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.