Posted by: Dark Defender | September 28, 2008

Reality vs. Fantasy in Ukraine

Arent Yulia and Pooty cute together?

Aren't Yulia and Pooty cute together?

There are couple of good articles today on Ukraine.

I think our position in Ukraine is in real trouble and as with Georgia we are going to have to make some difficult decisions about what is important to us and whats not. 

While Ukraine is on paper more defensible than Georgia, it after all has a large population, is closer to the EU and has a sizable military.  However its internal divisions and the banana repubic nature of what its politics have devolved to make it both unsuitable for NATO/EU membership and is likely to draw it to Russia.

Further the EU has taken a pretty clear stance on all this by all but rejecting membership for Ukraine.  Taken with the Turkish-American alliance fraying seriously it is simply not physically possible for the US to defend Ukraine under these circumstances.

Neither of our candidates for President seem to have gotten this memo however, and continue to push what I can only call the delusional idea that we are going to bring both Georgia and Ukraine into NATO.  This plan is so disconnected from reality its hard to even take it seriously.  The Europeans wont support it, they wont even support them entering the EU, and we cant go it alone because of geography. 

Reality vs. fantasy, how do we defend Ukraine much less Georiga without Turkey and/or the EU on side?

Cold hard reality. How do we defend Ukraine much less Georgia without the EU and/or Turkey on side?

Not only is it physically impossible at present but is it really desirable? Both countries are at best “fledgling” democracies but the reality is they are more like Banana Republics.  We wouldn’t be defending “democracy” wed be defending people we find slightly more desirable than Putin.  Further it would lock us into permanent conflict with Russia, jeopardizing their cooperation on issues which are actually important to us, namely Iran and Afghanistan. 

Why? Whats the point? I think its time for us to make some difficult decisions.  Perhaps we can work out a deal with Russia recognizing their sphere of influence in exchange for recognizing ours and making themselves helpful on Iran and Afghanistan?  Don’t get me wrong I’m all for playing hardball and getting the best deal we can, maybe we can even get a partition and save the pro-western parts of Ukraine.  The point is however, we need to think about whats best for the United States, not what “feels” good. 

As I have previousy pointed out Russia is not as powerful as they are acting, its a show to hide their weakness.  I would imagine Putin ever the pragmatist would be quite happy to work out such a deal, and why shouldn’t we also? What do we really have to gain by antagonizing Russia over Ukraine and Georgia? And that is the problem, no one is asking this question and we have to, now is the time for realpolitik.

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Responses

  1. Well, this is a usual realist assessment of the regional situation (i.e. national interests should trump goals of democracy development in Eastern Europe).

    I disagree however with the application of the term banana republics (B.R.) to describe Ukraine or Georgia.

    One source defines it as “a small country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture (e.g., bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy and corrupt clique.”

    Another as “A small country that is economically dependent on a single export commodity, such as bananas, and is typically governed by a dictator or the armed forces.”

    Obviously Ukraine does not fit the description. Georgia while small does not to my knowledge depend on a single commodity nor is it ruled by a dictator or the armed forces.

    Why soil your argument with inapplicable terms? From a realist position, you could argue that Ukraine and Georgia are secondary to the U.S. national interests; you can’t, however, argue that they are banana republics. Regards.

  2. While I think your semantic point is fair, I dont think it “soils” my argument. In any case I was using the term in the modern application

    “In modern usage the term has come to be used to describe a generally unstable or “backward” dictatorial regime, especially one where elections are often fraudulent and corruption is rife. By extension, the word is occasionally applied to governments where a strong leader hands out appointments and advantages to friends and supporters, without much consideration for the law. A banana republic can also be used to describe a country where a large part of its economy and politics are controlled by foreign powers or even corporations.”

    Given the corruption, undemocratic nature of both regimes, and the vast influence wielded over both countries historically by Russia (and at present by the US at least in Georgia) I think its fair to use the term. Though I am certainly open to a better term which more accuratley desribes them, and fledgling democracies doesn’t seem appropriate to me.

    Regardless I am more interested in your opinon on my primary point and the region as a whole rather than getting into semantics.

  3. Oh but semantics are important, aren’t they? IF Georgia or Ukraine are as you claim Banana Republics, it strengthens your argument. Hence, getting into semantics is part of engaging with your primary point.

    There is no doubt about the corruption in both states. I’m not sure the “vast influences” can be said to apply in modern context as much as it did even ten years ago. You also seem to hold the opinion that both regimes are undemocratic, yet Ukraine has held three competitive elections since the Orange Revolution which were widely recognized as free and fair, and Georgia up until the recent suppression earlier this year has also been seen as more democratic than its peers in the region.

    As for both candidates supporting MAP for either country, that’s election talk. Once in office, the decisions will be made on the calculus of the U.S. national interests and pragmatism, not ideals.

  4. Well given that Russia was able to station troops on Georgian soil for more than a decade against their will speaks to them holding a vast influence over them.

    Also as you point Saakashvili suppressed dissidents and indeed launched a war against the local superpower without consulting the legislature. Doesn’t sound very democratic to me.

    Ukraine is dependent on Russia for their oil, and Russia has shown a willingness to use that a weapon. Further Russia felt capable of attempting to assasinate a canidate in their election, that doesnt really speak to their indepdence.

    Domestically Ukranian politics appears to have devolved into a sort of politcking through prosecution as dueling investiations are lauchned by and against the President and Prime Minister. Further attemtps to change the Constitution to limit one mans power does not speak to the staying power of their institutions.

    As to your last point, I wish you were right but sadly our leaders are so caught up in our delusions I genuinley believe that both of them will stand by Ukraine and Georgia without stopping to ask why?

  5. […] I’ve written previously, we need to be asking ourselves what do we gain from confronting Russia over Georgia.  Nadler is […]


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