the only really important question is: What do the Ukrainians want?
Well, I wish life were that simple. If the Cubans in 1960 wanted to be part of the USSR, and were OK with having those missiles put there, Kennedy should have permitted it, using that reasoning.
Besides, if the Crimea (and eastern Ukraine for that matter) are ethnic Russians who ended up in the Ukraine not because they wanted to be there but because of an accident of geography, why should anyone care about what Kiev wants? The Middle East has been a mess since WW2 because the British intentionally drew international boundaries to exacerbate ethnic tensions; if you believe that boundaries should consider ethnic self-determination, then Putin set things a-right, in this case. (Of course, if you believe in ethnic self-determination, that would require a halving of Turkey, but let’s not digress.)
I am nervous whenever someone uses the word “neocon” a lot. It shows that they accept the narrative of big power blocs that control everything.
Actually, I disagree with that. A “neocon” is a political subparty that spans both the GOP and Dems. A neocon holds that to have a reasonably stable world, primarily for economic reasons, the US must extend hegemonic power across it to the extent it is able. To accomplish that, you need (a) broad, encompassing trade agreements which provide so much benefit for the counterparty that the counterparty is deterred from taking action against US will, (b) a strong and aggressive State Department which has no issue with forceful advocacy of US interests, and (c ) a powerful military to back it all up when push comes to shove.
Sometimes the assumption seems to be that the Baltic States or the Ukraine have to belong to a power bloc, and since the US is so evil, they must belong to the Russian power bloc. But that doesn’t seem to be what they want.
Never seen that assumption before. All the ex-Soviet satellites are now satellites because of ethnic, cultural, and language differences which made them prefer not to be part of a union which was primarily Russian. They’d prefer to be left alone by the “power blocs”, I’d assume. Having spent considerable time in Czech, Estonia, and Romania over the last decade, I can tell you that from what I read and from what they say, they’d prefer to have no entanglements at all.
Whenever I found that a person spoke really idealistically about American politics, yet somehow managed to justify everything done by Putin, I suspected the person was under the influence of Russian trolls. They might be sincere, but I think sincerely deluded.
No reasonable person believes that Putin is an angel without flaw. However, no reasonable person believes that of the US, either. Both nations have ample warts and (more importantly) have competing interests. They screw with us, we screw with them. All the time. Historically, “they” have been run by either deluded communist bureaucrats or drunks; against that competition, we were the Patriots; they were the Cleveland Browns. No reason to talk nasty about the Browns; they are an object of pity. And we didn’t. Russia was just a “developing nation” that happened to have a couple of thousand nukes targeting our major cities. We reached out to them politically, with Mrs. Clintons famous “Reset Button” laughable fumble, even after the Georgian incident told us clearly that Putin (unlike the previous drunk) was not going to tolerate further NATO incursions if they thought they threatened Russian security.
The problem now for the US is that Putin plays the international Game of Thrones as well as we do, and has the benefit (compared to us) of broader centralized power. So, since we’ve given up on making him a friend, now we have to use propaganda to sully him, to make him appear far worse than he really is. That’s what I object to; the imbalance. When Putin was doing what we wanted him to do (or, at least had no reason to oppose us), he got favorable US press; he was cleaning up the oligarchy and the corruption than Yeltsin permitted. The moment he started opposing us, he became the reincarnation of Lenin and Stalin combined. It is really too much to expect Americans to see that shift in the propaganda, and go “hmmmmm”?
Noam Chomsky provides a good contrast to that. He is equally idealistic about everybody. He criticized our influence in the Ukraine but also said the seizure of the Crimea was a violation of international law. He is obviously not under the influence of trolls.
Chomsky, Chomsky, Chomsky. Well, obviously the seizure of the Crimea was against international law, but international law is biased in favor of maintaining existing boundaries and therefore biased AGAINST ethnic reunifications when boundaries separate them. Which appears to contradict your preference for ethnic self-determination as you expressed above.
As a (half) ethnic middle easterner, I can tell you that the arbitrary nature of some international boundaries, and how they divide families, tribes, religious, ethnicities, TOGETHER WITH the international communities insistence that those boundaries be fixed regardless of how insane they are (in some cases), is a major cause of tension in this world, and tension leading to war.
Example? I rarely say that Joe Biden, who I consider to be the grandfatherly drunk at family gatherings, is right about anything, but he did come out after the Iraq invasion and (rightly) suggest that Iraq be partitioned according to ethnic lines.
Iraq, you see, is DESIGNED to be at war with itself for all eternity, UNLESS you have an authoritarian central government (or dictator) smashing the conflicts as they come up. (Again, let’s not digress, but I doubt the “democratic” Iraqi state survives another decade, certainly not two; we haven’t seen our last “Saddam Hussein” there, in my view. )
So, Joe Biden, in a rare moment of lucidity, suggested that Iraq be partitioned into three: the Kurdish band to the north and northeast (which the Turks and the Syrians opposed, because those “Kurdish territories” extend deeply into Turkey and Syria), the Shia Arab band to the southeast (it was the rejoining of this ethnic group that Hussein used to justify his invasion of Kuwait; they are all the same ethnicity as the Kuwaitis) and the rest would be mostly Sunni Arab.
It made far too much sense for the rest of the world to go along. If the Middle East was peaceful, how would the Game of Thrones be played? :-)