With Friends Like These, Ukraine Doesn’t Need Enemies
Canada’ Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was in Ukraine over the weekend to show Canada’s support for that country. Now he is in the Netherlands for an emergency meeting of G-7 leaders with the purpose of increasing sanctions against Russia and throwing it from the G-8. The west’s leaders like to call ’emergency’ meetings because the one thing they are all really good at is using adjectives to enhance the importance of what they’re doing.
The meeting in the Netherlands is not an emergency. Nothing immediate hinges on whatever decision is taken and nothing much will come from it in the short term. It is the kind of decision that probably should be taken but that doesn’t have to promoted as an emergency. Whether or not the G-7 leaders decide to dissolve the G-8 because that’s basically what tossing Russia out would mean, it won’t change the current situation. It’s the kind of pointless symobolism that does nothing to improve or change what is happening.
They never learn.
Barack Obama, after the failure of the sanctions he imposed on 7 Russian officials to reverse Russia’s incursion in Crimea is adding more sanctions with the threat that he has the all the major Russian phone books and will keep going through them and adding people’s names to his sanctions list until Russia gives up Crimea.
He’s currently working his way through the A’s, B’s and C’s of the Moscow phone book.
Just to further demonstrate how seriously Obama takes the situation, he is also sending Vice-president Joe Biden to Ukraine because as every one knows; if you want to underscore the gravity of a situation, the best thing you can do is to send in a clown.
For his part, Russia’s Putin has now slapped travel restrictions on 13 Canadian officials which only serves to prove that there really is such a thing as multilateral stupidity.
This is a situation that is far too serious for the quality of the political leadership we currently have in the west. Having already slashed military spending in order to try and get some kind of fiscal control of the absurd budget deficits they incurred, NATO countries with the exception of the United States have been reducing that organization’s ability to provide a real and significant deterrent to any serious military threat with their own threat of a meaningful military response.
NATO is pretty effective at kicking the crap out of small countries like Libya but it has decayed to the point where it is not the effective deterrent to Russian aggression it was to the threat of it by the Soviet Union.
Our political leaders might have considered that before they decided that the best option to dealing with this crisis was to start off with a lot of bellicose rhetoric and comparisons of Putin to Hitler.
It was like showing up for a gun fight with a bag of rocks and having no other real option than standing around doing the dozens which is nothing much more than hurling insults back and forth without accomplishing what you set out to accomplish. Usually, what ends up happening is the insults keep getting louder until eventually someone throws a punch, then someone else throws a rock or fires a gun. At that point, the guy with a bag of rocks is at a serious disadvantage.
It’s actually been fairly difficult to identify what the west was trying to accomplish in the first place.
They got into this mess by claiming they were supporting the democratic rights of the Ukrainian people but that’s not a given. To be sure, there were protests in the streets but protest is not the same as counting votes from a ballot box. While protesting is a guaranteed right that should be protected, you never know who is actually marching in the street and whether or not they represent – or even are – the voice of the majority of a nation’s citizens.
We’ve experienced that right here in Canada. Noise is not democracy; it is merely noise. Why; Sun News’ Ezra Levant has even demonstrated that more than once with his on-the-street interviews of various environmental and aboriginal protesters.
The only way to determine the will of the citizens of a nation is through an election or a referendum – a democratic process where all citizens get to express their preference. The west didn’t work with the Ukrainian and Russian governments to try and bring that about in the beginning; instead they agitated against the former Ukrainian government, issued warnings to Russia and supported protesters – many of whom it now appears were part of the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party. The real reason the west got into this was because they were trying to encourage Ukraine to align itself with the EU and away from Russia.
That might have been a laudable objective and probably even what the majority of Ukrainians wanted and, therefore, deserved but surely to God there were better ways to achieve that objective than the way this situation has been handled from the start.
It’s been all down hill from the beginning and the result is that all of the angry rhetoric, the bellicose language and the selective economic sanctions have accomplished nothing – at least for the west and Ukraine.
It’s worked out rather well for Russia so far and we haven’t come close to approaching the end game for all of this.
Politicians like Stephen Harper and Barack Obama are continuing to escalate the situation without much regard for where this is leading or even how they are going to address the situation if it explodes.
A military option is off the table. Unlike Iraq or Libya, Russia is a significant nuclear power and much of that nuclear arsenal is not only targeted at Europe but has the capability of reaching North America. The Cold War’s primary objective was to prevent nuclear holocaust which is why diplomacy was a prized tool in that war. Now, reasoned professional diplomacy has been exchanged for amateur grandstanding which isn’t very effective in getting cooler heads to prevail and certainly not against ICBMs.
Economic sanctions aren’t going to be very effective either to be quite blunt. Russians have far more experience with deprivation than Europeans or North Americans.
Canada, for example, isn’t one of Russia’s major trading partners. The total value of all trade both imports and exports between Canada and Russia hovers around $2 billion. The Ontario Liberal government can squander more than that in a a month without breaking a sweat. The trade imbalance is in Russia’s favour with significantly more exports to Russia from Canada than imports to Canada from Russia. In other words, economic sanctions will primarily hurt Canadian business and that could cost Canadian jobs. Indeed, the Prime Minister is already warning Canadian business to be prepared to take a hit in the national interest although for the life of me, I can’t figure out what that interest might be beyond gaining him some electoral support from Ukrainian-Canadians primarily located in Manitoba.
The situation is more delicate for the EU which is Russia’s primary trading partner.
While the imports and exports are reasonably balanced, the simple fact is that most of Europe’s exports to Russia are manufactured items which can be purchased from other countries. The bulk of the EU’s imports from Russia are in the form of natural resources, most importantly, natural gas which is not so easy to acquire from other sources in the short term. European business will have far more difficulty finding customers for its good to replace Russian customers than Russia will have finding buyers for its natural gas and oil.
We’ve seen in the past how access to oil and gas tempered American foreign policy in the Middle East and you can be certain it will temper the EU’s approach to dealing with Russia.
That and the fact that if there was ever a war between Russia and NATO, there is a better than average chance, that some, if not much of that war would take place on European soil.
In other words, the stakes are much higher for the EU than they are for Canada which is why I don’t believe that Stephen Harper is helping the situation. He doesn’t have much to lose but is the loudest voice at the table. It’s like playing poker with a bunch of guys and the guy doing all the talking at the table has no chips in the game.
There absolutely is a need to prevent further incursion by Russia in Eastern Europe and while finding the right way to accomplish that is difficult; it remains fairly obvious that western leaders have already found the worst way to go about trying to achieve it.
So far they’ve managed to help Ukraine lose political stability, territorial integrity and bring that country to the edge of military conflict.
And that only took a few weeks.
Imagine what the west’s political leadership will be able to accomplish if we give them a few months.
It boggles the mind.
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