Like Vietnam, “Military Advisers” Can Snowball in Ukraine

by Eternal Hope –

ukraine military advisors

It was announced that the US has sent 300 military “advisers” to Ukraine to train their army. That measure seems for all the world like it is a safe choice for President Obama — after all, it is much less than what hawks in Congress want. However, the problem is that our involvement in Vietnam started with us sending military “advisers.”

Back in 1955, President Eisenhower began sending full-fledged military “advisers” to South Vietnam. President Eisenhower did not set out to create perpetual warfare in Vietnam. He thought that he was following a peaceful strategy while still containing communism. However, it turned into full-fledged involvement by 1965. In the same way, President Obama surely does not intend for his actions to lead to our full-fledged involvement in Ukraine by 2025. But that is what it will lead to if we are not careful. President Obama’s decision does not account for the possible decisions that future administrations might make.

The NYT piece noting the arrival of the “advisers” continues:

The Kremlin’s warning came despite a large body of evidence that Russian soldiers and advanced weaponry were already in eastern Ukraine and despite the unexplained deaths there of more than a dozen Russian servicemen. Asked on Thursday to comment on the extent of Russian support for the separatists, Mr. Putin said there were no Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine and moved on to other topics.

Assuming that the NYT article is accurate, what that means is that Russia has drawn a red line at Ukraine in the same manner that we drew a red line in Cuba and the rest of Latin America when Kennedy was President. Just as Khrushchev had to respect our red line to avoid a possible nuclear conflict, we have an obligation to respect Russia’s red lines to avoid a possible nuclear conflict today.Part of the problem is that we repeatedly broke promises to Russia not to expand NATO to the east following the collapse of Communism during 1990. The reputation of nations depends on how well they keep their word, and we did not keep our word. While Russia has tacitly accepted the loss of Eastern Europe, its red lines include all of its former territories except for Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, all of which were involuntarily annexed by Stalin during World War II and which were never recognized as such by the West. This explains why they invaded Georgia in 2008. And this explains their behavior in Ukraine today, including their annexation of Crimea and their support of rebels in East Ukraine.

And Ukraine holds an even greater value for Russia than the rest of the former provinces of the Soviet Union. The area was colonized by Vikings starting in 800 AD; by 980, Kiev became capital of Russia. Vladimir, the first man to rule all of Russia, adopted the Greek Orthodox Church as the official religion. This is what gave Russia its identity as a nation. For Russia, to lose Ukraine to the West would mean a loss of identity; take away Kiev and the Orthodox Church and you take away their identity as a nation. This doesn’t mean that I think Ukraine should give up being a nation and become part of Russia again. But it does mean that there is no place for Ukraine as a member of NATO. Even their own state-run TV network, Ukraine Today, posted interviews with people who talked about the ties that they still have with Russia even in the middle of the present conflict. This explains why Russia is taking the Syrian government’s side in that conflict; they are posing as the Big Brother protector of the Orthodox Church there.

Back in 1994, the West, Russia, and Ukraine reached an agreement in which Ukraine would give up its nukes in return for both the West and Russia respecting their neutrality. That has not happened. Ukraine, and the rest of the region around the Black Sea, has some of the greatest untapped natural resources in the world. This explains why numerous powerful corporate interests in the West want to get their hands on Ukraine; this explains why a neocon like Victoria Nuland is fomenting aggression there. It is no different than certain powerful corporate interests seeking to get their hands on Iraq’s oil resources and the neocons fomenting aggression and whipping up hysteria against Saddam, engaging in crackpot conspiracy theories with false claims of links between him and Al-Qaeda. Russia is a powerful oil-producing nation; their revival as a country occurred because of the skyrocketing oil prices that happened under Bush. If Russia were to tap into those resources, they would profit even more; that also explains why their belligerence in the Arctic as well.

While human greed is a major factor in this conflict, even bigger is the notion of American exceptionalism. Noam Chomsky explains:

This era’s most extreme international crime, the United States-United Kingdom invasion of Iraq, was therefore not a break in world order—because, after failing to gain international support, the aggressors didn’t cross Russian or Chinese red lines.In contrast, Putin’s takeover of the Crimea and his ambitions in Ukraine cross American red lines.

Therefore “Obama is focused on isolating Putin’s Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state,” Peter Baker reports in The New York Times.

American red lines, in short, are firmly placed at Russia’s borders. Therefore Russian ambitions “in its own neighborhood” violate world order and create crises.

The point generalizes. Other countries are sometimes allowed to have red lines—at their borders (where the United States’ red lines are also located). But not Iraq, for example. Or Iran, which the U.S. continually threatens with attack (“no options are off the table”).

Such threats violate not only the United Nations Charter but also the General Assembly resolution condemning Russia that the United States just signed. The resolution opened by stressing the U.N. Charter ban on “the threat or use of force” in international affairs.

So, while Obama and Congress may disagree on how to help Ukraine’s government, they agree on the notion that there is a special role for our country as the guardian of the international order. If we are to achieve world peace, we have to give up our notion that we somehow have all the answers to the world’s problems and that other countries are somehow not permitted to show independence from our way of thinking or exercise influence of their own. Any other Russian leader would have done what Putin is doing in Ukraine. Yeltsin, for instance, carved up Moldavia and created a frozen conflict in Transnistria in the name of protecting ethnic Russians in that area. In the same manner, Putin is not seeking to annex Ukraine, but to create a frozen conflict there so that it cannot join NATO.Instead of the notion that we can somehow create a New American Century, as articulated by the neocons and Mitt Romney, we have to return to the values of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who said:

“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world”: it was George Washington’s Farewell Address to us. The inaugural pledge of Thomas Jefferson was no less clear: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none.”

While we are constitutionally bound to honor our commitment to defend any NATO member should they invoke Article 5 against aggression, the problem is that NATO’s size has become a liability to world peace and simply confirms Russia’s belief that we are simply seeking to surround them with missiles. We need to pursue a more peaceful policy with Russia, which involves respecting their red lines in the same way that we expected them to respect ours. We would act in the same way that Putin is in Ukraine if Putin were to foment aggression in, say, Quebec or Mexico. While NATO may be needed to protect Europe, it is strictly a military alliance. As such, the ultimate goal should be to eliminate the need for its existence.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Posted By: Keith

Writer, political junkie, rabid rock music fan, amateur gardener, astronomer and ornithologist, cook extraordinaire, sipper of fine wine and, more than once, the funniest guy in the room.

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