U.S.-Russia Clash in Ukraine?

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By:Pat Buchanan | February 03, 2015

Among Cold War presidents, from Truman to Bush I, there was an unwritten rule: Do not challenge Moscow in its Central and Eastern Europe sphere of influence.

In crises over Berlin in 1948 and 1961, the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and the Warsaw Pact invasion of Prague in 1968, U.S. forces in Europe stayed in their barracks.

We saw the Elbe as Moscow's red line, and they saw it as ours.

While Reagan sent weapons to anti-Communist rebels in Angola, Nicaragua and Afghanistan, to the heroic Poles of Gdansk he sent only mimeograph machines.

That Cold War caution and prudence may be at an end.

For President Obama is being goaded by Congress and the liberal interventionists in his party to send lethal weaponry to Kiev in its civil war with pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk.

That war has already cost 5,000 lives—soldiers, rebels, civilians. September's cease-fire in Minsk has broken down. The rebels have lately seized 200 added square miles, and directed artillery fire at Mariupol, a Black Sea port between Donetsk and Luhansk and Crimea.

Late last year, Congress sent Obama a bill authorizing lethal aid to Kiev. He signed it. Now the New York Times reports that NATO Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove favors military aid to Ukraine, as does Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. John Kerry and Gen. Martin Dempsey of the joint chiefs are said to be open to the idea.

A panel of eight former national security officials, chaired by Michele Flournoy, a potential Defense Secretary in a Hillary Clinton administration, has called for the U.S. to provide $3 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including anti-tank missiles, reconnaissance drones, Humvees, and radar to locate the sources of artillery and missile fire.

Such an arms package would guarantee an escalation of the war, put the United States squarely in the middle, and force Vladimir Putin's hand.

Thus far, despite evidence of Russian advisers in Ukraine and claims of Russian tank presence, Putin denies that he has intervened. But if U.S. cargo planes start arriving in Kiev with Javelin anti-tank missiles, Putin would face several choices.

He could back down, abandon the rebels, and be seen as a bully who, despite his bluster, does not stand up for Russians everywhere.

More in character, he could take U.S. intervention as a challenge and send in armor and artillery to enable the rebels to consolidate their gains, then warn Kiev that, rather than see the rebels routed, Moscow will intervene militarily.

Or Putin could order in the Russian army before U.S. weapons arrive, capture Mariupol, establish a land bridge to Crimea, and then tell Kiev he is ready to negotiate.

What would we do then? Send U.S. advisers to fight alongside the Ukrainians, as the war escalates and the casualties mount? Send U.S. warships into the Black Sea?

Have we thought this through, as we did not think through what would happen if we brought down Saddam, Gadhafi and Mubarak?

America has never had a vital interest in Crimea or the Donbass worth risking a military clash with Russia. And we do not have the military ability to intervene and drive out the Russian army, unless we are prepared for a larger war and the potential devastation of the Ukraine.

What would Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon or Reagan think of an American president willing to risk military conflict with a nuclear-armed Russia over two provinces in southeastern Ukraine that Moscow had ruled from the time of Catherine the Great?

What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy and a disaster. And we are in part responsible, having egged on the Maidan coup that overthrew the elected pro-Russian government.

But a greater disaster looms if we get ourselves embroiled in Ukraine's civil war. We would face, first, the near certainty of defeat for our allies, if not ourselves. Second, we would push Moscow further outside Europe and the West, leaving her with no alternative but to deepen ties to a rising China.

Given the economic crisis in Russia and the basket case Ukraine is already, how do we think a larger and wider war would leave both nations?

Alarmists say we cannot let Putin's annexation of Crimea stand. We cannot let Luhansk and Donetsk become a pro-Russian enclave in Ukraine, like Abkhazia, South Ossetia or the Transdniester republic.

But no one ever thought these enclaves that emerged from the ethnic decomposition of the Soviet Union were worth a conflict with Russia. When did Luhansk and Donetsk become so?

Rather than becoming a co-belligerent in this civil war that is not our war, why not have the United States assume the role of the honest broker who brings it to an end. Isn't that how real peace prizes are won?


Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.




Clyde Wilson
2/3/2015 04:01 PM

  A wonderful plea for peace. But, alas, history shows that reason seldom sways the power-mad--- Napoleon, Lincoln, Hitler. Our leaders are morally defective and ignorantly short-sighted, incapable of following good advice. The decrepit American Empire must continue on its way to destruction.

Kevin Kendall
2/3/2015 10:40 PM

  This is wrong. The cold war presidents did challenge Moscow in eastern Europe. Reagan in particular worked assiduously to build up the Solidarity movement. There was no need of arms at that time as there was not a hot war on. Now in Ukraine, the ancient dictum "peace through strength," oft-repeated by Reagan, is apropos. If the Ukrainians had a military as mighty as the Russians have, there would be peace there today.

Bos Bob
Boston MA
2/4/2015 04:09 AM

  The merciless, the clueless, the delusional, the arrogant, the sissies that are running America have no idea of what Russian resolve is, they have no idea of what Russian pride is, they have no idea that the Russians if they have to would rather eat wood than give in to Washington. Washington will continue as long as it has strength to do so to wage wars agaist our natural allies, as long as it can sustain deep and dire injuries, until America is utterly beaten and broken politically, economically, militarily, financially

Harry Heller
San Francisco
2/4/2015 08:19 AM

  The neocons' aversion to Russia is clearly insane. I find it difficult to divine their justifications for their idiocy. Is it a ridiculous overestimation of US power, a desire for us to be the world's "shotcaller"? Is it Jewish Christophobia (not wanting a possible Orthodox traditionalist Russia to rise up from communism)? I don't get it. Our position is clear, however. We must strive to promote peace NOT between all peoples (that is liberalism), but specifically between majority Christian peoples, as well as between white nations. The Occidental interest in this crisis is exactly as PJB says. Keep the US out of this conflict, except insofar as we are asked to play the role of honest broker (which is unlikely, given our recent behavior). More broadly, we must seek to integrate Russia back into the West. A more Eurocentric Russia could be a wonderful addition to Occidental power, both externally (given Russia's size, resource base, and still existent, if somewhat decrepit, military power; also, the average Russian's lesser commitment to "political correctness" and ethnomasochism), as well as internally, acting as a somewhat more traditionalist force against the Occidental-self-hating domestic 'progressives'. A great clash of civilizations between the West and Islam is coming. We should be preparing for it by ending Muslim immigration; passing anti-Islamic legislation wherever possible; relentlessly delegitimating the presence of Islam in the West; expelling Turkey from NATO and the EU (and recognizing the Armenian Genocide as part of this anti-Turkic campaign of delegitimation), and shuttering US military bases there; and, yes, going abroad searching out and, absolutely without mercy or qualms about "collateral damage", annihilating the Islamic State savages. We should also deliver an overwhelming payload of bunker-buster missiles to the Iranian nuclear facilities, perhaps under cover or sorties against the IS.

2/5/2015 03:36 PM

  Dr. Wilson, Has the GOP been this belligerent from the very beginning and now only worse or does it require another bully opposite the table to govern with restrained wisdom? In my lifetime I cannot remember a potential conflict they were not willing to enter all in unless they were losing. I am asking for your historical wisdom from the American perspective not necessarily a global perspective.


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