Sunday, March 02, 2014

Did American Defense Statecraft doom Ukraine?

To anyone who follows world events, saying "Ukraine is currently a hotbed of activity" would be the understatement of the year (so far).  Within the last few days, events have taken more critical turns.  After months of protests, the Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned.  Repressive anti-protest laws were quickly repealed in attempts to mollify the destructive crowds, then issued a warrant for Azarov's arrest.  Azarov vanished shortly thereafter.

This prompted Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to proclaim Ukraine's acting government as illegitimate, while Russian President Vladimir Putin on claimed that all foreign intervention in the country was "adding to the unrest in the former Soviet republic."  

Now, it appears as though the Russians are planning to invade, or have already done so (as suggested by the presence of heavily armed, unidentified military personnel after the Russian parliament voted to intervene).  In response, Ukraine is mobilizing its army to counter the perceived "declaration of war."  Complicating this mobilization effort is the fact that the Ukraine is an intrinsically diverse country, as evidenced by the apparent defection of the Ukrainian Naval Chief and the Ukrainian naval flagship to the side of pro-Russian forces in the Crimean Peninsula.

The Hetman Sahaydachny, the Ukrainian Frigate in question

Events have certainly shown that the Russians can still "catch the world off guard."  So where did the international community go wrong?  More specifically, where did the United States go wrong?  And how does American Defense Statecraft fit into the mix?

The failure of American Defense Statecraft to dissuade Russian intervention in the Ukraine can easily date to 2008's Russo-Georgian War.  In response to that Russian incursion into a bordering nation, the international reaction was rather tepid, with then-President Bush saying "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable" in the 21st century.  Aside from political bluster and grandstanding, nothing much happened.  After the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, President Obama bungled his way through threatening involvement before backing away from his purported commitment to the region.  In response to Russian aggression in the region, rather than mobilize military units Obama said there would be "costs" associated with Putins actions.  Given that Putin is well aware of the United States' much publicized "Asia Pivot," Obama's stated goals to get American troops out of the Middle East, and America's recently announced plans to shrink the size of its military, there can be no doubt that Putin has weighed Obama's "costs" and found them negligible.

The Telegraph claims that it is Putin's goal to make a laughingstock out of the USA, the west, and NATO in general.  Even their journalists recognize that
It is a textbook KGB-led operation: the agent provocateur, followed by a self-organised militia, then Russian military protection to defend 'their’ people. The tactic was used to good effect throughout the Soviet period in Communist coups. It’s what brought down the government of Afghanistan and caused 30 years of war. And again it is unlikely to be resisted.
The pro-war President Bush did nothing to Russia in response to aggression in 2008.  The Peace-prize winning President Obama continues to do nothing in response to the slaughter of the Syrian people, instead letting Russia take the lead.  And rather than meet force with force, Obama is countering Soviet tactics with hollow words.  The United States is not led by a Cold Warrior, and Ukraine will pay the price.

With such terrible Defense Statecraft, perhaps the next set of European protests will be to push a nation towards the ever-dominant Russia, and away from the toothless "alliances" of the EU or NATO.

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