Diplomacy, Not Empty Threats, are Needed in Ukraine

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American diplomacy in the Ukraine crisis was summed up earlier this month by State Department senior official Victoria Neuland, a leading neocon: “F….k Europe.”

On Friday, Europe responded by brokering a sensible compromise to Ukraine’s increasingly dangerous crisis just as the army was about to intervene. If the pact holds, Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovich will relinquish some of his powers, a unity government will be formed, elections held, and jailed protestors freed. The fate of imprisoned nationalist leader, Yulia Timoshenko, remains unclear.

Here was an intelligent diplomatic solution to a crisis that might have led to a head-on clash between NATO and Russia, both nuclear powers.

But what if the European Union had not brokered this deal and the US hardline approach had been followed?

A basic rule of world affairs is careful what you threaten. Empty threats become loose cannons.

Last week, US President Barack Obama warned Russia to back off from strife-torn Ukraine or face “consequences.”

“Consequences” has become a favorite threat of Hillary Clinton warlike Democrats. It is even overtaking Washington’s former favored threat of war,  “all options are on the table.”

We last heard that tired threat over Syria, and look what happened: the White House almost blundered into a totally unnecessary war over Syria and had to be rescued by none other than Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Last week, more warlike threats. What if the wily Vlad Putin calls Obama’s bluff?

If the feeble sanctions threatened by Washington did not work, what then? Would the Obama administration nuke Moscow over Ukraine, a nation that 99.7% of all Americans could not find on a map if their lives depended on it. Would the US try to block Russia’s oil exports, as it does with Iran? Financial markets would go crazy. All over Ukraine?

Moscow believes Ukraine’s uprising is funded and fanned by the US and EU. The Kremlin fears the US is bent on tearing down the Russian Federation and eliminating it as a world power. Putin, the target of an intensifying hate campaign by western media, has said so often.

Last week, President Obama proclaimed his goal was to allow Ukrainians and Syrians to express their will through free elections. Very nice. Two cheers, Mister President.

But democracy and a free press can’t be selective. While western politicians and the increasingly state-guided US media wring their hands over Ukraine and Syria,  we’ve seen the dictatorial regimes of Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia – all three key US allies –oppressing their own rebellious people.

Egypt offers a particularly odious example. Its neo-fascist military junta crushed the nation’s first-ever democracy, killed over a thousand protestors, jailed many thousands more, and brought back torture and a savage police state. Eight journalists from al-Jazeera are in prison facing trial for the crime of reporting facts. Protestors are simply shot down in the street.

Washington continues to fund Egypt’s armed forces that crush dissent, and to back Bahrain’s royal family that hosts the US Fifth Fleet. To Putin’s discredit, he just welcomed Egypt’s military dictator to Moscow and showered praise on him.

Besides being hypocritical, Washington’s policy towards Russia is increasingly dangerous. Have we learned nothing from the diplomatic folly that led to World War I?

The US has steadily pushed its strategic influence to Russia’s borders in the Caucasus, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This in spite of a promise to Mikhail Gorbachev by the George Bush Sr. administration not to do so in exchange for the Kremlin allowing the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Gorbachev kept his side of the pact; Washington did not.

Were he alive, the great statesman Bismarck would have been aghast at the west’s provocations of Russia, As tensions mount in Asia, and a real war between Japan and China grows more likely – a war that Japan would lose unless the US intervened – Washington increasingly needs the support of Moscow.

Instead, clumsy, amateur US foreign policy is antagonizing Russia and China at the same time.  Bismarck taught us to divide our enemies and pit them against one another. It’s also worth remembering that intense US propaganda against the Soviet Union in the 1980’s, including Reagan’s infamous “Evil Empire,” led the Kremlin to believe a US nuclear attack was imminent. Here we go again.

Also recall that Vlad Putin is a judo expert.  He well understands how to use an opponent’s weight and poor stance to parry his attack. Putin has so far been doing a successful job wrong-footing Washington. But this is a dangerous game. A few false moves and the result could be a direct clash between nuclear powers.

Fortunately, this dire threat appears to have been averted, at least for the time being, by the unity pact in Kiev. Europe, not Washington, is leading this laudable effort – as it should be.

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