Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski takes to the opinion pages of the Washington Post urging action on President Obama in response to the situation in Ukraine:
If Ukraine is crushed while the West is simply watching, the new freedom and security in bordering Romania, Poland and the three Baltic republics would also be threatened.
This does not mean that the West, or the United States, should threaten war. But in the first instance, Russia’s unilateral and menacing acts mean the West should promptly recognize the current government of Ukraine as legitimate. Uncertainty regarding its legal status could tempt Putin to repeat his Crimean charade. Second, the West should convey — privately at this stage, so as not to humiliate Russia — that the Ukrainian army can count on immediate and direct Western aid so as to enhance its defensive capabilities. There should be no doubt left in Putin’s mind that an attack on Ukraine would precipitate a prolonged and costly engagement, and Ukrainians should not fear that they would be left in the lurch.
Meanwhile, NATO forces, consistent with the organization’s contingency planning, should be put on alert. High readiness for some immediate airlift to Europe of U.S. airborne units would be politically and militarily meaningful. If the West wants to avoid a conflict, there should be no ambiguity in the Kremlin as to what might be preciptated by further adventurist use of force in the middle of Europe.
Keep in mind that Dr. Brzezinski has been wrong about practically every major foreign policy issue over the period of the last 35 years. I’ve made no secret of my lack of regard for his advice see here and here. I believe that his advice in this op-ed is flawed as well.
Ukraine’s situation is distinctive, different from that of Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia, or Latvia. It was part of Tsarist Russia, it was a republic of the Soviet Union, it is predominantly Slavic, and Russia’s strategic posture demands secure access to Black Sea ports. Is there any real evidence that Poland will be threatened—not feel threatened but be threatened—by Russia? Poland is a member of NATO, as are the other countries mentioned. Ukraine is not a NATO member. Once again, Dr. Brzezinski is asking the U. S. to provide the same assurances to non-NATO members as it does to members without producing a conceptual framework for doing so.
And what would you do if you were Vladimir Putin and NATO forces were put on alert? Would you consider it provocative? I certainly would. Rather than defusing the situation it would be an escalation of it.
I honestly don’t know why the man continues to have access to the editorial pages of major newspapers.