Ukraine: Another Victim of the West’s Failed Leadership
Well – that didn’t take very long.
In just over three weeks, the collective brain trust that passes for political leadership in the West has managed to ‘help’ Ukraine into escalated political instability and civil unrest, the loss of a significant portion of their country and the mobilization of Ukraine’s military in response to the presence of Russian troops in Crimea and on the border. Along the way they also managed to alienate one of the world’s nuclear super-powers and turn the clock back 40 years to the cold war between the West and the former Soviet Union.
Today, there was an attack by unidentified, masked assailants on a military base in Crimea. During the attack a Ukrainian officer was shot and killed. Expect more violence as Ukraine mobilizes its military and has issued orders that it is to return in self-defense.
The careless and clumsy manner in which the Ukrainian situation has been handled is so breathtaking; I had to remind myself to breathe and I can only imagine how our friends in Ukraine are feeling today. Surely some of them are beginning to wonder if aligning with the dolts that run the European Union is as good an idea as they originally thought.
It doesn’t matter which side of the issue you come down on; whether you think Russia is the aggressor or NATO and the West interfered unduly in the internal affairs of a sovereign country to precipitate this mess, the simple fact is – it’s a mess that is threatening to get worse before it gets better.
In response to the attack today, Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said; “The conflict is shifting from a political to a military stage.”
He’s right and whether you blame Russia or the West, the simple fact is that nobody on either side of this issue has handled things very well but in particular, the performance by western leaders has shown a disgraceful lack of leadership.
The West has been led – once again – by Barack Obama and what poses for American foreign policy these days. Basically that’s foreign policy made on the fly; foreign policy by Presidential whim that talks tough but carries a small stick unless, of course, you’re a small country and then Barack and NATO will kick the bejesus out of you.
Barack Obama is not a leader; he is a dilitent who is more in love with the image of being president than the reality of it. His presidency is fraught with failure from the economy to his Affordable Health Care Act but nowhere is his lack of ability more spectacularly displayed than in his foreign policy.
From Syria to Egypt, from the Keystone pipeline to Iran’s nuclear program, Barack Obama has dithered and stumbled his way through every issue with an inconsistent set of principles that is almost schizophrenic.
It is embarrassing to watch the President of the United States react to the annexation of Crimea by Russia with the announcement that he has imposed tough new sanctions on – get ready for it – seven Russian officials and that he stands ready to expand those sanctions to even more Russian officials if Russia doesn’t acquiesce to his demands. There was no announcement of cutting off access to western capital by Russian banks, no sanctions imposed on the country itself; just on a handful of officials as if somehow that is all it would take to resolve the crisis.
It’s small wonder that countries like Iran don’t take him seriously.
It is a response and threat so tepid as to be laughable which is precisely what Putin has done. The Russians responded to the crisis with military force – Obama and EU leaders responded with photo ops, sternly worded messages and tweets.
The free world can sleep well tonight.
For his part, Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is jetting off to Ukraine this coming weekend to show his support for Ukraine. Great! By the time Harper shows up, Crimea will be part of Russia whether Canada recognizes it or not. The fact that he was never invited to participate in any of the discussions to try and resolve the crisis hasn’t deterred Stephen Harper from trying repeatedly to insert himself into it.
Because of our depleted military resources thanks to the Harper government’s slashing of the military budget and small trade relationship with Russia, Stephen Harper’s contribution has been pretty much restricted to standing on the sidelines hurling insults. He is, of course, going to hand over $250 million to Ukraine, no doubt at least $34 million of that money came from the savings realized by closing offices for Canadian vets.
As for the EU – well – it’s probably best just to ignore them. EU leaders have been talking out of both sides of their mouths and it gets more and more challenging to take any of them seriously anymore.
They’re quite happy to involve themselves economically as they did in Cyprus when they bullied the Cypriot government into taking money from private savings accounts and militarily as it has as part of NATO in various other countries. The EU is quite happy to do exactly what Russia is doing when it feels a need to protect its interests.
But no matter who you blame – and I blame all of them: Russia, the West and the Ukrainian government – the simple fact is that the West completely misplayed this. They sided with the protesters before the former government fell and while many here at home think that’s quite acceptable, most of us weren’t that happy when foreign interests started meddling in the Northern Gateway environmental hearings. Indeed, many Canadians were quite angry about the foreign funding to environmental groups.
The situation in Ukraine was far more serious than an environmental hearing for a pipeline and it’s not surprising that Russia would see the meddling and funding by the West as a threat.
One U.S. Senator actually flew to Ukraine to march with the protesters calling for the overthrow of the duly elected government and both Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine held a number of meetings with Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the neo-Nazi Svoboda party. The Svoda Party is virulently anti-Semitic and holds five cabinet positions in the interim Ukrainian government. Apparently the West fails to see the irony in collaborating with a neo-Nazi political party while calling Vladimir Putin a Nazi.
But then, the American Administration has been supplying weapons to Al-Qaeda in Syria and the Canadian government recently helped to broker a $10 billion dollar deal to supply military equipment to Saudi Arabia, anything but an ally of our ally Israel.
So bereft of common sense; so arrogant is the Obama Administration and so inept American intelligence these days that a mere three weeks ago, the CIA advised the White House that Russia would not respond militarily to the West’s interference.
Yeah! Right! It would appear that the American Intelligence community hasn’t learned very much since Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
In his column today, the National Post’s Andrew Coyne takes aim at those in the West who blame our governments rather than Russian. He goes on to talk about the fact that NATO is no threat because it is a defensive organization. He misses the point and makes the same basic mistake as the West’s leaders.
It doesn’t matter how we see NATO. What matters is how Russia sees it and Russia doesn’t see it as a benign, purely defensive military alliance.
And probably with good reason.
NATO has been pretty aggressive of late for an organization created to defend western democracies. It went to war in the Balkans when the former Yugoslavia exploded and conducted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which it initiated. It flexed its air superiority in Libya to help rebels overthrow Qaddafi and has continued to treat Russia as a potential threat at a time when Russia was making inroads at being more of a partner with western nations.
The simple reality is that effective foreign policy absolutely demands the ability to see things from the perspective of your opponent. Failure to do that means you will never be able to anticipate its probable responses to your demands and actions.
To use the Hitler analogy so popular with Western leaders these days, Europeans (Britain in particular) completely failed to see things from Hitler’s perspective and consequently found themselves with foreign policy that failed on such a spectacular level, it embroiled the world in a war that cost 13 million lives.
Western leaders have not understand the historical realities of Russia and the Ukraine and consequently have completely failed to deal with the crisis with anything even remotely resembling competence.
It doesn’t really matter anymore, however. It is what it is and the bottom line is that the West has ‘handled’ the situation so well that they have handled Crimea right out of Ukraine and escalated the crisis to potential armed conflict. Ukraine and the world are now faced with a far worse situation than the one with which they originally had to deal and the best these failed leaders can come up with are even more pointless gestures than those they used in the beginning.
The first time you do something that fails, it is a mistake. Every time you repeat it, it is no longer a mistake – it’s a choice and the West has been making a lot of bad choices these days thanks to a glaring lack of ability to learn from history.
When President Obama made his announcement about imposing sanctions on selected Russians, he indicated that American and the West’s foreign policy would hurt the Russian stock market. It didn’t – the Russian stock market surged up. The EU is talking tough but not too tough because they still need Russia’s natural gas and Canada has punished Russia by suspending some – not all mind you – joint military operations.
And, of course, everybody took a breather to go to the Paralympic Games in Sochi at the height of crisis. It’s behaviour so bizarre it makes BBC’s old political comedy “Yes Minister” look positively rational.
Americans elected a president who is more captivated by his own celebrity than the responsibility his job imposes on him. Canada elected a belligerent, provincial merchant for Prime Minister whose primary international successes have been to show up to sign trade deals others negotiated for him. Harper is so inept when it comes to foreign policy; he actually had Canada backing away from NATO in much the same way he backed away from the United Nations and the Commonwealth.
Now the cold reality that neither he nor Canada are players in the big game is starting to sink in as the consequences of his policies both at home and abroad expose just how at risk Canada’s Arctic region is to foreign incursion.
The empty rhetoric will continue and for quite some time. The West will continue to raise the temperature with incremental increases in sanctions but Russia won’t cave and eventually, if we’re lucky, everyone will simply go home and nothing will have been accomplished beyond what has happened up to now.
And that is only if we’re lucky.
If we’re not, war will break out between Russia and Ukraine and at that point as previous wars have shown from Nazi Germany to Syria – nobody knows what will happen and who will get dragged into it. The sad reality is that Ukraine is as much a victim of the West’s vested-self interest and incompetence as it is of Russian aggression and unfortunately, just as in Syria, Ukraine will not be able to count on those same Western powers to be there by its side when and if the shooting starts.
It’s political incompetence and sheer stupidity that borders on criminal.
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