Tuesday, September 22, 2015

America's Latest Foreign Policy Fiascos, Part I

[Les derniers fiascos de l’Amérique en matière de politique étrangère , Partie I]

[Gli Ultimi Fiaschi nella Politica Estera Americana – Parte I]

Some 15 months ago I published a piece on American Foreign Policy Fiascos, in which I summarized the significant negative progress that has been achieved through American involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Georgia, among others, and then went on to boldly predict that the Ukraine is likewise going to turn out to be another American foreign policy fiasco. Since then it certainly has turned into one.

US meddling in the Ukraine has produced none of the results it was intended to produce:

• It didn't isolate Russia internationally
• It didn't destroy Russia's economy
• It didn't pull Russia into a futile, unpopular, bloody conflict
• It didn't produce regime change within Russia

Just the opposite:

• It prompted Russia, China and several other countries to opt for closer economic and security ties
• It motivated Russia to think seriously about import replacement, giving its domestic economy a big boost
• It made the US and NATO part to a bloody conflict in Eastern Ukraine while Russia has steadfastly stood on the sidelines providing humanitarian aid
• It caused Russia's “nonsystemic opposition”—so called because it can never garner enough votes to win any election anywhere—which has been financed by American NGOs and transnational oligarchs like Soros, Khodorkovsky and others, to pretty much fade from the Russian political scene altogether, all the while complaining bitterly about the horrible Russian people who don't understand them and the lack of imported French cheeses, not to mention the pâtés; please, don't get them started on the pâtés—that would be simply too cruel.

And then here are some bonus points:

• It has increased the popularity of Russia's government, and Vladimir Putin personally while making the average Russian greatly dislike the US in particular, and mistrust the West in general
• It has driven a political wedge between the US and the EU, with EU member-states now starting to dimly discern for the first time that US policies are undermining rather than enhancing their security
• It has provided Russia with a bonanza in the form of 1.5 million additional Russians, in the form of refugees from the economically collapsed, war-torn Ukraine.
• It has put Russia in a position where it can just sit back and let the US, NATO and their puppets in the Ukraine twist in the wind, or soak in a cesspool of their own creation, or sit back and watch as a dunce's cap is lowered onto their collective head while circus music plays—or your own hyperbolic metaphor—but their level of embarrassment is already high and getting higher.

The last two points warrant some further discussion.

Not all refugees are the same; this particular refugee crisis is one only a mother could love—Mother Russia, that is. Unlike the refugees currently streaming into Western Europe, these ones are indistinguishable from the general Russian population in culture, religion, language, education or genetics. (In case you didn't get the memo, Ukrainians are, with relatively few exceptions, Russian.) Of course, it's a lot simpler when Russia grows its Russian population by annexing the territory in which they resided (as happened in Crimea) because then it's just a matter of issuing passports, establishing various links, updating the infrastructure and mopping up criminal elements left over from the old regime. But Russia already has plenty of territory, and while resettling so many refugees is an arduous task, it is certainly doable.

On the last point, Russia has scored a strategic victory by inadvertently borrowing a page from the West's own Imperial Collapse Playbook. Whenever the Empire loses its grip on a part of the world and is forced to pull out, on its way out it sets up an intractable political conflict, so that the region becomes mired in civilian strife and cannot recover—a way of poisoning the well, if you will. And so when the British pulled out of India, they set up Pakistan as an anti-India; when they got pushed out of Ireland, they set up Belfast as an anti-Ireland; when Western powers were forced to abandon China, they set up Taiwan as an anti-China, and so on. And so, having lost its grip on Russia, the US tried to set up the Ukraine as an anti-Russia.

But there was a problem with this plan. You see, the Ukraine is less a country than a figment of a feverish geopolitical imagination. Take Eastern Ukraine, which has seen most of the recent fighting: it was a part of Russia for centuries and was assigned to the Ukraine willy-nilly by Vladimir Lenin. Or take Western Ukraine—the part that's now considered the most Ukrainian, and is the most nationalistic: it actually consists of odd bits of Hungary, Poland and Romania thrown together willy-nilly by an arrangement between Stalin and Hitler which, most unfortunately, has outlasted both of them. Note that such “willy-nilly” arrangements are not exactly a paragon of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” trumpeted endlessly by the West. And so Eastern Ukraine automatically and spontaneously became an anti-Ukraine, and Western Ukraine became a sort of rabid anti-Russia (except it's nowhere near Russia), and instead of an intractable fratricidal conflict between the Ukraine and Russia, what the West got is an intractable fratricidal conflict within the Ukraine itself.

But it wasn't a fair contest: Eastern Ukraine is urban, densely populated, educated and industrialized. Western Ukraine is rural, sparsely populated, burdened by a few generations of brainwashed ignoramuses who have fallen victim to the disastrous program of Ukrainian “national education,” and mostly agrarian. Eastern Ukraine is becoming increasingly integrated into the Russian economy; its factories are being reopened and its institutions of higher learning have received Russian accreditation; trade is increasingly using the Russian ruble, and more and more people are receiving Russian passports. Western Ukraine has severed its ties with the Russian economy, and consequently its economy is in free fall.

The contest isn't fair militarily either. At first the popular insurgency in the East ran into serious difficulties: they had few fighters, few weapons, poor command structure and little opportunity to train. These were mostly factory workers and coal miners who picked up guns and went to fight, to defend the land of their forefathers from, as they saw it, yet another foreign invasion. They faced an actual army which, although corrupt Ukrainian politicians have been busy selling it off piece by piece ever since independence, still had tanks, artillery and combat aircraft. But the situation has changed, and now the East has a professional military, ample weaponry which they either captured or purchased, sufficient training and excellent intelligence and command structures, while the Ukrainian side has raw recruits who are utterly demoralized and mostly refuse to fight, and nationalist battalions which, with their cute Nazi insignia, are full of piss and vinegar but can't fight because they don't know how. Each time the Ukrainians attacked, they became surrounded, suffered massive casualties and were forced into a humiliating, demoralizing retreat.

And now the government in Kiev finds itself checkmated. They cannot attack, because they know they would lose. And they cannot demobilize and let the East go its own way because they would face open rebellion from the nationalists who helped them rise to power, toppling the previous, legitimately elected government in a bloody coup. The Kiev regime's Western minders are equally checkmated: they are already up to their ears in refugees, and can't let the Ukraine, with its 44 million people, collapse and cause an even bigger refugee crisis; they can't let Kiev capitulate, because that would signal their complete and utter defeat; and they can't let Kiev escalate the military conflict because it would be defeated.

And so checkmate it is. But unlike regular chess where, once checkmated, you topple your king, shake hands and get up and stretch, in this sort of geopolitical chess you don't get to give up so easily. No, you get to sit there—act paralyzed, laugh hysterically, choke on your tongue or slump forward and drip tears onto the chessboard—however you prefer to deal with international humiliation—and just run out the clock. An unenviable position if there ever was one!

This concludes this week's installment of America's Latest Foreign Policy Fiascos. The story of the Ukraine is by no means over, but by this point in time there is no doubt that it is, from the point of view of the US foreign policy establishment, a complete and total fiasco. I feel vindicated in having made this prediction over a year ago.

Next week I will discuss Syria. It is too early to call, but once again I am willing to go out on a limb and make a bold prediction.

17 comments :

Jan Schmidt said...

excellent article :) but there is one point: operation oluja (storm) 1995 - croatia vs serb RSK ... in ukraine they will try to reenact this operation.

Dr. Doom said...

Dmitry, I don't now where you get those artsy logos for your posts, but that photo (?) of the fire hoses draped over the railroad tracks with the speed bumps is absolutely hilarious. Only two or three possible outcomes: severed hoses, derailed train cars, or both.

I wonder how the career arc of Victoria "have a cookie" Nuland is faring these days. She'll probably get a promotion, hopfully to a post as deer population monitor on St. Mathews Island off Alaska. Maybe she can view Russia from there

Spanish fly said...

Funny photo of firemen, but do you knew that it was a Belgian firemen joke? (they were in a railway to be reapired. No danger of trains cutting the hose...
More seriously. I think, too, that Russia has been playing good geopolitical chess in Ucrania crisis, but I miss some reminiscences of what happened in Ukrania (more accurately, in Eastern Ukraine) some years before Maidanesque coup d'etat.
I mean, the Ukrainian nazi minions killing thousands of Polish, for example. Oh, that massacres nowadays are not as popular in russophobe Poland like Katyn...but they were made by ukro-fascists, ancestors of new nazis that burned alive some people in Odessa after Maidan...
Old nazi Ukrainians "cleaned" Eastern Ukraine chasing and murdering every Jew that couldn't escape on time.
Stalinist Red Army was welcome by survivors of massacres...as saviours. Not strange.

stevemcfddn said...

Unfortunately at times this blog can be such depressing reading, not because it's wrong but because it's so right. Unfortunately I live in a country that is also run by big business and politicians which are often motivated by looking after their mates. To top it off the country has inserted itself so far in America's anatomy it would require major surgery to extract. Keep up the great work!.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Russia annexing Krim, Dmitry? According to the USukiznato-axis states' Permanent Bullshit Blizzard (aka the Western lamestream 'news' output), 'annexe' in this case is meant as a curse-word, equivalent to rapaciously invading, seizing control, and then stealing the land from its rightful, other, owners.

Naturally, the Western-PBB shriekers have their collective heads up their own collective fundaments on this, as usual on most things, so no need for properly-informed, real-world-dwelling, realist adults to take their slurs seriously.

But knowing that the Russian leadership perceived an existential threat to Russia's global security by allowing the US gangsters to get their toes into Krim, and then turn Russia out of its treatied bases there, I'm not naive enough to believe that Moscow did nothing but stand politely back and allow democracy to take it's sacred course unassisted in Sevastopol.

Yet even with the known Russian assistance to get it right, still, it did seem a pretty convincing, genuine-landslide result in the referendum. An actual piece of real, high-grade democracy in action.

So - 'annexe' in the perjorative, lying Western PBB sense? Using their propaganda-words for them, perhaps?

V. Arnold said...

I would say that's a fair assessment of the "situation" in Ukraine. President Putin has played the hand dealt to him masterfully.
Syria? Once again Pres. Putin has shown his resolve and tactical expertise.
America has no foreign policy; it just has a military with the sole intent of using it...
As the old saw goes; when all one has is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Mister Roboto said...

Well, I guess I now know why there has been a more-or-less press-blackout about Ukraine for about the past half-year or so.

Swza said...

Where do you think Western Ukraine goes from here? Seems like the current regime is in a bit of a pickle. Any chance the population takes control back? And if so, what do you think the US's response would be?

B. Green said...

One advantage the West has derived from this fiasco is that the Ukraine is now another debt slave nation a la Greece without the benefit(?) of being a member of the EU or the Eurozone. They are becoming another Troika puppet selling off assets at fire sale prices, cutting pensions, etc., etc. And let us not forget the Disaster Capitalists who will swoop in to profit from any war damage or infrastructure collapse.

Professor Diabolical said...

Thank you sir, may I have another!

NowhereMan said...

Almost makes me wonder if Putin didn't find a way to lure the always misadventurous US interests in so that he could take advantage of them. Kind of turns the old saying on its head: with enemies like this who needs friends?

Robert Goad said...

A fine juncture to clear the Panama canal, cross the equator in defiance of any stray radiation the powers that be care to bathe each other in, enjoy what remnants of climatic normalcy that make up a downwind trades milk run, choose a fine little island in the fijian out island Yasawas, groove with the locals in unbridled newly grid liberated glee, and prepare for the inevitable web darkening and wondrous localization. Well south of chinese navy prowling, for awhile at least. Possibly, just possibly, a place to enjoy grandchildren.

DeVaul said...

I'm glad someone finally explained who the Ukrainians are. Old maps show the eastern part as being part of Russia, and I always viewed Kiev as a Russian city, so I could not understand how it could be a "western" city. Is Ukrainian an actual national language or is it just a tribal or regional language? I still wonder who the Ukrainian Nazis were during WW II. Were they Russians? Poles? Romanians? Who were they?

In German, Die Ukraine means "the outskirts", and I always thought it was just a borderland area on the edge of Russia. I was genuinely surprised when I saw that it extended all the way over the Sea of Azov. That was weird. I never paid any attention to the borders of the Soviet Republics when I was young since everything was controlled from Moscow anyway.

I think NoWhereMan has figured out why Vlad persists in using the term "our American partners". Partners in what exactly? Putin gets to play "The Lone Ranger" while America gets to be "Tonto". Nice.

Mister Roboto said...

I look forward to the article on Syria, but regular readers might like to know that there is an excellent ongoing four-part series of articles about US involvement in Syria and Russia's part in that geopolitical drama, over at the Vineyard Of The Saker blog.

casamurphy said...

It seems a good solution would be for Lithuania and Poland to mearge together with Western Ukraine and re aggregate the previous Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of 1793.

See map:

http://observationalism.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Ukraine_historical_vs_electoral_19941.png

That way the western Ukrainian hipsters could get EU membership and a more viable national economy in one fell swoop. They just wouldn't be calling themselves Ukrainian anymore. Eastern Ukraine could re-join Russian. Problems solved, no more Ukraine, everybody happy.

As part of the deal, the new Commonwealth would have to keep Chernobyl, though; so maybe Russia should have to promise them cheap gas for a number of years in exchange for that?

Marc L Bernstein said...

Some articles by Paul Craig Roberts and Steve Lendman:

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2015/09/23/russias-false-hopes-paul-craig-roberts/

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2015/09/us-cooperation-with-russia-on-syria.html

Roberts says:

"Russia can end the Ukraine crisis by simply accepting the requests of the former Russian territories to reunite with Russia. Once the breakaway republics are again part of Russia, the crisis is over. Ukraine is not going to attack Russia."

It can't be quite as simple as Roberts portrays. Maybe this will eventually happen but only after Ukraine is on the verge of collapse as a sovereign nation.

In any case, Roberts makes it clear the the neo-conservatives (Nuland and her husband Robert Kagan, etc.) are still dictating much of Washington's foreign policy, and it doesn't seem to matter that the neo-conservatives have done nothing but ruin everything they've touched. They stay in power anyway. Maybe that's their goal, to destroy foreign nations whose resources they (and their clients, certain large corporations) covet, particularly in North Africa, the Middle East and maybe even the Ukraine.

It's a lot easier to destroy things than it is to repair them.

Nathan Donaldson said...

Question: Would Putin be able to do what he is doing now in Syria if the whole Ukrainian Crimea Crisis hadn't turned him into a National Hero? This seems to be the worst blowback outcome imaginable for the US Warlords.