Why Won’t the West Just Let Ukraine Go?

August 9, 2014 at 11:34 am (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, seemingly by action of pro-Russian separatists in East Ukraine, has reinvigorated the Russophobe wave in the West. Interventionists and Russia-isolationists alike, feel vindicated in their view that there can be no compromise on Ukraine with Moscow. As tragic as the loss of life may be, it is difficult to conclude the downing of the aircraft changes much in the way of political calculations to any of the actors in question.

If indeed the separatists did it, the intention was surely not to down a civilian airliner, much less one carrying Australians, Malaysians and Dutch. It was not even a surprise attack as the separatists have been shooting down Ukrainian large transport and attack aircraft for the past months and weeks. The much referenced analogy of the German sinking of the ship Lusitania in 1915 is not an analogy at all as that attack was intentional and the result of a clear policy; MH17 was most likely an accident – but an avoidable one if the airspace over a warzone had been appropriately closed.

What is Russia’s motivation in Ukraine? Ukraine is perhaps the most important state for Russia: its market, industrial interdependence, cultural and historical ties and strategic location make it imperative for Russia to preserve Ukraine in its orbit. Moscow had apparently even been willing to allow Kiev to pursue an equidistant path under the leadership of Viktor Yanukovych, so long as that path never strayed from neutrality. Ukraine’s Finlandisation however, was interrupted abruptly by the forceful removal of Yanukovych from power earlier this year. That event empirically proved to the Kremlin that its influence over Ukraine was no longer accepted: its economic subsidies and electioneering could not buy it coexistence of interests with the West as the West was more than willing to recognize and support violent forces in Ukraine, so long as these were pro-Western.

Faced with what it saw as a betrayal – after the West’s governments had declared themselves guarantors of a power sharing agreement between the Yanukovych regime and the Maidan movement, but then reneged on it – Moscow decided to pay back in kind and play the game with the same methods: by exerting force and sponsoring violent pro-Russian movements.

Can the West boast the same concerns and interests? Hardly. Washington, Paris or London don’t have much in the way of economic interests in Ukraine, they share no cultural or historical ties and Ukraine’s location can only really be useful when planning a conflict with Russia. The Atlantic powers do have some economic interests in the country but so far those interests have not been threatened. On the contrary, it will be more difficult for Russia’s economic interdependence with Ukraine to linger with Kiev increasingly tied to the EU.

Never one to discourage the West from defending its interests, there is however a cost-benefit ratio to assess in the matter: is Ukraine worth antagonism with Russia? It often happens that smaller countries become strategically more important than bigger powers. For instance, Israel may be a small economy relatively speaking, but it is a regional power in its own right, culturally close to America and a much more stable regional ally than any Muslim nation. History also teaches that economic ties are not a guarantee for peace in and of themselves: France and Germany, China and Japan, Turkey and Iran, all were great economic partners and the greatest geopolitical rivals.mi24

Thus Russia should not be given a break simply because its economy is more important to the West than Ukraine’s. The problem is that the West has a number of challenges to deal with and creating new ones should not be a priority. In Africa and Latin America, Western powers face increasing economic rivalry from Asian powers, in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, their interests are threatened by regional spoilers such as China and Iran. On top of all this the West is facing a severe economic crisis which limits its power projecting abilities. It is very difficult to see how France’s interests would be served by redirecting its power projection from sub-Saharan Africa and the MENA, to Eastern Europe; how Britain’s interests would be served by involving itself in a continental dispute when its navy is already the weakest it has been in decades; how America’s need to balance its military budget, keep sea lanes open and counter-balance regional spoilers would be positively affected by a new deployment to a region that not only cannot help America but is in fact characterised by its perennial security deficit.

All this assuming, of course, that Europe and America will continue to cooperate rather than rival each other, around the world.

To leave Ukraine to its own fate would not constitute a loss to the West because the West never had Ukraine to begin with. To leave Ukraine would be a statement of stability, it would be a mere recognition of the status quo. The more pressure is put on Russia and Ukraine, the more Moscow will seek to cut its losses by weakening Kiev’s central rule.

In his op-ed at Offiziere, Nick Ottens writes:

1. “Russian president Vladimir Putin stands to gain little from continuing to incite rebellion in Ukraine (…)Russia’s economy expected to hardly expand this year at least partially as a result of Western financial sanctions”

Russia has everything to gain from protecting its interests in Ukraine – hard to see how the opposite is true – and what is at stake is a strategic asset, not a short-term gain. By the same token, what would the US have to gain by defending Taiwan? Or China, by seeking to co-opt it? Russia’s financial pain is to the Kremlin an investment in a more strategically safe future, where a buffer better insulates Moscow from threats from the West – which Western ideological universalism has only made more urgent.

2. “(…) Putin’s strategy failed (…) only hardened most European leaders in their resolve to draw the country into their orbit”

Russia actually needs Ukraine and Russia’s strategic focus does not have a short attention span. Hypothetically, does Nick Ottens believe that Russia should also surrender Siberia to China to avoid short-term economic pains from a Chinese embargo?…

3. “Putin’s actions also alienated the vast majority of Ukrainians”

This is perhaps the most irrelevant of arguments which are often raised in the West. Not only because it in no way changes the calculation of interests but also because; since when do interventions hinge on the targeted populations’ approval?! This is absurd. Should Israelis wait until Palestinians are fond of Benjamin Netanyahu before enacting reprisals against terrorist rockets? Or perhaps the US should wait until Iran’s ayatollahs are sufficiently unpopular before targeting a hypothetical nuclear weapons programme…

“it turned most Ukrainians decidedly away from Putin’s regime and convinced them their future lay in Europe”

Ottens needs only to speak to the instigators of the current regime in power in Kiev to quickly learn that Putin’s regime was never very tempting. Quite to the contrary, if Western Ukrainians were already Russophobic, it was Crimeans and East Ukrainians who became far more pro-Russian with the current crisis.

But lets face the argument’s validity head on: when a state intervenes, it does so to defend the interests of the citizens it represents, no one else’s.

4. “Putin had appeared to warm to the fantasies of the likes of Dugin”

This is another meme that deserves to be disproven since it is another Western lazy myth. Putin is a politician and does not follow any one person’s advice unconditionally. Aleksandr Dugin himself seems anything but Kremlin’s favourite these days. Most importantly, Dugin advises autarky and strategic counter-balancing of both the West and China. This Putin has acted against time and again: by collaborating with NATO on AfPak, with the West on Iran, by siding with China against the West, etc. By contrast Dugin would’ve preferred an alliance with Germany, Iran and Japan against both China and America. Oddly enough, Western mainstream media analysis resembles something more akin to FOX News or Russian media these days, which is ironic given its strong pride in objectivity.

5. Ottens goes on to accuse Russia of crony capitalism and claiming Moscow’s stance on Ukraine is a way for Putin to shore up the support of the working classes. Yet, Putin’s Russia always reacts to any perceived threat – be it in Chechnya, Georgia or Ukraine – regardless of who is voting for Putin at any particular moment.A10soverM1commanderart

I would suggest Nick Ottens applies the same analysis instead to the West, whose Liberal post-modern elites persist in mobilizing the limited resources of their respective nations, to serve the interests of the limitless, universalistic, radical and autistic project of converting the planet to the mantra of Western liberal democracy.

Only this tremendous bias could possibly justify Western obsession with a territory it is barely connected with or thinly depends on. Western obsession with Ukraine is ideologically corrupt – no other conflict deserves as much Western attention under the justification of the same declared principles – but most of all it is incommensurately strategically incompetent.


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Democracy derived Rhetorical Entrapment

July 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Bombing of Hiroshima

Western foreign policy suffers from a major flaw: rhetorical entrapment.

What are Western interests in Syria? The question is not often asked because it is not politically correct to mention interests when innocent people are being slaughtered. In these situations only values are of importance. Our values dictate that we strive to save as many lives as possible.

But what do our interests dictate?

Syria is a nuisance for the West. It fights the West’s strategic and economic interests in Lebanon, the Levant and the Mashreq in general. Unlike Iran it does not do so out of prejudice but rather out of pure self-interest. Syria being dependent on the Lebanese economy and strategic position does not have an interest in seeing any other power dominate Lebanon other than Syria. Damascus had no interest in allowing the US to dominate Iraq and thus becoming a major hegemon in the Middle East, and it was a balance of power reasoning that compelled the Assad regime to help jihadists and Iranians in subverting Coalition rule of occupied Iraq. Syria has kept an alliance with Iran for the same reason: because without sharing borders and conflicting spheres of interest, Tehran and Damascus could mutually cooperate to counter-balance Turkey, Iraq and to discuss the Kurd problem. In addition relying on each other also meant becoming more independent from international superpowers like the US or Russia.

Syria is thus a nuisance because it interferes frequently with Western interests. Syria is not however a major threat since unlike Iran, it does not have the capability to project power (soft or hard) in the region and limits itself to acting in its adjacent periphery. It also does not have energetic resources that might influence the behavior of world markets – like Iran.

The West has therefore only one interest in Syria: to alter its foreign policy paradigm. The best way to do this is to break its alliance with Iran so as to make it more dependent on international superpowers and co-opt it into becoming more acquiescent regionally to Western concerns. An extra benefit would be to see Iran’s isolation grow and sufficient barriers to its adventure in Lebanon, be created.

Taking this into account, should the West intervene in Syria? The answer is ‘no’. Syria is not important enough for a financially vulnerable West to spend resources on, especially when Iran is much higher in the list of priorities. That said, why not make a small contribution to the subversion of the regime?

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – Mme Albright demanded of Slobodan Milošević nothing short of a perfect human rights record in Kosovo but no such demands were ever made of the UÇK

Here is where American and European foreign policy incurs in an error: Washington and Europe should only try and replace the old regime if there were sufficient guarantees the new regime would be loyal. At this point in time there are none since much of the rebellion is carried out by jihadists and much of Syria’s Sunni majority is by default anti-Western.

The subversion of Syria should serve the one and only purpose of forcing Bashar al-Assad to negotiate. It is not his regime which matters replacing but merely his foreign policy.

Yet the West will not negotiate and the reason is simple rhetorical entrapment. Assad and his regime have by now been so vilified that any political compromise with it would be politically damaging to all the Western leaders who helpless and unwilling to intervene, chose to attack with words instead.

The pattern is not new: during the Second World War, Hitler outsmarted the Franco-British strategy of setting Germany and Russia against each other by securing a non-aggression pact with the USSR and by attacking the West first. Instead of learning from Hitler’s example, the West refused to make a separate peace with the Reich and paid a heavy price for it: eastern Europe under Soviet orbit for the next 40 years. With Japan too, in spite of the fact that the militarist regime was not as ideological as Nazi Germany, no dialogue was opened and unconditional surrender was the only exit offered to Tokyo. The result was the resort to atomic weapons, the cost was a quarter of a million lives.

Since, the tendency has endured with Western demands for humanitarian and democratic principles to be upheld to impossibly high standards and resulting in military interventions by the West in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, which were ultimately counter-productive for its interests. The unwillingness to compromise is recurrently a consequence of populism and demagoguery in justifying military expenditure and intervention, to Western citizens. Instead of justifying them with pragmatic interests, politicians with a 4/8 year policy-making horizon, prefer to justify them manicheistically, making use of a Western fundamental rights and liberties narrative which confronted with violations of those rights automatically confers merit to action (“we have to do something”) and finally warrants intervention. This is nothing but short-termism and is now standard operating procedure in spite of some honourable exceptions such as President George H. W. Bush.

Gulf War

Gulf War

This tendency is a disservice to Western interests which often reaches the absurd of empowering adversaries of the West against Western allies.

It is a tendency also brought about by Western civilisational individualism, which sees the individual as the base of society (rather than family, clan or ethnicity), therefore requiring equal universal [individual] human rights which are reflected in foreign policy by an unreasonable demand for compliance with values endogenous only to the West.

A responsible and skillful politician would have negotiated a political solution to the conflict in Syria months ago. Populists in election year will stick to demands for unconditional surrender.

The West plays a dangerous game for not only does it force extreme outcomes – instead of middle of the road ones – but it also will be compelled to systematically trust the challengers of the regime: every regime has flaws in its ‘good society’ record – be these in democratic practices or humanitarian standards – whereas the challengers are by definition starting anew and are therefore as innocent as a newborn infant – a politically convenient tabula rasa…

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The Sun Sets Due West

June 16, 2009 at 6:55 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


Geopolitical powers rise and fall. Lets understand why Europe seems to have even failed to become one.

The west experienced its first decline with the 1st World War, but western values and culture lived on through the ideological empires and their Cold War. The USA and the USSR had an essential role in promoting nationalism, centralised state, liberalism and materialism.

After two decades of Pax Americana, the decline of US hegemony might not be so dramatic were the other west faring well. But its not the case. Europe is still trailing behind the US in economic recovery. Stopping short of trying to federalize Europe, some steps to integrate it economically and financially would have been wise. Throughout the past decades however, Washington and Moscow have managed to divide and rule the old world. Excellent initiatives such as common regulation or the European Central Bank took Europe forward. But in any given crisis, Brussels was always superseded: it happened in Iraq, it was repeated in Georgia.

The postponement and even possible scrapping of projects of European (at large) interest such as the Nabucco pipeline or the A-400 transport aircraft, have to be attributed to the lobbying and savvy diplomacy of Russia and America. This in turn should be an eye opener to those end-of-history idealists who still believe Europe will forever live in peace, democracy and liberalism.3271123083_78a3e277bc

Other than disunity, the single most revealing feature of a declining power is its debt. Europe became indebted to the US after WW1 – exception being stalinist Russia – and  the US came to take its place after WW2. Today, the US is heavily indebted with its stimulus and military projects and Europe follows suit trying to maintain an impossibly charitable welfare system. The one exception might be Brazil. It is not a mystery who will take the West’s place in the world, one has but to look at the source of the West’s borrowing

Back in Europe, the coherence of the EU is more threatened than ever. The Commission has lost clout, the Parliament – where all the ideological fanatics are sent by the different national parties – is more and more self-righteous and the European momentum seems to be lost. Many blame the euro-skeptics for this. But by forcing a federal Europe, it was the moderates who dug their own graves. Had the objective of European integration been more realistic and consensual, the backlash might not have occurred.

Sadly Europe will never live up to its potential because its neighbours aren’t comfortable with it and the drivers of the project were utopian idealists. An economically integrated Europe has more power of negotiation but it squanders it when it demands cultural or political reform from its partners.

A geopolitical Europe does not possess the necessary structure to project its power because the promise/threat of federalism has pushed the euro-skeptics to power and they “opted out”.China debt cartoon

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Moral Proselytism Redux

March 11, 2009 at 10:21 am (tWP) (, , , , , , , , )

And it happened. For the first time an international organization issued an arrest warrant for a sitting head of state.


The West Vs the Rest ?...

The sad truth is that Liberal Universalism’s reign is still strong. While the Democratic Trotskyites may have been put out of office in the new world, the Humanitarian Trotskyites are sitting comfortably in theirs, in the old world.

The ICC is one of those initiatives stemming directly from the UN Charter.

A group of idealists (oblivious to the fact that the Charter was written during World War II by the two liberal empires and only signed by the “rest of the world” desperate to fall in the graces of the victorious powers and quasi investment capital monopolisers) concerned that the liberal values of the charter were not being upheld (and honestly who can blame them? One has but to take a look at the UN’s human rights initiatives such as the Human Rights Council to realize something has gone terribly wrong…) get together and out of a manifesto form an organization determined to set things right.

The problem? The overwhelming majority of signatory states to the ICC are western

The ICC is comprised primarily of European and American states. States that share a civilization cultural matrix and most of whom don’t have major geopolitical conflicts nor enough power projection to worry about outright war.

In fact Asia is the most underrepresented continent with only 8 signatory states. It does rather reminds us of the Convention on Cluster Munitions…

The major powers on the other hand are not parties to the ICC. Certainly not India,  China, Russia or the US. Many regional powers follow suit: Ethiopia, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Israel, Turkey, Iran, Angola.

And it is this pitiful organization, devoid of any actual relevance, deficiently representative of the international power framework, that determines the arrest of a sitting head of state. It is these people who decide to overthrow 361 years of Westphalian system.

Does anyone actually believe Omar al-Bashir will surrender himself to the Court? Why would he? Does the ICC have the power or the legitimacy to force him to?

On an “unrelated subject”, would his capture help bring an end to the conflict in the Sudan?

If al-Bashir and his cronies were really removed, who would be left to lead the regime? The extremist clerics that support it ideologicaly? The military that has carried out its democidal bidding?

Or are the Sudanese Arabs supposed to accept a Christian leadership from the south? Pay restitutions and include the peoples of Darfur in the oil deals perhaps?

eidhr-icon-big2For now, the regime hasn’t wasted much time in ordering the expulsion of several humanitarian NGOs.

Finally, have we mentioned the Sudan is not a signatory party to the ICC?…

Quite clearly this initiative is outrageous and useless.

Together with other western Europe initiatives pertaining to universal jurisdiction, it is based on moral premises and dismissal of existing power arrangements.

Just as the Nuremberg Trials became known as victors’ justice, so will (liberal) universal jurisdiction go down in history as one-sided utopian values evangelisation.

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