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The Expansionist
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
 
Ukrainian Tempest in a Teapot
The solution to the problems that (the) Ukraine is now experiencing is obvious, and summed up in one word: Czechoslovakia.
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Ukraine is an artificial polity that needs to be dissolved, peaceably, as Czechoslovakia divided peaceably, into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. I suspect most observers would regard the Czechs and Slovaks as closer than Ukrainians and Russians, but the former pair of peoples chose to divide into separate countries. No one regarded that as a tragedy, and the separation was accomplished without violence.
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Ukraine is the first center, as Kievan Rus in about 900 A.D., of what later came to be known as "Russia". I find it sad that Great Russia could not hold together, and grow together rather than move apart culturally, linguistically, and then politically. But Ukrainians in Kiev no longer regard themselves as Russian, and I haven't heard anyone foresee that that will change, such that Ukrainians west of the Dnieper River will resume their identity as Russians, and seek voluntary unification with the Russian Federation.
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Russian dictator Vladimir Putin — and why isn't he called the "dictator" he is, but always, in media, "President" (except for latenite talkshow host David Letterman, who regularly, and properly, speaks of the "evil dictator Vladimir Putin")? — dreams of re-establishing the Russian Empire, which was called, for several decades, the "Soviet Union" or "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics", but was always nothing but a Russian Empire, even under the Georgian tyrant Josef Stalin. If the various constituent "republics" of the former Soviet Union wish to rejoin the Russian Empire, and vote to do so, that is of course their right. But what benighted fools would want to see their independence snuffed out in favor of being dominated by an imperial Russia that operates with great arrogance and tyranny, and can't even bestow lush funding for development and employment upon the people of the areas annexed?
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The bulk of the population of Ukraine east of the Dnieper identify as Russian. NBC News, I believe it is, reported recently that some 77% speak Russian in the home. They have welcomed Russian military intervention, and there appears to be no chance that they will want reunification with western Ukraine. So let the UN supervise a plebiscite on peaceably separating the eastern Ukraine from western. Perhaps there should be three options on the ballot in eastern Ukraine: (1) remain within Kievan Ukraine; (2) separate from Kievan Ukraine but remain independent of Russia, with a capital of their own, perhaps in (the) Crimea; and (3) separate from both the political entity and the concept of (the) Ukraine altogether, and become instead part of the Russian Federation (if Russia accepts it; a vote to leave Ukraine would in any case separate eastern Ukraine from western, leaving the region's ultimate political status to be decided later).
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The western Ukraine could then move toward accession to the European Union, if that be the will of its people, with no interference from Russia, which would have little or no reason to alienate Western Europe, the U.S., and the world community to try to take western Ukraine by force. Problem solved, without armies.
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Short of pushing for a peaceable plebiscite, what can the U.S. and EU do to induce Russia to withdraw from eastern Ukraine? The U.S. has so little interaction, economically and politically, with Russia that, short of some kind of military intervention in areas Russia has made plain it has interests, the United States has essentially no power over its behavior.
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This is the fully foreseeable consequence of the vicious behavior of the Radical Right in the U.S. Government and opinion leadership that gloried in the fall of the Soviet Union and held the people of Russia responsible for the tyranny that oppressed them. Whereas the end of World War II brought the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western and Central Europe, the end of the Cold War brought absolutely no assistance to the peoples of Eastern Europe and Russian Eurasia. The Rightwing in the U.S. instead acted with vicious contempt for Russia and Russians, and continued to act as tho the Cold War was still going. This is comparable to the behavior of the British Empire after World War I, when it continued the blockade of Germany and Austria-Hungary, and thus KILLED 100,000 starving civilians after they had surrendered. That behavior was monstrous and contemptible, as was the behavior of the United States toward the people of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We should have rushed assistance of many kinds to help the people of Russia to transition to democratic, free-market economics, and made fast friends of almost everyone in that immense country, but didn't. Now we are paying the price of lording it over a defeated people. They hate us, and with good reason, and are not about to pay any attention to our feelings, nor take our advice nor warnings on anything.
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Western Europe has nore economic interaction with Russia, but mostly as subordinates, beggars dependent upon Russian oil and natural gas. So the EU has no power over Russian actions either, without acting outside that area militarily.
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The most obvious way to distress and humiliate Putin is for the U.S. and EU to intervene to overthrow or kill the mass-murdering Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. We have drones. We must have information as to where Assad might be found, and killed. DO IT! That would show Russia that it has no influence over us either, and we will do whatever we decide is in our interests, no matter what Russia wants, and if what we do humiliates Putin, so much the better. We must try to drive a wedge between the people of Russia and their dictator. Let's go over Putin's head to tell the people of Russia that that old KGB beast is a huge liability who must be removed from power, either by his actual removal from office or by parliament's reining in Putin's excesses, even stripping him of most powers, if not by law, then by cutting all funding to projects that parliament disapproves of. The U.S. and EU can assist opposition forces within Russia, by publicizing Russian abuses, channeling private, foundation funds to opposition organizations, etc.
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Moralistic preaching has no influence upon Vladimir Putin whatsoever, and most outsiders have little or no economic nor political power to bear. Putin doesn't care if his actions make Russia a pariah, because as far as he's concerned, Russia is already a pariah, and is treated contemptuously by everyone in the West. Who else might influence Russian policy?
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If Communist China were somehow to be brought into the calculations, on the side of Ukrainian independence west of the Dnieper, that might make a difference. But China's own dictators and empire-builders are inclined to make common cause with Russia against the world. China is much more dependent upon the goodwill of and trade with the outside world than is Russia, but has its own grudges against outsiders, esp. as regards Tibet and human rights issues more generally.
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Whether China is willing to take a stand against Russian military measures against Ukraine and try to use its influence as a friend — and remember that friends have much more influence than enemies — to moderate Russia's behavior remains to be seen. Only actual discussions between the U.S. and/or EU on the one side and Beijing on the other would determine the price that China demands for using its influence to moderate Russia's behavior. The U.S. refusing to receive the Dalai Lama in the White House? Abrogation of any security arrangements with Taiwan? Silence on Tibet, censorship of the Internet, political prisoners, and other issues of human rights and freedom of expression? How far would we be willing to go to induce China to restrain Russia in the Ukraine? Without Chinese influence, who on Earth can restrain Putin without military action, in the Ukraine, in Syria, in any other place where Putin has staked his reputation and resolve?



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