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Post "Wake Up, Europe": George Soros on Ukraine, Putin
Created by John Eipper on 11/03/14 1:57 AM

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"Wake Up, Europe": George Soros on Ukraine, Putin (Paul Levine, Denmark, 11/03/14 1:57 am)

WAIS readers may be interested in George Soros's article on the Ukraine published in the New York Review of Books.

Are European elites still asleep at the switch? During the Cold War, critics alleged that some European countries believed in "peaceful non-existence." Now failures in EU governance and the rise of neo-nationalistic parties suggest that many in Europe want to pull up the drawbridge surrounding Fortress Europe.

Are we entering a period of a new isolationism in which the virtues of Globalization propounded by pundits like Tom Friedman are being reassessed?


JE comments:  I urge WAISers to read Mr Soros's essay for its message, not its messenger.  Soros notes the rise of "Anti-Europe" neo-nationalist and neo-isolationist parties throughout the Continent, while Mr Putin takes advantage of the situation by re-introducing the geopolitics of force.  And at least in the short term, Putin seems to be winning.

Several of Soros's points merit further discussion, but I'd like to highlight one:  the possibility that Putin may dangle the carrot of a Grand Bargain, Russian help in the fight against ISIS in exchange for international recognition of its annexation of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.  Soros cautions against making such a deal.  What do WAISers think?

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  • Soros on Putin (Tor Guimaraes, USA 11/03/14 12:35 PM)
    In response to Paul Levine (3 November), I keep warning everyone not to mess with Putin. The man is resourceful, determined, and has been emotionally wounded by the US fooling around in Eastern Europe.

    Cameron Sawyer and I have bemoaned in this Forum the lost opportunity for the US to have had a strong partnership with Russia in the immediate past. Instead we chose to play a more antagonistic role by trying to establish an anti-missile system in Poland, intervening socially and politically in Ukraine, and in general just trying to encircle Russia ever more closely. I am sure we had great intentions for Europe: more freedom, more democracy, motherhood and apple pie. Well, Putin's reaction has been strong: give me back Crimea, stronger ties with China, and God knows what else. Whatever it is will not be good for the already heavily indebted US.

    Why can't we just have a UN-observed plebiscite in Eastern Ukraine with the understanding that whoever wins becomes the government in charge with no further military actions on either side? This idea that Putin is going to hold back promised shipments of S300 to the Syrian government as Russia's olive branch to the US, strikes me as heavy wishful thinking. Russia so far has not taken lightly its commitment to Assad, and I doubt it is going to flip to give the US continued air supremacy.

    All of this confusing military monkey business in Ukraine and Iraq/Syria provides too much of an opportunity for a major escalation on both sides. Imagine for a second that the Republicans take the Senate, and perhaps in two years take the White House. Someone like Dick Cheney and his neocons can really have open wars in a much wider set of countries that we have today, including one with Russia. Can we afford that? What is going to happen to the American middle class which is already under severe pressure? Stop this madness, there is no plausible reason for it.

    JE comments: Note that Mr Soros's essay is not far from the neocon position.  For some this might be shocking, but traditional ideology goes out the window when it comes to Putin.  Granted, Putin himself has no ideology beyond old-school nationalism and a thirst for ever greater power.

    Once upon a time, the US did blow its chance to form a close alliance with Russia.  But Russia shouldn't be held blameless, either.  The "fear of encirclement" argument was also used to explain away the Kaiser's bad behavior in 1914.

    How do you say Einkreisung in Russian?

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  • Soros on Putin (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 11/03/14 2:31 PM)
    With reference to the post of Paul Levine (3 November), good old (for his great knowledge and wisdom, and not for real age) John E knows how to deal with Soros when he writes, "I urge WAISers to read Mr. Soros's essay for its message, not its messenger."

    I do not like Soros at all, as I remember his speculations against the Italian Lira in 1992. And as it happens, I don't like his essay either.  To me it smacks of the ususal Western imperialist bla bla: "we are Good and they are the Evil, so anything that destroys them is good."

    NATO should have been disbanded when the Warsaw Pact disbanded.  Instead, the West tried to encircle the new Russia by installing or trying to install military bases in the former Soviet republics. Moreover, through their proxies, they supported Islamist rebels in the Caucasus (the madness that started in Afghanistan continues to this day). From a defensive localized military pact, NATO turned into a global offensive pact.

    Now it would be much better to try to get Putin into a kind of association with the EU, as it once seemed possible through the friendship with Berlusconi, instead of enacting such self-defeating (at least for Italy) sanctions. Furthermore, Russia could be extremely helpful in fighting against IS, providing that its interests in Syria are respected and also that the self-determination of the Russophones of Ukraine is respected.

    Ukraine will be much better without a hostile minority within its borders, and we (Italy) will not have to pay the huge bill, which unfortunately, probably, will not be limited to money.

    JE comments: The big question is whether an agreement can be reached with Putin that doesn't smell of "appeasement." For now, this doesn't seem possible.  Fear of encirclement, the need to save face, local squabbles turning into a global crisis--isn't 2014 starting to look like 1914?

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    • Personal Update; Is 2014 Starting to Look like 1914? (Hall Gardner, France 11/04/14 8:20 AM)
      I have finally completed my next book, The Failure to Prevent World War I: The Unexpected Armageddon to be published by Ashgate in the spring of 2015. Over the past few months I have been able to go through a good bit of internal French documentation which I don't believe has been adequately explored by historians and which I hope raises some questions as to the deeper origins of the conflict. It is not the same book as it was a few months ago. And there is still much more to explore! Anyway, we shall see when the reviews come out!

      As per John E's question of 3 November, as to whether the "[Russian] fear of encirclement, the need to save face, local squabbles turning into a global crisis--isn't 2014 starting to look like 1914?" I would say yes!

      Perhaps more like period before World War I than the period before World War II, in which the possibility of major power war appeared more imminent than in the period before July-August 1914, the Russian annexation of Crimea has raised the question as to whether the US and Europeans should pursue a geostrategy toward Russia that seeks to place geostrategic, military and political-economic pressures on Moscow in an effort to force it to relinquish Crimea, much as the French under Delcassé and Poincaré had hoped to pressure Germany to relinquish Alsace-Lorraine before WWI, at least by peaceful means through a policy of "encirclement," if possible.

      Or should the US and Europeans engage in a strategy more like that urged by Jean Jaurès that would attempt to keep the door open for the US and Europeans to work more positively with Moscow in an effort to "internationalize" Crimea, so as to jointly guarantee the security and development of the entire Black Sea region through international security guarantees--and in the process of forging what was then called the "United States of Europe" (with respect to France, Germany and Great Britain) or what can be now called a "Euro-Atlantic Confederation" (with respect to Europe, Russia and the United States)?

      I would suggest that the former path of "encirclement" will lead to disaster; Russia will not back off or break up peacefully as did the former Soviet Union. At the same time, a 21st-century version of the Jaurès strategy will not prove easy to implement, and will confront considerable eastern European opposition to any effort to work with Russia--not to overlook doubts and skepticism inside Moscow itself. The obstacles are not entirely insurmountable, but peace will only be achieved if the growing lack of trust between the US, Europeans and Russia can soon be overcome. This will require an entire re-thinking of American and European global strategy toward Russia--and concrete steps toward a new rapprochement.

      Hope all is well with WAISers--even if the world seems to be on the verge of cracking heads once again!

      Now to begin working on the next book: Crimea: Prologue to Global War?

      JE comments:  Hall Gardner has been quiet in WAISworld, but he's certainly been busy!  (Great to hear from you, Hall!)  Since the Great War has become something of a hobby for me, I had the chance over the summer to review the manuscript of Hall's Unexpected Armageddon.  It is an exhaustively researched study into Europe's geostrategy prior to 1914.  Hall convincingly deconstructs both Fritz Fischer's "Prussian Bellicosity" thesis, as well as its antithesis, the notion that World War I broke out accidentally due to factors beyond anyone's control.  Among other factors, Hall forces us to reconsider the contribution of French revanchism to the establishment of the two alliances that would clash in August 1914.

      I'll be sure to post the announcement when Unexpected Armageddon is available to the public.

      Hall's next book, Crimea: Prologue to Global War? is a risky scholarly endeavor.  Should the present crisis blow over in a year or so, then the book will become obsolete.  And if global war does erupt, Hall will be hailed as a prophet--but the cost is too horrible to contemplate.

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