Mike Madden engages in what I call lawyer talk in his article in Consortiumnews. Lawyer talk is where you stretch points to their limits, bob and weave on defense, work around counter-arguments rather than take them straight on. For example, Russia was justified in annexing Crimea because a majority of Crimeans wanted to be part of Russia. The United Nations charter supports self-determination. Therefore the Russian annexation comports with international law. You get the idea.
When you strip off the fancy argumentation about international law, here’s what you have from Madden. When a country undergoes a coup, followed by civil conflict, it’s fair game for interference from interested powers. If outside powers want to enter the conflict on one side or the other, that’s okay. Except from Madden’s perspective, Russian interference on behalf of Russian interests is justified, but U. S. interference on behalf of U. S. interests is not – perhaps because the U. S. is always the bad guy in international politics.
Here’s the large picture, which international actors draw without a lot of reference to international law. Russia would like to hold Ukraine in its sphere of influence. The U. S. would like to bring Ukraine into the West’s sphere of influence.
Here’s the large picture, which international actors draw without a lot of reference to international law. Russia would like to hold Ukraine in its sphere of influence. The U. S. would like to bring Ukraine into the West’s sphere of influence. Russia has already seen a number of smaller East European states come into NATO’s expanding fortress. It certainly did not want to see the same thing happen to Ukraine. When the U. S. and EU began to take advantage of genuine unrest in the country to overthrow a pro-Russian regime, Putin and company decided to act.
Ukraine is one of those cases where there’s plenty of blame to go around. Most of the writing on the subject suggests the ratio is 100-0: all blame lies with Russia (Senator McCain), or all blame lies with the U. S. (Mike Madden). You don’t see many articles to suggest other ratios: 90-10, 70-30, 80-20, 60-40, or 50-50. Nor do you see articles that even analyze the issue historically, strategically, diplomatically, geographically, economically, or otherwise. We have a war over there, and someone is to blame. That’s about as far as we get with Western coverage of Ukraine. I have a feeling coverage of the war in Russia is little better, even though the conflict is a lot closer. Most people want to forget it exists.
In contrast to Michael Madden, Michael Walzer argues that countries undergoing civil conflict are not fair game for outside intervention. In fact: the opposite holds. Outsiders who participate in civil conflicts are especially blameworthy, because civil conflicts ought to be settled by the original parties to the dispute. That is why the conflict in Syria has become such a disaster. One observer rightly compared the horrible free-for-all in Syria to the Thirty Years War in Germany, except we have twenty-four more years to go. The Syrian war would have been bad enough if other countries had kept their hands off. As it is, that war will plough forward for a long time. The parties cannot, or will not extricate themselves.
The United States, the EU and NATO mistakenly picked a fight with Russia in the Ukraine, a conflict it was not prepared to pursue. …It’s as if the U. S. belligerently shoved Russia a couple of times outside a bar late at night.
Let’s go back to Ukraine. That conflict raises a hard question. The U. S., by encouraging the Maidan revolution and perhaps engaging in other kinds of interference, provoked a Russian response. The Russian response – annexation of Crimea and civil war in eastern Ukraine – took the U. S. by surprise. What should the United States do now? Russia persuaded Germany to keep its hands off. Poland did not need extra persuading. The U. S. can hardly send in arms and other support without any backing from Germany or Poland, not to mention Turkey or NATO or any other regional powers. So what does it do? Send three senators over to give Ukraine moral support?
The United States, the EU and NATO mistakenly picked a fight with Russia in the Ukraine, a conflict it was not prepared to pursue. The stakes in this large, strategically placed country are not trivial. It’s as if the U. S. belligerently shoved Russia a couple of times outside a bar late at night. When Russia shoved back, the U. S. said, “Okay, okay man, I don’t want to fight!” Then why did you shove the other guy in the first place? You thought the other guy would back down, as in the past, that’s why. When you provoke a guy over small beer, that’s one thing. When you provoke a guy over his best girl, that’s another. Ukraine is Russia’s best girl.
The U. S. mishandled this conflict from the start. You can make that judgment without any reference to international law. You only need common sense.