Again, What’s the U. S. Interest?

You know, if the coverage of the Senate debate on the aid package for Ukraine is at all representative, there was far too much discussion of ways and means and not nearly enough identifying the U. S. interest. I asked the question when the hazunga first hit the fan in Ukraine but I think I need to ask it again: what’s the U. S. interest in Ukraine?

17 comments… add one
  • michael reynolds

    In Ukraine specifically? Nothing major. Our interest is in peace and stability and democracy, all three of which are being threatened by Mr. Putin in Ukraine. At the very least we’ll see a more militarized and wary Europe going forward. Nervous is not good. Nervous can lead to mistakes. (No visits to Sarajevo, please.) NATO necessarily has to reassess the Soviet threat. Oh wait, not Soviet, Russian. So hard to remember. Maybe it’s the fact that the man we’re dealing with is a KGB agent who pines for his lost empire.

    Definitely not something for us to go to war over. But Europe’s back will be up and we have no choice but to back their play under NATO. And the ‘Stans will likely be edgy as well, a situation we can probably exploit. I’ll be interested to see China’s take-away from all this.

  • I think we should “back Europe’s play” only to the extent of negative reciprocity, i.e. if Russia doesn’t use its nuclear weapons, we won’t use ours. Otherwise Europe needs to grow the hell up. If they want to be able to stand up to Russia, they should prepare themselves to do so.

    What I’m hearing from Senators is a knee-jerk anti-Russian reaction. What’s the desired outcome? I think it’s a if not cordial at least civil relationship with a Russia that’s content to stay within its present borders (or, more precisely, its borders before moving troops to Crimea). That does not appear to be the outcome that the Powers That Be seem to want and it bugs me. It’s being unnecessarily truculent.

    Russia’s going to be a regional superpower. Nothing we can do about that. So is China. India could be. Brazil could be. We need to adjust ourselves to that reality.

  • PD Shaw

    I think the U.S. will adjust fine with new superpowers; it will not adjust fine to belligerent regional powers that position themselves as based in opposition to Western liberalism. And a popularly elected body of legislators is acting like a popularly elected body of legislators; crafting a foreign policy response will be left to the foggy bottom boys that saw a Russian invasion coming.

    At the very minimum, we have an interest in seeking enforcement of the agreements we entered into with Ukraine for its nuclear disarmament. We are not obligated to go to war for Ukraine, but we are obligated to take the matter to the U.N. Sec. Council, and implicitly make the case for sanctioning Russia. I think the world is safer without a nuclear Ukraine (and I doubt its deterrence against Russia in any event), and we will probably have an interest in pursuing similar arrangements in the future, though unfortunately without a credible Russia.

  • I think I agree with everything you said there, PD. Except:

    I think the U.S. will adjust fine with new superpowers

    but not regional superpowers that have their own national interests.

  • ...

    Wasn’t part of the agreement for removing nukes from the Ukraine a promise to Russia that NATO would not take nations from the old Warsaw Pact alliance on as new members? How long did we honor that commitment?

  • PD Shaw

    @Dave, I think your probably humoring me by agreeing with me, but as to your caveat, I don’t know. Realist say that a hegemon will attempt to stop the rise of another hegemon, but the UK did not really try to stop the US. My recent inquiry into this was that I’m wrong, the UK did, and alternatively, the UK was not a regional hegemon, which is where the conflicts lie. I’m confused as to the latter, and offer the alternative theory that the US did not challenge the international system that benefited the UK, though the US rise was not in the UK’s national interest in terms of losing status as a global hegemon.

  • PD Shaw

    Elipses, I’m not aware of any Western commitment not to expand NATO. I think the Europeans rejected the idea when it was brought up about seven years ago.

  • ...

    Okay, my mind has been playing tricks on me. I’m conflating a proposed resolution to the current crisis with advice from George Kennan on post-Soviet Russia and coming up with something else entirely.

    That said, I don’t understand why NATO, having achieved all of it’s strategic wildest dreams regarding the USSR now feels compelled to expand right up to the Russian border.

    (Side note: today I heard McCain say that military options were not on the table. “Unfortunately,” he said!)

    What is NATO’s goal with Russia? To see it break down into even smaller pieces?

    And as for maintaining international order, we have been vastly more disruptive in that regard than the Russians. By my count the Russians have gone into two foreign nations with their military since the breakup of the USSR: Georgia in 2008 (which war the Georgians started by violating a long standing agreement), and Crimea this year.

    Meanwhile, just under Obama’s administration we have involved our assets to overthrow several governments. We have supported two nations getting carved up since 2008. (Serbia and Sudan.) Our current sHeep has supported partion and ethnic cleansing in Iraq.

    Tell me again how us overthrowing governments in Libya and Egypt is okay but Russia being deeply worried about a coup on its border is reason for grave concern on our part?

  • My point in my remark is that I see no evidence that the United States respects the interests of regional superpowers. If you make a table and put Russia’s foreign policy interests in one column and the U. S. responses to Russia’s attempting to pursue those interests in the other, the U. S. response nearly always opposes Russia’s actions whether the U. S. actually has an opposing interest or not. IMO the U. S. just doesn’t think that any other country is allowed to have foreign policy interests distinct from ours.

    You can do much the same exercise with China, Iran, India, Brazil, and so on.

  • ...

    And why the Hell should we be trying to “exploit” instability in the ‘Stans, if stability is one of our goals?

    I’m not seeing what purpose is served by provoking Russia, which we have surely done and are doing.

  • ...

    A lot of the evil in the 20th Century happened because of collapsed empires. Why are we doing everything we can to collapse two more?

  • ...

    Schuler, that last comment is the thing that bothers me most. We are treating every single international issue as though if anyone else any where “wins” anything, we must lose, and therefore we most oppose everyone on everything, unless they are deeply tied to us. (That is a reference to the NATO powers plus Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.)

    Not everything is a zero-sum game.

  • ...

    It’s also funny to see all the leftists suddenly wanting to out neocon the neocons. Woodrow Wilson’s poisonous ideas live on….

  • In the specific case of Ukraine, while I fully support our standing up for liberal democracy and national sovereignty, there is no democracy or sovereignty to defend in the instance of Ukraine. The freely and legitimately elected president was ousted by a violent mob. Yes, he was a murderous, criminal shmuck. That’s beside the point. Liberal democracy when it’s convenient is a pretty poor excuse for liberal democracy. The fundamental requirement for a liberal democracy is the rule of law.

    Similarly, the autonomy of the Crimean Republic and Russia’s long-term lease on its base in Sevastopol put an asterisk on Ukraine’s national sovereignty. It’s sovereign other than those exceptions. Paper it over how you may that’s not sovereignty and the Ukrainians are painfully aware of it.

    Basically, there is no side to stick up for in Ukraine but we’re acting as though there were and I’m not really sure why.

  • Afghaniman

    How are you supposed to get rid of murderous, criminal shmucks? Especially one who turned traitor (yes, I consider someone who ok’s a land grab a traitor) and no one really wants back.

  • By impeachment. Or defeating them at the ballot box. The proper procedures as established by law. Not by letting mobs go after them.

    If your point is that Ukraine does not have the institutions to support liberal democracy, it would be an interesting argument but it’s not one that I’m making.

  • Ken Hoop

    The Philosopher explains the real American interest. That is, the interest of the Elite Imperialists, not that of the organic and all but extinguished American nation.

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