FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

American Chicken Hawks and Ukraine

by JIM LOBE

A familiar clutch of hawks have taken wing over the rapidly developing crisis in Ukraine, as neo-conservatives and other interventionists claim that President Barack Obama’s preference for diplomacy over military action invited Russian aggression. At stake in the current crisis, according to these right-wing critics, are not only Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also Washington’s “credibility” as a global superpower and the perpetuation by the US and its Western allies of the post-Cold War international order.

Some right-wing commentators, such as Michael Auslin of the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute, which played a major role in drumming up support for the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, have even compared Russian President Vladimir Putin’s  moves to occupy the Crimean peninsula to Adolf Hitler’s absorption of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland as a result of the notorious Munich agreement in 1938.

“The toxic brew of negative perceptions of Western/liberal military capability and political will is rapidly undermining the post-1945 order around the world,” he wrote on the Forbes magazine website on Monday.

“One can only assume that China, Iran, and North Korea are watching Crimea just as closely as Putin watched Washington’s reactions to East and South China Sea territorial disputes, Pyongyang’s nuclear provocations, and Syria’s civil war,” according to Auslin, echoing a line of attack against Obama that has become a leitmotiv among his fellow interventionists.

“There is more than Putin to think about,” according to Elliott Abrams, a leading neo-conservative who served as George W Bush’s top Middle East aide, wrote on Monday on the National Review website.

“Tyrants in places from Tehran to Beijing will also be wondering about the cost of violating international law and threatening the peace and stability of neighbors. What will China do in neighboring seas, or Iran do in its tiny neighbor Bahrain, if actions like Putin’s go without a response?” he asked.

As yet there have been few voices in favor of taking any military action, although both the lead editorial in Monday’s Wall Street Journal and Freedom House President David Kramer called for Obama to deploy ships from the US Sixth Fleet into the Black Sea, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called for reviving Bush-era plans to erect new missile defense systems along Russia’s European periphery.

But the president, who spent 90 minutes on the phone with Putin on Saturday in an unsuccessful effort to persuade the Russian leaders to send Russian troops in Crimea back to their barracks, is being pressed hard to take a series of tough actions against Moscow.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who is scheduled to travel to Kiev on Tuesday in a show of support for its new government that may include US$1 billion in US aid as part of a much larger Western economic package to be led by the International Monetary Fund, listed a number of moves on Sunday that Washington has already taken or is actively considering adopting.

In addition to coordinating international – particularly European – condemnation of Putin’s moves against Ukraine, Kerry also said Washington had cancelled upcoming bilateral trade talks and is considering boycotting the G8 summit that Putin is scheduled to host in Sochi in June, if not suspending or formally expelling Russia from that body.

If Russia doesn’t “step back” from its effective takeover of Crimea, he said, “there could even be, ultimately, asset freezes [and] visa bans” against specific individuals and economic enterprises associated with the current crisis. He called Russia’s move “an incredible act of aggression”.

“We are examining a whole series of steps – economic, diplomatic – that will isolate Russia and will have a negative impact on Russia’s economy and its status in the world.,” Obama himself warned on Monday during a joint press appearance with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

At the same time, however, he stressed that he was still looking for a diplomatic way out of the crisis – possibly with the help of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that reportedly began sending monitors to the Ukraine Monday evening – which could reassure Moscow regarding the protection and welfare of Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine and Crimea in whose interests Moscow has justified its actions to date.

The administration and most analysts here agreed that Washington’s freedom of action in reacting to the current crisis must necessarily be coordinated with its European allies, some of which, including the continent’s economic powerhouse, Germany, are strongly disinclined to escalate matters. Germany gets about one-third of its gas supplies from Russia and has long considered a cooperative relationship with Moscow to be critical to maintaining stability in central Europe.

Such constraints clearly frustrate the hawks in the US, even as some of them, such as Senator John McCain, acknowledged on Monday that Washington had no ready military option and would, in any event, have to coordinate closely with Brussels as the crisis unfolds.

But, speaking before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, McCain also blamed Obama’s alleged timidity – particularly his failure to carry out his threat to take military action against Syria last September – for the situation. “This is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy in which nobody believes in America’s strength anymore,” McCain said to thunderous applause from the hawkish audience whom Netanyahu will address on Tuesday.

Indeed, Israel-centered neo-conservatives, for whom Obama’s “weakness” and “appeasement” in dealing with perceived adversaries have become a mantra over the past five years, have been quick to use the Ukraine crisis to argue for toughening Washington’s position in the Middle East, in particular.

“In the brutal world of global power politics, Ukraine is in particular a casualty of Mr Obama’s failure to enforce his ‘red line’ on Syria,” according to the Journal’s editorial writers, who stressed that “[a]dversaries and allies in Asia and the Middle East will be watching President Obama’s response now. … Iran is counting on US weakness in nuclear talks.”

“Like Putin, the ayatollahs likely see our failure to act in Syria … as a sign that they can drive a hard bargain indeed with us over their nuclear weapons program, giving up nearly nothing and getting sanctions relief,” wrote Abrams on his Council on Foreign Relations blog over the weekend.

“And now they see us reacting (so far) to Russian aggression in Ukraine, sending troops across the border into the Crimea, with tut-tutting,” he added in a call for Congress – likely to be echoed by Netanyahu this week – to pass stalled legislation imposing new sanctions against Tehran.

“That makes about as much sense … as saying that a proper response to a terrorist act by an Afghanistan-based group is to launch a war against Iraq,” replied Paul Pillar, the intelligence community’s top analyst for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, on his nationalinterest.com blog on Monday.

Jim Lobe’s blog on US foreign policy can be read at Lobelog.com.

May 02, 2016
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail