The story, according to the news media:
The good people of Ukraine, yearning for freedom and prosperity, seek a closer relationship with the European Union. But the government of Ukraine, with it’s President supported by the Russians, wants a close relationship with Russia. The matter came to a head during the last week of the Winter Olympics, and the government was thrown out. The new provisional Ukraine government wants a new relationship with the European Union, which would also bring billions in aid.
Meanwhile, the Russians have moved into the Crimea, a peninsula in the southeast of Ukraine that is ethnically Russian and the site (for years and years) of a Russian/former Soviet naval base. The troops don’t carry Russian insignia, and when pressed, Russia indicates that they’re merely protecting their interests and the Russian population.
So we’re led to believe that the provisional Ukraine government stands for freedom and constitutional democracy, and all good things. It’s a good story.
And if I believed it, I might feel differently. But I wonder:
- Are our hands clean in this exercise? Or did we put the Ukrainians up to it?
- It appears that this provisional Ukraine government is made up of the worst kind of right-wing reactionaries–the spiritual if not physical descendants of the Ukrainians who stood with Nazi Germany in the 1940s. Why are we supporting these people?
- The government that was deposed had been validly and noncontroversially elected. What is the justification for throwing them out?
- If Ukraine joins the European Union, they will indeed get aid. But most of the aid will be in the form of loans that will have to be paid back. Ukraine will have to take austerity measures to be able to repay the loans, like Greece.
- Is this a ploy to acquire for the Europeans (and deny to the Russians) Ukraine’s coal and natural gas?
- If the people of Ukraine understood the dimensions of the issue, would those in favor of joining the European Union still be enthusiastic about it?
Once upon the time, we were the strongest and most productive nation on Earth. We could and did go meddling in the affairs of other countries not only because we could do it, and we thought it was right, but because we could withstand the consequences of our actions. The rest of the would couldn’t do very much to hurt us. And we had enough common sense not to mess around in our adversary’s home turf, which, in fairness, might result in consequences that we couldn’t shuck off.
But we’re not the country we were fifty years ago, nor even during the Reagan administration. The Russians can inflict far more severe consequences on us than we can on them, because we are hugely and catastrophically in debt to the rest of the world.
The best thing we can do in Ukraine is to leave it alone.