Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Assurances Lead to Expectations
On the one hand, statements and declarations in support of besieged Ukraine are welcome and bolster the global sense of goodwill and approval Ukraine is enjoying today.
On the other hand, words of support, especially expressed by government leaders, carry an obligation and a commitment to do something to justify the words. By articulating support for Ukraine at a time of war, Ukrainian officials and citizens are naturally filled with an expectation that something beneficial will soon take place. Ukrainian Americans voters also share this same expectation.
Otherwise, these assurances are merely for the news media, hollow, and any forthcoming expectations are unwarranted.
US Secretary of State John Kerry voiced strong support for Ukraine at an event hosted by The German Marshall Fund and the US Mission to the European Union in Brussels on Tuesday, October 4. His words were truly inspiring and should have resounded frighteningly throughout the halls of the Kremlin.
Kerry’s latest warning to Russia, unwavering support for Ukraine and reaffirmation of American principled advocacy of the downtrodden could be deemed historic as they touched all of the correct buzzwords. However, Russia has turned a deaf ear to Washington’s repeated rebukes.
Warning Russia in the person of its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry emphatically declared the US will stand its ground on behalf of freedom. He said:
“But the willingness of NATO and EU countries to search for common ground with Russia doesn’t relieve us of the obligation to stand our ground on behalf of freedom and international law, which is why we remain steadfast in our support for a stable, united, and democratic Ukraine.”
The Secretary of State created the foundation for a global duality in US foreign policy. There is Russia, with which the US and others desire to work; there is Russia, which the US and others condemn, and there is Ukraine, which the US and others will steadfastly support.
“And Moscow should have no doubt on this point: we will stand our ground. Blatant aggression is not something that any of us are prepared to accept, and no place in the world should understand it better than Europe.”
Kerry warned Moscow not to underestimate the US determination. While the US wants to search for common ground with the Kremlin, Washington will stand its ground in supporting Ukraine. Note, he didn’t say defending Ukraine. One American hand will deal with a criminal and the other with the victim.
“So we have imposed sanctions and we are insisting on a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Donbas and the illegal annexation of Crimea – even as we encourage the government in Ukraine to stay the course and accelerate the pace of reform.”
He underlined economic sanctions as the height of America’s arsenal against Russian transgressions and set the bar on diplomacy to resolve the conflict – avoiding the word war – in Ukraine. Then to show that the US will not play favorites, he intimated that Kyiv still needs to do more to hasten reforms and eliminate corruption.
“Our priority should be an open and competitive market that doesn’t play favorites and that contributes to the prosperity of all countries and doesn’t use this in some antiquated 18th or 19th century power game between states. We’ve made real strides, I think, in the last four years in creating energy options for Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltic states, southern Europe; and now we have to continue our work to bring energy independence to the countries in Central Europe that have too few choices in their supply.”
In other words, according to Kerry, Washington will remain wary of Russian intentions, critical of the Kremlin’s behavior, supportive of Ukraine, while striving to build open and competitive markets that don’t play favorites. Can the White House simultaneously cheer the lions and Christians?
Faced with these options, Russia would be remiss if it didn’t instinctively continue its war against Ukraine, accept American admonitions with a grain of salt and build competitive markets.
And Lavrov voiced the same opinion during an earlier press encounter with Kerry at the President Wilson Hotel in Geneva on August 26. The Russian said the two countries should sweep the Ukrainian issue under the carpet because there are many similar troubling concerns.
“As you can understand, there is quite a plenty of them in the current circumstances, but I believe that the genuine interests of Russia and United States boil down to the fact that we have normal relations between the two states and the two peoples. I do hope that our today’s meeting was another step in that direction,” Lavrov said.
The Voice of America picked up on this disturbing concept of let’s play nice with the enemy in its story about Kerry’s speech in Brussels. Its lead paragraph read: “US Secretary of State John Kerry says Western alliances are willing to work with Russia to seek solutions to end the unrest in Ukraine, but will stand firm on principles based on freedom and international law.”
Sincere words of support for Ukraine traditionally reach a crescendo during the anniversary of Ukrainian Independence Day on August 24. These words also generate expectations in the minds of victims.
For example, President Obama observed: “Today, we reaffirm that the United States will continue to stand with the Ukrainian people as they protect their sovereignty and territorial integrity, embrace the vision of a strong and united Europe, and deepen their commitment to democracy, anti-corruption, and respect for human rights. I offer my best wishes to all the people of Ukraine. On this occasion, we are reminded that even in the most difficult moments, the glory and freedom of Ukraine—and the indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian people—lives on.”
Rep. Evan McMullin (R-UT), among other lawmakers, said during this year’s independence observance that the US “will revive and expand America’s strategic partnership with Ukraine, enhancing bilateral military, intelligence and diplomatic cooperation, and will fight for the right of the Ukrainian people—not Moscow—to decide whether they will seek membership in NATO, the European Union, and other regional organizations.”
The US “will support the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and will work to ensure all territories of Ukraine illegally annexed or occupied by Russia must be returned to the rightful government,” McMullin said.
Candidate Hillary Clinton noted through a spokesperson: “Through her multiple visits to Ukraine, Secretary Clinton has seen firsthand the passion with which Ukrainians fight for these ideals in the face of persistent adversity. She remains a staunch ally and advocate as they continue to defend their sovereignty.”
Secretary Kerry marked the date by saying: “Today we mark not just a quarter-century of your independence, but also of the fruitful partnership between our nations based on our shared commitment to freedom and the rule of law. The United States will stand by you as you continue to strengthen your democracy. With our European partners, we will also press for full implementation of the Minsk agreements to end Russian aggression in Donbas and return the international border to Ukrainian control. We remain steadfast in our refusal to recognize Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea.”
Words of support such as these are coupled with daily reports about Russia’s continuing military onslaught against Ukraine, and Ukrainian military and civilian deaths signal that something isn’t right. The assurances don’t match reality. Why are the White House’s views belittled by the enemy?
High-ranking US officials have been emphasizing that Ukraine has a true friend and staunch ally in the United States, that the US will stand by Ukraine as Ukrainians defend their independence, that the US will press for Minsk implementation to end Russian aggression, that the US will be steadfast in its refusal to recognize Russia’s occupation of Crimea, and that the US will provide defensive – and perhaps lethal – weapons to Ukraine.
Assurances have special meanings not least of all in the minds of the victims. Ukrainian American voters also read these pledges and wonder why is Russia continuing its war against Ukraine? Why are there Russian tanks, missiles and soldiers in Ukraine and occupied Crimea? Why are Ukrainian civilians and soldiers still being killed? Why is Russia allowed to invade a neighbor, violate human rights, commit a host of other crimes with impunity? Why are sanctions levied against Russians without consequences? Why is the free world willing to condemn Russia, support Ukraine and then make commercial and political deals with the criminal?
It’s time that the friendly assurances truly help Ukraine and Ukrainians, and subdue and expel Russia from Ukraine.