The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

81° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: The U.S. has been screwing up in Ukraine, and it could get worse

About a year ago, a conversation between Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, was intercepted with ease by Russian hackers. The conversation revealed the United States’ shameless promotion of a violent coup in the country of the president who had been elected democratically in fair, internationally-monitored elections.

In his analysis of the transcript of these two top State Department officials’ conversation about how they are working behind the scenes to support the illegal coup of the legal ruler of a sovereign nation, the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus notes, “The US says that it is working with all sides in the crisis to reach a peaceful solution, noting that ‘ultimately it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future.’ However this transcript suggests that the U.S. has very clear ideas about what the outcome should be and is striving to achieve these goals.”

Nuland, according to the released audio of a portion of the conversation, displayed her cynicism of (or outright disregard for) international law, the sovereignty of European countries and the national interest of Russia — the country with the second most powerful military in the world, the most nuclear weapons and a penchant for behaving unpredictably and violently when backed into a corner.

“He’s now gotten both Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday,” she said. “So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, fuck the EU.”

Our Ukraine policy since has displayed an ever-increasing level of hypocrisy and disregard for our allies’ and Russia’s interests.

This is an embarrassment for the U.S. It reflects an astounding level of hypocrisy and lack of respect for our allies, whom we have convinced to lose tens of billions of dollars of trade with Russia by implementing sanctions — while American trade with Russia has actually increased 7 percent, said John Willerton, associate professor of political science and expert on the region.

With pro-Russian rebels breaking the second ceasefire and capturing the strategically important town of Debalsteve, however, there is a growing chorus of voices, especially from Republicans, for the U.S. to provide offensive arms to the government in Kiev.

This would be a potentially disastrous mistake. While it is unlikely this would lead to war with Russia and the potential nuclear holocaust that could follow, even the most remote possibility should prevent us from engaging in another international adventure that provides little potential benefit.

“Any open-upping of assistance will only precipitate more of the same from Russia,” Willerton said. “Russians don’t want Russian troops in Ukraine, but if they see Donetsk and Lugansk threatened by a Kiev regime bolstered by foreign forces, they’ll support outright intervention.”

Willerton noted that great powers like Russia will inevitably have spheres of influence and said “no country is more important to Russia than Ukraine. Canada and Mexico don’t have that level of meaning to the U.S., and even in these cases one can’t imagine the U.S. permitting either neighbor to join a military alliance from which it is excluded.” 

To expect this of Russia is madness.

Russia feels backed into a corner. After the fall of the USSR, it was under the impression — whether or not a verbal guarantee was made is a point of contention — that NATO would not expand east of West Germany and especially not into Former Soviet Republics.

Instead, it has expanded to include many former Warsaw Pact countries and even Former Soviet Republics, such as Lithuania and Estonia, countries that border Russia.

Former pro-Russian president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was poised to bring his country closer to Russia and perhaps join the Eurasian Union, but the West wouldn’t accept the actions of the country’s legitimate president. So, we turned the Maidan protests into a coup.

Now, we expect Russia to not only accept that loss but also to allow the most important country to Russia’s national interest to join the EU and NATO — a fate that many Ukrainians in the East have taken up arms to avoid.

Willerton said that on the battlefield, “Eastern Ukrainians have gained the advantage … captured Kiev equipment, their morale is much better … but there is no give from Kiev regarding some sort of federal solution,” so he “[expects] a return to very fierce fighting soon.”

This will only increase the calls for military aid. It is profoundly important that President Barack Obama’s administration restrain itself and not escalate the situation. This means allowing Russia to turn the Donbass into another “frozen conflict” zone that will prevent Ukraine from joining the EU or NATO, just as it did by using nationalist movements to carve off pieces of Georgia and Moldova.

When the best alternative is subsidizing backwards economies that have nothing to offer the EU or the U.S., and the worst alternative being World War III, we will just have to swallow this bitter pill.


Martin Forstrom is a senior studying sociology and Latin American studies. Follow him on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search