historical perspective in all things, including policymaking. Of course, as has been pointed out, history is debatable. As an example, counter evidence has been supplied in these threads that England was not necessarily appeasing Hitler and the Nazis for appeasement’s sake, yet the predominant Western historical perspective belies that. So, which is it? The distinction is important if life-altering policy is to be predicated upon it.
    A great movie, by the way, that utilizes this shift in England from Aristocratic Gentlemanly policymaking to Realpolitik as setting and context is Remains of The Day with Anthony Hopkins. This movie is superbly perfect in every way, so I highly recommend it. The author of the book on which it was based and the director really did their homework. Here’s a taste:

  85. turcopolier says:

    I happen to know quite a lot about “On War.” For Clausewitz the possibilities he refers to as “total war” are those of the time of Napoleon, nothing more. pl

  86. patrick lang says:

    It appears that Russia scorns my second point and will annex the Crimea forthwith. In fact the State Duma voted today to suggest to Obama that all members who vote for annexation believe they should be placed on Obama’s sanctions list as a patriotic duty. The Russians are also going to bar a number of American congressmen from Russia in retribution. The Europeans and Americans can kiss their investments in Russia goodbye if Russian assets are seized in the West. pl

  87. Charles I says:

    Russia owes Eurobanks $200 bn. Whatever is up with individual sanctions of Putin cronies, its absurd.
    When is the next crew change for the ISS scheduled?

  88. Medicine Man says:

    I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic but that is pretty dark and humorous if you are. So the real problem for the delicate sensibilities of western leaders is that Russians in Crimea have the foresight to step out of the way of the axe blow.

  89. kyoostik,
    With regard to appeasement. If you want to get a vivid sense of what the arguments were about, it helps to look at the writings of participants.
    Among American accounts, of particular interest is the presentation of the pro-appeasement view by George Kennan in chapter 3 of the first volume of his memoirs – ‘Moscow and Washington in the 1930s’.
    His account can usefully be contrasted with the classic anti-appeasement polemic ‘Germany Puts the Clock Back’ by the great foreign correspondent Edgar Ansel Mowrer.
    What Kennan believed was that, because Hitler was a nationalist, his aims were limited to extending the power of the Reich ‘only to territories now or previously inhabited by Germans.’
    Accordingly, Kennan was disposed to question both the objective validity, and the subjective sincerity, of Soviet claims to perceive a threat from Nazi Germany.
    By contrast, Mowrer believed that Hitler’s fundamental agenda remained that spelt out in ‘Mein Kampf’ – the creation of an autarkic empire in the East by the destruction of the Soviet Union.
    Accordingly, he saw the key to ‘deterring’ Hitler, and if that should prove impossible, fighting him, as accepting Soviet offers to collaborate in defending Czechoslovakia.
    From Kennan’s point of view, however, these offers were a baited hook – whose purpose was to exploit the gullibility of ‘useful idiots’ like Mowrer in order to inveigle Germany and the Western democracies into fighting each other.
    The fact that the Red Army would have to cross Poland or Romania to fight the Germans – and those countries were absolutely resistant to seeing this happen – could then, Kennan anticipated, be used as pretext to allow the Soviets to husband their strength, while the Western powers exhausted each other in a protracted war of attrition.
    My father was one of those Kennan regarded as ‘useful idiots’, but people he greatly liked and admired were on other side of the argument. So I can testify that the issues involved were not anything like as clear in 1938 as they appeared subsequently.
    In my view, for what it is worth, the really heinous failure of the Chamberlain government came after the German takeover of the rump of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 torpedoed the assumption that Hitler’s aims were limited.
    To seek to construct a structure of ‘deterrence’ around Poland, rather than the Soviet Union, was to ask for what the British got – a pact between Hitler and Stalin, and the outbreak of war. Whether a different approach could have avoided this has to remain a moot point.
    However, it is material that people like Kennan and Chamberlain, who had difficulty grasping that Stalin did in fact take ‘Mein Kampf’ extremely seriously, also could not grasp that he was prone to believe that the British did so too, and were happy to encourage the Germans to turn on him.
    The question you raise about the relevance of change in the social composition of elites and the professionalisation of politics to foreign policymaking is an interesting one. Being unfamiliar with ‘Remains of the Day’, in either the book or the film version, it is not clear to me quite what the force of the distinction between ‘aristocratic gentlemanly’ policymaking and ‘realpolitik’ is.
    What is certainly the case is that the kind of amoral Machiavellianism one finds alike in Hitler and Stalin was both alien to someone like Chamberlain and difficult for him to understand. But then Churchill, who really was an aristocrat, could understand it only too well, as could Mowrer. Although the relevance of social class in all this is real, it is very complex.

  90. Medicine Man says:

    Submitted without comment, Bill Kristol laments the war weariness of Americans:

  91. Colonel Lang,
    The lack of any interest in accommodating Western sensibilities by refraining from outright annexation, on the part alike of the State Duma, Putin, and it would seem most Russians, marks an epochal moment.
    A report in the NYT on Saturday brought out very well the way in which anti-Western nationalists – including leading ‘Eurasianists’ – in Russia are now like cats who have, somewhat unexpectedly, been handled a full saucer of cream. An extract:
    ‘Some in Mr. Putin’s camp see the confrontation as an opportunity to make the diplomatic turn toward China that they have long advocated, said Sergei A. Karaganov, a dean of the faculty of international relations at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
    ‘“This whole episode is going to change the rules of the game,” Mr. Karaganov said of Crimea, which is holding a referendum on secession on Sunday. “Confrontation with the West is welcomed by all too many here, to cleanse the elite, to organize the nation.”’
    (See )
    Since the ‘Eighties, Karaganov has been a figure of some moment in the pro-Western section of the Russian foreign policy ‘establishment’, whose views feature prominently in the magazine ‘Russia in Global Affairs’, of which he is publisher. His most recent column in the magazine is entitled ‘Russia needs to defend its interests with an iron fist.’
    ( )
    A generation ago, the United States had a kind of ‘fifth column’ in the former Soviet Union, which stretched right into the upper reaches of the ‘nomenklatura’ – a fact of which Western intelligence seemed largely unaware. If the measures which have largely liquidated this ‘fifth column’ – in particular, NATO expansion – had contributed in any discernible way to the security either of the United States or Europe, I would find what has happened since less puzzling.
    In the event, having eliminated any prospects of Georgia recovering its breakaway provinces, it appears that we have now succeeded in detaching Crimea from Ukraine – and exacerbating all the conflicts which have bedevilled and will continue to bedevil that unfortunate country.
    Sometime down in Hell, the old Georgian gangster must be laughing.

  92. nick b says:

    Charles I,
    So far the ‘sanctions’ are pretty weak. I read that Vladislav Surkov, aide to Putin, said he was quite proud to be on the list. He said it was “kind of a political Oscar from America.”

  93. Charles Dekle,
    The lack of understanding of, or indeed interest in, history is I think the crux of the problem. I wish I could say that the British were wiser in this respect, but I do not think I would have any justification for doing so.
    I was also fascinated by your anecdote about Janine Wedel. We have had a lot of denunciations of ‘social science’ on this blog, some of them from me. But her work seems to me an illustration of how, properly pursued, ‘social science’ can be invaluable.
    She started out unravelling how communist systems actually operated. Subsequently, she went on to unravel how Western-sponsored projects of ‘reform’ in the former Eastern bloc operated. And then she went on to notice that how contemporary politics in the Western world was practised was not so very different.
    A wonderful woman!

  94. Ingolf,
    That seems a highly plausible account of how we got into the mess we are in. The question then becomes — how do we get out of it?

  95. Thomas says:

    “But Vladimir Putin regards NATO as a hostile entity, calls its enlargement “a serious provocation,” and asks “against who is this expansion intended?”
    Ideologies Rude Return, Robert Kagan, Friday May 2, 2008″
    Considering the Georgian War was set for an August start, this looks like preparing the information sphere for the justification of the Neo-con adventure. An Ideologue whining about ideology is rich.
    The answer to your question is they usurped the institutions by placing fellow travelers in key positions since the 80s.

  96. rkka,
    Your comment raises questions to which I have no answer.
    In the early Eighties, it would have been absurd to say that ‘hatred of Russia’ was consensual in Britain.
    Since the retreat and collapse of Soviet power, it appears to have become consensual among British elites.
    But there again, if you look at comments on articles about the current crisis, be they on the Telegraph, the Independent, the Financial Times, or the Guardian, it is clear that the elites do not have the people behind them.
    How one can make sense of this is not clear to me.

  97. Thomas says:

    “but it only takes a small minority of haters to make life intolerable for everyone.”
    Just like current day Ukraine and the Bandera Brigades.

  98. CK says:

    Of all the irrelevancies in the US today, John McCain is a loud and ridiculous; but minor one. The failed grandson and son of Admirals, the collaborator for orange juice and better meds, the naval aviator who had one airplane shot from under him and 4 others destroyed by ineptitude ( if it were not for his last name the Navy would never have allowed him near anything complicated or dangerous to his fellow swabbies), the irredeemable cheap crook from the Keating Five, the mobbed up Arizonan who killed the MIA POW hearings; is now actively hoping that Russia places him on their tit-for-tat
    sanctions. I can only hope that Mr. Putin ignores this craven, neo-con owned pustule on the body politic.
    For me, as should be obvious, John McCain represents all that is ignoble, dishounourable, second rate about the USA. A cheap bully who never saw a foreign situation wherein he could get other, braver, more honourable, more worthy men and women killed for his enjoyment and pleasure.
    That Arizona finds it necessary to keep sending this “gentleman” to suck at the federal tit is unfathomable.

  99. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I always thought Chamberlain’s “mistake” was really due to his being a more “modern” politician who took things like public opinion, nationalism, and economic investment too seriously, rather than being an old fashioned aristocrat, while Churchill had a good intuition for old fashioned power politics while did not understand public opinion at all (as per his being electorally creamed in 1945 to Attlee).
    Chamberlain et al erred vis-a-vis Poland in 1939 as the direct sequel of their mistake vis-a-vis Czechoslovakia, I think. Whether Soviet Russia was sincere in its expressed desire to resist Germany or not, the price of its cooperation would have been satelite status for Romania, Poland, and probably a few other Eastern European states. If Chamberlain et al’s suspicion was justified (and there is no reason to think that they were not), Russians would have got the West and Germans to fight while they gobbled up their targets–as they in fact did vis-a-vis the Baltic States and Bessarabia/North Bukovina and tried to vis-a-vis Finland between 1939 and 1940. Even if Russians were serious, they would have, for practical reasons, occupied Romania and much of Poland while deploying troops against Germany. (Plus, the skepticism of Russia’s military effectiveness–I will concede being guilty of it myself) The moral price of resisting Hitler would have been excessive and hoping and praying that Hitler might give them a fig leaf (by leaving Prague unoccupied) was seen as a worthwhile alternative. Given this background, essentially selling out Poland (and its neighbors) to Russians for the sake of protecting Polish sovereignty was unthinkable, so Chamberlain et al once again made the dishonest and irresponsible choice, of guaranteeing Poland and leaving the Russians out, in order that they should look moral before the public. Churchill, who did not care about public opinion and was interested only in resisting Germany on the basis solely of power politics, did not give in to this irresponsible sentiment.

  100. nick b says:

    Putin spoke about McCain at the Valdai club this past September.
    “The senator has his own views. I do think though that he is lacking information about our country. The fact that he chose to publish his article in Pravda – and he wanted after all to publish it in the most influential and widely read newspaper – suggests that he is lacking information. Pravda is a respected publication of the Communist Party, which is now in opposition, but it does not have very wide circulation around the country now. He wants to get his views across to as many people as possible, and so his choice simply suggests that he is not well-informed about our country.”
    The transcript of the whole meeting is quite interesting. It’s somewhat dated now, but worth a read.

  101. Ingolf says:

    Sufficient collisions with an uncooperative reality, perhaps?
    Then again, there’s the risk that will provoke evermore denial and irrational activity. The public seem ahead of their masters in tiring of the indispensable nation role so maybe there’s some hope in that direction. I don’t know.
    Would be most interested in your thoughts.

  102. kao_hsien_chih says:

    One interesting development, now that we are heading back to the Cold War politics, apparently, is that there is a killing to be had in world titanium markets.
    Russia is, by far, the leading producer of titanium. Titanium is a critical component in modern aircraft and I suspect that, if the economic warfare escalates, Russians will keep selling titanium to the west. (There was supposed to be a major technological breakthrough that would make titanium production easier even from poor quality ores accessible to the West…but the technique is, as I understand it, protected by patents for next couple of decades…) While US military equipment production does not directly rely on Russian titanium, the price of non-Russian titanium is kept cheaper due to the use of Russian titanium in production of civilian aircraft (and by other Western airplane manufacturers.) Without access to Russian titanium, the competition will drive prices sky high. Yet, if we go back to the Cold War environment, the demand for titanium for military applications, if anything, will rise sharply, with all attendant economic consequences.
    Just another illustration of how a deteriorating US Russia relationship may have consequences beyond the obvious….

  103. FB Ali says:

    Col Lang,
    I believe that your expectation of how the situation would develop was accurate when you formulated it. And this was probably also Putin’s own game plan then. However, when the US did not follow through with your third point (meaningful negotiations on ‘neutralising’ Ukraine) Putin appears to have decided to change his plan and annex Crimea.
    What happens next again depends on what the US does. If it de-escalates and begins talks with Russia about ensuring a neutral Ukraine (with the Russian-speaking population protected through a new federal structure), the situation will stabilise. If the US maintains a bellicose policy of sanctions and costs, things could get much worse.
    A welcome sign was today’s speech by Ukraine’s PM promising that his country won’t join NATO. This has to be followed up by meaningful action. Otherwise, Putin seems prepared to go further.

  104. Harper says:

    There are some indications, following Putin’s speech before the Duma and government officials yesterday that there is a new formulation which both accepts the inevitability of Putin’s now officially announced re-annexation of Crimea (first annexation was in 1783 by Catherine the Great) and holds open the prospect of a neutral federated Ukraine. Seems there are continuing talks between Kerry and Lavrov, and their six hour talk in London on Saturday covered the larger range of issues that are clear common priorities, including P5+1, Syria (particularly after Ban Ki-moon’s appeal over the humanitarian tragedy still unfolding), Afghan withdrawal, North Korea (where the US and China have a common position supporting denuclearization of the Korean peninsula) and the global war on terrorism and drugs. Watch out for the incident in Crimea where a Ukrainian soldier was killed by a sniper. Replay of Maidan, where the Right Sector and Svoboda paramilitary snipers shot both police and protesters, triggering the violence that overturned the EU-brokered agreement?

  105. kyooshtik says:

    David Habakkuk,
    Thank you for your reply on the subtopic of England and Appeasement. I agree, it is complex. There are no easy answers, but I will stick to my premise that history, despite source documentation, is still open to much interpretation and is therefore infinitely debatable. I have found the following analysis most beneficial in outlining the complexity of the issue. A thorough reading of it underscores the impossibility of objectivity.
    “Writing on British appeasement cannot be satisfactorily understood solely by reference to documentary factors or without serious consideration of a range of cultural and ideological forces. Ever since its inception in the perceptions and rhetoric of the 1930s, the appeasement debate has revolved around two contrasting viewpoints grounded in two of the most archetypal forms of narrative emplotment: a negative one emphasising contingency, agency and morality, and a positive one emphasising determinism, structural constraints and realpolitik.(139) The public record of British diplomacy in the 1930s provided sufficient material to support either of these interpretations, and in the light of subsequent archival revelations historians have filled them out in
    ever-greater detail and nuance rather than supplanting them.(140) Over time, there has been a clear correlation between the dominance of one or the other of them on the one hand, and shifts in discipli nary fashion – that is, the methodological and interpretive concerns which historians bring to bear on the documentary record – and in prevailing conceptions of national identity on the other. So it is problematic to conceive of recent interpretations, however impeccable their scholarship, as simply incarnating empirically derived conclusions. Of course, this does not mean that all historians at any given point have cleaved to precisely the same viewpoint, since dominant discourses can be negotiated in different ways, and there are in any case many other variables at
    work. Nonetheless, it would still appear that fluctuations in the historical verdict are very closely correlated with changes in the social contexts in which inquiry has occurred, rendering one approach or mode of emplotment more plausible than another, and that it makes little sense
    to conceive of this writing as making any sort of linear progress towards truth”

  106. nick b says:

    From a business perspective, there is quite a bit at risk for everyone involved. Here is a link for a (lengthy) report on Russia’s attractiveness for foreign direct investment (FDI) from Ernst and Young. Note the complete difference in tone from business than what we hear from our politicians.$FILE/2013-Russia-attractiveness-survey-Eng.pdf
    If it’s of interest, reading through the wikileaks cables regarding the Ukraine also provide a very interesting history of, at least US, thinking prior to this situation on business, NATO, and Russia.

  107. harper,
    I don’t think that the fact that Kerry appears to have accepted the principle of regionalisation means that a settlement is likely any time soon. As the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, Dmitri Trenin, brought out in a piece following the announcement of the Crimean referendum result, what Moscow is now looking for a measure of regionalisation sufficient to allow parts of the South and East, if they so wish, to maintain and develop economic links with Russia. His analysis of the implications of this seems to the point:
    ‘Some astute observers seem to believe the current tensions will soon subside, and Washington will seek an accommodation with Moscow. The Kremlin certainly does not relish in the prospect of a new confrontation with the West, but its terms of settlement may look pretty harsh to its partners-turned-opponents. Crimea should be recognized as part of Russia, following the will of its people; Ukraine should be reconstituted as a federation, de facto allowing its regions not only to decide the linguistic and cultural issues in their territory, and engage in economic relations with other countries, but weighing in on major foreign policy decisions. Which means, in plain Russian, no NATO membership, and no EU association for Ukraine.
    ‘It is unlikely that Kiev or the West will agree to that. Which means that, for the foreseeable future, Ukraine will be a geopolitical battleground. The outcome of the battle is unknowable, but it is likely to be a long and hard competition rather than a short campaign, with various Ukrainian forces joining different camps. The West has more power, but Russia has more at stake. The cheerful predictions that the “Russian aggression” in Crimea will accomplish the feat of consolidating all Ukrainians into a single nation are wishful thinking. The West needs to take a sober look at the landscape it finds itself in in Ukraine, and decide what its interests are and how much effort it is prepared to exert, and over what period of time.
    ‘As for Russia, Putin appears to have decided to play for high stakes in Ukraine. His popularity with the Russian people has topped 70 percent, a 10-percent jump in one month. In moving decisively on Crimea, Putin has also placed the Russian elites in front of a stark choice: to rally around the flag or risk being seen as a fifth column by the people, not just the authorities. Western sanctions would actually help the Kremlin in cleansing the elites. A number of critics, following the revolutionary Bolshevik tradition from World War I days, have predictably called for their government’s defeat, but it appears that most will likely take the opposite view. After all, hasn’t Putin managed to bring Crimea back without a shot being fired? Sanctions come and go. Sevastopol will stay.’
    (See )
    A weakness of the position of the U.S. and E.U. may be that they need both to contain the economic disintegration of Ukraine, and also to find some means of stuffing the genie of ‘banderista’ nationalism they have so disastrously unleashed back in the bottle. If they cannot do these things, the kinds of proposals which the Russians are putting forward may become increasingly attractive – and all the more so, precisely because Putin has gone out of his way to emphasise that the Crimea is a special case, and that he is looking for a regional situation in the remainder of Ukraine.

  108. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Fascinating! Much thanks!

  109. CK says:

    Thank you for that link. A bit more knowledge of Mr. Putin is always a welcome thing.

  110. Thomas says:

    “The West needs to take a sober look at the landscape it finds itself in in Ukraine, and decide what its interests are and how much effort it is prepared to exert, and over what period of time.”
    This is the problem, the current leaders are either unable or incapable of a concerted and calculated assessment. A possible reason could be the Bullingdon Boys in government are beholden to the Bullingdon Boys in hedge funds, especially Nate who is deeply invested in the Ukraine.
    I enjoy your posts pointing out UK public opinion in the comments and thought you might be interested in this as to why people in West Virginia are concerned by media coverage of MH370 but not Crimea. A sample comment:
    “Of course people in West Virginia are more interested in the plane than in the Crimea. They aren’t going to be expected to pay for the plane for the next fifty years, their retirement money will not vanish as a result, and no friends, neighbors, or relations of theirs need to die or be horribly maimed on the plane’s behalf. We are unlikely to be plunged into economic chaos over a downed 777. They can honestly feel sorry for anyone who died (and for those who loved them) without having to figure out which side they ought to be on. If someone caused this by screwing up, it wasn’t us. Plus there’s a mystery to speculate about, which is always good.”

  111. kyooshtik,
    History is certainly ‘open to much interpretation’, but that does not mean that it is ‘infinitely debatable.’ Such a suggestion is liable to be a route to pure subjectivity, and a disregard for any notion of truth – something which seems increasingly prevalent in the Western world.
    Let me give you an example, taken from these arguments about containment. When I read the memoirs of George Kennan, I was fascinated to find that he described the German Moscow Embassy of the Thirties as ‘at all times excellent’. This remark led me to read a fascinating book. In the early Fifties, Kennan and his fellow Foreign Service Soviet expert thought it would be a good idea if the long-serving Counsellor at the interwar German Moscow Embassy, Gustav Hilger, wrote a memoir of his experiences.
    As he doubted his competence at writing, Hilger was sent to the Russian Research Center at Harvard by Kennan and Bohlen to pick a collaborator. His choice fell up Alfred Gustav Meyer, a Jewish refugee from Germany who had been one of the ‘Ritchie boy’s whom the U.S. Army trained up for counter-intelligence duties in Germany, and who subsequently learnt Russian courtesy of the Army. (Both Hilger’s parents died in the Holocaust, and his brother survived Auschwitz.)
    In the study which Hilger wrote with Meyer, I found it argued that there could be
    ‘not the slightest doubt that a deep fear of Hitler’s Germany was the essential guide to all Soviet foreign policy in the mid-1930’s. It led Moscow to enter the League of Nations and conduct a painfully futile struggle for active collective security against the Axis. At the same time it made the Kremlin bend every effort and strain every muscle to render the country strong politically, economically, ideologically, and militarily. A desperate race against time ensued which was carried on in a spirit of hysterical urgency.
    By contrast, in Kennan’s memoirs one finds him explaining how, after Hitler’s rise to power, while he was prepared to concede some substance to Soviet fears of Japan, he described Soviet claims to perceive a threat from Germany as ‘continually expressed with a histrionic vehemence that casts doubt on their sincerity’.
    The question of whether Hilger’s view or that of Kennan – which he seems never to have wholeheartedly abandoned – was right is a matter of objective fact. In my view, the evidence supports Hilger.
    But then, as I have said, my father was one of those whom Kennan regarded as ‘useful idiots’. So this may be just family loyalty!

  112. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The GDP of EU is $ 16.584 trillion , that of US 15.68 trillion, that of Canada 1.821, GDP of Australia 1.521, GDP of Japan 5.96 trillion and GDP of South Korea 1.13 trillion.
    On paper then an alliance with roughly a GDP of 42.4 trillion dollars ought to be able to crush one with a GDP of 2.1 trillion dollars (Russia and Belarus).
    That must be the thinking behind European and North American and Australian leaders’ actions in Ukraine (in Iran, in Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan) – they have, within their understanding of what constitutes power – every expectation of prevailing against Russia.
    The thinking of Putin is described by himself in his speech yesterday:
    “….they have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed us before an accomplished fact. This happened with NATO’s expansion to the East, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They kept telling us the same thing: “Well, this does not concern you.” That’s easy to say.
    It happened with the deployment of a missile defense system. In spite of all our apprehensions, the project is working and moving forward. It happened with the endless foot-dragging in the talks on visa issues, promises of fair competition and free access to global markets.
    Today, we are being threatened with sanctions, but we already experience many limitations, ones that are quite significant for us, our economy and our nation. For example, still during the times of the Cold War, the US and subsequently other nations restricted a large list of technologies and equipment from being sold to the USSR, creating the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls list. Today, they have formally been eliminated, but only formally; and in reality, many limitations are still in effect.
    In short, we have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, led in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today. They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy. But there is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, playing the bear and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally.”
    The sentence: “They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy.” could have been uttered, verbatim, by Ayatollah Khamenei.

  113. Babak Makkinejad says:

    No you are right; Stalin sent Litvinov – himself a Jew – to negogiate an alliance with UK and France against Germany.
    If you look at Stalin’s speeches regarding collectivization, he was resisting it until it became clear that he had to prepare the Soviet Union for War and then forced collectivization became the order of the day.
    Stalin was very prescient man, it seemed; it was almost uncanny…

  114. crf says:

    Putin pretty much endorsed my view of the reasons behind his country’s actions in his speech:
    Kudos for Putin for being candid. He believes that the US is trying to weaken Russia economically by destroying his trading relationships (like the incipient Eurasia Economic Union), and missilize former soviet states to allow the US to potentially win a nuclear war with a first strike, and so utterly constrain Russia (similar to Khruschev’s missile strategy in Cuba, which nearly led to war, until the Soviets backed off). The US must scramble to head an incipient nuclear war, and make every effort to ensure that Russia not feels threatened sufficiently to launch one.
    Putin also wishes the Russian nation to be united, so that when the bombs go off, they’ll get into heaven together. This is Armageddon talk. It needs to be taken most seriously.
    If I were Obama I would make a Russia-US summit his most urgent priority.

  115. crf says:

    Putin said as much in his speech today.

  116. nick b says:

    You are quite welcome. It was an interesting read, no? As I mentioned to kao_hsein_chih below, a read of wikileaks’ posting of diplomatic cables on Ukraine also provides fascinating background.

  117. nick b says:

    You provide me with much interesting reading. It’s nice to be able to reciprocate.

  118. turcopolier says:

    After listening to Biden and Kerry today I despair for our fate. pl

  119. Tyler says:

    To be fair, social science gets short shrift around here because the majority if not nearly all of the modern pap is simply an attack vector for Frankfurt School cultural Marxists against Western Civ.

  120. Tyler says:

    “How do we get out of it?”
    Invest in rope.

  121. Ingolf says:

    As a contrast to Biden/Kerry, here’s Putin responding to a question about Syria from former French Prime Minister François Fillon (at the Valdai Club discussion in Sept 2013 linked to by nick b earlier):
    “In my discussions on this matter with my [foreign] colleagues, I say, “Ok, you’re essentially wanting to take their side and help them come to power, but what will you do next? Just grab a newspaper and chase them away from the power they’ve taken?” It doesn’t happen that way. We know it’s not possible. It doesn’t work that way. So I ask them, “What will you do?” They say, “We don’t know.” That’s a direct discussion, no secrets to hide. But if you don’t know what you’re going to do next, what’s the point in rushing in and bombing away when you don’t know the outcome? That’s the big question.
    You know what the main difference in our approaches is? If we try to intervene in favour of one of the parties to the conflict, give them our support, it will ultimately make it impossible to establish an internal balance of power in the country. Everything will start to come apart and then collapse. Difficult though it may be, we need to force them to look for common ground, force them to reach agreements among themselves and find a balance of interests, and then it might be possible to bring longer-lasting stability to the country and eventually even have things level out. But if we lend our full force to one or the other conflicting party no balance will be possible.”

  122. different clue says:

    Perhaps that is exactly the outcome the coup-funder/backers hoped to achieve . . . to engineer a Russia/China alliance and have a New Cold War with it to try imposing social control and discipline here in America and take peoples’ minds off of economic/infrastructure/civil/etc. decay.

  123. Babak Makkinejad says:

    A friend of mine walks into a bar in Holland and the bartender, mistaking him for a German, yells: “Get out, I do not want any f…ing German in my bar.”
    He was mollified once he learnt my friend was American.

  124. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think US diplomats are not at fault; they are carrying out instructions from their elected leaders.

  125. Madhu says:

    Thank you both for the nice reply to my comments. I somehow left out the part where democracy promotion or regime change are the only logical conclusions to the Kagan article–if you believe it, then you follow down that path. I seem to remember Col. Lang mentioning that perhaps the President was the main R2p proponent in his administration and perhaps we haven’t looked at that angle? Did I remember that correctly.
    I found it interesting that the first person Putin called after the Duma speech was Manohman Singh. I irritated some at another site by suggesting that it wasn’t such a bad idea if a nervous nuclear state had a deescalatory emotional relationship with another nation such that the state didn’t feel alone and thus cornered. I don’t know if that’s correct thinking or not.
    Is this relationship– and relations with China–a way to preempt a Clinton presidency, given the Clinton fascination with the Central Asian Republics and money and geopolitical pushing into the region? And NATO? Too fanciful?

  126. Thomas says:

    Democracy promotion and regime change is the primary goal for Neo-conservative empire building. An example is the Director of Freedom House, he was previously with PNAC , the Jacobin club of our generation, received a government post for resume padding , and eventually winds up in the current post. It is how they place their people in key organizations to pursue the agenda.
    The Founding Mothers of R2P are Obama’s key advisors so their influence will naturally be reflected in his public comments. As the Mommas wanted to bombs away on Syria and he didn’t points to him not being a true R2Per or at least not as ideologically strident. I believe his problem is there are differing factions within his administration pushing their goals and undermining him at the same time, one in particular doing it intentionally. He lacks the experience or understanding to thwart this and therefore he goes from one crisis on fire to the next instigated by his own pyromaniacs.
    In the current day affairs, it is best to understand Russia, India and China along with many smaller countries as the rational actors with the US and EU in a stupor of false thinking caused by drinking from the poisoned chalice of moral superiority. The rational actors are working for a global system of stability and peace for their own domestic prosperity through international institutions. After all the disruptions (Nato expansion, Iraq, Georgia, Libya etc.), the Ukrainian Crisis was the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back for Russia because a plan for transitional government was diplomatically agreed to, then broken with a violent overthrow (courtesy of the intentional pyromaniac). If this action was accepted, then could any agreement in the future (i.e. Syria) be trusted? Putin responded as a responsible statesman would when the national interests were directly challenged.
    Too fanciful, what the Rational Actors would want from a future US president is one who will keep their word , respect the interests of others, and have enough control over the administration that the rest of the government follows suit.

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