Thursday, 13 March 2014 13:21
Only a few weeks ago, a top naval intelligence officer told a Naval Institute conference in San Diego that China was preparing for an imminent “short, sharp war” with Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Suddenly, we’re only a few big mistakes away from World War III along the Black Sea. The potential flashpoints that might put horrible events into unstoppable motion move around fast in this new world.
Americans are taught early that there is little need to pay attention to what is happening in the world around them, so our public is again playing catch-up. As always, we are presented with no historical context, grossly one-sided information and a drumbeat. Americans are instructed how they are expected to feel about major events; theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why. That phrase was written in 1854 about 600 soldiers from the West who galloped straight into Russian cannonade just outside Sevastopol, the principal base by treaty of the Russian Black Sea fleet.
Only a month ago, late-night television hosts made jokes about that leaked telephone call in which a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State tossed out an F-bomb at our European Union allies. Cheeky fun, but they missed the point. The full transcript showed that the U.S. was deeply invested ($5 billion since the 1990s) and involved in fomenting protests and the overthrow of the government of Ukraine. The difference of opinion with the EU was over specifics and timetables.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who heads Congress’s Ukrainian Caucus, seems sincere when she talks about “freedom-loving Ukrainians,” and introduced a resolution, passed almost unanimously, expressing support for a “the democratic and European aspirations of the people of Ukraine.”
But which people and whose aspirations?
Crimea is a multinational society in which some of the nations have their own vision of the region’s future. Crimea was briefly independent in 1992, which is why it’s partially autonomous in some of its affairs, with its own regional prime minister. Many in Crimea do not see themselves as Ukrainian and support full separation.
It took days for the rump parliament in Kiev to repeal the law giving the Russian language official status in areas with large Russian populations, including most of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Ethnic Russians in these places see Pravy Sektor, a coalition of nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, taking credit for many of the protest activities that led to the overthrow of the President. Some of them seem to be pipe-wielding, Jew, Pole and Russian-hating thugs. Senator McCain poses and smiles with Ukrainian nationalist leader Oleh Tyahnybok. If this is one of the “good guys,” then count me out.
This is all part of a dangerous and provocative 20-year U.S. policy of pulling former Eastern bloc countries into NATO, right up to the Russian borders. NATO countries now nearly ring the Black Sea. The new members of NATO take their loans from Western banks, arrange their privatization deals with Western financial vultures and buy their armaments from Western arms manufacturers. What can go wrong?
If Ontario switched on us and threatened our Midwest’s access to the ocean, the Thruway and the Adirondack Northway would be immediately clogged with our armored personnel carriers heading to the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Some of President Obama’s professional critics have spent the last week undermining any action he might take that doesn’t include some kind of vague, extreme measure. They lavish praise on the authoritarian, opposition-crushing Putin. He’s their kind of leader. They didn’t call President Bush “weak” and “feckless” and “appeaser” during the Russian incursion into Georgia in 2008.
Politics no longer “stops at the ocean.” Another tradition dead.
Too bad, because it’s going to make it harder to keep the Crimea crisis from becoming a full-blown Ukraine crisis, or much worse.
Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org