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Spengler

The West’s Ukrainian Folly: Wisdom from an Old Cold Warrior

March 20th, 2014 - 2:50 pm

Back when Reagan ran things, we didn’t blather about sanctions against Russia. We used clandestine methods to sabotage its natural gas exports and other key functions. The largest non-nuclear man-made explosion in history, the 1982 Russian natural gas pipeline disaster, was one of the results. A mastermind of this well-documented operation (and some other yet-to-be-documented operations) was the director of planning at the National Security Council under Richard Allen and William Clark, Dr. Norman A. Bailey, who held the title of special assistant to the president. Bailey employed a small team of contractors to obtain intelligence on areas of interest, and I worked for him between 1981 and 1983 on a number of projects, in particular monitoring German politicians and their backers at a time when Europe was inclined to cut a deal with the Soviets rather than take on the evil empire.

Dr. Bailey was my mentor in geopolitics. He told me in late 1981 that the Reagan administration would bring down Communism by 1987 through a massive military buildup and economic competition. I thought he was crazy, so I signed on immediately. Now semi-retired in Israel in a hilltop villa overlooking the Mediterranean, he was the consummate Cold Warrior. After leaving government he formed a consultancy with former CIA Director William Colby and advised multinational corporations.

I received an email from him today on the Western response to the situation in Ukraine and obtained his permission to post it. Dr. Bailey writes:

Granted that hypocrisy is the mother’s milk of both domestic and international politics, but the outcry from Europe and the United States over the Russian seizure of Crimea really is beyond the pale.
The current provisional Ukrainian government is the product of a coup d’état.
Crimea was transferred to Ukraine in 1953 by Khruschchev (who was born in Ukraine) without asking anyone in the Crimea whether they wanted to be transferred or not.  Even former Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev stated, “…Crimea was merged with Ukraine…without asking the people and now the people are correcting that mistake.  This should be welcomed rather than declaring sanction.”
Russia will have no more access to the Mediterranean from Crimea now than it already had under its long-term lease on the naval base in Sevastopol.
As to forceful detachment of territory from a sovereign state, Kosovo was separated from Serbia through the U.S. and European bombing of Serbia until the Serbs agreed.
Finally, despite fierce rhetorical condemnation of the Russian takeover, the sanctions applied with much fanfare are so weak as to be ludicrous and are taken as such by the Russian government.  Russia has much more leverage over Europe than Europe has over Russia.  If Russia were to place an embargo on oil and particularly gas exports to Europe, the Europeans would run out of reserves in two months and then the European economy would shut down.  Russia, in contrast, would merely lose $7.5 billion of revenues.  U.S.-Russian trade is tiny so that trade sanctions by the U.S. would be meaningless.
 As to possible financial sanctions, Russian officials are prohibited from having assets abroad in any case, so that the “freezing” of their assets in the U.S. amounts to nothing at all, despite the monumentally exaggerated declaration of a  “state of emergency” and incredibly weak sanctions taken as a result of a threat to the “national security”.  In response, Russia is reported to have withdrawn $100bn in U.D. treasury bonds.  As to the Europeans, their assets in Russia are three times Russian assets in Europe.
In other words, all the trade and financial leverage is on the side of Russia, not the West.
But most significantly, and a perfect illustration of what may result when the various effects of policies adopted and measures taken are not properly calculated, the reaction of Europe and the U.S. to the Russian takeover of Crimea ensures no Russian cooperation on any meaningful agreement with Iran concerning their plans to achieve the means to produce nuclear weapons.  Indeed, Russia has just agreed to provide Iran with another nuclear power plant.
It can thus be confidently foreseen that sooner or later, and probably sooner, Iran will achieve nuclear weapon capacity.  What should Israel do?  It realistically has two options–attack Iran’s nuclear facilities militarily, which Defense Minister Ya’alon now says he is reconsidering, or take the defensive measures necessary to make sure that Israel is prepared if and when Iran succeeds in miniaturizing its nuclear weapons.

The real Cold Warriors understood that crushing the Evil Empire of Communism required us to take into account the interests of Russia as a nation. The elder statesmen who won the Cold War, including Henry Kissinger (whose opening to China flanked the Soviet Union), are trying in vain to inject a note of sanity into the clown show that passes for American foreign policy on both sides of the aisle. The Republican mainstream mistook Tahrir Square for Lexington Common, and then mistook Maidan for Tahrir Square. If only we were rougher and tougher, it is claimed, Crimea would be free today. That is just plain stupid; there is no possible state of the world in which Crimea would not be Russian. We had some ability to influence the terms under which it would be Russian, and we chose the worst possible course of action, namely open hostility combined with impotent posturing.

We have an elite that lives in its own virtual-reality world circumscribed by a failed ideology, unable to learn from its past mistakes (or even to admit that they were mistakes) and condemned to repeat the same blunders again and again. They posture at Putin the way a small boy stands up to the zoo lion behind cage bars.  The lion, though, is not entirely without alternatives, as the alarming case of Iran should make clear.

What we will get in Ukraine, I might add, is something like what we got in Egypt. While both the Obama administration and Sens. McCain and Graham (along with the likes of Reuel Marc Gerecht at the Weekly Standard) bet on the Muslim Brotherhood as the voice of Islamic democracy, Egypt’s economy collapsed. The IMF tried to get Egypt to cut the food and energy subsidies that consume its budget, and Egypt refused. Eventually the economy crashed and the military came back by mass popular acclaim. Ukraine isn’t quite Egypt (it exports rather than imports food), but its economy is busted, and the West has sent the IMF in once again. That’s a formula for chaos. Putin won’t take over Donetsk or Karkhov. He doesn’t have to. He’ll wait for the West to make an unspeakable mess of Ukraine and then do whatever he wants.

Just fifteen years ago America was the world’s only hyperpower. Now we’re flailing. You can’t simply lose that kind of power. You can only dumb it away.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I can't help but think from the general tenor of the comments that all you conservative rightwing types are living a complete fantasy in regard to Russia and the USA.

You seem to think we are the boss!

This is nonsense and has been for many years now.

Russia will have powerful support from all the leftwing and totalitarian leaning governments of the world, including China. These states hate the USA, an uncompromising hatred built up with years of propoganda demonising the enemy without to unify the people within.

In contrast the USA governments have fed their people pap for years, encouraging them to live in an identity politics fantasy land and believe that they are citizens of the world. Yeah right, tell that to the rest of the world!

In addition the USA will not be able to rely on Europe, it is reliant on Russia for gas and oil, and has always had a strong left wing section of their population. They are weak militarily and culturally, they will be unable to defend themselves. They are citizens of the world too!

As to the character of the respective governments, their will to win in any fight, the democratic west, Europe and the USA are morally corrupted. The west is made up of interest groups who resemble nothing more than a bunch of idiotic clowns screeching at each other at what is left of the money. They no longer believe in God or country, only the next thickshake. Could they fight a war, like the First or Second World Wars? Short answer, not a chance.

And if you think technology will save you, you are once again dreaming. A corrupted divided population cannot be trusted, and there are probably many Snowden's with a grievance.

I always loved and was proud of America as a young man, until I realised they were exporting violence and debauchery around the world and murdering their own unborn children by the millions. America had the power to stop it, but in the end became the vehicle which promoted it.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Just fifteen years ago America was the world’s only hyperpower. Now we’re flailing. You can’t simply lose that kind of power. You can only dumb it away."

Well, there's dumb and then there's Pajama Boy and Mom Jeans Daddy to scare off the Russian bear.

We're men, we're men in tights
Our pajamas have footies
Our jeans are skinny and tight

We're men, we're men in tights
We rob from the rich
By passing our laws at night

We throw and bowl like sissies
But dissent and the IRS
Will take away all your rights

We're men, we're men in tights
We draw lines in red
And erase them
In political fright

We shoot like pansies
But holding a rifle
Is a photo op
Out of sight!

We're men, we're men in tights
A he-man like Putin
Will tremble
At our sanctioning might

We're men, we're men in tights
We wander the world
On apology tours
Alinskyite!

We're men, we're men in tights
Our pajamas have feet
Our jeans are so extra tight!

We're butch!

38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I think we are way past the point ...."

I agree that BHO has done terrible harm to the reputation of the US.

But where do we go from here? We function in a closely connected global strategic and economic environment and can't just stick our heads under the pillow.

I'd say that we are in the position of the penitent adulterous husband or recovering bankrupt. We will have to work long and hard to get our reputation back.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (83)
All Comments   (83)
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Admittedly, we are not what we once were. But that's not say that we can't be that leader of the world we once were. It's not going to come from our "leaders". Those people are merely the guest MCs for the bread and circus spectaculars we need for them to put on to keep us occupied. If there's enough time, it'll come from those few brave souls out there who say "No. That's enough." If there are enough of those to put steel in the spines of the rest of us, we may overcome. If not, what difference does it make?
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
One must remember that Reagan was a real Commander in Chief, unlike the current and past two bozos who have been in the whitehouse. It is also noteworthy that Reagan's administrative staff were also known to be more competent than those of the current and past two presidents.

The only thing that can be said about the first Bush was that he was the resume president.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Think its ok for Mexico to express concern about its illegals in the USA? How about this posted piece in pjmedia.
Moscow Expresses ‘Concern’ About Treatment of Ethnic Russians in Brighton Beach
Will the Russkies annex Little Odessa?

http://pjmedia.com/blog/moscow-expresses-concern-about-treatment-of-ethnic-russians-in-brighton-beach/
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nice plakatmotiv.
The approach will be a general pressure on all fronts and exploiting cracks.
They play Go, not chess.
From a Go position analysis, if he holds Crimea, there is no need to take donetsk Kharkov, etc. They are already his.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The 1980's are calling now and want to know if we'd like to borrow their President"
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
The 1800s are calling and they want their world back.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dear Spengler,
A theological question.
I live now in Jerusalem and when visiting the Grand Canyon two summers ago I had the opportunity to say the blessing for seeing exceptional natural phenomena. It seems to me that there should be a blessing for witnessing incompetence on a scale as huge as that and as exhibited by the current administration. The only blessing I can find in my Artscroll Siddur that would seem to apply is the one for hearing unusually bad news, i.e." Dayan HaEmett" . Would this be appropriate, do I need a ruling or is it self-evident or do we need a liturgist to come up with something more appropriate.
Baffled in Jerusalem
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Above my paygrade. Consult your favorite posek.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sound foreign policy must begin with an understanding of the world as it is, not how we would like it to be. The Obama administration first approached Russia with a "reset button" that rejected Russia as a formidable, even if weakened force, while signalling out willingness to make nice. This was insulting to the Russians, who saw themselves as a formidable force and so began our dance with a real bear.

It strikes me that the beginnings of the "reset" button was the 1960z nx 1970s mindset that saw the current generation in government reject our involvement in Vietnam as a sham fabricated out of a phone incident in the Gulf of Tonkin. The incident may have been phony, but the war was real, a distinction with a difference.

Nonethieless, America's withdrawal from Vietnam confirmed to those involved, like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, that their worldview was correct and the view of American's establishment was wrong. Fast forward to today and we have the 70's protesters now running our foreign policy with the same simplistic view of the real world.

The United States has made many mistakes in their foreign policy and in their role as the world's de jure policeman, but the result has surely been far better than the alternatives. No need to debate that assertion. We will can see the results daily.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Once again, sense and sanity.

Putin is who he is, and Russia is what she is. Neither are wanting to conjure the Soviet Union from Reagan's good fight. They know what was lost, and are glad for it. They also know, soulfully, what remained. Breathing life into that has been difficult, and not without its dangers. But a resusciated Soviet Union is not *soulful*, and that is what the West does not understand -especially fellows like Mr Radosh!

A Russia restocking its closet with Russian coiture needs to be watched, but not with the telescoping microscope the media has glued it's all-seeing eye to. Nothing is seen but refraction reflected.

I was an Eastrern Orthodox Christian before . . . .That immersed time has been more helpful than all the breathless commentary staling the air now - except for Mr Goldman, and a few precious others.

NOTE: Do not mourn for the Crimean Tartars,St Sergius of Radonezh would not. Not understanding that means you do not understand Russia.

Which brings us to this: Do not worry much about Russia assisting Iran in its nuclear program. It is is all gamesmanship, nothing more. If there is one thing Russia fears that is an armed Muslim Horde. China knows that we'll, so does Israel. And so does Islam's Jihad; public or secret signatures among those three - Russia, China,, and Israel - is the Jihad's nightly nightmare. May even hazard the guess that when Israel decides to strike Russia and China - especially Russia - will get a heads-up before Washington. Unlike Obama's Washington Russia and China understands the centrality of the sense of place.

Of course we're talking about Jerusalem! Unlike the weary and wasted Left of Eorope and America Moscow and Beijing understands how Jewish Jerusalem is. The larger reality of the world revolves around that moral truth; if there is such a thing as cosmic politics it is that.

Tehran knows that all to well - that in the end, Jersalem is, as it always has been, God's Jewish Footprint.

And finally, and do not underestimate Russia's sense of sin and shame (regarding certain things): one though filled with contradiction. Above all else Russia must attend to that- for its salvation. Putin thinks upon such - don't you, Mr Putin?

38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Finally some common sense on the matter.

WE LIED to the Russians when we said we wouldnt surround them with NATO bases/missiles after the dissolution of the USSR. We have done exactly that, and Putin finally reacted. Properly, I might add.

Putin 2016!
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well written essay.

The proper way for Crimea to go back to Russia was a plebiscite. It would have been 60 / 40.

Using force opens up too many cans of worms. Taiwan and the Japanese had better worry.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
That was Wilson's remedy to nationalism after WWI.

How did that turn out?
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wanted a constitutional referendum in Ukraine, not unilateral Russian action (which is as deplorable as it was predictable).
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
we essentially used Open Force to oust the legally elected President of Ukraine via coup.

WE were in the wrong.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't think it's that simple. A lot of people went to Maidan for different reasons, but what seemed to unite them was a desire to leave the Russian orbit. We ended up with a coup -- the will of the people? Which people? We probably will never know. If Lvov wants to leave the Russian orbit and Crimea wants to stay in it, better to have a decent divorce.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bill Clinton spent the Peace Dividend and Obama spent it all over again.

(There never really was a Peace Dividend, but there was and is a lot of spending!)
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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