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Ukraine imperils Obama’s foreign-policy legacy

How far the blunt  and threatening posture US secretary of state John Kerry took in his interview with the CBS News toward Moscow — and President Vladimir Putin in person — over the Ukraine situation was genuine and how far it was intended to meet the domestic criticism of the Barack Obama administration being ‘weak’ in its foreign policies doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Kerry demanded virtual capitulation by Russia under the shadow of US retribution and that’s being plain dishonest and unrealistic. 

The history of the current Ukraine crisis didn’t begin with the Russian Duma’s authorization of Putin to use military force in Ukraine, if necessary. Kerry can easily check that out by asking his subordinate Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland whether she indeed discussed a road map for Ukraine’s color revolution on phone with the US ambassador in Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt during their famous “F**k-the-EU” conversation two months ago. 
In fact, that conversation took place on December 11 and the subsequent events in Ukraine, including the takeover by the new prime minister Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, have been ditto according to Nuland’s road map. Suffice to say, Kerry can’t say there is no blood on his hands. So much about UN Charter, international law, 21st century norms of inter-state behavior, blah-blah. 
Kerry is dishonest in taking to the high ground of political morality. The starting point for a reasonable solution to the crisis is an honest stocktaking by the Obama administration as regards its deliberate attempt to kindle the new cold war spirit in Europe as a ploy to reestablish Washington’s transatlantic leadership in terms of a “containment” strategy toward Russia. 
Equally, Kerry’s threats to Moscow won’t wash. Primarily because the US doesn’t enjoy global hegemony and it no longer has the ability to marshall a “coalition of the willing” in world politics. This is evident from the hollow threats Kerry held out.
Kerry warned Russia that the US and its allies would boycott the G8 summit in Sochi in June and even doubted Russia’s eligibility to be a G8 country. Big deal. Niall Ferguson has a fine blog in the Spectator what the G8 has come to be. Yes, based on last year’s GDP figures, the BRICS is slated to overtake the top four guns of the G8 — the US, Japan, Germany and the UK. 
Whereas, Kerry is on cloud nine when he speaks of G8. Will Russia compromise on its determination to counter the US’ “containment” strategy because it may otherwise lose G8 membership? Kerry must be joking. 
The same holds good for the economic sanctions he has threatened against Russia. How feasible is it for Europe to impose economic boycott of Moscow when its dependence on energy supplies from Russia is so very critical? True, US has no big stakes in trade or investment with Russia, but that is certainly not the case with Germany. Most important, will Japan’s Shinzo Abe mothball his concerted strategy to woo Russia as a counterweight to China — all because of Ukraine? 
But Kerry is an experienced politician and diplomat. So, why did he say all that in the CBS interview? His intentions seems to have been to drive wedges within the Russian political elites. Russia has an influential lobby of “westernists” who have traditionally dominated its post-Soviet foreign policy. Putin’s “pivot to Asia” hasn’t exactly gone down well with them. 
A very large section of the Russian elites park their ill-begotten assets in western countries and Kerry’s threat to “freeze” Russian assets affects them. In essence, Kerry has given a nudge to them. This is an old thesis among America’s Russia hands such as Nuland — that Russian power structure is ridden with factions and cliques that are vulnerable to US manipulation and Putin’s authority can be undermined. 
But Kerry is in a fantasyland. How could Moscow compromise on Ukraine’s induction into the EU and NATO, when it happens to be an existential issue for Russia? Zbigniew Brzezinski’s noted work The Grand Chessboard, which has profoundly influenced the US’s policies toward Russia under successive administrations since the end of the Cold War, is quintessentially built on the geopolitical matrix that without Ukraine’s partnership, Russia weakens, and that’s the path leading to America’s primacy in the 21st century. 
Simply put, the US has bitten more than it can chew in Ukraine. Alright, as Nuland wanted, “Yats” has become prime minister, but without Russia’s acquiescence, which is clearly lacking, it will take light years to put together a successor regime in Kiev that is stable and whose authority runs all across that big country of over 45 million people. 
The Obama administration will find it an uphill task to persuade the European allies to keep bankrolling the Ukraine economy. It’s a tough proposition to replace with American or European supplies the heavily subsidized Russian gas supplies on which Ukraine’s economy survives. Ukraine’s debt liabilities run into tens of billions of dollars. 
Most important, Russia will counter, no matter what it takes,  any US move to hustle Ukraine into the EU or NATO. The point is, there is no consensus within Ukraine for such a co-option into the Western orbit. The domestic opinion is evenly divided — and more so today. If the US proxies in power in Kiev try to bulldoze a decision, the eastern region, which wants to preserve Ukraine’s age-old ties with Russia, will revolt. 
As the shadow boxing in Crimea underscores, Russia actually needs to do precious little to leverage what happens next. No “invasion” of Ukraine is necessary. Russia merely has to prevent the US proxies in Kiev from showing muscle power in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. In Crimea, the revolt by the local political leadership against the US-backed putsch in Kiev cannot be crushed militarily. With minimum effort, Moscow has ensured it. 
The fundamental weakness in the US strategy is that Ukraine is not something that is felt in the blood and felt along the heart in “Old Europe”. The US strategy is riveted on “isolating” Russia, which is not an obsession with “Old Europe”.
Finally, if Kerry goes ahead and carries out his threats, Moscow is not going to take it lying down. At the very least, if Putin chooses to adopt the Gandhian way of “non-cooperation”, the US will be in big trouble over a number of foreign-policy issues. 
If the US imposes sanctions against Russia, Moscow will most certainly bust Washington’s sanctions against Iran and it will put such a big hole in Obama’s foreign policy tapestry that he won’t know where to turn to. In fact, a senior Iranian diplomat has just arrived in Moscow for consultations. It will do well for Obama to know the limits to American power. 
The right thing to do for Obama is to put the neocon lobby in its due place and to rein in the powerful ‘Russia hands’ in the US foreign-policy establishment who are running the policies for their laid-back president. 
Nuland is a protege of Madeline Albright — and of Moldovan extraction to boot, and, furthermore, she is married to the famous neocon ideologue Robert Kagan. Is there any big mystery to be explained? There is really no need for Obama to look very far to grasp where the real problem lies. It lies within his own house. He shouldn’t be an absentee landlord when it comes to the making of the Russia policies. 

Posted in Diplomacy, Military, Politics.

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6 Responses

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  1. Frederick LombardI says

    I think everyone in this debate has forgotten the most important aspect of the entire problematic scenario. The Ukraine ( at least up until now ) has been in opposition of mental slavery ( behavioral engineering ). This is why Russia is in such great oppositiin to a european union subsidized Ukraine. If the european union gets ahold of the Ukraine monetarily, not only will the economy falter, as it is in all western nations, but its own people will be blamed for the economic failure. Classic. The adoption of Pedogogy is the classic transition to economic failure and mental servitude. Hence the controlled low standard of living and escalation of crime, which opens up a world of opportunity for the american police state mentality.

  2. Sam Davis says

    Immediately BRICK countries need to create basket of currencies before to late.

  3. tick says

    Equally, Kerry’s threats to Moscow won’t wash.
    ———————

    If a tapped conversation become a rationale for invading a nation, international law becomes a mockery. Russia is a guarantor of territorial integrity of Ukraine. This accentuation of cold war scenario was preceded by several miscalculations on all sides. However, the Russian intervention is of a totally different dimension and character. The initiation of second cold war is the only likely outcome if the Russian preemption persists.

    The only sensible outcome is for Russians to honor the law, they helped create. With global economy in doldrums, the wary world surely would like to seek any outcome but bitter divides of the past. The go slow option taken thoughtfully by developed major nations is because everyone is aware of the costs of such decisions.

    It is also useful to work out the plausible scenario of a Cold War-II. Russians could perhaps count on Chinese diplomacy to tilt, but lawful India is unlikely to do so, and surely not Japan. The only outcome, if a cyber curtain ever gets raised between two sets of nations, shall be another bitter Russian defeat.

  4. Henry Rollins says

    The right thing to do for Obama is to put the neocon lobby in its due place.

    Surely you jest. Obama was put in by those he serves. Neocons are in the driver’s seat in the US. Isn’t it obvious? It should be.

  5. Henry Rollins says

    » Washington’s Arrogance, Hubris, and Evil Have Set the Stage for War

    March 3, 2014

    Paul Craig Roberts

    In some quarters public awareness is catching up with Stephen Lendman, Michel Chossudovsky, Rick Rozoff, myself and a few others in realizing the grave danger in the crisis that Washington has created in Ukraine.

    The puppet politicians who Washington intended to put in charge of Ukraine have lost control to organized and armed neo-nazis, who are attacking Jews, Russians, and intimidating Ukrainian politicians. The government of Crimea, a Russian province that Khrushchev transferred to the Ukraine Soviet Republic in the 1950s, has disavowed the illegitimate government that illegally seized power in Kiev and requested Russian protection. The Ukrainian military forces in Crimea have gone over to Russia. The Russian government has announced that it will also protect the former Russian provinces in eastern Ukraine as well.

    As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn pointed out, it was folly for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to transfer historic provinces of Russia into Ukraine. At the time it seemed to the Soviet leadership like a good thing to do. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union and had been ruled by Russia since the 18th century. Adding Russian territory to Ukraine served to water down the nazi elements in western Ukraine that had fought for Hitler during World War 2. Perhaps another factor in the enlargement of Ukraine was the fact of Khrushchev’s Ukrainian heritage.

    Regardless, it did not matter until the Soviet Union and then the former Russian empire itself fell apart. Under Washington’s pressure, Ukraine became a separate country retaining the Russian provinces, but Russia retained its Black Sea naval base in Crimea.

    Washington tried, but failed, to take Ukraine in 2004 with the Washington-financed “Orange Revolution.” According to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, since this failure Washington has “invested” $5 billion in Ukraine in order to foment agitation for EU membership for Ukraine. EU membership would open Ukraine to looting by Western bankers and corporations, but Washington’s main goal is to establish US missile bases on Russia’s border with Ukraine and to deprive Russia of its Black Sea naval base and military industries in eastern Ukraine. EU membership for Ukraine means NATO membership.

    Washington wants missile bases in Ukraine in order to degrade Russia’s nuclear deterrent, thus reducing Russia’s ability to resist US hegemony. Only three countries stand in the way of Washington’s hegemony over the world, Russia, China, and Iran.

    Iran is surrounded by US military bases and has US fleets off its coast. The “Pivot to Asia” announced by the warmonger Obama regime is ringing China with air and naval bases. Washington is surrounding Russia with US missile and NATO bases. The corrupt Polish and Czech governments were paid to accept US missile and radar bases, which makes the Polish and Czech puppet states prime targets for nuclear annihilation. Washington has purchased the former Russian and Soviet province of Georgia, birthplace of Joseph Stalin, and is in the process of putting this puppet into NATO.

    Washington’s Western European puppets are too greedy for Washington’s money to take cognizance of the fact that these highly provocative moves are a direct strategic threat to Russia. The attitude of European governments seems to be, “after me, the deluge.”

    Russia has been slow to react to the many years of Washington’s provocations, hoping for some sign of good sense and good will to emerge in the West. Instead, Russia has experienced rising demonization from Washington and European capitals and foaming at the mouth vicious denunciations by the West’s media whores. The bulk of the American and European populations are being brainwashed to see the problem that Washington’s meddling has caused in Ukraine to be Russia’s fault. Yesterday, I heard on National Public Radio a presstitute from the New Republic describe Putin as the problem.

    The ignorance, absence of integrity, and lack of independence of the US media greatly enhances the prospect for war. The picture being drawn for insouciant Americans is totally false. An informed people would have burst out laughing when US Secretary of State John Kerry denounced Russia for “invading Ukraine” in “violation of international law.” Kerry is the foreign minister of a country that has illegally invaded Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, organized the overthrow of the government in Libya, tried to overthrow the government in Syria, attacks the civilian populations of Pakistan and Yemen with drones and missiles, constantly threatens Iran with attack, unleashed the US and Israeli trained Georgian army on the Russian population of South Ossetia, and now threatens Russia with sanctions for standing up for Russians and Russian strategic interests. The Russian government noted that Kerry has raised hypocrisy to a new level.

    Kerry has no answer to the question: “Since when does the United States government genuinely subscribe and defend the concept of sovereignty and territorial integrity?”

    Kerry, as is always the case, is lying through his teeth. Russia hasn’t invaded Ukraine. Russia sent a few more troops to join those at its Black Sea base in view of the violent anti-Russian statements and actions emanating from Kiev. As the Ukrainian military in Crimea defected to Russia, the additional Russian troops were hardly necessary.

    The stupid Kerry, wallowing in his arrogance, hubris, and evil, has issued direct threats to Russia. The Russian foreign minister has dismissed Kerry’s threats as “unacceptable.” The stage is set for war.

    Note the absurdity of the situation. Kiev has been taken over by ultra-nationalist neo-nazis. A band of ultra-nationalist thugs is the last thing the European Union wants or needs as a member state. The EU is centralizing power and suppressing the sovereignty of the member states. Note the alignment of the neoconservative Obama regime with anti-semitic neo-nazis. The neoconservative clique that has dominated the US government since the Clinton regime is heavily Jewish, many of whom are dual Israeli/US citizens. The Jewish neoconservatives, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, have lost control of their coup to neo-Nazis who preach “death to the Jews.”

    The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on February 24 that Ukrainian Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman advised “Kiev’s Jews to leave the city and even the country.” Edward Dolinsky, head of an umbrella organization of Ukrainian Jews, described the situation for Ukrainian Jews as “dire” and requested Israel’s help.

    This is the situation that Washington created and defends, while accusing Russia of stifling Ukrainian democracy. An elected democracy is what Ukraine had before Washington overthrew it.

    At this time there is no legitimate Ukrainian government.

    Everyone needs to understand that Washington is lying about Ukraine just as Washington lied about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, just as Washington lied about Iranian nukes, just as Washington lied about Syrian president Assad using chemical weapons, just as Washington lied about Afghanistan, Libya, NSA spying, torture. What hasn’t Washington lied about?

    Washington is comprised of three elements: Arrogance, Hubris, and Evil. There is nothing else there.

  6. ashish says

    Brilliant article

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