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Post What Is Best for the Ukrainian People?
Created by John Eipper on 02/12/22 9:56 AM

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What Is Best for the Ukrainian People? (Cameron Sawyer, USA, 02/12/22 9:56 am)

Paul Pitlick wrote:

"In all the folderal about Ukraine, I haven't seen any mention of what might be best for the people of Ukraine. The focus is on Putin. I'm thinking that he might actually be a better leader of his country than our previous president was of ours."

In my several posts on the subject, the interests of the Ukrainian people were always front and center.  

Naturally, one can't consider the question of what to do about the Ukrainian crisis, without considering this, from a moral as well as practical point of view.  Ukraine as a state will likely have to buy into whatever deal which might be struck, so naturally that deal must be beneficial to the Ukrainian people. 

And what, indeed, are the interests of the Ukrainian people? 

1. Not to be used by the West as a stick to poke Russia in the eye.  That is what the West has done with the Ukrainians so far.  We helped engineer a violent coup in Ukraine. which put into power an unelected government in which neo-Nazis and fringe ultra-nationalists played a large role; as a result of which Russia invaded and tore off Crimea, and destabilized Donbas and started a civil war there.  That was bad enough--in front of the Ukrainian people.  But we just keep on going.

2. We encourage certain elements in Ukraine to think that Ukraine might one day join NATO and the EU, which enrages Russia without any prospect for the Ukrainians that it will actually happen.   In fact, we do this only to enrage Russia--there's not a snowball's chance in hell that NATO will ever undertake to guaranty Ukraine's security, or that the EU will ever take in the poorest and most corrupt country in Europe, when it is still struggling to integrate other poor members.  Playing around with Ukraine like this serves only to divide Ukrainians against each other (a majority or large minorities of the Ukrainian population are against NATO membership in any case, even in times like these), and create enmity between Ukraine and Russia.  Which of course is why we do it.

3. The interest of the Ukrainian people is most certainly not to be invaded by Russia and to be either annexed or turned into a puppet state.  Ukraine may have never been a country before over the centuries, but after 21 years of independence, Ukraine is a country now, and deserves her independence and deserves to govern herself.   We have created a situation with our intransigence which leaves the Russians with nothing to lose by invading and annexing.

4. The Ukrainian economy is deeply interconnected, for a long list of historical reasons, with Russia.  The West cannot substitute what Ukraine gets from Russia--a market for goods which have no market elsewhere (especially, components of Russian military and industrial goods), components of its own industrial goods, natural gas, etc. etc. etc.  The Ukrainian people need peace with Russia and free trade.  We are doing everything to destroy that.

5. Half or more of the population of Ukraine have family ties in Russia.  The Ukrainian people need to have open borders and peace with Russia, in order not to tear those families apart.

6. The Ukrainian people need peace and free trade with the West, so that they can choose their own path of development.  Once Russia invades and annexes Ukraine (or turns it into a puppet state), this option will be closed off. 

In short, everything we are doing is against the interests of the Ukrainian people.  But we never cared about that-- Ukraine means nothing to us, except as a means to poke the Russians. 

I sure hope I'm wrong--I pray I'm wrong--but I think the invasion will come pretty soon now.  The Russians have nothing whatsoever to lose by doing it, relations are already as bad as they can get, a military response by us is explicitly off the table, so why wouldn't they?  We are willfully ignorant about their security concerns, and they have this means to solve those concerns unilaterally, so why wouldn't they?

JE comments:  A fortnight ago (January 25th) Cameron Sawyer presented a 10-point proposal to resolve the Ukraine crisis, with an emphasis on the best outcome for Ukraine.  Possibly the greatest obstacle is the West's refusal to recognize Russia's legitimate concerns about NATO-EU expansion.


A question I've never asked before:  Could there be any possible advantage for NATO to include Ukraine?  The liabilities are obvious:  taking on an impoverished and war-torn country, and "promoting" Kiev to the same level of defense commitment, as say, as Brussels or London.

(WAIS is launching about seven hours late today--another Denial of Service attack.  As always, my hat goes off to Roman Zhovtulya, who is on call nearly 24/7.  Thank you, Roman!)

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  • Are Ethnic Russians in East Ukraine Souring on Moscow? (Geoffrey Jensen, USA 02/13/22 3:33 AM)
    Greetings, everyone.

    As a brand-new member of WAIS, I've found the readings on the Ukraine-Russia situation to be especially interesting. Although I'm certainly not an expert on that part of the world, I have to wonder if we need to pay more attention to how the Russian and Ukrainian sentiments have evolved with time, especially since the conflict began.

    Last weekend's Wall Street Journal ran a long article suggesting that many of the ethnic Russians in the eastern border areas of Ukraine have soured on rule from Moscow and Moscow-supported authorities, especially in areas where Kyiv has lost effective sovereignty. According to the article, which was from the normally reliable regular news--not the opinion--section of the WSJ, many Russian speakers and sympathizers in these areas who originally supported Moscow have changed their views, in large part because of the poor government and economic decline they have experienced.

    Thoughts, anyone? My point is that maybe we need to keep in mind that the perceptions of the "people"--whether Ukrainian, ethnic Russian, or whatever--are not always as static as we often seem to think. Again, I'm not an expert on public opinion or any other aspect of this part of the world, but I'd be interested to read the views of those who know more.

    JE comments:  It's a joy to welcome Geoffrey Jensen to WAIS!  Geoff is John Biggs '30 Cincinnati Chair in Military History at Virginia Military Institute, and comes to us through the recommendation of Sasha Pack.  I'll introduce Geoff more formally later today.

    For those who can breach the WSJ paywall, here is the article.  Occupied Eastern Ukraine was once a driver of the national economy, and is now destitute and dependent on Russian subsidies.  The upshot: in a region of the world we understand so little, it is an oversimplification to assert that all of Ukraine's ethnic Russians are in favor of "(re)unification" with the Motherland.

    Dismal Russian Record in Occupied Eastern Ukraine Serves as Warning - WSJ

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    • Ukraine-Russia Conflict Has Nothing to do with Ethnicity (Cameron Sawyer, USA 02/14/22 8:03 AM)
      John E wrote on February 13th:

      "In a region of the world we understand so little, it is an oversimplification to assert that all of Ukraine's ethnic Russians are in favor of ‘(re)unification' with the Motherland."

      I'm not sure who ever said that. "Ethnic Russians" are not a clearly defined group in Ukraine. It's not defined by language, as about half of Ukrainian citizens speak Russian at home, and Russian is the predominant language for written communication in Ukraine, with most newspapers, television, and internet resources in Russian.

      It's not religion.  Most Ukrainians of whatever ethnic background are Orthodox, with the Uniate ("Greek Catholic") Church having significant adherents only in the far Western part of the country, and even there it's less than 30% of the population. And there are very many mixed families. And there are very many people with Ukrainian family names, in Russia. So ethnic identity in Ukraine is a relatively fluid concept, and it is my impression that there is very little ethnic nationalism in Ukraine, resulting from a rather low level of ethnic identity, despite the attempts of nationalists to stir up these feelings together with corresponding hatred for other ethnicities. Opinion polls back this up; even in Western Ukraine, the center of Ukrainian nationalism, less than 20% of people had anti-Russian views before 2014. See: https://www.newsweek.com/what-do-russians-think-about-ukrainians-and-vice-versa-627653

      Nor is there any significant amount of ethnic hatred towards Ukrainians, in Russia. Very many Russians, especially those in the Western and Southern parts of the country, have Ukrainian relatives. An interesting data point, which will help WAISers better understand the crisis --only 16% of Russians, in one opinion poll from last December, blame Ukraine for the crisis. 50% blame--the US See: https://www.levada.ru/2021/12/14/obostrenie-v-donbasse/ .

      A large plurality of the surveyed people opined that the US and NATO countries initiated the crisis. Interestingly, an absolutely majority of those surveyed considered actual war to be unlikely.

      I was in Cape Verde last month, off the coast of West Africa, having sailed there from Spain on the way to the Caribbean. I met and made friends with a Ukrainian family there and spent some happy evenings with them. I overheard them discussing the current crisis, and heard one of them saying, "What an idiotic situation; we are one people after all." Just one data point.

      Ukrainians are a distinct people, with their own language and culture, but they are very close to Russians.

      Negative attitudes in Ukraine against the Russian state, which have grown by leaps and bounds since 2014, are by and large not formed on the basis of ethnicity. They are formed on the basis of feelings that Russia should not be allowed to destroy Ukraine as a state. Ukrainian citizens don't need to consider themselves ethnically Ukrainian, to have this feeling.

      JE comments:  The second link doesn't seem to be active, but others might have more success.  When it comes to computer stuff, the Ukraine crisis, and our beloved WAIS, I always get paranoid.

      The latest "buzz" says the invasion may come in two days, on the 16th.  Let us hope the buzz is nothing more than hot air.

      Cameron, you sailed across the Atlantic?  I'm in awe.  Please tell us more.  With photos, even better.

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