American and Western interests in Ukraine don't involve the democracy and integrity of the country

Ukrainian quagmireThe U.S. is in a Ukrainian quagmire. What exactly is their interests in Ukraine? What is our interests as a whole? Given our reaction to Russia over their takeover of the Crimean Peninsula, I would assume our interests are much greater than admitted.

The West reacted on day one of Russia’s intervention, especially the United States. Carrying the mantel of previous administrations, the Obama Administration came out strong in condemnation of Russia and its actions in Crimea. I could only therefore assume that the United States possessed some strong geopolitical interest in swaying Ukraine away from Russia.

I wrote a piece previously detailing what Russia’s interests were in Ukraine and Crimea. Now I’ll try and break down what I’ve seen, and learned about Western (mainly NATO) interests there.

The United States is a nation that, while talks of free-market democracy, clearly maintains power interests in the world around it. American lawmakers balk as if Russia was some gigantic gargoyle that poses an imminent danger, which could be half true depending on the perspective taken. Yet, America by-far has little to say in regards to the foreign policy ventures of other nations.

The US has nearly 1,000 bases for military use worldwide. Russia, by contrast, has a handful of bases inside nations of the former USSR, and only two outside of that sphere (listening station in Cuba, and a naval dock in Syria). America contains far more military outposts across the globe, and is always open to expansion. We have a military-industrial complex by the way, and a new cold war will generate money for those industries.

It is important to understand what the United States’ interests in Ukraine are. From a policy standpoint, we would not be getting so involved unless we felt there was some major interests at stake. The US has two major interests, perhaps even a third.

Ukrainian quagmireOn Economics, Ukraine represents major potential. It is the gas-pipeline bridge between Eastern and Western Europe, carrying Russian gas into hungry Western markets. Ukraine depends a great deal on Russian gas for its own market, let alone what its pipelines carry to Europe.

What the US and EU have desired is strategy to wean Ukraine away from Russian fuel dependence, as well as using Ukraine’s pipelines to further strengthen Western Europe’s economic position over Russia.

Europe is not naive to the fact that Russia will use its energy resources as a lever of control against them, and has done so in the past. But, the EU being what it is, was unable to formulate a united front against Russian interests. Former Warsaw Pact states currently in NATO push for very aggressive policies against Russia, while nations like Germany, France, and the UK have been sinking their pockets deeper into Russia.

German companies have over $22 billion invested in Russia. Russia is a huge market for German exports, especially cars and appliances. France has recently made deals with Russia as well, including a deal to sell warships to the Russian navy. The UK is known well as Russia’s main foreign financial hub, where British Banks eagerly stash and handle the cash of Russian billionaires and oligarchs.

Russian billionaires affectionately refer to London as “Moscow on the Thames.” Many EU countries conduct hefty business with Russia, which has caused a major problem in EU planning circles. This is now especially true in Ukraine.

The United States’ interest in swaying Ukraine, economically, away from Russia is to further strengthen NATO and Europe’s position. To create stable, dominant, energy supplies coming from alternate sources outside of Russian influence. This is also where geopolitics comes into play.

The US has long desired to see Ukraine and Georgia become part of NATO. Ukraine especially. Because of Ukraine’s position on the Black Sea and its numerous pipelines leading to Europe, it would serve useful for the Western Alliance to have a nation like Ukraine in its corner. It weakens Russia’s position as the dominant actor in the former USSR.

Russia’s naval base at Sevastopol is still a lingering issue. Many pro-Western Ukrainians desire to see Russia’s fleet leave Sevastopol. Those same individuals also desire entry into NATO, and some desire the introduction of US and/or NATO bases in Ukraine to counter Russian influence.

I understand the main reason we are supposed to be heavily involved in Ukraine is because we feel the “democracy” and “integrity” of Ukraine is at stake. Well, I hate to shatter the fairy tale, but democracy and integrity are in jeopardy in dozens of nations. US planners would not get so vested in the issue unless they felt something could be gained or lost. The same could be said for Russia’s position.

Obviously Putin doesn’t care too much about “self-determination” and is merely getting involved in Crimea out of opportunity. Since revolutionaries overthrew the government Moscow liked in Kiev, Putin felt he had to take drastic action to shock Ukraine into compliance. Indeed, Ukraine still faces a rocky situation. Frankly, so does the West.

Ukraine is nearly bankrupt, and will need roughly $35-$40 billion in the next couple of months in order to stay solvent. Russia had an agreement with former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich on an aid package, but Moscow has since rescinded that deal since the Maidan revolt. Kiev’s new government turned to the US and EU for aid, but it isn’t clear if they will follow through.

The EU is very divided and reluctant to take on another serious economic project in Ukraine or upset its relations with Russia. While the US is really limited on what it can do alone to harm Russia. Without a united front from the entire European Union, Russia will escape this whole crisis with a mere slap on the wrist. As things are progressing now, I don’t foresee Crimea returning to Ukraine any time soon.

The main problem in Ukraine now is the West has no cohesive strategy on how to respond to Moscow effectively. Western planners  did not expect Russia to be as resurgent as it is, and most preferred to ignore clear signs that Russia was not going to conform to the Western system. For better or worse, Russia has made clear that it is different and has separate interests from the West.

The U.S.  left its planning on Ukraine mostly to the EU, which produced no results. The Orange Revolution in 2004 did not end corruption or cronyism, and instead merely had a pro-Russian government re-elected in 2009 under Viktor Yanukovich. It is unclear how effective this new Maidan Government will be in Kiev. Bankrupt with little options, Kiev must rely on the West. And it will come at the price of steep austerity, with Ukraine already planning to slash welfare and benefits greatly to attract IMF investment.

As of now, it seems there is little the U.S. can do to stop Russia. There is no real consensus on how to act. The West miscalculated Russia’s resolve in Ukraine. Thier poor planning has left the new government (we sponsored) vulnerable and the Russian’s with a free hand to stoke further tension. Ukrainian Russian populations are continuing to protest against Kiev, and if Kiev decided to crackdown hard, then Russian tanks could easily follow. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has admitted that it only has around 6,000 troops ready for combat.

The West is in a Ukrainian quagmire and there are no good solutions to the conflict at hand.

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