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Spengler

Ukraine Should Vote on Partition

February 20th, 2014 - 5:42 am

Update: “Careful What You Wish For in Ukraine” (Asia Times Online)

Excerpt:

Western governments are jubilant over the fall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, a Russian ally. They may be underestimating Vladimir Putin: Russia has the option to hasten Ukraine’s slide into chaos and wait until the hapless European Union acquiesces to – if not begs for – Russian intervention. 

That leaves the West with a limited number of choices. The first is to do nothing and watch the country spiral into chaos, with Russia as the eventual beneficiary. The second is to dig deep into itspockets and find US$20 billion or more to buy near-term popularity for a pro-Western government – an unlikely outcome. The third, and the most realistic, is to steer Ukraine towards a constitutional referendum including the option of partition. 

Judging from Russian press coverage, Moscow already has washed its hands of the feckless Yanukovich. Russia Today whimsically observed on February 22 that Yanukovich lacked the sangfroid of Mikhail Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia and an ally of the West:

Yanukovich could also have dispersed the protesters and maintained public order in the country, whatever criticism it might have brought. This is how the then Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, acted in 2007. He brutally suppressed a peaceful protest and called an early presidential election, which he won, instead of an early parliamentary election, which the opposition demanded and which his party could well have lost. Unlike the Georgian leader, Yanukovich hesitated even when the Ukrainian protest turned Kiev into a battlefield. [1]

Moscow has no need of allies with weak stomachs. But it will withdraw the offer of $15 billion worth of Ukrainian debt purchases and subsidies for natural gas exports to Ukraine and leave the nearly bankrupt country to the ministrations of the West. Careful what you wish for, Russia is telling the West. 

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that Ukraine should get money from the International Monetary Fund: “We consider that such a situation would meet the interests of Ukraine, would put the country on the path toward major structural reforms. We wish them success in this undertaking and in the rapid stabilization of the political and social situation.” 

Siluanov is being mischievous. Twice in the past six years, the IMF suspended promised loans to Ukraine after the country refused to cut salaries and pensions and raise energy prices. Russia had offered a loan without conditions; any money the West offers will require austerity measures that no Ukrainian government is capable of enforcing. 

I’ve argued for years that partition is the best solution for Ukraine, which never was a country but an almalgam of provinces left over from failed empires–Russian, Austrian, Lithuanian, Ottoman–cobbled together into a Soviet “republic” and cast adrift after the collapse of Communism. Lviv (Lemberg) was a German-speaking city, part of Silesia; before World War II a quarter of its people were Jews. Jews were two-fifths of the population of Odessa.

A fifth of the population, mainly in the East, are ethnic Russians; a tenth, mainly in the West, are Uniate Catholics, who have a special place in Catholic policy since the papacy of John Paul II. Ukrainian nationality is as dubious as Byelorussian nationality: neither of them had a dictionary of their language until 1918.

The country also is a basket case. At its present fertility rate (1.3 children per female), its 47 million people will shrink to only 15 million by the end of the century. There are presently 11 million Ukrainian women aged 15 to 49 (although a very large number are working abroad); by the end of the century this will fall to just 2.8 million. There were 52 million Ukrainian citizens when Communism fell in 1989. Its GDP at about $157 billion is a fifth of Turkey’s and half of Switzerland’s.  Ukrainians want to join the European Union rather than Russia so they can emigrate.  It is of no strategic, economic, or demographic importance to the West.

Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, whose “F*** the Europeans” remark earned her 15 minutes of fame recently, ought to be fired for being plain dumb. I am no admirer of European diplomacy, but Europe will have to pay a good part of the bill for Ukraine’s problems one way or the other. I don’t see Congress offering $15 billion to support Ukraine’s foreign debt as Russia did last month. The Russians won’t abandon Ukraine, which they consider part of their territory, and they certainly won’t abandon Russian-speakers “orphaned” by the collapse of the Soviet Union. What does Ms. Nuland propose: land paratroopers? Just what are we offering to the Ukrainian opposition? American policy has alternated between indifference and impotent posturing. The Nuland tape was painful to hear for its sheer stupidity.

We cannot ignore a humanitarian disaster in a European country. But the idea that we can influence matters by promoting one or another opposition leader, as in the Nuland tape, is ridiculous. There is something we can do, however: Propose a referendum in which the people of Ukraine can choose constitutional alternatives–partition, confederation, or status quo. And the person who should act for the West is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for several reasons. First, she has credibility; second, she has guts (she came into politics through the democracy movement in East Germany); third, she speaks Russian and understands Vladimir Putin; fourth, she has more brains than anyone in Washington (a doctorate in quantum chemistry).

Russia never will permit the integration of Ukraine into NATO; were it to come to that, Russia would use force, and the West would stand by cursing. But Russia will settle for half a loaf, namely a Russian-allied Eastern Ukraine. Whatever we do, Ukraine will continue its slow, sad slide into oblivion. The diplomats have the dour duty of managing this decline with the minimum of friction.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Who are you - or anyone else for that matter to 'give away' the Ukraine, or any other part of the world? Ukraine does not belong to us or to Europe or to Russia. It belongs to the hodgepodge that is The Ukraine - only they should have a say in this matter. Granted - a hodgepodge can be messy - one need look no further than the Middle East and how the Ottoman Empire was broken up and artificial lines drawn up on the map that did not take into account who were inside those lines. One can only wonder how much better off the world would be if the map had taken into account tribal lands instead of geographical and political lines.

It sounds like we're replaying 1939 all over again. England and France had no business 'giving' anything to anyone. 'Giving' in that sense is nothing less than capitulation - a 'move' that suits Obama/Kerry well and serves nobody but them. Substitute Sudetenland for Ukraine and its Déjà vu "all over again!"

I don't trust Putin one iota. Give him an inch and he'll turn into another Hitler. Given the feckless nature of the boneheads that currently run DC I don't see a good ending for this.

Who's next Mr. Chamberlain?


49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree. That's why US policy should be to promote a referendum on partition rather than to attempt to dictate it.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Trade Ukraine to the Russians?
I wasn't aware we owned Ukraine to be able to trade it.
Hmmm . . .

I remember another time the U.S. "traded" countries to the Russians in the name of cooperation and shared hegemony.
The result was the Cold War, with the Warsaw Pact and NATO.

Yes, Ukraine is a hodgepodge of ethno-linguistic groups.
Yes, it is pretty much just the leftovers after Poland, Russia, and Rumania settled on "permanent" borders, at the expense of Lithuania, Austria, the Ottomans, and each other.
Yes, it would probably do better if it were split up, perhaps even letting some sections merge with neighboring countries.
That doesn't mean they should be casually bought and sold, or that we should casually buy and sell them.

And as for how that will de facto justify Russia's imperial policies, sanctioning its establishment of exclaves hither and yon, and selective seizures of more, from Kalingrad to Transnistria to South Ossetia. Accede to Russian annexation of eastern Ukraine and the Crimea and you set the stage for Russia to nickel-and-dime its way back to claiming all of the former Soviet Union and more in the name of "protecting" Russian minorities/citizens anywhere and everywhere. From there it will be a short step from Putin declaring himself the "protector" of Slavic peoples everywhere, establishing hegemony over them and pursuing military options, just as Russia interceded to "protect" Serbia in 1914.
"Americans play monopoly, Russians chess" indeed.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (118)
All Comments   (118)
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Simple solution for the Ukrainians - sell Crimea to the Russians. You get rid of a bunch of troublemakers, get rid of your debt, and appease the bear, at least for a time. Devalue your currancy, lower and simplify taxes, and ride things out.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Being totally cynical and ruthless I am compelled to agree with Spengler's analysis.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
If Ukraine is melded back into the (new) Russian Empire, they must be stripped of their UN seat - we played this game before, and once was enough.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
What you don't see in the pathetic American media are the people in the eastern half of the Ukraine who WANT close ties with Russia. They don't fit the narrative, you see.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Russia's 15 billion dollars could repatriate a lot of ethnic Russians back to the Motherland from Ukraine.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Ukraine should vote on partition, to the very limited extent that it prepares the political battlespace for the upcoming civil war. The US should support pro-western forces with arms in that war.

The easternmost rim should be given a plebiscite on secession, Russia should be offered free 111 year leases on her naval facilities, and extraterritoriality for forces in transit corridors.

Regardless of the vote, Putin will not be satisfied with such, and war will ensue. Via Poland, covert support should be given the Ukrainians. If Russia objects in an effective fashion, Poland should receive NATO support, and if she does not, then the US should forward base our ETO forces in Poland, with NATO then effectively defunct.

If you think Putin will risk general war for the sake of keeping the whole of the Ukraine in Moscow's orbit, I think you are wrong.

If you think we have no national interest there, I disagree far more. Putin is determined to maintain the appearance of Russian international relevance, eminence even, by screwing with us wherever we are. We have no internal lines of communication to the world, Canada and Mexico excepted. Far better to occupy Putin where we have allies with firm grudges against Russia of long standing, and themselves a direct national interest in fencing the Bear. Perhaps Poland and Lithuania both are good candidates, I seem to recall the forces of Poland-Lithuania once did the West a very great service (not that there's any evidence they were much appreciated then either...).

If Russia insists on keeping a bone in it's nose, instead of adopting the very slightly more cultured political stylings of Rousseauan-Endarkenment Europe, then it should expect to see spears pointed at it wherever it lunges.

America, to the very limited extent it still represents actual progress in political economy--the spirit of 1776, the Revolution that Worked(TM)--as opposed to the imported and adopted Progressive political style of Europe; America has in interest in reducing the influence of every lesser political philosophy, because all others have in interest in reducing us.

Not that any of that means anything...Obama would not personally be opposed to Putin sailing untroubled up the Seine and Thames. He likely could not by internal political pressure be made to care.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's no way in the world the West is going to support armed civil war in Ukraine. You might as well ask for the Martians to intervene.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Worthless quisling. Ask any Ukrainian if it is a country or not.

Appease Putin, you worthless traitor. Maybe you can room with him in hell.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The gentle proposal was to let the Ukrainians vote on the matter. Either to remain together in this particular national entity, or part and go their separate ways. As they wish, and as they choose.......

On yer way out, want your hat?....'>>.......
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, the ungentle flavor of Goldman's writing was that the Ukraine should accept whatever comes, including Putin's tanks and boots.

No.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The West has two choices: draw a line in the sand around Ukraine, or trade it to the Russians for something more important."

Didn't we already try this after WWII by letting the Soviets "have" Eastern Europe? Mr. Goldman's idea sounds less like pragmatism and more like appeasement to me. Never appease a tyrant. Haven't we learned this yet?
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
From the lefty The Guardian:

Ukraine's western pro-European cities warn they could break away

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/21/ukraine-western-pro-european-cities-lviv?CMP=twt_gu
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Things to consider:

1) Kiev was the very ancient capitol of nascent Russia. More than a thousand years ago it was Kevian Rus, hence the name Russia.

2) Sevastopol is a critical warm water port containing a Russian naval base. The Russians will NEVER give it up.

3) Ukraine is the breadbasket of the old Russian empire.

4) Eight million people in the Ukraine are ethnic Russians.

5) http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2014/02/20140220_ukr7_0.png

6) Europe, both the EU and it's sovereigns, are toothless and couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag.

7) Beside Europe who else is going to intervene in a meaningful way?









49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Kiev was the very ancient capitol of nascent Russia. More than a thousand years ago it was Kevian Rus, hence the name Russia."--Viator

As if that matters. But if it will make you happy, go ahead and make Russia a satellite state of Ukraine. Ha ha.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"1) Kiev was the very ancient capitol of nascent Russia. More than a thousand years ago it was Kevian Rus, hence the name Russia. "

And before that there was no Russia. Oh for happier times!

"2) Sevastopol is a critical warm water port containing a Russian naval base. The Russians will NEVER give it up."

And if the Ukrainians are clever enough to offer for him to keep it, what of it?

"3) Ukraine is the breadbasket of the old Russian empire."

Two things come to mind. Russia should get used to paying the Ukraine for grain, and for the starvation Russia forced on the Ukraine within living memory, paybacks are a b!tch.

"4) Eight million people in the Ukraine are ethnic Russians."

Where a district border exists which is contiguous to the eastern border they should be offered to be let to be Russian.

"5) htt...png"

I'm of the impression we can sell them gas more cheaply than Russia can--and the more so by far if Russian gas comes with Russians.

"6) Europe, both the EU and it's sovereigns, are toothless and couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag."

Oh it's all academic, and not just the EU and it's sovereigns, Obama would not personally be opposed to Putin sailing untroubled up the Seine and Thames. He likely could not by internal political pressure be made to care.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Every Ukrainian guy I ever met, except for the Jews, thinks he is a gangster. The girls all dress like hoochies, except for the Jewish girls. Multiply that by a couple of million times and you have dysfunction. When I bring this up they advise me that Ukrainian men need to be strong to provide for their women.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
What's your point? You see this in any US city too. It's the result of cultural and economic rot and a general feeling of insignificance.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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