Monday, December 20

Stop, Look, Listen

"Pundita, I owe you an apology. I spent the past hour reading news stories and opinion about the US involvement in Ukraine's election. There is definitely another side to the story. I have two questions. Is Brzezinski insane? Why didn't the Guardian's Garton Ash throw a hissy fit about US meddling in Ukraine?
[Signed] Born Yesterday, After All"

Dear BYAA:

I'd say your tartness was within the margin of spirited debate, so no apology is necessary. However, Pundita's web log exists to point out the necessity for Americans outside government to become more knowledgeable about foreign affairs and US foreign policy. The flood of information makes this exercise difficult, so the tendency is to fall back on pundits and experts who will sort things out for us.

That is why I advised one reader to start at the start line, if he wanted reliable information on US foreign policy -- the start line being the White House and State Department. Those sources aren't going to tell the public all that's going on with US foreign policy initiatives; neither do the sources necessarily reflect the right (or wrong) policy approaches. But before you can have an informed opinion, first you need to get informed.

It's putting the cart before the horse to attempt to get informed by first following what reporters dig up, then reading "expert" analysis of the reports, then reading what pundits say about what the experts say about what the news reports say.

Reporting, expert analysis, and your favorite pundits can be valuable in helping you understand the actions of State and the White House, but first we need a ballpark idea about what State and the White House are doing. The easiest way to find out is to go the source for news on State and White House doings, which is their websites.

Getting into the ballpark is especially important during this period, during which we're fighting a hot war, working out a new direction for foreign policy, and implementing a new national security doctrine. It's easy to lump those three very distinct endeavors into one because they intersect at many points.

Yet we need to keep the distinctions clear if we want to think hard about US foreign policy. Otherwise, we find ourselves shutting out international news and analysis that contradicts our view of the war and national security, or vice versa.

In keeping with the spirit of the above advice, before going deeper into the flap about US involvement in Ukraine, we should first review State's position on Ukraine. The official site also provides information on how much and what kind of aid the US gave Ukraine (up to FY 2003).

So, first let's head to Foggy Bottom to bone up on the latest available country assessment for Ukraine.

It's important to consider that none of the official US aid was under the table. This means that whatever democracy programs the US funded in Ukraine through official channels, these were welcomed by the Ukraine government. Thus, none of that aid can be considered meddling.

Okay, now that we have the official view under our belt, we can proceed to question it. I don't know of any American old enough to remember the height of the Cold War who enjoys finding himself in the ungainly position of calling for a balanced view of the election situation in Ukraine. Yet the situation in Ukraine lays bare how US foreign policy developed in the post-Soviet era, which has given way to the post-9/11 era. And the situation in Ukraine illustrates that those two eras have collided.

Many Americans new to this stuff assume there was a US foreign policy vacuum after the Soviet Union ended. The only vacuum was in the reporting in the US news media; a post-Soviet US policy had taken shape even before Gorbachev dissolved the Soviet Union.

Americans who are new to following US foreign policy are just discovering Soros and Brzezinski, but those two have been around a long time. Brzezinski is not insane. He's a Cold War warrior. Old Cold War warriors don't fade away. They keep thinking up strategies for dealing with any projected geopolitical situation that could possibly be a threat to America.
Such warriors are part and parcel of being a superpower, with or without a war going on.

But there is a big difference between theory and how it's put into practice. Let's assume for a moment that Brzezinski is right -- that Ukraine represents one of the five key nations on earth. That assessment, if correct, would of course imply that Ukraine is strategically important to the USA. Even so, it wouldn't necessarily follow that America should alienate the other great nuclear power (Russia) by trying to promote a particular Ukrainian candidate on the proffered reason of "promoting democracy."

As I noted in the "Suggestions, anyone?" post, the Bush foreign policy is moored to the proper use of foreign policy, which is to defend and further US interests. The Clinton foreign policy was cut loose from that mooring; policy drifted toward "rescue" -- whether or not the rescue operation served US interests.

I interject that one should not leap to the conclusion that this rescue policy was in the spirit of the Good Samaritan -- unless we want to consider Europe the needy traveler. I joke that during the Clinton years, which saw Soros's great influence on State, US foreign policy was run out of a post box in Belgium. The joke probably overstates the point, but it does seem the US during the Clinton era was always acting in the EU's best interests, whether or not this served US interests. I suppose that's why Rumsfeld once observed that perhaps what State needed was an American desk.

In any case it's mixing apples with oranges, if you'll pardon the expression, to say that US support for the Orange candidate is support for democracy. And it's sophistry to argue that supporting the Orange candidate is perfectly in line with Bush's call for this to be Liberty's century.

Of course we want to see democracy spring up everywhere. This is on the theory that democratic countries don't fall prey to widespread civil unrest and aggression against neighbors, and don't produce terrorists who will lob bombs at us. However, the way the US players went about promoting democracy in Ukraine helped bring that country to the edge of civil war, and raised the specter of a breakup of the country.

The US does not carry all the blame for what happened in the aftermath of the disputed Ukraine election. And even with no US involvement, the situation might easily have played out exactly the same. But if we are trying to feel our way toward Liberty's century, we must closely study US involvement in Ukraine for lessons and warnings.

There is good reason to suggest that Soros's tactics, which were perfected in Georgia (and used in this country in the attempt to put Kerry in the White House) were misapplied in Ukraine. This was pointed out by one of John Batchelor's experts on Russia and ex-USSR countries, Dr. Stephen Cohen, during Batchelor's 11/30 broadcast. Cohen noted that everyone in Georgia was sick of Schevardnadze and wanted him out of power. In Ukraine the population is sharply and passionately divided in support of the Orange or Blue candidate. Thus, indiscriminately applying Soros's tactics in Georgia to the situation in Ukraine had a very different result in Ukraine.

One might ask how State overlooked the striking difference between the situation in Georgia and Ukraine. I don't know the answer yet -- or even whether State overlooked in ignorance. Leaping to conclusions in this area is unwise. In any case, by accident or design, State-supported actions in Ukraine got Putin and his generals hopping mad.

If you say nuts to that -- well, if we had nothing else on our plate, it might even be fun to rub Russia's nose in it, just for some payback. But seeings how we're in the middle of a hot war and all that, we do need to pick our hazing wisely. Or at least, watch our timing. Sitting Putin on a whoopee cushion at this particular moment in history does carry unpleasant consequences for the US.

With regard to your second question, kindly refer to my post on British pundits, in which I touch on the Guardian Unlimited newspaper. That the Guardian is a leftist publication and that Garton-Ash is a Bush basher has to be seen against the larger picture. The Guardian is a United Kingdom publication. So of course the Guardian's columnists support British activities that are perceived by the Guardian columnists as in the best interests of the UK.

Recommended reading:

"U.S. Money Helped Opposition in Ukraine"
Details the US organizations involved in Ukraine

"Is US Meddling in Ukraine Election?"
Washington Post; story links to Guardian Unlimited's Steele and Garton-Ash opinion pieces

"EU Promises More Aid to Ukraine After Elections" and check out several stories on the Ukraine election and controversy in this Ukraine newspaper

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