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Ukraine Wants to Join NATO and Fight Russia: U.S. Must Say No and Make Alliance an Issue of Security, Not Charity

December 26, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The Ukrainian parliament has repealed the law barring participation in NATO. As a sovereign state Kiev is entitled to ask to join the transatlantic alliance. The U.S. has an equal right, even duty, to answer no.

Throughout most of its young life Ukraine has looked both east and west. People wanted to take advantage of the bountiful economic opportunities in Europe and America while preserving commercial and cultural relations with Russia. The majority wanted to join the European Union but not NATO.

President Viktor Yushchenko, the disastrous 2005 election winner backed by the U.S., unsuccessfully pushed his country to join the Western military alliance. In 2010 his successor won approval of legislation promoting “nonalignment” and mandating “nonparticipation of Ukraine in the military-political alliances.” But after months of conflict and a revolution in government this week Ukraine’s Rada repealed that law. “Finally, we corrected a mistake,” said President Petro Poroshenko. “Ukraine’s nonaligned status is out.”

The vote is not the same as an application to join NATO and Ukrainian officials admit that their country will not soon satisfy alliance requirements. However, Poroshenko favors membership, as do a majority of Ukrainians. An application undoubtedly will be forthcoming if Kiev believes it will be approved.

Unsurprisingly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the move “counterproductive” and one that “only escalates confrontation.” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said a formal application “would turn Ukraine into a potential military adversary for Russia.”

The U.S. should warn Kiev not to look to NATO for the solution to its Russia problem.”

NATO officials responded to the Rada’s action with bland generalities. An alliance spokesman said “we respect the decision,” adding that “Our door is open and Ukraine will become a member of NATO if it so requests and fulfills the standards and adheres to the necessary principles.” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a group of visiting Ukrainian journalists that “Ukraine is a very valued partner of NATO.” State Department spokesman Marie Harf said: “Countries that are willing to contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic space are welcome to apply for membership.” However, no one actually issued an invitation.

In fact, joining could be counterproductive for Kiev. No doubt some Ukrainians imagine that NATO would protect them from Vladimir Putin, recovering lands lost to Russian-backed separatists and regaining Crimea from Moscow. In theory the world’s most powerful military alliance could do so. But if the consequence was a full-blown war, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Now Let's End the Embargo on Cuba

December 26, 2014 in Economics

By Ian Vásquez

Ian Vásquez

When President Obama announced that the United States would normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and loosen its trade embargo on the country, he became the first sitting president to acknowledge the obvious failure of this decades-long policy. The sanctions have done nothing to improve human rights, promote democracy, spur economic reform, or dislodge the Castro dictatorship.

A new approach could hardly do worse and will probably do better at increasing the freedoms of Cubans. Yet critics claim that Obama has rewarded and bestowed legitimacy on an intransigent regime, and worse, has thrown it a lifeline at a time when Venezuela’s growing economic crisis makes it an increasingly unreliable source of patronage.

If so, it is a criticism of U.S. policy toward any number of countries around the world — from China and Russia to Egypt and Vietnam — whose unsavory regimes violate human rights but with whom the United States maintains diplomatic and trade relations. Are we really to believe that everyone would be better off with U.S. embargoes on much of the world?

The more sophisticated critics point out that unlike in China, Cuba’s communist government has undertaken no meaningful economic reforms and thus does not merit trade relations, which can only strengthen the Castros. Yet the lack of economic reforms in Cuba is precisely why we should not expect that eliminating the embargo will lead to booming trade.

Castro’s willingness to re-engage with the United States represents a significant change.”

Until and unless Cuba changes the backward economic policies that have impoverished it, commercial opportunities will be limited. The fear among some conservatives that allowing trade with Cuba will somehow save communism from its inherent flaws betrays a surprising faith in that system. Lifting the embargo will instead clarify that the Castros’ repressive policies, not U.S. policies, are the source of Cuban misery.

It is true that any increased economic engagement with the United States would increase the regime’s revenues. But again, short of meaningful reform, those revenues will be limited. More economic engagement would likely also create constituencies in favor of further reform, and the greater opportunities for getting rich, even within the government system, would be corrosive of Cuban socialism.

Restoring Americans’ rights to travel to the island has the most potential to increase Cubans’ freedoms. A full lifting of the travel sanctions would put hundreds of thousands and perhaps up to a million Americans per year …read more

Source: OP-EDS