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November 30, 2014 3:44 PM   Subscribe

Summit of Failure: How the EU Lost Russia over Ukraine which led to Four Thousand Deaths and an Eastern Ukraine Gripped By War.
The US and Europe are at odds over NATO expansion. Hate To Say We Told You So: NATO Expansion Edition.
The Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s – Not Putin’s – Fault and Reminds Americans Why NATO Should Not Expand: Not To Ukraine, Georgia, Or Anyone Else.
posted by adamvasco (104 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
See also.
posted by evil otto at 3:49 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Council On Foreign Relations: The Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s – Not Putin’s – Fault
Submitted by George Washington on 08/21/2014 12:56 -0400
Now I'd really like to hear from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:51 PM on November 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Seems a bit of a stretch to say that the Ukraine crisis is not the fault of the man who de facto invaded Ukraine.

Before the invasion, the feeling among diplomats was "Ukraine should join the EU if its citizens wish, but should not join NATO."

Now? If Putin wanted to drive Ukraine into the arms of NATO, he couldn't be doing a better job.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:55 PM on November 30, 2014 [35 favorites]


The Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s – Not Putin’s – Fault

Those were the West's tanks rolling in over Ukraine's Eastern borders, were they?

If Ukraine were a member of NATO, none of this would have happened.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:56 PM on November 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


Except that you know the proximate cause of Putin's freakout was about the EU and not actually NATO, but really it was about western Ukraine not having an interest in being the Russian satellite state Putin wanted as a buffer with west.

N.b. I think NATO enlargement is probably not a good thing, but blaming that for what had happened in the Ukraine vastly over simplifies the situation and lets way too many people in both Europe and Russia off the hook
posted by JPD at 3:56 PM on November 30, 2014 [22 favorites]


Those were the West's tanks rolling in over Ukraine's Eastern borders, were they?

Wasn't a western missile system that murdered 300 civilians on an airliner either.

I mean, there is some guilt to go to the west here for the political crisis, but Putin's response has gone a long way towards justifying why the West feels they need to oppose him.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:04 PM on November 30, 2014 [19 favorites]


The Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s – Not Putin’s – Fault

It's annoying enough when Hollywood writers fall into this trope. It's worse when people throw it around in the real world.

When a hostage-taker kills a hostage, we can look back and consider what the other side might have done differently, but it's still the hostage-taker that pulled the trigger.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 4:08 PM on November 30, 2014 [24 favorites]


I feel like the subject of this post is basically a meme crafted to appeal to whomever Putin's strategists think they can pick up on the anti-imperialist bandwagon, but the argumentation is too clumsy for most to take the bait.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 4:11 PM on November 30, 2014 [11 favorites]


The Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s – Not Putin’s – Fault

It'll be a shame if this one idiot headline drives the thread to hell.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:11 PM on November 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


A great deal of the "if only NATO had stepped in" crowd ends up talking in realist/neorealist terms that boil down to dick-waving.

Ukraine/EU/NATO/Russia is a difficult problem, much the same as North Korea is a difficult problem - when cult of personality nuclear states start behaving erratically, there's not much to do other than contain them and minimize the damage, with subsequent deleterious effects on the surrounding areas and populations.
posted by squorch at 4:18 PM on November 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I shouldn't have put that headline in. What I was aiming for was the piece by John Mearsheimer which is behind a paywall and quoted extensively in that link. After a bit more digging here it is as a pdf with the sub heading The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin.
posted by adamvasco at 4:24 PM on November 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Ah, the fallacy that Russia (...and China, and North Korea, and...) have no agency. How original.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:30 PM on November 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


It'll be a shame if this one idiot headline

Are you calling George Washington an idiot?
posted by octobersurprise at 4:33 PM on November 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Again the problem with that logic is that it doesn't grant the Ukrainians any sort of agency.

At worst a large minority of Ukrainians wanted the deal with the EU and didn't want to be locked in with Russia.

Certainly the EU and the US might have been too eager to embrace them rather than ceding the Ukraine to the Russian sphere of influence in the name of stability. But that's a meaner argument than this.

Not to mention it assumes that would be a stable equilibrium - which is a big assumption.
posted by JPD at 4:36 PM on November 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


In related news, the Kremlin is funding the French far right.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 4:42 PM on November 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


By coincidence saw Hotel Rwanda for the first time last night. Seems apt.
posted by localroger at 4:45 PM on November 30, 2014


crafted to appeal to whomever Putin's strategists think they can pick up on the anti-imperialist bandwagon

Also the raison d'être of the Kremlin-funded Russia Today...
posted by sobarel at 4:49 PM on November 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


The George Washington thing at Tyler Durden's site seems to be basically saying the EU/NATO should stop dressing so provocatively around Putin.
posted by batfish at 5:05 PM on November 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


when cult of personality nuclear states start behaving erratically, there's not much to do other than contain them and minimize the damage

As an American, I'd like to add ... yep.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:18 PM on November 30, 2014


STOP HITTING YOUSELF!
posted by edgeways at 5:18 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's a constant drumbeat of these stories in the more "alternative" or contrarian media. In particular, people like Doug Bandow (who wrote the "Why NATO should not expand" article in the OP), who are Libertarian non-interventionists (and, in Bandow's case, Jack Abramoff-linked, Cato and Acton Institute fellow, etc.), or Zero Hedge, the source for that "The West, not Putin's fault" link, which is part of that group of blogs and sites that are ostensibly about finance, but end up having a, as CNN called it, "deeply conspiratorial, anti-establishment and pessimistic view of the world". Basically these are Libertarians, Mises Institute cranks, Randroids, goldbugs, and others who, when Obama came to power, suddenly became much more skeptical of the US and the use of US power in the world.

They love the narrative of Putin as a strong leader who opposes American interventionism, and it's probably just a bonus that he also opposes human rights for various groups the American right are not very fond of, as well as being a crypto-fascist.

What's more surprising is that certain segments of the left, both in the US and internationally, have joined in. In part the left in the US want to punish Obama for not being what they wanted him to be and/or not managing to push liberal policies efficiently enough, and the left in the rest of the world are very used to seeing the US as the root of all evil (not that they're not largely right), so it becomes an enemy-of-my-enemy scenario.

I think that's tremendously dangerous. Putin, for all his talk of fascism, is very far from some sort of liberal left saviour. He's an authoritarian, deeply conservative, anti-democratic, and while he probably doesn't believe half the stuff he says about gay people, but he knows it'll resonate with the rural Russians who form his base. Basically he represents the Russian equivalent of the Tea Party. Yet people on the left, like adamvasco, apparently, who just made a post about this very same thing a little over two months ago, keep promoting Putin and his propaganda because they see it as a counterbalance to the US, I guess?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:20 PM on November 30, 2014 [66 favorites]


Its Obama's fault. Carry on.
posted by sfts2 at 5:23 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


And yeah, especially RT and also to an extent Al Jazeera do this. There's a "criticize America at every opportunity" editorial policy that many times leads to them doing good journalism about things that are fucked up in the US, like racism and discrimination, government surveillance, etc., which in turns makes people on the left read them and spread their links, but they also get into a lot of conspiracy theories, and, more importantly, have HUGE blind spots towards their government sponsors (Russia and Qatar, respectively) and the various satellite states and allies of those government sponsors.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:26 PM on November 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


Was it the west that sank Russia's economy into a mire of shit So Putin has to do all this desperate stupid stuff to distract from what a big fat idiot he is?

Well, maybe the sanctions helped a little.
posted by Artw at 5:32 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yet people on the left ... keep promoting Putin and his propaganda because they see it as a counterbalance to the US, I guess?

To be completely honest, what I want is some website or series of well-written pieces I can read which will boil down effectively for me, a complete outsider, all the social, economic, political, and various other contributing threads to the entire Russia / Ukraine situation in a way which 1) leaves me feeling informed about the subject and 2) doesn't feel like propaganda.

I don't necessarily believe there is a so-called middle ground in this, but I really don't feel like I've gotten a good, full accounting for exactly how we got to this place and why all the different parties, both directly and indirectly involved, feel justified in their views and approach and also feel justified in painting the opposite side in the ways they do.

It's horribly confusing.

And yes, I think including a link from Zero Hedge in this post probably weakened the general perception of all the other information included.
posted by hippybear at 5:37 PM on November 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


What a provactive set of opinions presented as facts regarding the crisis in Ukraine. Adamvasco's links have convinced me. The world would be a peaceful utopia but for those meddling Americans.
posted by humanfont at 5:44 PM on November 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Ironic that this should come up on the anniversary of the Winter War, a FPP below, which saw Russia (we can say the USSR but let's not kid ourselves) invade Finland without cause or provocation and just take away Karelia because it could. And now, Russia has annexed Crimea, invaded eastern Ukraine, created puppet breakaway statelets in Georgia and Moldova. Russia has been making noise about Russian speakers in the Baltics for years, too.

I don't know if NATO expansion is the right thing. What I do know is that these states are independent sovereigns and Russia should not have a veto authority over what they do in their own foreign relations. If NATO is to expand it should be for rational reasons, yes. And no, it's not clear what benefit (if any) small relatively unstable states like Armenia or Georgia could offer the alliance. But if the Russians are annoyed about their former conquered territories peeling off then surely the answer is that the Russians should start treating them better, not that the West owes Russia right of first refusal over other states. It's not good for the international order if Russia can just take away bits and pieces of other countries as it pleases and there is no reaction.

And contrary to that last opinion piece, major powers of the West (along with Russia itself and China) absolutely did make a commitment to preserving Ukraine's territorial integrity when we convinced them that giving up their nuclear weapons was a good idea and executed the Budapest Memoranda. It's arguable that those don't carry the full force of law, but you'd need a finer razor than I have to split that hair.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:44 PM on November 30, 2014 [14 favorites]


Up is down.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:44 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why isn't Putin being called a "thug" much anymore in the Western press, by pundits, and by politicians? It's weird how that fun meme kinda came and went.
posted by Auden at 5:45 PM on November 30, 2014


Why isn't Putin being called a "thug" much anymore in the Western press, by pundits, and by politicians?

Probably because it plays more to his base, who are way into thugs apparently, than to his critics.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:53 PM on November 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


On my twitter feed today: Russia's Top 5 Myths About NATO.
posted by thylacinthine at 6:09 PM on November 30, 2014


Yeah, this is clearly another case of some other nation being completely evil.

Time, once again, to saddle up and go fix things.
posted by fredludd at 6:13 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wondering: what do I as an American Taxpayer gain from adding Ukraine to Nato? Why should the US vow to go to war w Russia over Ukraine?

Asking sincerely.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:20 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Because biting off more of Europe is going to look pretty tempting to a Russia that is in the economic shitter but has successfully invaded a country?
posted by Artw at 6:23 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Didn't we just get done with a war that was started over our clearly urgent and desperate need prevent what a bad man might possibly do? Remind me, how did that go?
posted by Grimgrin at 6:29 PM on November 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Leftists, Do Your Part For Justice And SUPPORT Protracted War Against Thugs In Support of Thugs - This Time, It's Different!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:50 PM on November 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Who is arguing for war with Russia, exactly?
posted by Drinky Die at 6:55 PM on November 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons with the assurance that their sovereignty would be respected. If the world lets this slide, it will be that much harder to convince the next state to give up their nukes and consequently the world will be a more dangerous place.
posted by rdr at 6:56 PM on November 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


Why should the US vow to go to war w Russia over Ukraine?

It's possible to think that the US shouldn't go to war with Russia over Ukraine and think that it's simpleminded to believe that the US is forcing Russia to go to war with the Ukranians.

Anyway, this has all been done to death here so I'd really rather know the opinons of the other Founding Fathers instead.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:02 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Which reminds me, what happened to the NY Review of Books? Non-stop Russia/Putin bashing, from Applebaum, and Gessen, and Timothy Snyder, and Amy Knight. It's all of a piece, and indistinguishable in outlook from the rest of the American media, just with more syllables.
posted by Auden at 7:02 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guarantee more than half the people commenting in this thread have not even read the primary linked articile : How the EU Lost Russia over Ukraine.

This was not a post about American Exceptionalism but y'all have made it into the theme of the thread just by jerking your knees.

US diplomacy is now an oxymoron? Deliberately tone deaf or just tone deaf?
posted by vicx at 7:09 PM on November 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I guarantee more than half the people commenting in this thread have not even read the primary linked article

I've read it. Here's journalist Robert Parry's (Consortium News, which fits into the "alternative" or "contrarian" media Joakim Ziegler references up-thread) take on it:

Der Spiegel Tones Down Anti-Putin Hysteria (November 28, 2014)

(I tend to agree with Parry's views on the Ukrainian crisis, I should add)
posted by Auden at 7:21 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guarantee more than half the people commenting in this thread have not even read the primary linked articile : How the EU Lost Russia over Ukraine.


Except that a big part of it was the IMF's F.U. to the Ukraine. The IMF isn't traditionally a European institution. Honestly, I feel bad for Yanukovych. He was a just a small-time political gangster caught in a major gang war. The Europeans and Americans were totally getting ready to fuck the Ukraine and getting into bed with Putin, well...

When it comes down to it, the IMF wanted the Ukraine to devalue it's currency while slashing fuel subsidies.
On Oct. 3, during their first visit, they had sought American support to secure better conditions for a possible IMF loan. The IMF had named conditions during the spring that Kiev considered to be unacceptable. They included a provision that the subsidized price for natural gas be raised by 40 percent and for the Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia, to be devaluated by 25 percent.
I mean, seriously. They were handing a loaded gun to Yanukovych and telling him to put it up to his head and pull the trigger.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:37 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]




I read it too.

People assume that agencies, states and supra-states; with capital letters for names; speak with a singular voice and are united in their visions, ambitions and goals.

It couldn't be further from the truth of things.

There are elements who are happy with the new state of things. Elements have acted in ways to engineer outcomes and some of those outcomes are pleasing and other outcomes they will continue to work on.

If you think the people of Ukraine engineered the new state of things; I have a plate of history for you to eat.
posted by vicx at 8:04 PM on November 30, 2014


Forcing Kiev to choose between the EU and Putin's Eurasian Union is what has doomed the country. The best case scenario is a peaceful partition between East and West.
posted by Renoroc at 8:12 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


> To be completely honest, what I want is some website or series of well-written pieces I can read which will boil down effectively for me, a complete outsider, all the social, economic, political, and various other contributing threads to the entire Russia / Ukraine situation in a way which 1) leaves me feeling informed about the subject and 2) doesn't feel like propaganda.

Unfortunately, covert ops, propaganda, and vested interests have muddled the facts so much that it's nearly impossible to say anything "objective" about this conflict anymore. The best you can do is soak in as much media as you can and come up with your own conclusions.
posted by archagon at 8:14 PM on November 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


(As for me, I'll be in my bunker.)
posted by archagon at 8:19 PM on November 30, 2014


There is stream near my house that was surveyed by George Washington. On his map it is named Four Mile Run. It is 9 miles long. Washington was many things and had many strengths, but he had no special gift for prophecy or foresight.
posted by humanfont at 8:21 PM on November 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Commentary by Kadri Liik on the European Council on Foreign Relations site:
What else could we have done? Ukraine after Vilnius.

Well worth the read.
posted by Kabanos at 9:10 PM on November 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


I keep waiting for Putin to start railing about "gangsters from the West" to complete the irony. What is that scamp going to do next, bang his shoe at the U.N.?
posted by Chitownfats at 9:26 PM on November 30, 2014




If we are to take Ukrainian desire to join the EU seriously, then we should also take the results of the Crimean status referendum seriously and accept the fact that a large number of people in the east (but not all) wanted to break away and join Russia.

Or in other words I tend to agree with the arguments put forward in the links in the OP. Ukraine is a pawn of both the West and Russia; NATO broke its promise to not expand eastward.

I have mixed feelings about this since I am of Estonian heritage and I have the feeling that NATO membership is the only thing protecting that tiny, innovative, entrepreneurial success story.

But NATO expansion has led to this war in Ukraine, and as oil prices plummet will likely lead to more wars in 2015. How big will these wars be?
posted by Nevin at 10:04 PM on November 30, 2014


An interesting view on Russia's view of the West.

Great link... and written by an Estonian! Her Eesti heritage, and the fact that the ECFR is bankrolled in part by George Soros makes me wonder though how objective her reporting is in this case.
posted by Nevin at 10:08 PM on November 30, 2014


I think Nevin was referring this one: What else could we have done? Ukraine after Vilnius
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:12 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Kadri Liik's Twitter feed is worth following.
posted by Nevin at 10:14 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have to say: John Mearsheimer makes a lot of good points in his argument that the Ukraine crisis is the fault of the West. If what we want is a safe and secure world of liberal democracies, we sure as hell are going about it in an odd way.

Note that he's not making the liberal argument some have mentioned here - that is, he's not saying this is the fault of the West because we're "just as bad" or because we've committed evils which create some moral equivalence or some such. He isn't arguing about moral equivalences at all.

What he's saying is: world leaders have a responsibility to see these things clearly and not to simply stand by and hope that maybe people will be nice to each other, and then pull ridiculous stunts when we don't get our way. Our actions need to be clear and forthright if they're going to be effectual. They have been anything but clear and forthright.

Like John Mearsheimer (as far as I can tell) I would rather the West won this conflict. But we aren't going to do it if we keep going about it this way - creating unnecessary tension and then trying to dodge any consequences of that tension.
posted by koeselitz at 11:41 PM on November 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


humanfont:"What a provactive set of opinions presented as facts regarding the crisis in Ukraine. Adamvasco's links have convinced me. The world would be a peaceful utopia but for those meddling Americans."

This isn't it at all. To put it provocatively: this isn't "our" (and "our" is NOT America but the nation's of Europe with America as their ally) fault because we have meddled too much; it's our fault because we haven't meddled enough. Encouraging people we think might be our allies if they come to power by offering background support with what we hope is plausible deniability, and then dropping them like a hot potato and screaming about how we aren't involved when things go south is a recipe for disaster.

The problem is that people are confusing this with a claim that Russia is blameless. Remember that we're talking about politics here: nobody is blameless. Russia is our enemy in this; they value different things, and a certain amount of conflict is inevitable. If it comes to that, I hope we prevail.

But Russia as a force of nature has done nothing unpredictable here. We should have expected this. We should have prepared for it. Now we're scrambling to figure out what to do, when we should have had that figured out two decades ago.
posted by koeselitz at 11:50 PM on November 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think Timothy Snyder actually understands what Russia is doing far better than anyone I've read.
Russian policy is engaged in the project to try to weaken Europe by supporting anti-European political parties, by supporting separatism inside Europe just as it supports separatism in Ukraine. Trying to destroy the Ukrainian state is a way of demonstrating European weakness and humiliating European states. Recruiting individual nation states for energy projects is a way of weakening the European Union.
According to Snyder, Russia feels it is essential to splinter Europe because it simply can't compete against the European Union as a whole, but could compete very well against individual nations like France, Italy, and Britain. If a weakened Europe and a failed EU is Putin's primary goal, then all of the propaganda, provocation, and 'frozen conflict'-separatism he is doing may actually make some sense. The propaganda is intended to frighten Europe into acceding to his demands and to ignore the other things he is doing aimed at dissolving the EU, and to frighten Russians into believing they are being attacked by right wing European fascists (who Putin is supporting on the side). It is actually working quite well, but I think Merkel and others are starting to see what is happening.

In a similar vain, I guess it is possible to see how Putin believes Europe is trying to destroy Russia. This comes out of Snyder's view of history as well, as Snyder believes that Eastern Europe and primarily Ukraine were critical to both Hitler and Stalin's imperial ambitions. As I understand it, Snyder sees Putin's plan for Russia and the 'Eurasion Union' as more like a pre-WWII land empire based on what Stalin called 'internal colonization.' Putin probably sees Ukraine joining the EU as losing his property (part of his empire) to a similar maritime empire in the West. However, Snyder characterizes the EU as more of a modern non-colonial version of an empire that is actually essential because modern European nation-states can not actually survive on their own. Europe fails to see this and it could be a disaster for them.

The question I have for pro-Putin Leftists and Libertarians like "Zero Hedge," is what about Ukrainians' opinions? Shouldn't Ukrainians have the right to decide for themselves if they wish to integrate more with the EU or with Russia? Realistically, it can probably only integrate with one as illustrated by Kadri, but more so as Putin seems to view Europe as an absolute enemy and Russia as a Soviet or more traditional land empire.

I wonder if part of the reason the EU/IMF backed off of Yanuchovich's demands originally was because they were concerned their money was mainly going directly into Yanukovich and the other oligarch's pockets, and possibly the Kremlin. I think it is likely that, one way or another, Putin would have forced Ukraine into the Customs Union and Eurasion Economic Union no matter what happened.

More from the article:
Putin has said that the current world order is only useful to the US. China also likes to say that Washington dictates world order. Are we seeing the emergence of a bloc of countries dissatisfied with the current world order? Putin has also said that the Ukraine crisis is a consequence of the shifting balance of power in the world.
The balance of power is always changing, That’s a natural rule. What’s worrying is the idea that international law or international order is the same thing as American power. The equation of international law with American power is very upsetting, because what follows from that is that there is no reason to follow international law, since all these rules are not really rules. They are just things that the Americans invented.
This reminds me a little bit of an interview I heard with Wang Gungwu on CCTV Dialogue. Gungwu says once China finishes developing they will have to have their say in reworking international law and order to accommodate their principles and world view. I think this makes sense. Maybe one thing that could ease tensions is if the US and Europe would put this on the road map. Basically some sort of forum to a re-work international law and order to include Chinese and perhaps Russian and even Islamic or other ideas. Perhaps that could start the discussion about just what people feel is lacking now. But honestly, I think Russia appears to be on a path/worldview that would not be commensurate at all with any agreeable international law between major world powers.

It seems to me what Gungwu has in mind for China, as he discusses in his book Renewal: The Chinese State and the New Global History, is a means to preserve and protect the traditional Chinese 'civilization-state:'
In that context, the tianxia ideal in China pre-dated any idea of empire. Its emphasis on Heaven-blessed authority, however, led to the realization that this was ineffectual without power. The centralized bureaucratic empire was then consolidated and it used Confucian ideology to soften the harsh edges of empire, eventually creating the model of an emperor-state dressed in tianxia robes. That model was modified several times over: by the introduction of Buddhist ideals of kingship, and during long periods of division and several tribal invasions. For centuries. there was no single Chinese empire, only the rhetoric of Zhongguo as refined by the Neo-Confucian thinkers of the Song dynasty. Thereafter, the world-empire of the Mongols left its mark on the Ming dynasty, and the Manchu successors in the Qing strengthened the imperial system further in their own unique way.

Traditional Chinese emphasized the unbroken continuity of their history and modern Chinese republics deem it essential to their security that they align their new state with the latest imperial borders. The image of Chinese civilization can then serve as the unifying factor for all who live within China’s borders. But the assumption of a single imperial tradition is misleading. There are other inputs. Even though the concept of tianxia retains an inclusive meaning. This overarching Confucian faith in universal values was useful to give the Chinese their distinctiveness. As an ideal, it somehow survived the rise and fall of dozens of empires and provided generations of literati down to many modern intellectuals with a sense of cultural unity till this day.
But I'm not sure. In his interview he also seemed to talk about the need to Westernize.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:03 AM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Golden Eternity: "The question I have for pro-Putin Leftists and Libertarians like 'Zero Hedge,' is what about Ukrainians' opinions? Shouldn't Ukrainians have the right to decide for themselves if they wish to integrate more with the EU or with Russia?"

There are no pro-Putin leftists here; nor are there libertarians, as far as I can tell. I suggest you read the Mearsheimer article if you want a full and nuanced perspective from the other side on this, but I'll just say:

I agree that the opinions of the Ukrainians matters most, and should be the determining factor in what happens to Ukraine. But that is clearly not the policy of any nation involved here. The U.S. has poured billions of dollars into Ukraine in recent years and been involved in direct challenges to the government on Ukraine's soil. A couple of our sitting senators actually participated in anti-government protests in Ukraine - which is pretty clearly against the American Constitution!

I'm not at all saying that the U.S. and Russia are equivalent; invasion is its own special kind of problematic. But if Ukraine should be allowed to self-determine, then the U.S. needs to get its tentacles out, and the EU needs to stop fumbling this ball.

Silly games where we try to influence the governments and societies of other nations are untenable. They're underhanded tactics that will always end badly. We need to stop doing this stuff now. I appreciate that that doesn't give a magic solution to the current situation, but it's certainly something we need to think about when approaching this kind of thing in the future.
posted by koeselitz at 12:23 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


nor are there libertarians

I was referring to "zero hedge," linked to upthread.

The U.S. has poured billions of dollars into Ukraine in recent years and been involved in direct challenges to the government on Ukraine's soil.

I don't think this is a very accurate portrail of US involvement at all.

The United States spent $5 billion on Ukraine anti-government riots
Since 1992, the government has spent about $5.1 billion to support democracy-building programs in Ukraine, Thompson said, with money flowing mostly from the Department of State via U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as the departments of Defense, Energy, Agriculture and others. The United States does this with hundreds of other countries.

About $2.4 billion went to programs promoting peace and security, which could include military assistance, border security, human trafficking issues, international narcotics abatement and law enforcement interdiction, Thompson said. More money went to categories with the objectives of "governing justly and democratically" ($800 million), "investing in people" ($400 million), economic growth ($1.1 billion), and humanitarian assistance ($300 million).

The descriptions are a bit vague, which could lead people to think the money was used for some clandestine purpose.

But even if it that were so, the money in question was spent over more than 20 years. Yanukovych was elected in 2010. So any connection between the protests and the $5 billion is inaccurate.
Most of this money was probably going through Yanuchovich and his predecessors. I imagine Ukraine was legitimately asking for help creating effective government institutions after the Orange Revolution (if I got the color right).

I'd recommend listening to this interview with Poroshenko. He goes over the Ukrainian people's decision to protest and insist on Yanuchovich's departure after he killed hundred(s) of protesters. He may overstate how much support for the protests there was among the entire country, but I believe it was a clear majority, and an overwhelming majority were for the association agreement.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:54 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


A good counterpoint to Mearsheimer.

I find something very snotty and superior about Mearsheimer's approach - even when I agree with him - just like his idol Huntington. His frequent gloss on non-superpower countries and leaders as faceless pawns does a disservice, I think, to many states and the roles they have played in history. It is a particularly American conception.

I also feel he tends to glide over the ever-more important aspects of trade and finance in some cases. I guess I feel like he's very much a product of the cold war environment he studied in - this doesn't mean his arguments are without merit; indeed, they often have much to recommend them - but I think the further things get away from a super-power mentality, the weaker his analyses become. I feel this is especially apparent with his thoughts on China - all he can see is how China orients (ha) itself in relation to the west and geopolitically, he doesn't pay enough attention to internal and economic factors.

I also think this is an issue with his analysis on Ukraine to lesser degree as well.
posted by smoke at 1:41 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Regarding Yanukovich - dude stole literally billions of dollars from the Ukrainian state, calling him small time is an injustice. Even if you don't buy the 100 billion figure, it's believed he personally took 30 billion out of the country when he went to Russia. What a dog.
posted by smoke at 1:58 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thank you koeselitz and a few others. Good to see some sense at last it this thread showing at least a few have bothered to read the links.
The knee jerk rah rah USA gets boring
Those who are paid by our tax money to think strategically for us have failed, and failed badly.
They are not being censured or criticised apart from in a few specialist media outlets.
I think a few here have difficulty in understanding that Russia is only interested in Russia´s interests.
This whole mess was caused largely by the poor strategic thinking of the western powers among which there are several slightly
divergent interests.
As the first link shows a prescient Czech diplomat Stefan Füle was already raising concern about Yanukovych; this is not to say that Putin did not miscalcualate as well.
US and Europeans have two very different, conflicting interpretations of the situation. The majority of European NATO states do not want to unnecessarily provoke Russia, while the US and some of NATO's eastern members who suffered under Soviet occupation argue the opposite. They point out that if Ukraine were already a NATO member, it might have deterred Putin from his Crimean adventure.
No way was Putin going to loose Russia´s main Black Sea port. If Ukraine joined Nato or the EU they would be automatically bound to retaliate with military force should Russia invade Ukranian territory. Not a good scenario.
As John Mearsheimer states Putin’s pushback should have come as no surprise. After all, the West had been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests, a point Putin made emphatically and repeatedly. Elites in the United States and Europe have been blindsided by events only because they subscribe to a flawed view of international politics.
So once again our leaders are of such poor quality that not only do they nearly lead us to war but nobody picks up on it and chastises them for their gross incompetance.
It could almost be that they are so arrogant or greedy that they want a military showdown.
posted by adamvasco at 2:53 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Great link... and written by an Estonian! Her Eesti heritage, and the fact that the ECFR is bankrolled in part by George Soros makes me wonder though how objective her reporting is in this case.

While Kadri Liik is definitely pro-Western liberalism, she seems to be pretty balanced (or at least seeking for balance) in her writings*. She's been relatively critical of the US and EU in her pieces on Ukraine, showing how the EU's indecisiveness and unwillingness to allow any grey areas in their Eastern partnership programme (you're basically either in the EU or out, with nothing inbetween) has contributed to the current conflict.

* Or at least she doesn't seem to share the anti-Russian paranoia characteristic of some of our most vocal "experts" on Russia.
posted by daniel_charms at 4:34 AM on December 1, 2014


adamvasco: "It could almost be that they are so arrogant or greedy that they want a military showdown."

I've heard of Chinese media making similar arguments about people who support a free Tibet or the right to self-determination of Taiwan. I can see why various nations decide not to take a stand on those issues or side with China, but that's a politically pragmatic position, not necessarily a morally defensible one. I think the situation is quite similar in the case of Russia and its predictable behaviour.
posted by vanar sena at 5:41 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Smoke I'm not sure that article is strong enough to be a good counterpoint to Mearsheimer.

I still don't understand why someone would do a lukewarm thematic rewrite of Mearsheimer's piece, while being cute about a 'few' inconsequential points of difference and then agreeing with everything Mearsheimer said in principle just to make a point in the last paragraph; virtues of liberalism probably not to blame.

It isn't a very strong point.

Mearsheimer isn't being cute. He is making his points strongly. He is stating that "war by other means" is exactly what has caused the crisis in the Ukraine; that the Russians have reacted to this declaration of "war by other means"; and that the Liberal delusion is that "war by other means" is some alternative to conflict.

Bascially he couldn't be more critical of the current management practices - that's putting it nicely.
posted by vicx at 6:03 AM on December 1, 2014




me: “The U.S. has poured billions of dollars into Ukraine in recent years and been involved in direct challenges to the government on Ukraine's soil.”

Golden Eternity: “I don't think this is a very accurate portrail of US involvement at all.”

It is literally exactly what the link you give says: that the US has poured five billion dollars into Ukraine since 1992. Moreover, yes, we have been involved in real and public challenges to the government. Or what would you call this? And I'll repeat – it's almost certainly unconstitutional for senators to engage in direct foreign-policy-making. This is a President's job.
posted by koeselitz at 8:02 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Alexander Motyl's response to Mearsheimer's piece:
The Ukraine crisis according to John J. Mearsheimer: Impeccable Logic, Wrong Facts
posted by Kabanos at 8:29 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


But if the Russians are annoyed about their former conquered territories peeling off then surely the answer is that the Russians should start treating them better, not that the West owes Russia right of first refusal over other states.

Yes! Mearsheimer's argument amounts to "Putin was going to be mad about countries on his border having the nerve to stave off invasion by Russia, so of course he's gonna invade them! They have it coming." This is 19th-century sphere of influence thinking with a little extra imperialism thrown in, and there's nothing leftist about it.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:42 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is the CIA running defamation campaign against Putin?

Quite likely.

Putin is also quite likely running massive propaganda against multiple sources as well, domestically and internationally. Hell, he was the head of the KGB, it'd be surprising if he wasn't. That is kind of what governments do. then people acts outraged when it comes to light so and so is spying on everyone including their allies. I guarantee you everyone is trying their damnedest to propagandize and 'information gather' everything they can on everyone they can.

Doesn't really change the fact that as far as we can tell Putin is pretty far down the list of being anywhere close to being in the right on a wide range of issues... including Ukraine. there might not be a clear moral leader on that issue, but Putin is nowhere near being credible and is responsible for his own actions which seems to include pissing on everyone while telling them it's raining.
posted by edgeways at 9:03 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes! Mearsheimer's argument amounts to "Putin was going to be mad about countries on his border having the nerve to stave off invasion by Russia, so of course he's gonna invade them! They have it coming." This is 19th-century sphere of influence thinking with a little extra imperialism thrown in, and there's nothing leftist about it.

Yeah, if you'rd like a leftist reaction to Mearsheimer, here's one :
So in the end Mearsheimer, helpful though he is on exposing the West’s lies and culpability for the events in Ukraine, remains well within the bounds of a hegemonic imperial mentality.

posted by Kabanos at 9:18 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


John J. Mearsheimer: Impeccable Logic, Wrong Facts

Hell, that's his career!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:04 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Kabanos: "Yeah, if you'rd like a leftist reaction to Mearsheimer, here's one "

Except that one is full of more of the same pseudo-leftist "It was the West's fault", "the new government in Ukraine are fascists" (without mentioning what Putin is), "the criminal actions of the West in Ukraine", etc.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:29 AM on December 1, 2014


Hey, I disagree with the majority of it too – I just linked to that in order to emphasize the point that Mearsheimer does not exemplify the leftist position (which had somehow been intimated/assumed way up-thread).

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the best one to present the leftist position on the Ukraine crisis. If anyone would like to throw in a better link from the left, I'd be happy to read it!
posted by Kabanos at 10:50 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think the first article is better than the context of the post implies.

Still, I think that the article underestimates the EU.

The cost of a confrontation between Russia and the EU has been a primary driver of European policy. Rather than being blind to Russia's concerns, I believe the bureaucrats understood with a high degree of sophistication how much a conflict would cost Russia.
posted by ethansr at 4:28 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Power always sincerely, conscientiously, de très bon foi, believes itself right. Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak."

– John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, Feb. 2, 1816.
posted by clavdivs at 9:15 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


"But I'm not sure. In his interview he also seemed to talk about the need to Westernize."
posted by Golden Eternity

Good point, for example:
"The idea of the absolute authority of the Chinese Emperor and the extension of tianxia by the assimilation of vassal states began to fade for good with Earl Macartney's embassy to China in 1793. Earl Macartney hoped to deal with China as equal sovereign nations, as Great Britain would with other European nations of the time, and to persuade the Emperor to sign a trade agreement. Emperor Qianlong rejected his request, and stated that China was the foremost and most divine nation on Earth and had no interest in foreign goods, and rejected the idea that Great Britain could negotiate with China as an equal nation. In the early 19th century, Britain's victory over Qing China in the First Opium War forced China to sign an unequal treaty, thus marked the beginning of the end for the tianxia concept."

From the wiki page on "Tianxia"
posted by clavdivs at 9:52 PM on December 1, 2014


It was the West's fault
Unhelpful to reduce this to West and East but I note that people are making careers being unhelpful. Blaming the West as a whole casts the net of blame, nice and wide; which is of course helpful to some. Specific people and organisations have made poor decisions.

The EU faced failure trying to absorb the Ukraine into its economic sphere (competing with the Customs Union) and the mess that came next has to be laid at the feet of current management structures. Those structures are political although mostly unaccountable.

If anyone would like to throw in a better link from the left, I'd be happy to read it!
In the context of this post, I would say that the Zero Hedge article represents a traditionally leftist position (for real) but I feel dumber for having just reduced things to what are now, completely meaningless labels.
posted by vicx at 1:01 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Putin in his annual state-of-the-nation address at the Grand Kremlin Palace defended the annexation of Crimea, describing it as Russia's spiritual ground, "our Temple Mount," and added that national pride and sovereignty are "a necessary condition for survival" of Russia.

AP: Putin defends Russia's foreign policy
posted by rosswald at 7:57 AM on December 4, 2014




Putin’s Crimea-as-Jerusalem Myth Baffles Russian Historians
“Prince Vladimir was Kievan, not Muscovite, and this probably only underlines the right of Kiev and not Moscow to Crimea.”
posted by Kabanos at 9:38 AM on December 5, 2014


Wow, priceless comment from a Kremlin troll:
Nate 2 hours ago

Rus and Russia are interchangeable terms. Rus to Russia is what Saxons were to Germany - it's the core of the native being. Kievan Rus is the early stage of Russia, and it's the cornerstone of the Russian History. That was the beginning of Russian civilization and its mainstream evolved into todays Russia, together with language and cultural and spiritual heritage. Who was the central city or principality was a technical issue, less substantive, whether it was Kiev, Moscow, Novgorod, St. Petersburg - those were all part of the same mainstream evolution and formation.

Ukrainians were the offshoots of that culture. As I already mentioned, the language was the same at some point. The cornerstone of Ukraine was Zaparozhskaya Sech - a troubled tiny principality squeezed between Crimean Tatars and Poland. They were on the brink of extinction when they asked to be "annexed" by Russia in 1654. Only after that Russian Czars and then Soviet Russians rulers added a bunch of Russian and Polish Land to form what today is known as Ukraine: MaloRossia, Novorossiaya, Crimea - were joined with Zaparozhskaya Sech from the South East -- many of the key cities there were established by Russians, such as Odessa, Sevastopol, Kharkov, Luhansk, Donetsk, etc
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:21 AM on December 5, 2014


Oh, so England is a part of Germany?
posted by Artw at 10:26 AM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bloomberg reports on Putin's sad speech to Russia's parliament.
posted by humanfont at 6:07 PM on December 5, 2014


Ukraine, Russia, and the Messy Politics of the People
Had the West focused on interests instead of ideals, Mearsheimer argues, Ukraine would still be peacefully under the thumb of Viktor Yanukovych, who was a doormat for any interest — Russian, Western, even Chinese — willing to pay the price of entry. And Vladimir Putin would be purring quietly in his post-Olympics afterglow.

Would the Ukrainian people be better off than they are now? Perhaps, but Mearsheimer evidently believes he should be the judge of that rather than the man on the maidan.
The biggest criticism I have of Mearsheimer is he seems to be under the narcissistic delusion that the US created what happened in Ukraine rather than just tried to react to it. The Ukrainian people put the West in a tough spot, similar to Egypt: of supporting a large Democratic movement or abandoning it. But I don't think the US really had much of a choice in either case (Egypt or Ukraine). Putin appears to be committing Russia to a path that is doomed to failure as Ben Judah describes in Fragile Empire. I think what we saw in Kyev was Ukrainians realizing this rather suddenly and refusing to be dragged down that path. Even now, I suspect neither Putin nor Poroshenko are fully in control of the various battalions who are doing most of the fighting and probably answer more to local oligarchs than anyone.

I don't think the author of the article I quoted described constructivism quite accurately. It is an interesting topic. Although materialist realities are essential, the behavior of international powers can't be explained as adequately as with constructivism. And I like Snyder's idea that the future of Europe is really at stake in the EU's survival as a successful substitute for former colonialist empirialism. We may overestimate the fragility of the EU.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:08 PM on December 8, 2014


eimperialism. I should stop commenting from my phone.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:16 PM on December 8, 2014




Putin was never going to be able to purr in a post Olympic afterglow. Oil prices are collapsing, corruption is rampant and Putin's economy and popularity was falling. He wanted this fight to use a nationalist frenzy to hold on to power. If not Ukraine, then somewhere else.
posted by humanfont at 4:40 AM on December 9, 2014




If not Ukraine, then somewhere else.

I guess he could have just stewed in his stupid gay panic, maybe drummed up some other internal enemies , but it seems pretty unlikely.
posted by Artw at 8:05 AM on December 15, 2014




Tuesday was a catastrophe for Russia. At 1am Moscow time the Central Bank held an emergency meeting and raised interest rates to 17.5%. The ruble still crashed along with the Russian stock market. The major forex trading platforms have decided to stop taking Ruble trades and are closing out their customer's positions. Even Apple has had to stop taking online orders in Russia because the currency is too volitile.
posted by humanfont at 8:23 PM on December 16, 2014


Oh great. The fucker is going to go full on North Korea, isn't he?
posted by Artw at 8:54 PM on December 16, 2014


What's gone wrong with Russia's economy
posted by bukvich at 6:13 AM on December 17, 2014




Of course he isn't worried, he's a crazy person.
posted by Artw at 9:49 AM on December 18, 2014


Quartz's chart of the moment compares the performance of Bitcoin vs the Ruble. Surprise Bitcoin has been a worse investment this year.
posted by humanfont at 8:54 PM on December 18, 2014


I ran into someone on Reddit who used that as a PRO bitcoin argument. You see, the Ruble just proves that EVERY currency is prone to this sort of thing and it wasn't anything about Bitcoin itself that caused it to collapse.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:02 PM on December 18, 2014


The best investment is US equities. The S&P will probably double in the next two years.
posted by vicx at 5:17 AM on December 22, 2014




They just went up again. It is probably the last chance to buy US equities before they go to space.
posted by vicx at 9:10 PM on December 22, 2014




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