Friday, March 14, 2014

Kerry Gives Russia An Ultimatum On Ukraine - And Forgets Something

US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered an ultimatum to Russia today, warning of 'serious repercussions if Russia doesn't reverse course by Monday.'

What he wants, apparently, is for a referendum scheduled in Crimea for this Sunday over whether to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation to be canceled.

Secretary Kerry is meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov in London tomorrow to discuss things further, or to be non-diplomatic about it to tell Lavrov what the U.S. and EU plan to do if the Russians don't comply.

As Kerry put it, “There will be a response of some kind to the referendum itself,” Kerry said. “If there is no sign [from Russia] of any capacity to respond to this issue ... there will be a very serious series of steps on Monday.”

While what Kerry means is remains to be seen, a few things here are a given.There's no doubt that Russia wants the Crimea back, if for no other reason than to continue to control its warm water naval base at Sebastopol. They are also obviously stage managing the referendum, although since over 60% of the Crimea's population is ethnic Russian, it's questionable whether they even need to.

It's also true that back in 1994, Bill Clinton, John Major, Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma – the then-leaders of the USA, UK, Russia and Ukraine - signed a treaty, The Budapest Memorandum, that guaranteed Ukraine's borders in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear arsenal.

So on the face of it, it certainly does seem like Russia is totally in the wrong - and then, I remembered something that occurred after The Budapest Memorandum that almost certainly changed things in Russia's eyes.

Let's go back a few years...remember Kosovo?

For those of you who have forgotten, this was a mixed Muslim and Serb Orthodox enclave that became part of Serbia when Yugoslavia imploded, and was later the scene of heavy fighting between Serbia and the Saudi,Libyan and Iranian funded and armed Kosovar Liberation Army(KLA). The fighting stopped in 1999, due to heavy intervention on America's part that occurred, just by coincidence, right in the middle of President Clinton's problems with perjury and obstruction of justice. As part of the agreement that ended the fighting, Kosovo's sovereignty was likewise guaranteed in international law, UN Security Council Resolution 1244, passed in June of 1999.

That UNSC resolution stated explicitly that Kosovo would remain part of Serbia under any circumstances while allowing Kosovo a large degree of internal autonomy. It also stated that there would never be any kind of unilateral settlement enforced on the Serbs without their agreement.

Meanwhile, the ethnic cleansing of Christian Serbs in Kosovo by the Muslim KLA continued without the NATO peacekeepers doing much to stop it. And in February of 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in defiance of UNSC Resolution 1244. Both the EU and the U.S. recognized Kosovo within one day.

The Russians and Serbs were absolutely livid at America and the EU not only breaking the agreement that ended the fighting in Kosovo, but the blatant disregard for international law. As the Russians pointed out at the time, this set a horrible precedent, and they called on the UN to enforce UNSC Resolution 1244 and the 1999 treaty they had signed. They were ignored.

This cost America a huge of amount of credibility and political capital with the Russians, and affected their willingness to cooperate with us on issues like Iran. And it turned Serbia, historically an ally of the U.S. into a relatively hostile country.

When Vladimir Putin hears John Kerry talk about the sacredness of international law, Putin undoubtedly remembers what happened with Kosovo when the shoe was on the other foot.

While I don't particularly care for Putin's stage managed referendum in Crimea.I like even less what we did in Kosovo just to pander to the Saudis and GCC countries and distract from the fallout over the games Mr.Bill was up to in the Oval Office. We didn't even bother to hold a referendum in Kosovo...we just allowed the Kosovars and the KSA to ethnically cleanse the Serbs, recognized them as a country and that was that.

Anyone whom thinks that wasn't what Kosovo was about ought to take a good look at who financed most of the Clinton presidential library and examine how ex-President Clinton became a multimillionaire after he left office due to his business connections with the Emir of Dubai.

The whole idea of 'international law' tends to be fairly flexible, depending on what and who is involved and the willingness to enforce it, especially when it comes to the UN. After all, one of the foundations of any law is that it applies equally to everyone. The Israelis, who have consistently been the recipients of that kind of blatant bias could tell you quite a bit about that.

I realize that bringing this up is unpopular just now. But if we're going to talk to the Russians about breaking treaties and international law, it might be better to acknowledge, at least to ourselves that our own hands aren't exactly clean and that instead of ultimatums, some honest horsetrading might yield a better result.

UPDATE: Apparently the ultimatum tactics didn't work so well. Especially not coming from Kerry via the likes of Barack Obama.


B.Poster said...

"I realize bringing this up is unpopular now." Why exactly is it unpopular. I represents an argument against the type of "get tough" approach with Russia that could lead to war. Since the American people are largely opposed to this, it does not seem to point the facts surrounding Serbia would be unpopular. In fact, the contrary would seem to be the case.

As for Serbia, this was one of the dumbest foreign policy moves we've made. As you point out, it changed a historic ally into a hostile country. Also, it created a Muslim enclave within Europe and to top it off it p!ssed off Russia. If this was done by team Clinton to distract from impeachment, this would be extremely disconcerting.

Given our serial blunders with regards to foreign policy, it's hard to imagine anyone trusting anything we say or do at this point. I think you're correct in pointing out that we would do well to acknowledge our past transgressions such as with Serbia. Perhaps that might help to restore some of our credibility. Then perhaps we could "horse trade." To make this easier to read more will follow in the next post.

B.Poster said...

I'm not going to argue the relative strengths and weaknesses of each side at this time. Research of the topic has revealed that the US may have some financial tools at its disposal that perhaps I had not considered.

Lets say we "horse trade" with Russia. What's this going to look like. A careful read of pro-Russian media of which there is plenty will reveal the Russian demands as follows. 1.)As part of the agreement negotiated between Gorbachev and Reagan to end the Cold War, the US agreed that NATO and the US would not expand into former Soviet or Eastern Bloc countries after the Soviets vacated. 2.)The Soviet military forces vacated these areas. 3.)The Reagan/Gorbachev agreements were reaffirmed by George H.W. Bush. 4.)The Russians are okay with this. After all from their perspective the Cold War is now over. There's really no reason for NATO now. 5.)The Reagan/Gorbachev agreements were then violated by President Clinton and continue to be violated to this day. 6.)the current Russian government believes US sponsored NGOs are trying to undermine and overthrow the Putin led government. 7.)NATO bases are surrounding Russia with the intent of undermining it. 8.)The US is sponsoring a coup in Ukraine to try and deny Russia the valuable buffer it needs for its defense.

Additionally, the situation with Ukraine according to these sources unless the US and its "allies", at a minimum. back off from support for the Ukrainian coup (their perspective) this will lead to war. Should it lead to war the US appears to have a substantial edge in conventional military capabilities and it has options available to it through the world financial system to punish Russia. On the other hand, Russia appears to have a significant edge in strategic and tactical nuclear weapons and unlike the American people, the Russian people are highly supportive of their nation's military actions in this endeavor (at least if the reports are to be believed.) Since the words of Russian government officials usually mirror the points presented in the pro-Russian press, it would seem reasonable to conclude that this is the position of the Russian government.

With this in mind, often times when people negotiate there is a middle ground. What kind of honest to goodness horse trading do you think could be done here?

B.Poster said...

Sorry about multiple posts here but from the perspectives presented by the pro Russian media which usually seems to end up almost identical to those sentiments expressed by Russian officials it seems to me that, at a minimum, if war is to be avoided as part of the "honest horse trading" the US and its "allies" will immediately cease from all support for the new Ukrainian government and will accept whatever position Russia chooses with regards to the Crimea.

If any long term solution is to be achieved, the US will withdraw all support from and remove all military installations from former Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries as well cease and desist with support for any and all NGO activity in Russia. That seems to be the minimum they would require before we can begin talking about things like assistance with things like Iran.

While I have my own ideas on what type of horse trading might be done, I'd be curious to get your perspective on what kinds of trades could be made that you think would work to defuse the crisis?

Rob said...

A couple of things -

1)a 'get tough' policy isn't going to lead to war. Neither side wants it, and certainly the Russians stand top lose much more than we do.Among other things, they can't afford it financially ( even more so than ourselves) and they can't afford any casualties to native Russians because of their severe demographics problem. It would merely lead to an adversarial relationship that benefits no one.

(2) The only agreement of this kind made between Gorby and Reagan was the 1987 INF treaty, which had zip to do with restricting NATO. What it dealt was arms reduction, specifically with intermediate nuclear forces, aka shorter range tactical nukes.

If you're talking about START 1, which Reagan proposed but the USSR refused to sign, that was between Bush '41 and Gorby, and again, it dealt with arms limitations. Again, no NATO implications or restrictions, because the Soviets were in no position to insist on any.

Both treaties are toilet paper because they were made with the Soviet Union, which no longer exists.

Also, there was no 'restriction' in either agreement regarding NATO membership for members of Russia's old empire.

And in any event The USSR was found in non-compliance of START 1, and Putin declared in2007 that Russia was no longer bound by the INF treaty, specifically because it did not include China. That ought to tell you something about the real relationship between China and Russia.

Horsetrading? Assume the Bamster is out of the picture and I'm negotiating, I would trade the entire Ukraine if necessary in a covert agreement in exchange for Russia looking the other way and keeping stuhm while we dealt with Iran's nukes. Especially if we offered the carrot with the stick of barring Russia and anyone trading with it from doing transactions via the US banking system.

I think there's a decent chance they'd go for it, especially since dealing with me, they'd be pretty certain I planned to solve that particular problem anyway, agreement of no agreement.

You see, I look at it from the standpoint of what benefits us and gives Putin a little something to save face with. That's exactly the opposite of what you're seeing with Obama and Kerry.

B.Poster said...

1.) I agree. A get tough approach benefits no one and only leads to an adversarial relationship. It does seem clear the pro Russian media wants this war. Hopefully the Russian government does not. If people are thinking rationally, I think you're right that this would not lead to war.

2.) When Gorby was involved this was when the Soviet Union still existed. He had left the picture by the time Clinton was in office. As such, any agreements made between the US and the USSR would be worthless. If the "shoe were on the other foot" and the US had broken up and no longer existed, it's hard to imagine anyone abiding by any treaty made with an entity that no longer exists. In fact, it would take extreme chutzpah for say CA to expect anyone to abide by a treaty with the US after it no longer exists. Furthermore the fact to the best of my knowledge nobody seems to be able to actually produce the document whereby an agreement to halt NATO expansion leads me to believe such an agreement does not exist. Nevertheless the pro-Russian media thinks such an agreement existed. Perhaps they and some Russian officials believe their own propaganda.

For what it's worth, I do think we'd be better served if you were negotiating this instead of team Obama. As for Ukraine, horse trading on Ukraine seems to be the only thing that would get them to start talking, at least if the pro-Russia media is to be accepted. In exchange for their assistance with Iran, this might be a workable deal.

With that said I see two basic problems. 1.)What is our involvement with the uprising? If pro-Russian media is to be accepted, the US and it's "allies" especially the US organized the "coup" and has fully supported it. If this is so, do we have a moral right to consign these people especially the ones who wanted our help to the Russian/Putin jackboot? If these people really are the unsavory bunch that these same media sources make them out to be then our moral obligation is eliminated here. Also, I strongly suspect that these sources have over estimated our involvement in this which would even further eliminate any moral obligation we have to Ukraine. In any event, such double dealings have come back to bite us HARD in the past. 2.) Say we reach an agreement where Russia gets all of Ukraine or at least the Crimean portion where Russia's naval base is that would probably want to be part of Russia any way in exchange for assistance with Iran. At present, we have no way to ensure Russian cooperation. If this could be worked out, then this might actually work in the short to mid term. As for the betrayal of those Ukrainians who might actually support us, if they are truly as unsavory as Russian press reports indicate and I've noticed the US and "western" media are not exactly rushing to defend them, then G_d willing any damage to us here would be minimal.

B.Poster said...

I would actually prefer our response to the situation in Ukraine have been similar to that of Australia or Canada. To the best of my knowledge, their governments have not had much to say about this. This is perfectly reasonable, as this does not concern them nor should it have concerned us. The main participants in this would seem to be or should be 1.)the EU who wants closer ties with Ukraine, 2.)the portion of Ukraine that wants closer relations with the EU which would seem to be the majority, 3.)those Ukrainians particularly in the eastern portion of the country and the Crimea who wish to have closer ties to Russia, and 4.)Russia who wants to maintain access to its warm water naval port in the Crimea, protect Russian speaking peoples from reprisals, annex all of Ukraine, or something to this effect.

On the surface there's no reason for us to be involved at all. As far as I'm concerned, team Obama had one of two options when the situation started. 1.)Say nothing as this does not concern us. 2.)Actively support the Russian position. While either one is viable from the standpoint of our interests, I'd have much preferred option one which seems to be the approach taken by Australia and Canada. I think we'd learn much by studying them and trying to implement what we can.

Alas, maybe we cannot be like Australia or Canada. Maybe the facts and circumstances simply will not permit that.

Anonymous said...

Putin wishes to reassure everyone that the referendum in The Crimea was free, fair, & open : it has been vetted & approved by ACORN ! ;)