Friday, September 19, 2008

Who Lost Ukraine?

9/19/2008--Lost amid the catastrophic economic news is some potentially far worse news: according to a Washington Post story I read in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday, 9/17, the pro-western coalition in Ukraine has collapsed and may be replaced at least in part by a more pro-Russian government.

Why is this so bad? In part this collapse was caused by the mounting anti-Russia enthusiasm among Senator McCain and his team, including elements in the Bush Administration. After the invasion of Georgia by Russia, McCain talked tough. Governor Palin talked even tougher, not shying away from the suggestion in an interview that the US might respond militarily to further adventures by Moscow. Vice President Cheney traveled to Kiev, the capital, a few weeks ago and urged a united response to the Georgia invasion.

I was assuming that no one was taking any of this talk seriously. We are not going to war with Russia because Russia has thousands of nuclear weapons aimed at us and it would be suicide for humanity. We did not go to war with the Soviet Union when our two nations genuinely threatened each other’s existence. Ronald Reagan did not openly fight the Soviets in Afghanistan for this reason. He armed the mujahidin with Stinger antiaircraft missiles, instead. We are not going to war with Russia over Georgia or Ukraine.

Now I am beginning to wonder. Is the Republican brain trust so used to attacking nations like Iraq that cannot directly hit back that they have forgotten what real war is like? Even bombing Iran is a choice we can make if we want. But we cannot fight Russia. Even thinking along this line is madness.

Apparently the Ukrainians are not as nuts as we may be. Faced with pressure from the US to resist Russia, but without any practical military support being offered (we are bogged down in Iraq even if we wanted to respond), the people of Ukraine may have decided to make their peace with Moscow.

The invasion of Georgia was certainly a violation of international law and a horrendous precedent. But as the world learned from our invasion of Iraq, great powers can do such things. The response to restrain Russia has to be more subtle, like that of Ronald Reagan in Afghanistan, not saber-rattling we could never back up.

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