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The Ukrainian Situation: I Yam What I Yam

bluto-abusing-olive

Writing at Der Spiegel, historian Christopher Clark looks at historical precedents for insight into the situation in Ukraine, especially the First World War:

The spectre of that war is useful as a reminder of how terrible the costs can be when politics fails, conversation stops and compromise becomes impossible. But in fact the alignments implicated in the Ukrainian emergency bear little relation to the geopolitical constellations of 1914. At that time, two central powers faced a trio of world empires on Europe’s eastern and western peripheries. Today, a broad coalition of Western and Central European states is united in protesting Russia’s interventions in Ukraine. And the restless, ambitious German Kaiserreich of 1914 scarcely resembles the European Union, a multi-state peace framework that finds it difficult to project power or to formulate external policy.

The Crimean War of 1853-1856 might offer a better fit. Here, at least, we can speak of a coalition of “Western” states united in opposition to Russian imperial ventures. This war, which ultimately consumed well over half a million lives, began when Russia sent 80,000 troops into the Ottoman-controlled Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. Russia argued that it had the right and obligation to act as the guardian of orthodox Christians within the Ottoman Empire, much as it today claims the right to safeguard the interests of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

But here, too, it would be a mistake to push the analogy too far. In the 1850s, the Western powers feared that Russian predations against the Ottomans would destabilize the entire zone from the Middle East to Central Asia, undermining the security of the British and French world empires. Since the Ottoman Empire no longer exists, the mechanisms of transimperial destabilization are absent in the current crisis, which involves the relationship between Russia and one relatively isolated former client state on its periphery.

He struggles to conclude on a hopeful note:

There exists today no counterpart for the kind of “Balkan inception scenario” that fuelled escalation in 1914. In a recent statement for a news program, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier conceded that the EU foreign ministers (himself included) had been too quick during the early days of the crisis to engage with the Ukrainian opposition and too slow to take account of the larger geopolitical issues that are entangled with the crisis. This remark exhibited a level of self-critical reflection and a readiness to adjust to new developments that would have been completely alien to his early twentieth-century counterparts. The statement issued by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on March 5 following a meeting of the Commission to discuss the situation in Ukraine struck exactly the right note. It spoke of the overriding importance of political and economic stability and of respect for the rights of “all Ukrainian citizens and communities.” Caution has been a salient feature of US President Barack Obama’s recent statements, and even the crude threats emanating from the Kremlin have been in marked contrast (so far!) with President Vladimir Putin’s circumspection in practice.

Dr. Clark champions the idea that the French and Russians laid the groundwork for World War I by maneuvering themselves into positions in which events over which they had no control, far away in the Balkans, impelled them to go to war. I fear that the parallels between those circumstances and today’s are closer than he thinks with the U. S. and Russia playing the parts of France and Russia and Ukraine and the EU filling the role of the Balkans and, possibly, the Ottoman Empire.

In his op-ed in the New York Times Tyler Cowen considers the situation in Ukraine from a game theoretical perspective in several aspects: nuclear deterrence, tipping points, market deterrence, and credibility and consequences. His op-ed is hard to excerpt and should be read in full but here’s a sample (from the “tipping points” section):

In a recent blog post, Jay Ulfelder, a political scientist, noted that for the last 25 years the world has seen less violent conflict than might have been expected, given local conditions. Lately, though, peaceful settlements have been harder to find. This change may just reflect random noise in the data, but a more disturbing alternative is that conflict is now more likely.

Why? The point from game theory is this: The more peacefully that disputes are resolved, the more that peaceful resolution is expected. That expectation, in turn, makes peace easier to achieve and maintain. But the reverse is also true: As peaceful settlement becomes less common, trust declines, international norms shift and conflict becomes more likely. So there is an unfavorable tipping point.

I tend to see the situation more from a perspective of transactional analysis as a global game of “Let’s You and Him Fight”, a scenario familiar to anyone who watched the old Popeye cartoons with the United States playing the role of Popeye, Russia the role of Bluto, and Ukraine the role of Olive Oyl. The EU, presumably, sees itself as the person with whom she goes off arm-in-arm at the end after her two suitors have exhausted themselves.

In geopolitics as in life that game is tremendously dangerous, particularly when the prospective combatants both have massive nuclear arsenals.

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About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging.

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    1, Historical reference is easy: The Sudetenland or Austria: annexation of territory occupied by co-nationals in circumstances where the international consensus of the legitimacy of the divisional border is weak. Doesn’t mean Auschwitz or Vichy France.

    2.a. Game theory (nuclear deterrence). In specifics, I think its speculative. Did Ukraine have the ability to maintain and use its nukes over time? Would those nukes be a source of stability or conflict with Russia? Would Ukraine become more belligerent? Would Russia at some point invade Ukraine to eliminate their nuclear capabilities?

    2.c. Game theory (market deterrence). Markets rise and fall. Putin may reasonably expect that once attention fades, the markets will return. If markets return, does that signal approval of a successful annexation and incentive for more?

    2.d. Game theory (credibility). U.S. credibility will not be punished where its loyalties and interests are predictable, which means that U.S. credibility will not be punished if it makes typical idealistic, yet ineffectual, gestures to Ukrainian autonomy.

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  2. Dave Schuler says:

    @PD Shaw:

    U.S. credibility will not be punished where its loyalties and interests are predictable, which means that U.S. credibility will not be punished if it makes typical idealistic, yet ineffectual, gestures to Ukrainian autonomy.

    I think that’s true as long as the “idealistic, yet ineffectual” gestures are not too harsh and pretty abstract. The danger is that of escalation.

    I think there are only two considerations in our dealings with Russia:

    1. Does it improve our relations with Russia?
    2. Does it improve our strategic position with respect to Russia?

    So, for example, I was against NATO expansion into the Russian near abroad because it worsened our relations with Russia and did not improve our strategic position with them.

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  3. steve says:

    Still not sure what credible deterrent/punishments we can impose. We have almost no trade with Russia. A military response is pretty much off the table. Not sure what that leaves. The EU can make some credible responses, but has shown no willingness to do so. I suspect the fact that Russia is annexing an area that largely wants to be annexed is important. Broader efforts by Russia might provoke a stronger response.

    Steve

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  4. stonetools says:

    I’m glad that historical analogies have gone beyond Munich. As I’ve said, the US seems incapable of thinking of international relations beyond WW2. Its good that people are recognizing that history didn’t begin in 1938.
    I’ve just finished reading Christopher Clark’s “Sleepwalkers” about the start of WW1 which I highly recommend. I agree that this ain’t 1938, and it ain’t 1914.TBH, I think the best historical analogy is 1846 and the US annexation of Texas, but of course Americans don’t want to hear that.
    I think the best way to think of this is through the prism of must-haves and nice to haves. Is a unified, democratic, pro-Western Ukraine a must have? Not really. Its a nice to have.
    To be blunt, my must haves in eastern Europe really ends at the eastern border of Germany. I wouldn’t even count Poland and the Baltics in the Western sphere of influence as a must -have, frankly.
    That doesn’t mean we do nothing in Ukraine. It does mean that any response should be non-military-and if they don’t work (and they actually may work) then we learn to live with the results.
    Here is a possible escalation scenario, based oddly enough on the reverse of 1648 uprising that delivered Ukraine to Russia.
    1. Russia moves into eastern Ukraine.
    2.Western Ukraine votes to re-unite with Poland (which it was historically a part of) and Poland accepts this.
    3. NATO troops move into western Ukraine.

    Possible? Would we want this? Discuss.

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  5. Andy says:

    I’d recommend this for a view of the Russian leadership perspective. Dugin is the founder of the Eurasia Movement and a long-time Putin adviser. His writing here and elsewhere points to some conclusions about Russian strategy and perceptions:

    – Ukraine, as currently constituted, may not survive as an independent state due to internal divisions and meddling by outside powers (esp. the US). Russia will defend its interests even if that means the partition of Ukraine.

    – US policy is anti-Russian. The Russian view is that, given the chance, the US and EU will take Ukraine into their orbit and then use that influence to further marginalize Russian interests. They are drawing a big red line on Ukraine.

    Overall, it does not bode well for any real agreement regarding Ukraine. Russian fears about US/EU intentions, whether real or not, will not be diminished given US policy and rhetoric. US efforts to deter Russian action in Ukraine could have the opposite effect.

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  6. Andy says:

    Forgot the link to Dugin’s other piece on liberalism and the “war on Russia”….

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  7. Dave Schuler says:

    @Andy:

    Thanks, Andy. Dugin’s position is yet another and one that I think deserves attention.

    That our policy towards Russia has been anti-Russian over the period of the last twenty years is, I think, undeniable. I find it troubling and puzzling.

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  8. stonetools says:

    @Andy:

    I think seeking to understand Putin is an important step that a lot of the neo-con types don’t try to do. I think that NATO expansion was done without due consideration of military aspects of such expansion. I think if you asked the generals, “Can NATO stop Russia’s conquest of the Baltics, absent the use of nuclear weapons?” the generals’ answer would most likely be “No.” (Poland might be a different story.)
    I think it was also done without due consideration of the effect it would have on Russian thinking. I think Putin is not alone in thinking of NATO as an anti-Russian military alliance that has moved its borders too close to Russia for comfort. I think Russia will push its military frontiers as far west as he can get away with, and that he won’t stop until the West draws a military red line somewhere, whether its west Ukraine or the eastern border of Poland.

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  9. john personna says:

    Western elites my strategize on Crimea, but when western populations give it a pass, not much can happen. If we couldn’t bomb Syria we sure as heck can’t do anything militarily in Crimea.

    No, this will only get worse if Russia digests Crimea and then moves too far west, invoking domino fears.

    But if Putin is smart and stands pat with Crimea, or a little eastern sliver of Ukraine, he’s fine and no global worries.

    That’s my attempt at Realpolitik anyway.

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  10. john personna says:

    (I would also say that it is Realpolitik that we don’t need super good relations with Russia. Their sphere is far from our sphere.)

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  11. Dave Schuler says:

    @stonetools:

    IMO the fifth enlargement of NATO which included Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and so on was ill-considered but the precedent for it had been established by the fourth enlargement to include the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. In other words, I don’t think it was strictly a “neocon” phenomenon but part of a bipartisan, longstanding strategy.

    I think Russia will push its military frontiers as far west as he can get away with, and that he won’t stop until the West draws a military red line somewhere, whether its west Ukraine or the eastern border of Poland.

    I don’t think so and I don’t see a great deal of evidence for this. I think that Russian opinion is largely irredentist rather than expansionary. Russia just doesn’t want adversaries on its borders. That’s part of the paranoia ingrained in Russian foreign policy thought for most of the last millennium. However, it can tolerate neutrality cf. Finland.

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  12. al-Ameda says:

    Is there no place in the world where we won’t join a conflict?

    Republicans didn’t want to authorize Obama to do anything about Syria, yet now they’re saying that Putin was emboldened by Obama inaction with respect to Syria. Also, just the other day in the New York Times, for some unknown reason, John McCain was granted space in the op-ed section to blame Obama for what’s happening in the Ukraine in the Crimea.

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  13. Dave Schuler says:

    @john personna:

    When there are two countries in the world capable of destroying the world, the United States and Russia, I think that maintaining good relations between them is the height of Realpolitik.

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  14. john personna says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    We did not have good relations when we jointly managed not destroying the world for a rough half century.

    It turned out that even being rivals we both displayed enough rational self-interest to avoid a suicide pact.

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  15. john personna says:

    Does anyone think Putin wants to go out with a bang?

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  16. john personna says:

    It does seem that Russia wants to be some degree of rival going forward, and yes that has and will bring some opposition from us, but it should be manageable. If Russian armies stay well east.

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  17. Gustopher says:

    @al-Ameda: Republican complaints about Obama should be ignored — they complain about everything Obama does, it’s just what they do. Ukraine, health care, going on between two ferns, appearing before columns at his nomination… It doesn’t matter, Republicans are opposed.

    If the Republicans are offering concrete suggestions, rather than vague “Obama is too weak” statements, then it might make sense to start paying some attention (I guess), but we aren’t there yet.

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  18. Gustopher says:

    Most of the historical analogies are terrible. Ottoman is a nice change from Hitler, but still a bit of a stretch. Russia needs it’s warm water ports, and no one strong enough to do anything about cares enough to do anything about it (which may be a good thing).

    Discussing whether this is more like the the annexation of Czechoslovakia (did I spell that right? I know Sudetenland would defeat me…), WW I or the Crimean War is like discussing whether the Republicans in congress want to idolize their Big Daddy Putin, or want to break free from him, or be spanked by him — entertaining, but terrible,

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  19. stonetools says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    I don’t think so and I don’t see a great deal of evidence for this. I think that Russian opinion is largely irredentist rather than expansionary. Russia just doesn’t want adversaries on its borders. That’s part of the paranoia ingrained in Russian foreign policy thought for most of the last millennium. However, it can tolerate neutrality cf. Finland.

    Well, I think we may just be quibbling over semantics here. Here is the Wikipedia definition of irrendentism:

    Irredentism (from Italian irredento, “unredeemed”) is any position of a state advocating annexation of territories administered by another state on the grounds of common ethnicity or prior historical possession, actual or alleged

    Now let’s remember that the pre-1914 Russian Empire included the Baltics, Finland, and a big chunk of what is now Poland, in addition to Ukraine. The USSR also included the Baltics and control of Poland post 1945. And Russian nationalists like Solzhenitsyn really did think of Ukraine as part of Russia. In light of all that, current Russian policy can be described either as expansionary, if you take a “Little Russia” view of Russia or as irredentist (if the pre-1914 Russian Empire is your ideal) .
    I think the question here is how far west Putin can push his troops before the West says no more. I think Putin would certainly like to take back all of Ukraine if he can. My guess is that the West would live with that, but that it could do better-maybe a partition, with an independent, neutral western Ukraine allied with the EU, and an agreement that any Russian move into west Ukraine would be considered a threat to NATO.OK, here endeth my spitballing.

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  20. bill says:

    @al-Ameda: well it was obama that came up with the “red line” that was crossed- and his inaction was a sign of weakness. add to that kerry’s lameness that led to putn coming out as some sort of a diplomat in the situation and what do you expect?
    nice that the nyt is giving mccain some space, makes them look almost impartial!

    @john personna: eventually maybe, right now he has a pretty good hand to play. the russians in crimea seem all in favor of becoming a part of russia and there’s nothing wrong with that. not like the ukraine has the military might to stop them, and the west just flexes some muscle here and there so they don’t seem so weak.
    i see them all getting some ice cream by spring, maybe summer.

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  21. michael reynolds says:

    We seem very concerned with being kind and understanding to Russia. Part of the reason we expanded NATO is that Russia has neither kindness nor consideration for anyone else. Finland and Poland in 1939. Hungary in 1956. Czechoslovakia in 1968. Afghanistan, Georgia, Chechnya.

    Had Russia stayed on a democratic path, that would be one thing. It has not done so. Rather they’ve gone straight back to authoritarianism. We have an authoritarian state run by a self-consciously posturing tough guy in the process of building a cult of personality; a country feeling wounded, but with a bunch of new-found wealth. They feed on their WW2 paranoia but of course refuse to acknowledge that their two year embrace of Nazi Germany helped to cause the horrors that followed, and their leadership in the person of Josef Stalin made it infinitely worse.

    So while I acknowledge Russian paranoia, I don’t think we need to be dictated to in our alliances. Nor should we just passively accept that every country with the misfortune of being located on Russia’s borders needs to bend the knee to Moscow. It would be contemptible to expect the Poles to bow to Moscow, and I’m very glad we’ve brought them into NATO. Ditto the Baltics. The ‘Stans can take care of themselves, I suspect, but by throwing up a red line around a reunited Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, etc… we have at least limited Mr. Putin’s ambition – unless he really wants a war.

    Russia remains dangerous. As I’ve said before, I see them as the glowering drunk at the end of the bar. They are incapable of just getting along with the other patrons but sit sullen and self-pitying and threatening, ruining everyone else’s good time.

    There’s not much we can do for Ukraine, or should do, and the EU needed to piss or get off the pot, not launch some endless, underfunded, bureaucratic process that just begged Putin to make a countermove. It’s a pity we weren’t able to absorb Ukraine sooner into the West, because it’s a rare authoritarian thug who, once having taken, stops taking. Franco stayed in Spain, but the general rule of bullies is that they’ll continue acting in character. Will the shirtless secret policeman who dreams of lost empire be content with Crimea? I doubt it.

    Our policy now should be what it was in the past: containment. We should strengthen the border states. We should apply economic pressure. We should be talking to the Chinese about whether they feel secure on their northern and western borders. If Comrade KGB wants his Soviet Union back, we should quash that dream as soon as we can. Russia can’t be fixed, Russia can’t be trusted, Russia can only be constrained.

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  22. michael reynolds says:

    @bill:

    Was Ronald Reagan’s tail-between-the-legs retreat in the face of a terrorsit slaughter of 241 marines a sign of weakness?

    Now’s your chance to show you’re not just an Obama hater. So was that a “sign of weakness?”

    And what “sign of weakness” by Mr. Bush the Younger that enticed Al Qaeda to attack us?

    Make some sense of your “sign of weakness” theory.

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  23. bill says:

    @michael reynolds: well, ronnie did level quite a bit of lebanon on the way out.
    and al qaeda was well along on their plans due to the guy before “w”.

    you know obama’s weak- that’s why you get so rattled when someone mentions it.

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  24. superdestroyer says:

    Partition the Ukraine into an ethnic Ukrainian country that could be admitted to NATO (western Ukaine) and then let the Russians have the eastern, agricultural section of the country. If the Ukraine is not partitioned the issues will continue.

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  25. michael reynolds says:

    @bill:

    No, I know just the opposite, which is why I enjoy correcting ignorant haters like you.

    Ronnie leveled a good part of Lebanon? He fired some shells into the hills. Then he ran away. He also cozied up to the Soviets, a thing he was criticized for at the time by right-wing nuts. And shouldn’t George W. Bush’s “toughness” have scared Al Qaeda off?

    As usual, you have nothing.

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  26. Dave D says:

    @michael reynolds: Sign of weakness theory = after the name of the politician this appears (D). There is nothing else, and it so scares the dems that they have entirely adapted the right’s foreign policy. And this is the reason that libertarians occasionally espouse sensible sentences concerning foreign policy and America’s place in the world.

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  27. Andy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We seem very concerned with being kind and understanding to Russia.

    Who is this “we?”

    It’s a pity we weren’t able to absorb Ukraine sooner into the West, because it’s a rare authoritarian thug who, once having taken, stops taking.

    Does anyone else see the irony here?

    Secondly, the idea that Ukraine would ever join NATO is a neocon/R2P fantasy, kind of like turning Iraq into democratic beacon of freedom in the Middle East.

    Our policy now should be what it was in the past: containment.

    Containment is essentially the policy we’ve continued since the end of the Cold War. The Russians view our actions since 1990 as a policy of encirclement, a “cordon sanitaire” designed to separate Russia and isolate it. This policy was pursued even when Russia was weak and passive under Yeltsin. So you advocate the status quo.

    Putin may be a bully and Russia, today, may be as dangerous as you say, but it’s important to acknowledge how we got here. Putin the bully (a bully who is, incidentally, genuinely popular in Russia) didn’t just spring from earth to suddenly change Russia into a dangerous renegade State while the US was passively minding its own business. The ideas you describe as what should be our policy are, in part, what created Putin and modern Russia. A reaction was inevitable and now it is here. For Russia, allowing the US to do as it pleases has not worked out and what we should not be is surprised at the new course Russia is taking.

    Now, the above is analysis, not advocacy. I’m no friend of Putin or his methods, but in formulating Russian policy we should not paper over the history (including our own role). We also need a goal consistent with our own interests. “Containment” of Russia for what purpose? What is the end state and will containment reasonably achieve it? What US interest is advanced and how is that interest balanced against the costs of such a policy? (One should not labor under the illusion that Russian containment will be cost-free.)

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  28. michael reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    Our containment did not force Putin to dispense with all but a show of democracy. It did not force him to take control of the media. It did not force him to violate human rights in his country. He could have managed the West quite effectively by simply joining the civilized world. He chose not to.

    On the contrary, I’d say our policy of containment of Russia has been justified by the fact that Russia has gone right back to its old ways. It’s almost as if we suspected Russians would continue behaving like Russians. And, sure enough. . .

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  29. michael reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    As for our interests, we are interested in stability, free trade and human rights. Which of those is advanced by a KGB thug invading another country?

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  30. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I dunno, Mike. I sense a little ambivalence here. On one hand, you want to punish the KGB thug for his military aggression. OTOH, you seem to want to give up the whole of Ukraine as lost.
    I think the ambivalence here is that the West isn’t going to fight for an independent Ukraine. Sanctions yes, but rolling tanks to Kiev, much less risking global thermonuclear war? No.
    OK, just when the West willing to roll tanks? In a pure realpolitik sense, without reference to mom, apple pie, and the American way, we have to think of an inner and outer ring of NATO. The outer ring is the Baltics, Bulgaria, Romania, maybe Hungary, where TBH, it’s not 100 per cent NATO would go to the wall if Russia exerts pressure. The inner ring would be the rest.
    Bismarck once said, “The whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.” I think a lot of westerners feel that way about, say, Romania or Estonia. Time will tell whether they’ll really live up to their treaty obligations.

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  31. al-Ameda says:

    @bill:

    @al-Ameda: well it was obama that came up with the “red line” that was crossed- and his inaction was a sign of weakness. add to that kerry’s lameness that led to putn coming out as some sort of a diplomat in the situation and what do you expect?
    nice that the nyt is giving mccain some space, makes them look almost impartial!

    Tow things:
    (1) Republicans voted to make sure that Putin took the lead in the case of Syria.
    (2) John McCain is part of the ceaseless parade of “Blame Obama for everything that is wrong in the World and in America” political hacks. Providing McCain with ‘airtime’ away from the usual non-reality based media outlets is a sign of weakness, not of impartiality.

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  32. PD Shaw says:

    @Andy: I disagree that we’ve been doing Russian containment. Russia has been integrating into the world economy and brought into the G8 to encourage it to modernize its economy and satisfy its need to be a world player.

    I say kick them out of the G8 and look at ways of discouraging foreign investment in Russia. That’s a containment policy.

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  33. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:

    Well, there is pretty much no way for us to do anything in Ukraine. The most we can do is raise the costs to Putin, but that’s more for form’s sake than for any practical effect.

    As for other potential targets of Mr. Putin, I honestly don’t know whether we would fight for Estonia or Poland or Romania. And I also don’t know if Putin is crazy enough to risk it. But he’s self-destructive enough to send the West running to their dusty catalogs of weapons to see what they can afford. So who knows?

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  34. michael reynolds says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I think we’ve been pursuing a version of geographical containment – extending NATO – while offering Putin all the carrots of membership in the West. So we kick him out of the G8. Fine. Does that alter his course? I doubt it.

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  35. Andy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Our containment did not force Putin to dispense with all but a show of democracy. It did not force him to take control of the media. It did not force him to violate human rights in his country.

    Ok, why does any of that matter? Why are Human Rights and democracy a justification to employ a policy of containment on Russia but not, for instance, China, Saudi Arabia, or any of the other nefarious regimes we’ve supported over the years. What makes Russia different?

    I’d say our policy of containment of Russia has been justified by the fact that Russia has gone right back to its old ways.

    and

    As for our interests, we are interested in stability, free trade and human rights. Which of those is advanced by a KGB thug invading another country?

    Russia going back to it’s “old ways” is partially a consequence of our own actions – actions that you want more of. You’ve yet to explain how this containment policy will bring about better Russian behavior. Nor have you tied how this policy will bring about “stability, free trade and human rights.”

    @PD Shaw: G8 membership (soon to be the G7) doesn’t really doesn’t make up for Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Iraq, NATO expansion, the disastrous Jeffrey Sachs “shock therapy” economic reforms, missile defense and arms control, just to name the main ones.

    BTW, I don’t have a problem with sanctioning Russia for its actions WRT Ukraine, but I think we need to be careful about backing Russia into a corner more than we already have.

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  36. bill says:

    @michael reynolds:
    1) “hate” requires “effort”, something i don’t have for our “leader”.
    2) leveling beirut is more than any dem has done in forever. knocking down that iron curtain was more than any democrat has ever done since truman bombed japan.
    3) al qaeda is a terrorist group- not a sovereign nation….yet. slick willy was too willy-nilly with his willy to actually do anything about them. according to obama they were “on the run” just a while back but seem to be running things again, but that’s probably bush’s fault too- heck, it could be reagan’s the way you think!

    back to the dreaded “weakness” i speak of;
    from maureen dowd (not a known conservative writer)

    ….Republicans have latched on to this to make the case around the country that Obama is a dictator and an imperial president. But governing through executive order isn’t a sign of strength. It’s a sign of weakness.
    And it’s that weakness that has Democrats scared to death.

    note that she used the term “weakness” while describing said president- why don’t you correct her when you get a chance!?

    as usual, you have “something”…..but it’s only “something” to you and people who think like you- the rest of us just see things kind of as they are. he’s weak, deal with it.

    @al-Ameda: i don’t think anyone encouraged obama to make some threats he wouldn’t keep- he owns that. mccain’s a nice guy, just trying to look like he’s still relevant. the nyt must have owed him something.

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  37. Andy says:

    Another good explanation of Putin, Russia

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  38. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: There are many around who still remember the Russian invasion of Hungary, of takeover in East Germany, the Berlin Wall of shame, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, of Afghanistan, and Russian missiles in Cuba aimed at the eastern US.
    At the end of WWII it should have been stipulated that at the surrender of Germany Russia would move its troops, tanks, planes, and artillery back into its own country.

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  39. Andy says:

    @Tyrell:

    At the end of WWII it should have been stipulated that at the surrender of Germany Russia would move its troops, tanks, planes, and artillery back into its own country.

    It should have been “stipulated” that the USSR should cede post-war occupation of Germany to France, Britain and the US? What a fantasy!

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  40. Dave D says:

    @PD Shaw: @michael reynolds: There have been several members of Russia’s parliament and numerous op-eds arguing that Russia doesn’t need the G8. They’re arguing due to the global recession the other G7 mainly pointing to the EU are waning economic powers. And that they should use this current tiff with the West to start a more Asian type economic union centered around China because they are up and coming just like Russia.

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  41. PD Shaw says:

    @Andy: “Dugin is the founder of the Eurasia Movement and a long-time Putin adviser.”

    The second Dugin piece you link to has Dugin favorably quoting NAZI philosophy:

    Here we are dealing with the nihilistic essence of liberal philosophy, with nothingness as the inner (me)ontological principle of freedom-from. The German anthropologist Arnold Gehlen justly defined the human as a “deprived being,” or Mangelwesen. Man in himself is nothing. It takes all that comprises its identity from society, history, people, and politics. So if he returns to his pure essence, he can no longer recognize anything. The abyss is hidden behind the fragmented debris of feelings, vague thoughts, and dim desires. The virtuality of sub-human emotions is a thin veil; behind it there is pure darkness. So the explicit discovery of this nihilistic basis of human nature is the last achievement of liberalism.

    Gehlen joined the NAZI party in 1933, was an active official for the nationalist socialist university teachers, and wrote the work being referenced here (Man: His Nature and Place in the World) in 1940. The basic premise is that Man is weak as an individual, particularly in the face of modernity, and needs institutions to give his life meaning, whether or not those institutions are true or false is not relevant — man’s nature requires stability and order.

    I think Dugin is a fascist without the racialist science.

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  42. Andy says:

    @PD Shaw: If you read more of his work, he’s quite obviously not a Nazi or even a fascist, though he does have an authoritarian streak. He actually rejects what he terms the dominant “three political theories” which are liberalism, communism and fascism, and advocates for the development of a “fourth” theory. He wrote a book on that topic.

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  43. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    The second Dugin piece you link to has Dugin favorably quoting NAZI philosophy

    Gehlen’s anthropology is decidedly conservative but most decidedly not fascist regardless of what personal advantages he grasped for himself between 1940 and 1945.

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  44. Andy says:
  45. michael reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:

    I think it would have been hard to “stipulate” anything with the Russians. They won the war. The American people had already lost interest in war and were in no mood to start another one with the USSR.

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  46. Rafer Janders says:

    @bill:

    2) leveling beirut is more than any dem has done in forever.

    That…never happened. It exists only as a fantasy in your own head.

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  47. bill says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    On 8 February 1984, New Jersey fired almost 300 shells at Druze and Shi’ite positions in the hills overlooking Beirut.[32] Some 30 of these massive projectiles rained down on a Syrian command post in the Bekaa Valley east of Beirut, killing the general commanding Syrian forces in Lebanon[33] and several other senior officers. This was the heaviest shore bombardment since the Korean War.[

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  48. Rafer Janders says:

    @bill:

    Jesus, what a stupid lying liar you are. From YOUR OWN LINK it says we shelled “the hills overlooking Beirut” and “east of Beirut”, while before you’d written of “leveling [sic] beirut [sic]“.

    Once again, firing shells into THE HILLS EAST OF Beirut does not equal destroying Beirut.

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  49. Rafer Janders says:

    @bill:

    I mean, bill, you were originally denying Michael Reynolds’ claim that “Ronnie leveled a good part of Lebanon? He fired some shells into the hills. Then he ran away”, and you claim that no, Reagan destroyed Beirut, and attempt to back that up by posting a link showing that….Ronnie fired some shells into the hills, then he ran away. Even as a liar, you’re a sad incompetent little man.

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  50. C. Clavin says:

    @bill:

    you know obama’s weak- that’s why you get so rattled when someone mentions it.

    Obama is weak…yet he is a tyrannical dictator who is single – handedly shredding the Constitution and destroying the worlds greatest health care system. Sorry…I can’t ever follow the hyperbole of the day.
    I would ask Bin Laden and Gaddafi and al-Awlaki if Obama is weak.

    But here’s the thing with you haters…you bitch and whine and throw about abstract words like strength and wishy-washy that really don’t mean anything…except that you don’t have any real ideas of your own about how to stop Putin.

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  51. Stonetools says:

    So the Reagan mythology of consistent steely toughness persists. Do you know that Saint Ronaldus was born in a manger and could still the waves on command?

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  52. C. Clavin says:

    @Stonetools:
    Yeah, right… Now bill is telling us he leveled Beirut…instead of cutting and running…which he really did.
    If we could have an honest discussion it would be helpful…any discussion with Republicans on almost any topic might as well be about unicorns and leprechauns and turning lead into gold.

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  53. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    al qaeda is a terrorist group- not a sovereign nation….yet. slick willy was too willy-nilly with his willy to actually do anything about them.

    When Clinton did go after terrorists, Republicans screamed bloody murder – and they were not screaming at the terrorists…

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  54. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    Why do Republicans get so upset when Obama orders a drone strike against terrorists? I thought they liked “toughness”…

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  55. al-Ameda says:

    @anjin-san:

    Why do Republicans get so upset when Obama orders a drone strike against terrorists? I thought they liked “toughness”…

    The obvious answer is that they don’t like it when Obama orders drone strikes because they still can’t believe that Mitt Romney isn’t the guy ordering drone strikes.

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