In his regular Washington Post column David Ignatius sets out to explain why the U. S. intelligence apparatus is worried about Russia’s invading Ukraine:
The CIA discovered something scary in October: Russia was moving troops toward the Ukrainian border — and, unlike in previous border thrusts, was making secret plans about how to use them.
The agency also worried that the potential conflict zone didn’t appear to be just the eastern sliver of Ukraine occupied by Russian-backed separatists, which Russian troops had approached the previous April, but a much broader swath of the country. Alarm bells rang at the agency, and then across the U.S. government.
going on to propose that President Biden talk to President Putin, explaining to Mr. Putin how bad such an invasion would be for Russia:
How do you stop a “master of audacity,” as a former CIA official describes Putin? One way is to talk to him, as Biden is planning to do, and offer a dignified retreat. But if that fails and Putin invades Ukraine, the United States and its allies are discussing this week how to make him pay as heavy a cost as possible.
I think he’s looking at the matter through the wrong prism. More than a century ago Lord Palmerston said of the British Empire that it had no permanent friends or enemies but it did have permanent interests. So does Russia. Among those interests are:
- Russia seeks to be the leading Slavic country and the defender of all Slavs.
- Russia seeks to be the leading Orthodox country and the defender of the Orthodox.
- Russia wants a warm water port.
Those have been Russian national goals for hundreds of years. Ukrainian rapprochement with the West threatens all of those goals.
If we are genuinely interested in preserving anything like Ukrainian independence, I would like to suggest the following:
- End all talk of Ukraine joining the European Union (unless you’re prepared to admit Russia, too).
- End all talk of Ukraine joining NATO (ditto).
- Accept permanently the notion of a neutral Ukraine.
Anything short of those steps are just non-starters for Russia.