In the geopolitical arena, do the ends always justify the means? Is it wise to inflict damage on yourself and your institutions to hobble an enemy? The relationship between the West and Russia over the last few years offers an illustrative case.
In an interview this week with the Huffington Post, ACEWA Founding Board Member Stephen F. Cohen discusses the crisis in US-Russan relations and the ongoing Ukraine crisis with author Dan Kovalik. Among other observations, Professor Cohen comments that “Ukraine had been on Washington’s agenda for a very, very long time; it is a matter of public record. It was to that that Putin reacted. It was to the fear that the new government in Kiev, which overthrew the elected government, had NATO backing and its next move would be toward Crimea and the Russian naval base there. … But he was reacting, and as Kiev began an all-out war against the East, calling it the “anti-terrorist operation,” with Washington’s blessing. …”
Washington’s legion of escalation argues for “raising the costs” to Russia by increasing the number of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine…This rationale is logical on its face, but in practice does not account for the gap between the Russian and American stake in Ukraine. Kiev’s geopolitical orientation is supremely important to Russia, while American interests’ via-a-vis Ukraine are peripheral at best. It’s a case of “must have” for the Russians, versus “nice to have” for the United States.
As we all know, it is hard for an individual or nation to view the world or a particular situation through the eyes of another person or nation. I have never seen this more true than what is transpiring now over the Ukrainian crisis as it is viewed by the United States and Russia.
This is a subject of deep concern because the security of our world is threatened and we risk losing the need for collaboration on such transcendent issues as nuclear proliferation and terrorism in Iran and Syria.
The ultimate madness of today’s U.S. foreign policy is Official Washington’s eager embrace of a new Cold War against Russia with the potential for nuclear annihilation. A rational strategy would seek alternatives to this return to big-power confrontation, writes ex-U.S. diplomat William R. Polk.
Samantha Power’s delusions notwithstanding, due to the inordinate presence of non-democratic elements and outside the Maidan government, ‘Ukrainian democracy’ remains a distant dream. We learned from the shortcomings of early ‘transitology’ in the 1990s that free and fair elections do not a democracy make.
In October 2014, the Council posted an article titled “Needs Work: A Troubled U.S.-Russia Relationship,” in which we noted somberly that “if there is one point of agreement between pundits in Moscow and Washington these days, it is that U.S.-Russia relations are at a post-Cold War nadir.”
Eight months on, what was a troubled relationship is now on life support, and the deterioration has taken place in the most existentially perilous area of arms control, specifically nuclear weapons.
Jean-Pierre Chevènement, who served as France’s defence minister (1988-91) and interior minister (1997-2000) writes in Le Monde that the current crisis could have been averted “if the EU had, in launching its Eastern Partnership in 2009, framed the negotiation of the association agreement with Ukraine compatibly with the objective of the 2003 strategic EU-Russia partnership: creating ‘a single economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.'”
The Westminster Russia Forum held a debate in London recently on the Ukraine Crisis which featured a balanced panel to discuss the origins and the course of the conflict to date as well as the steps needed to bring peace and stability. It featured Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday; Economist writer Edward Lucas; Professor Richard Sakwa of the University of Kent and author of the new book ‘Frontline Ukraine’; and Orysia Lutsevych of the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House.
Given the events of the past couple of weeks, including, but not limited to: the US Senate including a provision in the Defense Authorization Act which requires that 20 percent of the funds earmarked for Ukrainian security assistance be spent on lethal weaponry for Kiev; John McCain’s denigration of the Minsk II accords in a Washington Post editorial; and NATO’s decision to place troops and weapons on Russia’s western frontier, we thought it would be appropriate to re-run Sen. Bill Bradley’s recent piece on the Ukraine crisis in Time magazine.