Saturday, December 19, 2015

Free World Still Doesn’t Get It about Ukraine & Russian Imperialism
For all intents and purposes, the free world still doesn’t understand what is happening with Ukraine and the 19-month-old war with Russia. The prime example of this dangerous state of affairs is a recent headline for Mark Adomanis’ article in Forbes: “Ukraine’s Politics are still Badly Broken.”
Still badly broken? It’s only been two dozen years since Ukraine declared its independence from Russian domination, thereby establishing a modern, independent country. In the course of that brief period of time Ukraine has had to deal with repeated efforts by Russia to re-subjugate it by way of fabricated national elections that brought to power leaders that have been obligated to Moscow rather than to the Ukrainian nation. But the people prevailed.
Finally, Russia refused to tolerate any longer Ukraine’s independence and invaded its former captive nation and has been waging a war since February 2014 with most of the world viewing it as a digital war game, a lab experiment or an academic discussion.
Truthfully, has the Ukrainian nation – the people – had the opportunity to fully shed itself of a corrupt Russian mentality, elect a genuinely pro-Ukrainian democratic government, rid itself of homegrown kleptocracy and crooks, and fix its politics?
It seems as if not one national leader understands the gravity of Ukraine’s circumstance – except Ukraine’s President Poroshenko and Russia’s President Putin – the former is endeavoring to preserve it and the latter to destroy it. All of the other democratic or undemocratic presidents and prime ministers – and pundits – don’t. They are treating Ukraine as if it had a 200-year record of governance that has merely fallen on hard times. They are treating Ukraine as if its leaders and people have had time on their hands to contemplate adequately the domestic calamities that have afflicted them, the least of which is the Russia invasion, and have opted to accept the corruption and dishonest officials or delayed reacting to it. Actually, all countries have corruption but not every country has Russia like Ukraine does.
Similar demands have not been made of any other country in history after so short a period of freedom.
Vice President Joe Biden’s much-heralded visit to Ukraine last week is another similar case in point. In his anticipated speech in the Verkhovna Rada, while admitting that he didn’t want to sound as if he was hectoring and lecturing Ukrainian lawmakers – and by association the Ukrainian people – Biden, in fact, was doing that and more. He chided Ukrainians that this was their last chance to make it right.
Reiterating several times that Ukrainians – the people and their elected officials – have to do more and to work harder to get out of the mess that they’re in, Biden urged: “It may be your last moment. Please for the sake of the rest of us, selfishly on my part, don’t waste it. Seize the opportunity. Build a better future for the people of Ukraine.”
Biden correctly emphasized his point “for the sake of the rest of us” and he also noted that if Ukraine fails, everyone else will fail. Indeed, if Ukraine is again submerged into the Russian imperial abyss, the United States, Europe and others will suffer by having to deal with a re-energized Russia.
However, what are the US, Europe and Euro-Atlantic political and military structures doing to preserve Ukrainian independence and sovereignty for future generations? When Poland and France were invaded by Nazi Germany, the free world didn’t quibble about what to do or reproach the victims about domestic corruption.
Vice President Biden also condescendingly reminded the Ukrainian legislators about the legacy of Maidan and the martyred Heavenly Hundred and their obligation to ensure that sacrifices of the fighters in Kyiv two years ago will not be in vain. That was hardly an appropriate reminder for a nation that has also endured the pain and suffering of centuries of invasions, oppression, imprisonment, killings, bloodshed, Russification, Holodomor and other crimes perpetrated by invaders.
But, on a positive side, Biden expressed support for Ukraine’s battle against Russian invaders, admonished Russia for being an international bully, and emphasized that Crimea was and will be a part of Ukraine and the US will never accept its occupation.
“We will not recognize any nation having a sphere of influence. Sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances. Period. Period.
“In the 21st century, nations cannot – and we cannot allow them to redraw borders by force. These are the ground rules. And if we fail to uphold them, we will rue the day. Russia has violated these ground rules and continues to violate them. Today Russia is occupying sovereign Ukrainian territory. Let me be crystal clear: The United States does not, will not, never will recognize Russia’s attempt to annex the Crimea. It’s that saying – that simple. There is no justification.
“And as Russia continues to send its thugs, its troops, its mercenaries across the border, Russian tanks and missiles still fill the Donbas. Separatist forces are organized, commanded and directed by Moscow – by Moscow.
So the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine against Russian aggression,” Biden said echoing President Ronald Reagan’s famous pledge to Ukrainian Americans “Your fight is our fight. You will prevail.”
Biden’s assurances were welcome and needed but for Ukraine to succeed today against Russia, more than words will be needed. His description of Russia was spot on so what will be done to convert Russia into a non-belligerent member of the community of independent countries?
The imperfect and ineffective Minsk accords will not help Ukraine overcome the problems the Vice-President iterated. They are merely instruments to temporarily cease the killings though Ukrainian soldiers continue to lose their lives in battle with Russians. The one and only way to end the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-15 is to force Russia to put down its weapons and depart from Ukraine. Period. Anything less would be tantamount to surrendering to Russia and ceding a portion of Ukraine’s sovereignty to Moscow.
The sanctions against Russia that Biden cited are good for they show moral if not political support for Ukraine. But dollars and tanks are also required to help Ukraine triumph.
The Vice President announced some $190 million in new American assistance to help Ukraine fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law, implement critical reform, bolster civil society, and advance energy security. According to him, that brings Washington’s total of direct aid to almost $760 million, in addition to loan guarantees since the war started. Perhaps the Vice President is not aware that Ukrainian civil society is already very advanced and not threatened by Kyiv.
“And that is not the end of what we're prepared to do if you keep moving,” he added without being specific but intoning the ubiquitous “if” caveat.
Indeed, with the world’s fate being predicated upon Ukraine’s success in the war with Russia, then Ukraine needs an updated version of Lend Lease, which saved Europe from Nazi domination.
In addition to lecturing and reminding Ukrainians of their suffering, Biden was also folksy, especially when speaking about the political perils of tampering with accepted pension ages. “Hell, we're having trouble in America dealing with it. We're having trouble. To vote to raise the pension age is to write your political obituary in many places,” he quipped.
Just like America experienced many phases in its democratic and political development, Ukraine too will undergo them in due course. Just like America, Ukraine will deal with corruption and organized crime, adjust its governance from Soviet-style central command mechanisms to perhaps a version of American federalism, it will build a strong economy that will trade with economies around the world, and it will mobilize a strong, patriotic, pro-Ukrainian military that will make Russia think twice about crossing its border.
Despite Biden’s good neighborly but middling remarks to the Ukrainian nation, it is evident that America remains platonically supportive of Ukraine.
But America must genuinely and credibly stand with Ukraine; America must declare Ukraine to be its strategic partner, and America must give it a chance to reach the next level of its development by helping Ukraine prevail in the war with Russia and its attempts to re-subjugate it.
Otherwise, as Vice-President Biden correctly prophesized, the free world will also fail.

In my next blog, I will offer a few recent examples of how x-captive nations are addressing 21st century Russian aggression.