Sioux Center, Iowa – If we simply read the headlines of the mainstream news media, one would get the impression that Russia is the next big bad Nazi Germany (see Hillary Clinton’s statement about Putin). Such denouncements of the Russian invasion of Crimea highlight the hypocrisy of the U.S. government in foreign policy. In face, the Ukrainian crisis has showcased some of the most blatant hubris of the American empire to date.
President Obama recently stated that “there will be costs” for Russian intervention into Ukraine, that “the world is largely united in recognizing that the steps Russia has taken are a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, their territorial integrity — that they’re a violation of international law”. The U.S. government doesn’t ever seem to care about international law when it invades and attacks other countries or overthrows regimes. And yet U.S. officials have the guts to lecture other countries about the types of intrusions the U.S. government itself commits. Secretary of State John Kerry stated “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.” What?! It was only recently that the U.S. was preparing for an unjustifiable and unwise war in Syria on false pretense. Does one even need to mention the unjustifiable War in Iraq that Kerry voted for? For the West, the Russian invasion of Crimea took them by surprise – and that’s an embarrassment for the “leaders of the free world.”
As Stephen Kinzer has noted, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. government has pursued a policy of expanding control and influence into the former Soviet bloc. The U.S. has expanded NATO membership into many countries in Eastern Europe and the Baltics. The U.S. has set up military bases in close proximity to Russia’s borders. The U.S. has been seeking to expand NATO membership into former Soviet nations such as Georgia and Ukraine. What exactly had Russia done to warrant this sort of expansionism on part of the U.S.? With the notable exceptions of the South Ossetia War and Russia’s recent invasion of Crimea, Russia has made no visibly threatening actions towards its neighbors. The U.S. is seeking to deny Russia the ability to resist the American military footprint on its borders. It would logically follow that Russia would see this policy as an aggressive and imperialist attempt by Washington to “encircle” their country. This policy has sowed the seeds of a new Cold War.
Prior to the recent overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, the U.S. government funneled money into Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, financing NGOs that helped to change the Ukrainian government. The recent political conflict in Ukraine has been spawned over two major political groups: Western Ukrainians who wish to expand it’s ties with the European Union and Eastern Ukrainians, a majority of which are ethnically Russian and wish to expand and keep their historic and traditional ties to Russia. Yanukovich was offered to either have Ukraine become part of a customs union with Russia or to become part of the EU. Yanukovich, who is more inclined towards Russia, halted the process of joining the EU’s geopolitical project. It would not be long after this decision that Western Ukrainians began to protest the Yanukovich’s government.
The U.S. funneled more money into NGOs that were influencing, and in some cases directing, the protesters in Kiev, many of which turned to violence. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt were caught in a phone conversation discussing their plans to influence the next Ukrainian government. Eventually the U.S. and the EU got what they want when president Viktor Yanukovich fled the country and a new government was installed. The U.S. and the EU celebrated this as a triumph of democracy.
The unrest in Ukraine is a natural concern for Russia, given its proximity and history between the two nations. Eastern Ukrainians – concerned that their new government would begin to oppress them since they identified themselves more with Russia – began to demonstrate their support for Russia, with the flags of Russia being raised by the authorities in Crimea. Shortly after, President Yanukovich requested Putin send troops into the Crimea to “restore order”.
U.S. meddling in the affairs of Ukraine and the other countries of the former Soviet bloc – along with the policy of expanding the U.S. military presence in the region has made Russia resentful of the United States and played a hand in the decision to send troops into Crimea.
The best course of action by the U.S. would be to take is the noninterventionism lessons of America’s Founding Fathers who advised the U.S. to stay out of the entangling alliances of the world, to be peaceful and friendly to all countries, and to trade with them. It would require that the U.S. remove it’s heavy military presence in Eastern Europe and the rest of the world while reorienting the our military to simply defend our country from legitimate attacks here at home. We should seek to promote the ideals of liberty by setting an example for the rest of the world to follow instead of trying to impose democracy on the world by force.
Allow self-determination to be the rule in Ukraine. As the events in Ukraine have demonstrated, it is impossible for millions of people to live under the same central government. If eastern Ukrainians wish to secede from the other half and join Russia, they should be allowed to do so. People should not be forced to live under a government that they do not approve of (a lesson that Americans need to remember themselves). A splitting of Ukraine into a loose confederation of states seems to be the best option for restoring peace and prosperity to that country. Ukrainians are the unfortunate victims of both U.S. and Russian interventionism. Neither country should dictate what is best for another sovereign nation.