Ukraine Proves the U.S. Isn’t Serious About the Conversation

I’ve put off writing about Ukraine because foreign policy is not my specialty.  However I think I can write about its effect on the conversation.  When I said we need several generations to straighten things out, I assumed that we would start by correcting fundamental assumptions.  At the time, we were still in the depths of the Great Recession and it seemed like a good opportunity for reflection.  But the way things are going, new problems are being created as we speak.  In my opinion, America’s continuing pursuit of questionable goals abroad is the anti-conversation.  

When I said that our problems aren’t entirely the fault of any one country or administration, or individual, I didn’t mean to imply that everything is okay. I still think our entire premise is false. First we would have to agree that the system is dysfunctional.  The next step would be to figure out why it isn’t working.  Instead, decision makers in the U.S. are behaving as though they know what’s best for everyone else, and they are willing act on that conviction to the point of changing the world irrevocably.  

It seems to me the United States is the odd man out in Ukraine because of its questionable motives.  U.S. Officials say they are concerned for Ukraine’s people.  Or maybe it isn’t accurate to speak of the United States, because the hawks seem to have taken over on Ukraine.  They are still using an old playbook on Russia that never really played very well when it was new.

In addition to not having the interests of Ukraine at heart, some people in the U.S. don’t have the interests of the EU at heart.  The U.S. has been conflicted about the EU, maybe since its creation, but definitely since the presidency of G.W. Bush.  British economist and Eurosceptic Bernard Connolly, was the chief economist at AIG during the presidency of G.W. Bush.  Back in 2003 he wrote that it was the intention of France and Germany to bring Russia into an anti-American New Soviet Union. [ref]Connolly, Bernard. Old vs. New Europe–And America. International Economy, Spring 2003. Available:[/ref] It would be interesting to know if his influence explains Bush’s rhetoric about France before the Iraq War.  

More recently, we have the Heritage Foundation warning that Ukraine’s decision will recreate the geography of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire.  [ref]Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., Why the U.S. Should Support Ukraine’s Participation in Free Trade Agreements with Europe. The Heritage Foundation. Oct. 21. 2013. Available:[/ref] Of course, Heritage failed to mention that the world’s other contender for Empire is the United States.  But that’s not accurate either.  It’s the same neoconservative faction that never seems to learn from its mistakes.

A paper by Brookings Institute was more even handed, saying it would be best if the EU dealt with Ukraine, since Russia would object to U.S. involvement.  Judging by Victoria Nuland’s expletive for the EU, that body hasn’t been carrying its weight, but Ukraine’s signing of the AA wouldn’t really have helped the EU all that much.  [ref]Pifer, Steven. The U.S. Approach to Ukraine in Turmoil. Brookings, Dec. 26, 2013. Available:[/ref]

There is an eerie panel discussion in February’s Harper’s in which representatives of France, the United States and Great Britain suddenly begin talking as though it would be better if the EU would just go away.  Germany’s Ulrike Guérot and New York University’s Christiane Lemke were alone in arguing that the EU needs more time to work out its problems.[ref]How Germany Reconquered Europe: The euro and its discontents. Harper’s Forum, February 2014. Available:[/ref]

I agree that the EU should be given time to iron out its problems.  This is consistent with the long view of the conversation.  Therefore, I object to panelist James K. Gailbraith’s claim that the EU doesn’t have time to create a unified Federal democracy. (There were two addition panelists from the UK and France who were not mentioned in this post: John N. Gray and Emmanuel Todd.)  

Yes, change can be scary, but that’s no reason to give up.  It’s worrisome that no one in this panel saw fit to mention the primary reason for the creation of the EU: France’s desire to balance the power of the Soviet Union and the United States.  No wonder the power-hungry faction in the U.S. would like to see it go.  

When you take all of the parties into consideration, there is no coherent, constructive, long-term justification for the destruction of Ukraine.  The United States–or those in the United States who have been promoting conflict, should cut their losses and try to patch things up, if that’s still possible. As it is, the United States is in no position to be imposing its will on anyone else.  It has work to do on itself before it’s ready to tell others what to do.   


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