The March of Folly, Continued

Was Ukraine’s November 21st presidential election stolen? Probably. Would it be nice if Ukraine were a democracy? Sure. Are those the considerations that should drive American policy in the region? No.

The most important factor in American policy toward the countries of the former Soviet Union ought to be our need for a strategic alliance with Russia. Geo-politically, Russia holds Christendom’s vast eastern flank, which stretches all the way from the Black Sea to Vladivostok. As the remnants of the Christian world begin to wake up to the reality that Islam has resumed the strategic offensive, that flank takes on renewed importance. It is already under pressure, as events in Chechnya show all too clearly. If it collapses, Christendom will have suffered an epic defeat.

Not surprisingly, the Bush administration, the scope of whose strategic vision is measured in microns, gets none of this. In its continuing march of folly, it has dismissed Russia’s vital interests in its "near abroad," which includes Ukraine. Washington did everything in its power to secure the election to Ukraine’s presidency of Victor Yushchenko, the anti-Russian candidate. When the pro-Russian candidate, Mr. Yanukovych, won instead (illustrating Stalin’s maxim that what is important is not who votes, but who counts the votes), Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States would not recognize the result. Now, a new election has been ordered, in which Yushchenko’s victory is all but certain. The result will be a heavy defeat for our vital ally, Russia.

Russia is already reacting as it must. The December 4, 2004, The Washington Post reports Russian President Vladimir Putin as saying that Washington wants a "dictatorship of international affairs. Even if dictatorship is wrapped up in a beautiful package of pseudo-democratic phraseology, it will not be in a position to solve systemic problems." If anything, Putin puts the case too mildly. The Bush administration believes it already has a dictatorship of international affairs, and everybody else, including Russia, is an American satellite. Washington need not take account of anyone’s interests.

The folly of ignoring Russia’s vital interests may lead to a worst possible outcome, namely a renewed civil war within Christendom Three previous such civil wars in the 20th century — World War I, World War II, and the Cold War — have left our culture merely one contender among many, whereas a century ago it dominated the world. A fourth such conflict, in the form of a revived cold war, would truly be a gift from Allah to the warriors of the Prophet. Christendom would spend what little energy it has left fighting itself.

Continued American meddling in Ukraine may have equally dire consequences for that unhappy country, which both America and Russia should want to see prosperous and stable. Eastern Ukraine, which is heavily populated by Russians, is making noises about seceding if Yushchenko wins. If Russia feels humiliated by Washington in a Yushchenko victory, it might think it has no way to recoup but by supporting such secession movements. That could lead to civil war in Ukraine, a breakup of the country and a direct confrontation between Washington and Moscow. As a Russian general said a few years ago, it is true that most of Russia’s nuclear weapons are old and rusty, but a good number probably still work.

It is to such consequences that the march of folly inevitably leads. Regrettably, that march is what marked George W. Bush’s first term. Now, with dissenting voices in the administration being purged, it seems the march tempo will quicken, and not only in the Middle East. Is there anyone left in Washington who can think strategically? If there is, it seems their voices go unheard.

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