Monday, February 24, 2014

Ukraine and America's Unkept Promise(s)

The United States of America has a piss-poor record when it comes to keeping its promises. Whether it be promises made to the indigenous peoples regarding their vested rights in the land, promises made to newly-freed African Americans about '40 acres and a mule,' promises to the Vietnamese to pay reparations (politely termed 'compensation' in the historical documents) or promises to close the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the U.S.A. can be trusted about as far as you can throw it. Which is to say, not very far at all.

During all the tumult in Ukraine over the weekend, few paused to reflect upon yet another broken promise in a long trail of American perfidy. Few paused to remember that President George H.W. Bush promised Mikhail Gorbachev that if Gorbachev allowed the USSR to dissolve peacefully, NATO would seek no expansion into Eastern Europe. 25 years later the record is clear: Gorbachev kept his promise, but the USA has welched on its word yet again.

This time, the consequences could not be more serious for those with an understanding of the region and its history. Russia quite rightly can regard Ukraine (which has its origins in the word 'border') as vital to its national security interests, far more than the U.S.A. can regard, say, Alaska as vital to its national security interests. In history and demographics, Russia can with no small justification claim that Ukraine is the western-most province of Russia.

But over the weekend, we had to listen to the American National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, bleat that the U.S. government "supports the Ukrainian people" (as though the prominence of unabashedly proud fascists among the coup instigators is not readily apparent) and listen to her lecture Putin on 'grave consequences,' should he intervene there militarily.

Well, if I were the Ukrainian people, I'd be very leery of believing anything issuing from an American official's mouth. Instead, I'd be remembering how the British promised to support the Czechs before agreeing to give Hitler the Sudetenland. Because, see, once you've broken one promise, no one is required to give credence to any further of your promises. You are instead revealed as risible realpolitkers whose machinations would have Bismarck recoiling in disgust, once he stopped laughing at the absurdity of our hypocritical pretensions.

Note: I am indebted to Eric Margolis for reminding me of Bush Sr.'s promise to Gorbachev 25-some years ago. Margolis' column is a must-read, in my opinion:

Margolis' Column

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