Obama vs. Putin - Ukraine a Modern Day Guan Du?

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Re: Obama vs. Putin - Ukraine A Modern Day Guan Du?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Mar 06, 2014 6:50 am

I agree with pretty much all of that, heck the Lords debating the issue before it all went south was pretty going "don't do something stupid Ukraine... don't do something stupid...don't...don't". I find Hague going "well he fled the country so is no longer leader" something that might bite us in the rear someday

Poland may be better brokers and yeah, I don't see major sanctions coming. Maybe a few placed visa bans, maybe some triffles get sanctioned but the need for oil will stay the hand.
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Re: Obama vs. Putin - Ukraine A Modern Day Guan Du?

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:27 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:True but we have been showing a bit of ankle, with some careless rhetoric, to Ukraine in recent years so nothing being said would be seen as walking away. Then add all the eastern countries in or talking about joining who may be less then pleased at everyone else shirking/being powder-puff. Also I think EU countries feel some sort of responsibility/connection for things in their own back yard and that they feel what happens in Ukraine will hit rest of Europe.


This is hardly a new situation, and, to be perfectly blunt, you've (we've?) had more than enough time to correct course on it. I was saying four years ago that we in the OECD / EU / NATO shouldn't be making military or economic promises we can't keep to the ECA countries, particularly those in Russia's near-abroad, when our own moral credibility on just such issues is already shot to pieces. The EU's now doubly so, since you guys were essentially twisting Ukraine's arm with an incredibly bum deal for their economy - what did you expect they were going to do?

And the whole 'credibility' idea grates me the wrong way. 'Looking tough' is for poseurs, and likening international affairs to pro wrestling might be entertaining, but it's got very limited explanatory power and results in even worse policy. If they were going for real credibility, the EU should have gone all in, called Russia's bluff on their aid package and shown some actual generosity to the Ukrainian people in the process. They didn't.

Dong Zhou wrote:Poland may be better brokers and yeah, I don't see major sanctions coming. Maybe a few placed visa bans, maybe some triffles get sanctioned but the need for oil will stay the hand.


Poland's a big part of the problem. I was not impressed with their brokering of the EUAA for Ukraine, and even less so when their parliamentarians began directly taking part in the street protests. Will Rogers once said that there are men running governments who should not be allowed to play with matches - that applies doubly so for the Poles.
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Re: Obama vs. Putin - Ukraine A Modern Day Guan Du?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:46 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:This is hardly a new situation, and, to be perfectly blunt, you've (we've?) had more than enough time to correct course on it. I was saying four years ago that we in the OECD / EU / NATO shouldn't be making military or economic promises we can't keep to the ECA countries, particularly those in Russia's near-abroad, when our own moral credibility on just such issues is already shot to pieces. The EU's now doubly so, since you guys were essentially twisting Ukraine's arm with an incredibly bum deal for their economy - what did you expect they were going to do?


Agreed.

WeiWenDi wrote:And the whole 'credibility' idea grates me the wrong way. 'Looking tough' is for poseurs, and likening international affairs to pro wrestling might be entertaining, but it's got very limited explanatory power and results in even worse policy. If they were going for real credibility, the EU should have gone all in, called Russia's bluff on their aid package and shown some actual generosity to the Ukrainian people in the process. They didn't.


It would seem rather hard to do deals or make agreements, get listened to and carry out diplomacy if you have no credibility. If the rest of Eastern Europe looks at you and considers your word worthless, your not going to do well in Eastern Europe.

I'm not sure the second part would have been about credibility, more about handling the Ukraine deal better. As would have been calmer rhetoric when Ukraine's leader went with Russia's deal

WeiWenDi wrote:Poland's a big part of the problem. I was not impressed with their brokering of the EUAA for Ukraine, and even less so when their parliamentarians began directly taking part in the street protests. Will Rogers once said that there are men running governments who should not be allowed to play with matches - that applies doubly so for the Poles.


I was more thinking Poland is the big EU power in the east, I stand corrected.
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Re: Obama vs. Putin - Ukraine A Modern Day Guan Du?

Unread postby Jordan » Thu Mar 06, 2014 7:16 pm

I agree with WWD albeit with some caveats. It is true that the United States and other NATO members generally have no moral high ground to stand on when it comes to preservation of a country's sovereignty. There are numerous examples of Western countries violating basic principles of sovereingty. The list is too long to go over, but it certainly would include the various invasions carried out throughout the Middle East and the drone strikes in Pakistan. These, among many others, were conducted with little calculation regarding the sovereignty of other countries. The United States in particular also has an active interventionist history in Latin America.

That having been said, there is still a maxim of "two wrongs don't make a right." Unfortunately, this maxim is difficult to enforce on an international basis. Only a neutral party could justify the concept and no such neutral parties actually exist. Even the United Nations is not an entirely neutral party as its interests are heavily dominated by Western countries such as the United States, the UK, France and Canada.

I feel that some temporizing should be attempted with Russia. I feel that the problem with the current conflict is that the third parties on the periphery (e.g. US, EU, Canada) are too willing to wag the finger at Russia and too unwilling to consider the situation from Russia's point of view. When the latter does happen, it too often devolves into a cynically realist interpretation of economic greed. That's not the entire story behind Russia's intervention of the Crimea. There are clear cultural and historical reasons for Crimea in particular to be invaded. For truly reasonable and fair diplomacy to take place with Russia, this needs to be recognized. It needs to be realized that Russia feels obligated to protect Russian citizens outside of the country itself. Furthermore, it has long-standing connections to former-Soviet Republics and the Russian people within them in general. On the other hand, it is not right that Russia utilized military force to resolve the problem.

I think third-party intervention is not entirely impossible and could even be beneficial if done diplomatically.
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Re: Obama vs. Putin - Ukraine A Modern Day Guan Du?

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Fri Mar 07, 2014 6:13 am

Dong Zhou wrote:It would seem rather hard to do deals or make agreements, get listened to and carry out diplomacy if you have no credibility. If the rest of Eastern Europe looks at you and considers your word worthless, your not going to do well in Eastern Europe.

I'm not sure the second part would have been about credibility, more about handling the Ukraine deal better. As would have been calmer rhetoric when Ukraine's leader went with Russia's deal.


On the one hand I concede your point and accept the correction, and on the other hand I think we might be speaking past each other.

When I talk about moral credibility and things of that nature, what I mean is that we keep what promises we do make. I agree with you that that's important. What I can't stand is this attitude amongst American pundits and diplo wonks that we have to 'look tougher' than Putin, and that how our military might is perceived around the world is the important thing.

Jordan wrote:That having been said, there is still a maxim of "two wrongs don't make a right." Unfortunately, this maxim is difficult to enforce on an international basis. Only a neutral party could justify the concept and no such neutral parties actually exist. Even the United Nations is not an entirely neutral party as its interests are heavily dominated by Western countries such as the United States, the UK, France and Canada.


I would agree - ideally. But we're looking at a situation in which Western powers have been manipulating Ukraine's civil society from the beginning, up to and including hiring snipers as an act of provocation to undermine the legitimate government of Yanukovych. And given that the new government is ideologically repulsive in the extreme, I see no reason why we should recognise it as legitimate in this case. I don't want to see a 'neutral' party deal with the Nazis, I want to see the Allies and the resistance deal with them.

Jordan wrote:I feel that some temporizing should be attempted with Russia. I feel that the problem with the current conflict is that the third parties on the periphery (e.g. US, EU, Canada) are too willing to wag the finger at Russia and too unwilling to consider the situation from Russia's point of view. When the latter does happen, it too often devolves into a cynically realist interpretation of economic greed. That's not the entire story behind Russia's intervention of the Crimea. There are clear cultural and historical reasons for Crimea in particular to be invaded. For truly reasonable and fair diplomacy to take place with Russia, this needs to be recognized. It needs to be realized that Russia feels obligated to protect Russian citizens outside of the country itself. Furthermore, it has long-standing connections to former-Soviet Republics and the Russian people within them in general. On the other hand, it is not right that Russia utilized military force to resolve the problem.


Well, there's military force, and then there's military force.

Russia's invasion of Crimea was not like our invasion of Iraq, or even like Russia's own invasion of Georgia six years ago. From what I've been given to understand, the Russian troops stationed at their naval base basically just showed up in Sevastopol and waved the flag for a bit, then left matters in the hands of the local militias. The Russians essentially took Crimea without firing a shot, and it isn't like Crimea didn't want them to be there. Let's be clear at least that there are degrees of wrongness here, and Russia's current military action doesn't look any more egregious than its past ones, let alone ours.
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Re: Obama vs. Putin - Ukraine A Modern Day Guan Du?

Unread postby Boydie » Mon Mar 10, 2014 12:52 am

My simple minded analysis of the way this is playing just now, is that Putin has pulled the right move at the right time.

On the back of a financial crisis, the western governments have weakened their military spending and reduced the actual fighting power of their forces. Several countries to the west and south of Russia are addicted to the flow of energy from the Rodina and have their mouths firmly welded to the teat of the pipeline; especially Germany. The UK and US are war weary, both militarily and among the civilian population, and have no appetite for another costly conflict in a country far from home soil.

Whilst I firmly believe that NATO would take its Article IV and V obligations seriously, as long as Putin does not threaten a member nation they will do very little except register their umbrage with a stiff letter to the Kremlin, possibly followed by another stiffer letter if the first doesn't make any difference.

So if the Russian forces stay within the Crimean peninsular, Putin will be seen as a scandalous duplicitous rascal, who is no direct threat to us and therefore will get away with his salami slicing. After all, they 'are only protecting their own military installations and preserving the well being of an ethnic Russian minority in the face of a possibly aggressive revolutionary Ukrainian government.'
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Re: Obama vs. Putin - Ukraine A Modern Day Guan Du?

Unread postby Boydie » Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:16 pm

A few more points I want to put across...

None of these Western leaders are Putin's equals. He can run circles around them.

The likes of Cameron, Hague, Obama, many EEC politicians etc have never had real jobs in the real world. In many cases they have led well-off, protected lives which bear little resemblance to those lived by the majority of the population.

Putin grew up in the post WW2 Soviet Union. The Soviets were determined that events like the Great Patriotic War would never happen again and that any future wars would be fought outside the Soviet Union. Putin grew up under this system and spent 16 years in the KGB. He has first hand experience of the cold war and how the intelligence services work in the real world.

I suspect that he has a far greater understanding of the real world, how things really work and how to use power than the bunch of clowns we have in charge.

Western politicians think of their own positions first, and the short term objectives second. The Russians on the other hand tend to favour a strong leader and, in any case, they also tend to take a longer term view in their planning. Putin knows what he wants to get out of this and while waving a big, heavy stick, will probably not want to use it if he can avoid doing so. He only has to hold on until the limited attention span of western politicians is distracted by the next crisis.

Personally, I think that Russia will do more to stablise the situation than the west. The real danger as I see it is unaccountable EEC politicians poking their noses in where they have no right, supporting an unstable, right wing/neo-Nazi Ukrainian nationalist government and stirring things up with no real thought or understanding of what they are doing. This whole mess is going to bite the EEC in the arse.
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Re: Obama vs. Putin - Ukraine A Modern Day Guan Du?

Unread postby James » Mon Mar 17, 2014 6:19 pm

Boydie wrote:A few more points I want to put across...

None of these Western leaders are Putin's equals. He can run circles around them.

The likes of Cameron, Hague, Obama, many EEC politicians etc have never had real jobs in the real world. In many cases they have led well-off, protected lives which bear little resemblance to those lived by the majority of the population.

Putin grew up in the post WW2 Soviet Union. The Soviets were determined that events like the Great Patriotic War would never happen again and that any future wars would be fought outside the Soviet Union. Putin grew up under this system and spent 16 years in the KGB. He has first hand experience of the cold war and how the intelligence services work in the real world.

I suspect that he has a far greater understanding of the real world, how things really work and how to use power than the bunch of clowns we have in charge.

Western politicians think of their own positions first, and the short term objectives second. The Russians on the other hand tend to favour a strong leader and, in any case, they also tend to take a longer term view in their planning. Putin knows what he wants to get out of this and while waving a big, heavy stick, will probably not want to use it if he can avoid doing so. He only has to hold on until the limited attention span of western politicians is distracted by the next crisis.

Personally, I think that Russia will do more to stablise the situation than the west. The real danger as I see it is unaccountable EEC politicians poking their noses in where they have no right, supporting an unstable, right wing/neo-Nazi Ukrainian nationalist government and stirring things up with no real thought or understanding of what they are doing. This whole mess is going to bite the EEC in the arse.

What constitutes a ‘real leader’? Is it their ability to exploit weaknesses in foreign countries to take what they want? The ability to demonstrate strength to foreign countries? A governmental structure that allows for such things to be done more fluidly without the population and other government branches gumming up gears?

Where does controlling flow of information to the populace through censoring the media fit into the equation? Censoring the internet? The wealth, prosperity, opportunity, and healthcare of the populace? Actions such as sending unmarked troops into another country to facilitate one’s own national interests while at the same time suggesting to journalists in a ‘conversation’ that those are not, in fact, Russian troops? Where does international law, diplomacy, and the sovereignty of other nations fit in?

If your idea of a ‘real leader’ is someone who brings a KGB mentality and methodology to government and interaction with other countries and their own population, complete with associated pros and cons, then you’ve got your man.

But if I were going to define a ‘real leader’ it wouldn’t be that.

Not that other world leaders—other countries and their own histories—are without their own egregious faults. They’re not, and the United States is certainly no exception. But Putin’s actions are not the sort I can imagine celebrating, nor is Russia the sort of country I could imagine placing on a pedestal to which other countries should aspire.

As for Ukraine, if only Ukraine itself and the Western world would throw up their arms and step aside, Russia certainly could stabilize the region. That would probably involve annexing the Crimean Peninsula (this would have likely happened even without sending in armed troops) and installing a pro-Russia puppet government for the remainder of Ukraine. What’s to celebrate here, though? The notion that instability is grounds for another country to use military force to push events in the direction they desire? There certainly is a population in Ukraine which would celebrate a Russian affiliation and sympathy, but another segment of the population is disgusted by such a thought. One imagines there are also plenty who would love to see a sovereign Ukraine which can bargain independently with both Russia and the West, but international meddling was muddying those waters long before Ukraine entered the West’s news cycle. Without Russian involvement, sure, there’s a genuine concern from a fascist element in the uprising, and those in power do not represent a chunk of Ukraine’s population—there are serious problems—but those problems are not the sort that should allow someone to celebrate international military intervention.

And even if someone is inclined to celebrate such a thing, they have no business condemning the West for international military involvement in the same breath.
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Re: Obama vs. Putin - Ukraine A Modern Day Guan Du?

Unread postby Boydie » Mon Mar 17, 2014 7:34 pm

I say 'strong leader' in Russian eyes.

The West doesn't seem to grasp how important the concept of homeland is to the average Russian. He's brought a big chunk of the Rodina 'home' - a powerful legacy for any Russian ruler, they paid for it with a lot of blood between 1941 and 1945. There is a very large minority who will feel their country has been stolen out from under them. He's made the West look utterly ineffectual currently. Let's face it Obama, Bush 1 and 2, Clinton, Cameron, Blair and Sarkozy aren't going to give the Kremlin much pause. Abandoning Georgia to its fate did not set a great precedent either.

Strategically, he's caused a major power shift in the region. Politically, he's put the Kremlin hawks amongst the wannabe European Pigeons in the former republics. No former republic with a significant Russian population will dare piss him off now they know the much vaunted West will do nothing, nor come to their aid, no matter what treaties they've signed.

Our Western leaders rather talked this one up when we weren't prepared to walk the walk. The way forward from here seems workable if all parties calm down:

If you care to wargame walking the walk without getting most of Europe killed, make a plan; perhaps firstly draw a red-line for potential NATO involvement; west bank of the Dnepr would seem a safe and sensible bet, as I doubt Putin intended to cross it anyway (way, way too messy). Accept Crimea has gone of more or less its own volition. Then start grown-up negotiations on Eastern Ukraine that guarantees absolute security for the Russian population (Russian red-line), but within existing borders (Western Red-line); exact degrees of autonomy freely negotiable.

Then, in slower time, make sure that you have capable NATO forces in Poland that can make good on the Dnepr red-line and that Russia sees you put them there. At the same time, keep a tight State Department/Foreign Office leash on the bright ideas coming out of certain national agencies regarding "setting Ukraine ablaze"; the excuse Russia needs to tear up anything agreed previously.
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