FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama Plays With Fire in Ukraine

by

“The U.S. is sending about 600 ground troops to Eastern Europe … to ‘reassure’ allies there as Washington resumes its campaign of pressure on Russia over the Ukraine standoff.”

POLITICO

How many American parents would proudly send their sons and daughters off to kill or be killed in Slovyansk or Donetsk?  How many young men and women aspire to be the first American to fall in Kramatorsk?

Those towns are in eastern Ukraine. President Obama says the “military option” — war, that is — is not on the table in his effort to oppose Russia in the Ukraine crisis, but can we trust him? As pressure mounts on him from America’s war hawks, what will he do when sanctions fail to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to acquiesce? Will the military option then find its way onto that infamous table?

Obama has dispatched 600 soldiers to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The U.S. Navy has ships present in the Black Sea, an understandably sensitive matter for Russia, which long has had a naval base in Crimea. That may not sound like a large force, but it takes only one soldier to be a tripwire for greater U.S. involvement in this volatile region. Americans should be uneasy with this recklessness on Obama’s part.

Those four former members of the defunct Soviet bloc are now members of NATO, the very active alliance established after World War II ostensibly to keep the Red Army out of Western Europe. One might have expected NATO to disappear along with the Soviet Union, but something happened on the way to the post-Cold War world. The so-called defensive alliance not only remained in existence; it moved aggressively eastward toward Russia by inducting former Soviet allies and republics as members.

This expansion broke a promise that President George H.W. Bush made to former Soviet chief Mikhail Gorbachev, who was willing to live with NATO in Western Europe even with newly unified Germany as a member. But that state of affairs wasn’t good enough for America’s rulers, who, like most American rulers going back to the 18th century, believed the United States is destined to rule the world. There was no chance that an alliance as useful as NATO was going to go away just because its apparent reason for being had ceased to exist.

The New York Times reports that Obama “and his national security team are looking beyond the immediate conflict to forge a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment.” This is bad reporting because, as noted, the U.S. leadership never ended the Cold War and never saw containment as an obsolete strategy. It would brook no rival of any kind, however friendly or regional.

Since Ukraine is not (yet) a member of NATO, the U.S. government would not have the same formal obligation to intervene should a shooting war break out between Ukraine and Russia. But what if something happens between Russia and Poland or one of the Baltic states? Under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, an attack on one member is regarded as an attack on all. But it also says,

If such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence … will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area. [Emphasis added.]

That amounts to wiggle room, but Americans should not be comforted. Could Obama withstand the immense pressure he would face to intervene directly if open hostilities broke out? How would he handle what David Brooks of the New York Times calls Obama’s “manhood problem”? (Apparently, one is manly to the extent one is willing to risk a senseless war.)

The U.S. government’s and news media’s demonization of Putin (who’s no saint) should not be allowed to overshadow the fact that America’s rulers have needlessly provoked the Russians, the coup in Kiev being just the latest example. In 1998, the architect of the postwar containment policy, George Kennan, warned that humiliating Russia by expanding NATO “is a tragic mistake.”

Must we learn this the hard way?

Sheldon Richman  is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).

Sheldon Richman, author of the forthcoming America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail