Thursday, May 12, 2022

American Security Interest in Ukraine

Curiouser and curiouser, quoth Alice.

Indeed, how else to react to the fact that our Congress is about to send $40 billion to Ukraine, while ignoring the need to enforce America’s border security, and while the nation runs out of infant formula.

If you ask what national interest America has in the war with Ukraine you will hear some gauzy pronouncements about the victory for liberal democracy. It feels like Francis Fukuyama hijacked someone’s mind.

While most Congresspeople are terrified at the prospect of seeming to be weak on Ukraine and while most are more than happy to continue an ongoing proxy war with Russia, willing, that is, to fight to the last Ukrainian, voices from the left and the right have been asking some hard questions about what seems to be an open-ended commitment. Aside, that is, from the question of whether we can afford to pump that much money into Ukraine, or whether we might have better uses for it at home.

On these issues, a strange group of people has gathered. From Tucker Carlson to Tulsi Gabbard, from Noam Chomsky to Donald Trump, we can now add Katrina vanden Heuvel, owner of The Nation, widow of the late Steven Cohen. One recalls that during the Trump Russia hoax, Cohen appeared often on Tucker Carlson’s show, offering sane and sensible analysis of the situation.

So, from the left and the right, the better to defy the commonplace stereotypes, we see some people asking the right question and doing the correct analysis of the situation in Ukraine. Aside from the fact that our leaders are driving us into a war with Russia, we ought to ask what we are accomplishing by sending money to Ukraine. And what good is served by filling the airways with propaganda that tells the Ukrainians that they need but hold out a little longer-- the cavalry is on the way.

So, the question, as Tucker Carlson and Tulsi Gabbard have been stating, is: What is America’s goal in Ukraine? What is America’s national interest in that war?

Now, Katrina vanden Heuvel asks the same question in the Washington Post:

What are the United States’ goals in the Ukraine war? Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently announced that the United States wants “Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.” The U.S. commitment toward that end has been substantial. Congress passed the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act by near-unanimous vote, invoking the “arsenal of democracy” we provided to Britain during World War II. President Biden is seeking $33 billion in additionalaid. When the defense ministers of some 40 countries gathered at Ramstein Air Base in Germany last month, the focus was not a peace settlement but outright Ukrainian victory or at least the “permanent weakening” of Russia’s military power.

But as the violence continues, the war fever rises, and we had better be clear about our objectives. A commitment to a long, grinding proxy war with Russia would have severe consequences not only for the Ukrainian people but also for the security interests of the United States and its allies.

And we should ask, at what price. As we have noted on this blog, fighting to the last Ukrainian does not seem like the most rational goal. Propping up the self-esteem of Ukrainian leaders does not resonate at a time when it seems merely to be leading to the country’s destruction:

Ukrainians’ stirring resistance to the Russian invasion should not blind us to the horrendous cost in lives and property. A staggering 28 percent of Ukraine’s population has reportedly been displaced, either internally or abroad. If the war drags on, that share will grow.

About one-third of Ukraine’s basic infrastructure — roads, rail lines, bridges — has been damaged or demolished. Such destruction will continue. Ukraine’s economy is projected to contract by nearly half this year. Even if the war were to stop tomorrow, rebuilding and returning to pre-war levels of production would require years and hundreds of billions of dollars.

And then there are the sanctions. We are especially proud of our ability to impose sanctions on obstreperous foreign countries. We are less concerned about the impact of said sanctions on other parts of the world. I have emphasized these points on this blog. 

Vanden Heuvel lists a few:

Moreover, at a time when the world economy was already wracked by the coronavirus pandemic, this war and the sanctions imposed on Russia are adding to global dislocations. Last year, Russia was the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, the second-largest exporter of crude oil and the third-largest exporter of coal. It leads the world in enriching uranium for nuclear power plants. Not surprisingly, the price of fuel has soared since the invasion. Our allies in Europe are particularly hard-hit. U.S. citizens, meanwhile, suffer from rising prices in the global markets for steel, aluminum, car batteries, computer chips and much more. Inevitably, this will begin to erode support for the war — as will the growing cost of sustaining it.

Russia and Ukraine together supply 30 percent of wheat and 20 percent of maize to global markets, according to the U.N. World Food Program, as well as three-quarters of the world’s sunflower oil and one-third of its barley. Russia is also a key producer of the products that go into fertilizer.

In this hemisphere, many Latin American countries are already facing shortages of fertilizer, with Brazil’s crops particularly at risk. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 14 African nations depend on Russia and Ukraine for half their wheat, with Eritrea (100 percent), Somalia (more than 90 percent) and Egypt (nearly 75 percent) topping the list. A continuing war could condemn an additional 47 million people to acute hunger, experts estimate.

While we are pouring funds into Ukraine, we are ignoring important national security challenges at home-- the migrant invasion being high on the list. Fair enough, my list would not be the same as vanden Heuvel’s, but that is not a reason to ignore hers:

This is why it is vital to step back from the emotions stirred by war and assess our real security priorities. We have far greater security challenges — including the pandemic and global contagion, climate change, the challenges posed by China, and the imperative to rebuild our economy and our democracy. Ukraine’s resistance has captured our attention and our sympathy, but its importance might be better calculated in relation to these other matters.

The larger point is that American and Western European politicians seem to believe that Ukraine allows them a chance to flex their macho muscles, at little cost to themselves. It is not a profile in courage. Neither is our willingness to cheerlead the Ukrainians while they and their nation are being reduced to rubble.


Steve Goodman said...

You ask what national interest America has in the war in Ukraine.

One is our honor. When we induced Ukraine to give up its large inventory of nuclear weapons to Russia back in the 1990's, didn't we sort of guaranty their continued security?

Moreover, you assume that Russia's war aims extend only to Ukraine and limit your discussion (in a rather stingy fashion) to why should we be helping only Ukraine when we have better uses for the money back home. The war with Ukraine was started by Putin for no good reason apparent to us and seemingly has no rational end short of Russian or Ukrainian capitulation, neither of which is on the horizon. Wouldn't it be prudent for us to assume that Russia has larger aims even if they appear ludicrous to us now, and that the capitulation of Ukraine would not be the end of the war but the beginning of an even larger conflict? Isn't it better to finance Ukraine's currently winning efforts and localize the war to Ukraine than to withhold funds and then find ourselves later involved in the fighting. Only yesterday it was being reported that Belarus was moving army units to its western and southern borders to at least threaten to enter the war against Ukraine on Russia's side.

In a nutshell, although none of this makes much sense, there may be much more at stake here than a war limited to Ukraine.

pacman said...

Forget honor. How about not handing Putin 44 million people and a massive economic infusion to rebuild his war machine and threaten Poland, Moldava, the Baltic states as well as the entire European continent.

Patrick59 said...

Those who believe that this was an unprovoked invasion have head their head in the sand for many years.

An issue with the Budapest memorandum is who owned the nuclear weapons that the Soviet Union had deployed in Ukraine. This is very complicated and probably best sorted out by those who specialize in international and treaty laws. But could the same argument be made regarding US made nuclear weapons that are deployed in Turkey. If Turkey or the US withdrew from NATO would Turkey own these weapons because of where they are located geographically. Also part of this memorandum between Yeltsin and Clinton was that there would be no NATO expansion and this part of the agreement has been ignored by the West.

One has to wonder why senators McCain and Graham went to Ukraine pledging support for a war against Russia, this was followed by the Orange Revolution that overthrew an elected government sympathetic to Russia (does anyone really believe that this would not alarm Russia). We should also recall that many who were involved with color revolutions and the Maiden massacre, were also part of the Ukraine call Trump impeachment hoax and seem to have been stirring the pot again in Ukraine since Biden became president. There are also several children of politically influential families in the US and Europe have become wealthy from the Ukraine grift and they will likely profit from the latest aid package. Much of this equipment will likely be destroyed by Russia before it ever reaches Eastern Ukraine. There will likely be more and even larger aid packages within a few months.

In eastern Ukraine there has been an ongoing conflict that resulted in two Minsk accords that Ukraine has failed to honor. There have also been several attacks against innocent Russian speaking Ukraine civilians in the East by the Ukraine military under Zelensky’s leadership. Also artillery attack monitoring and tracking has demonstrated that the majority of attackers before the Russian invasion were from Western Ukraine into the East and most targets were civilian rather than military.

We can argue about the justification for the Russian invasion but we should not blindly follow this administration and the Neocon propaganda that Ukraine is the innocent victim in this situation. Ukraine is one of tge worlds most corrupt nation and Biden’s leadership as Obama’s vive president contributed to Ukraine corruption and incompetence.

There are very good alternative information sources that have been very accurate with predicting the events that have occurred. I have found the best has been:

It is always prudent to seek different opinions regarding such an important conflict especially with how untrustworthy Western media has become.

Anonymous said...

I see that for you the history of Russian-Ukrainian relations began on 2/24/22.

Anonymous said...

See above.

Russian territorial ambitions? Precisely zero.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Superb comment.