Friday, March 14, 2014

Hard Thoughts About Nuclear Weapons And Ukraine

The most important foreign policy initiative President Obama is trying to achieve against great odds is a nuclear agreement with Iran.  Central to this is having credibility that any promises made regarding Iranian security if they do not pursue acquiring nuclear weapons (which I do not think they are currently doing) must be credible.  It may be that he may have to engage in drastic action in the near future in order to maintain that credibility.

The New York Times top story today is that Russian troops are massing on the border of Eastern Ukraine, presumably threatening an invasion, either to carve off heavily ethnic Russian areas or to run all the way to Kyiv to reinstall former President Yanukovich, whom Putin claims was illegally an inappropriately removed from office.  It may be that he is planning a strategy like that he pulled a few years ago in Georgia.  How to get South Ossetia?  Invade Georgia proper and whomp their military, after which everybody is relieved that they retreat while holding on to South Ossetia.  Could be just the trick for pulling off the apparently impending annexation of Crimea after Saturday's referendum.

Now let me be clear.  I think the case for Crimea to be a part of Russia rather than Ukraine is strong.  Quite aside from the fact that probably a majority of the population prefer that outcome for this autonomous republic, it was a part of Russia prior to 60 years ago when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine on the 300th anniversary of the unification of Russia and Ukraine, he of of mixed ancestry, supposedly feeling guilty about his role in what went on in Ukraine in the 30s and egged on by his likely mistress and former Party leader in Crimea, Yekaterina Furtseva, who wanted to keep Tatars and Greeks and others from returning after being deported by Stalin in 1944.  All that was part of an implicit deal:  Ukraine would get Crimea but would remain part of the same nation as Russia, the Soviet Union.  Probably Yeltsin should have insisted on the return of Crimea when the USSR broke up, but he did not do so.  In any case, while it is hypocritically sneaky, one must recognize that Putin is maintaining a legal cover by asserting that all those pro-Russian militias running around in Crimea are really just local Crimeans rather than actual Russian military, even if we all know better.  He is maintaining the facade of not invading Ukraine.

Here is why that is important, and why an outright invasion of the rest of Ukraine would be very bad news.  In 1994, Ukraine had the third largest store of nuclear weapons in the world.  It gave it up in an agreement signed by Russia, Ukraine, the US, and the UK, which I understand France and China also later signed on to, this agreement guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Ukraine in exchange for sending all those nukes to Russia.  Russia is the last nation on the planet that should be violating this agreement, but this apparently what it may be about to do.

I hate to come on like this, I really do, but I am about to come on as more hawkish than John McCain, more so except for that nutcase wanting to put nukes on planes in Poland.  Anyway, I think if Russia openly invades Ukraine proper, the appropriate response is not just economic sanctions, which Putin will simply laugh at.  This is very dangerous, but Putin has clearly gone completely off the deep end of power mad egomania, surrounding himself by an inner circle of sycophants.  For the future of any nuclear peace, he cannot be allowed to get away with violating this agreement.

6 comments:

Bruce Webb said...

Barkley the main problem here is that your proposed response, though huge in historic symbolic terms would mean bupkis as it relates to Putin's ability to project power.

The Russian Navy has despite the attempts of Czars from Peter the Great On has always been essentially a vanity project. It's Pacific Fleet got blown out of the water by a still developing Japanese Navy in the 1905 Russian-jJapanese War and it's surface fleet has never been able to project power in any of the Pacific, Atlantic, Med, or Indian Oceans, (it's subs are a MUCH different story). As such any proposal to sink its Black Sea Fleet at their docs and moorings would stir up historical resentments going back before the First (as we may well soon call it) Crimean War even as they do nothing to restrain Putin's rea world force projection capabilities.

Not that I agree with your overall argument to start with. Just that even granting it you are picking up the wrong club to hit Vlad P with.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Bruce,

I have not studied the military details, and I realize that what I am proposing may be completely unrealistic and undoable, quite aside from other issues.

However, to reply to your specific points, it is precisely the historic nature of that site that would bring it home as it were to Putin. There is some portion of the US fleet that is in fact steaming to the Black Sea as we speak, and indeed Putin has been playing a fool's game, killing hundreds of thousands in Chechnya wehre arguably he had a right to do so, murdering reporters and dissidents on the streets of Moscow, which, well, his country, beating up on hapless Georgians and other minor nationalities, ha ha! particularly when they gut uppity and overthrow pro-Putin governments in the middle of His Olympics, etc. But in fact the US military is far ahead of his, and maybe it is time he was reminded of that very hard fact, particularly if he violates a very important treaty signed by both of our nations.

BTW, for the record, my Russian-born wife does not at all like my current position on this matter, not at all.

krish geriko said...

What is going on in Ukraine?? Ukraine is going to Quit soon from the World map... Ukraine is trying to join as a leader in the Nuclear weapons store around the world but surely, it wont exist now and for ever.... Ukraine should be accessed by Soviet Union of Russia to avoid nuclear world war. Why do Ukraine do such a silly thing of violating the rules of the World Nations???
Myrtle Beach houses for sale

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

krish,

Sorry, but there is no such thing as "Soviet Union of Russia," although this may be the fantasy that Putin is living in. He has certainly been trying to reconstruct half-baked versions of it with the Shanghai group (that Iran may join soon) and the Eurasian Trade Group that he has been bullying Ukraine into joining, but he will definitely be missing some such as the high income Baltic nations now in both the EU and NATO that he will definitely not get.

I do not know if you are completely ignorant of history or what, but the hard fact is that there is now a nation of Ukraine, even if its borders are uncertain, but there is no way in hell that they are going to return to being "little Russians, like the white Russians of Belarus. Forget it.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Let me add two notes that are optimistic that maybe Putin will hold back from invading eastern Ukraine.

One is that he has been criticized sharply by Angela Merkel. Germany has deep trade and other economic relations with Russian and Germany usually wants to make peace with Russia compared to US, UK, and France. But she has said that he is violating the post cold war rules and is a throwback to leaders who caused wars in the previous two centuries. He also has gotten zero, and I mean zero, support from any other national leader anywhere, including all sorts of usual lapdogs such as Lukashenka in Belarus.

The other point is that large scale antiwar demos have erupted in Russia. Maybe the rubes in the sticks of rural Russia love this, but there is no obvious major outpouring of ground political support for it, whereas he is going to have to deal with putting down major antiwar demos in the leading cities. This is not going well for him, not at all.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Let me add two notes that are optimistic that maybe Putin will hold back from invading eastern Ukraine.

One is that he has been criticized sharply by Angela Merkel. Germany has deep trade and other economic relations with Russian and Germany usually wants to make peace with Russia compared to US, UK, and France. But she has said that he is violating the post cold war rules and is a throwback to leaders who caused wars in the previous two centuries. He also has gotten zero, and I mean zero, support from any other national leader anywhere, including all sorts of usual lapdogs such as Lukashenka in Belarus.

The other point is that large scale antiwar demos have erupted in Russia. Maybe the rubes in the sticks of rural Russia love this, but there is no obvious major outpouring of ground political support for it, whereas he is going to have to deal with putting down major antiwar demos in the leading cities. This is not going well for him, not at all.