Friday June 09, 2023

War over Ukraine

January 22, 2022

As Moscow signals its apparent readiness for war over Ukraine, the US government seems determined to ignore Russia’s not-so-ridiculous concerns over the military alliances of neighboring states and the prospect of nuclear weapons on its borders. Should Americans worry about our country inserting itself into another war?

Ukraine is far away, and Russia isn’t directly threatening us. Nonetheless, the US intends to arm and support Ukraine if it comes to war, and there can be no certainty whether a proxy war might escalate. Nuclear powers need to tread carefully around each other. Let’s look at the US response to Russia’s insistence that Ukraine not join NATO, the US-dominated military alliance that Russia wants to keep out of its immediate periphery.

Washington rejects that demand. The US representative at talks with Russia recently declared it to be among America’s ‘bedrock principles’ that there be ‘no tolerance of overt or tacit spheres of influence, no restrictions on the sovereign right of nations to choose their own alliances.’

Contrary to these noble statements, America has long deemed it a bedrock principle that the United States has a sphere of influence: all of North and South America!

Remember the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ you learned about in high school history? In 1823, President James Monroe warned European nations that the entire western hemisphere was our turf and that they entered it at their risk. The nature of that risk became all too clear in 1962, when Cuba tried to exercise its ‘sovereign right’ to choose its own alliance.

After the US tried to overthrow its government, Cuba chose to ally with the Soviet Union and let the Russians put nuclear missiles in Cuba. The US response was to bring the world to the brink of nuclear war rather than accept the Soviets’ move into our sphere of influence. So much for ‘bedrock principles.’

The US now proclaims it a ‘bedrock principle’ that Ukraine, at least, can make an alliance with whomever they want, Russian sensibilities be damned. But suppose Mexico decided to join the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Russian-sponsored counterpart to NATO? Can anyone imagine the US would quietly acknowledge Mexico’s right to do so?

The fact that a country considers it a prerogative to limit the destiny of its neighbors doesn’t make that right, whether it’s the US or the Russians doing it. Ukraine has the right to defend itself, the right to conduct its internal affairs as it pleases, and the right not to be dismembered by a powerful neighbor.

However, it’s a sad reality of international affairs that powerful nations tell themselves that they (but no one else) have the right to meddle in the affairs of weaker neighbors.

Avoiding war doesn’t necessarily mean that the rights and interests of smaller nations have to be abandoned. But practically speaking, the path to peace does require mutual accommodation by all parties. Finding the right accommodation may not be easy.

It is not unreasonable for the Russians not to want a hostile alliance – and potentially nuclear weapons – along their border. But Russia’s key interests do not reasonably include dismembering Ukraine.

Excerpted: ‘Making a Case Against the US Going to War Over Ukraine’