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The Battle for Ukraine: U.S. and Russia Must Find an Exit If Not Stage a Reset

December 1, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Moscow—The Kremlin is forbidding in even the best of weather. On the dark, dreary days when I recently visited Moscow the seat of Russia’s presidency was even less welcoming. Russia is not the Soviet Union, but so far hopes for the former to develop into a genuinely liberal society have been stillborn.

However, the fact that President Vladimir Putin is an unpleasant autocrat doesn’t change the necessity of Washington and Moscow working together. He is not America’s number one enemy, contra the misguided claim of Mitt Romney. Putin’s Russia actually has aided America by easing Washington’s logistics burden in Afghanistan and refusing to arm Iran with advanced anti-aircraft missiles. The two countries have cooperated against Islamist terrorism.

Nor is Moscow threatening any core U.S. interest. The Obama administration objects to Russia’s support for Syria’s Assad regime, but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once called the Syrian president a reformer. Attempting to overthrow an important though illiberal Arab barrier to Islamic radicalism has proved to be a tragic mistake. No wonder President Putin refused to follow Washington’s inconsistent lead.

His Ukrainian aggression is more serious. But the conflict does not impair fundamental American national interests. Even if Russia’s actions were “a frontal challenge to the European security order,” as claimed by Yale’s Timothy Snyder, they would primarily pose a problem for Europe. Yet there is no indication that Moscow has any ill plans for Europe, let alone “Old Europe,” America’s traditional security concern.

The U.S. joined Great Britain and Russia in signing the 1994 Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurances guaranteeing Ukraine’s sovereignty after Kiev gave up its nuclear-tipped missiles, abandoned during the Soviet Union’s break-up. However, Washington would not have agreed to the pact had it created a formal security commitment against Moscow. Moreover, had American officials intended to issue a defense guarantee, they would have rushed Ukraine into NATO. The pact, like so many international treaties, was unenforceable fluff.

Worse, Washington contributed to the Ukraine imbroglio by foolishly joining Europe in treating Kiev as a geopolitical competition, even though that nation never was an important economic, political, or security interest for the West. This allied blunder doesn’t justify Russia’s response, of course, but it precipitated Moscow’s intervention. Indeed, the U.S. would not have been happy had the Soviet Union invited Mexico to join the Warsaw Pact.

Putin demonstrates that even paranoids have enemies. Russia today appears to have regressed to a pre-1914 Great Power. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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