Among the many issues where Pres. Barack Obama has defied the will of the American people as expressed by the Congress is the case of Ukraine.
Like all geopolitical issues, of course, this one is ensnarled in contradictions.But they include the bitter memory of some two million Ukrainian victims of famine during the forced agricultural collectivization by Stalin in the mid-1930s.
Several facts are startlingly clear: The newly liberated Ukrainian people through in1994 in keeping with the American government’s pursuit of a worldwide program of nonproflieration of nuclear weapons agreed to end their production and destroy its stockpile. In exchange, the Budapest Memorandum signed by Russia, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and the United States guarantees the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Kyiv followed through on the settlement.
Perhaps even more important, however, is the geopolitical argument.for aiding Ukraine. Russia’s Vladimir Putin, in his pursuit of reconstitution of the Russian/Soviet empire, is determined to bring Ukraine, the most important of the captive nations long under Moscow’s rule, back under his control. This follows, of course, Moscow’s attack in 2008 on the pro-Western government of Georgia, again a former “Soviet republic.” Then Vice President Dick Cheney warned that “Russian aggression must not go unanswered, and its continuation would have serious consequences….” In fact, after a strong rhetorical response, the U.S. did not respond, Putin detached important minority regions from the state, ending its courtship with EU membership. But as a “reward” for this aggression, the new Obama Administration’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flamboyantly offered Putin a “reset” intended to cement a new period of cordial relations. It did not, of course.
It could well be argued that Putin’s unilateral annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsular last year was an almost inevitable outcome of this continuing appeasement of Russian aggression. Historical analogies are often misleading, but Putin’s continuing agitation of small Russian-speaking minorities in former Soviet conquered territories smells far too much like Hitler’s tactics through the 1930s leading to World War II.
After extensive Russian meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs, in 2013 Kyiv began negotiations to affiliate with the European Union. It is no secret where this movement arose and why: Western Ukraine has a long history of rule by Central European governments. And it is clear that the majority iof Ukrainians, including in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea, where there are large Russian-speaking and pro-Moscow minorities, wants to move into the more prosperous freedom of Europe. [Ukraine has seen its neighbor and historical rival, Poland, triple its per capita growth in the past 25 years while its own has stagnated if not fallen.]
As Russian fighters and heavy equipment surreptitiously have been introduced into the continuing conflict – which surprisingly has shown a Ukrainian force punching above its weight – Moscow has signed armistice agreements. But Putin has continued to violate Minsk II signed only in February 2015, and shows every indication not only of continuing the subversion of Ukraine but hints at such actions in the Baltic states as well.
The military situation is deteriorating, not least because, again, an international organization – this time the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – has refused to take a clear stand on Putin’s clandestine operations. Sec. of Defense Ash Carter – who whether through innate honesty or hoof-in-mouth often exposes the Administration’s policy gaffs – put it bluntly: “What’s clear is that sanctions are working on the Russian economy…what is not apparent is how that effect on his economy is deterring Putin from following the course that was evidenced in Crimea last year.” We beg to differ: the current situation in Ukraine indicates exactly what Putin is driving for, if not always how far he will take his tactics, and that is domination of the Ukrainian state.
Congress has authorized the president to lend military assistance to Ukraine. Former NATO Commander Gen. Wesley Clark has laid out a list of what effectively could be given now. It’s time to move, to halt a deteriorating international geopolitical situation as well as to bloc the Russian overthrow of an Ukrainian regime sympathetic to the West.