Friday, March 14, 2014

The End of Peace

Following a series of intelligent decisions, each making perfect sense, we are stumbling into a time of war as surely this year as the world did in 1914. 
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Russia will, this week-end , violate international law and the treaties Russia signed with Ukraine less than 30 years ago by annexing Crimea.  In the best of all possible worlds, this would be a de facto annexation, with Crimea making nice noises that it is “independent” of Ukraine or still has some “political arraignment” with the country.  But after all the bluster, neither the Crimeans nor the Russians will probably be amenable to face saving and they will go full on annexation.   Given what has happened up until now, this makes logical sense.

The United States foreign policy establishment will want to take some strong steps to make Russia pay a price for this.  Serious economic sanctions, at the very least.  These will fail.  They will fail for three main reasons, all perfectly logical, – in order of importance:

1. Major Companies would lose money, so they will work hard to water down any sanctions.  Their public reasons will run from “the Europeans will just go in and scoop up money” to “American jobs will be lost” to “Better to engage quietly”.  And they donate to politicians of all stripes – expect a lot of bluster that goes nowhere tangible.
I saw this AFTER I wrote my diatrab

2. Republicans don’t want to hand President Obama a “victory” so will oppose what-ever he says.  There is a slim chance that some adults (John McCain) might be able to counter this knee-jerk reaction in a normal year – but it is an election year (aren’t they all?) and the Republicans won’t support anything.  The old “politics stops at the water’s edge” is sadly dead. Republicans don’t want to hand President Obama a “victory” so will oppose what-ever he says.  

3. European businesses are even more serious about no reforms than Americans.  Most of European is supremely dependent on Russian gas for energy.  Expect vicious push back from the European businesses, consumers during winter and many governments.
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Because we Americans aren’t in the cross hairs, we won’t care all that much – and the world will accept this annexation.
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This will prove to Russia - AND OTHERS – that borders are no longer invulnerable.  And that, ladies and germs, is a terrible idea that will cost hundreds of thousands of lives within years. 
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One of the few world-wide consensus responses to aggression in the last 50 years was when Iraq invaded Kuwait.  Despite the cost, the world (granted led by the US – but it was really approved by everyone and the UN) pushed Iraq out of Kuwait.  Borders, however haphazardly set up, were considered inviolate.
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The world also responded (after a shameful wait) to Serbian attacks against Bosnia.  Again borders were inviolate.  The resulting country, Bosnia Herzegovina, might not make a lot of sense as a unit, but the borders drawn by the Ottoman Empire and held in place by both Austria Hungary and then Yugoslavia were considered as sacrosanct.
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There have been successful cases where sub areas with internal borders have succeeded and graduated to self-rule (Kosovo, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Slovakia), but annexation – well that is considered an international No No.  That is why I said the best possible outcome is a Crimea that says it is independent, and everyone pretends to believe it despite the Russian troops, flags and military bases.
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But if Russia is allowed to annex Crimea, then spoils to the powerful.  There is no (military or political) reason Putin shouldn’t take Eastern Ukraine (where the Russians are a majority).   
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Logically then, Serbia should move to annex the Sprska section of Bosnia – after all the Bosnians are demanding better government by demonstrations right now.  And any demonstrations can be spun to seem revolutionary – and so Serbian moves would be to “safeguard” Serbian speakers (the analogy is direct to Crimea).
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There are a lot of regional border issues that have not blown up because America (and usually Russia and China) don’t accept border changes.  If we start here, it plays out in Pakistan / Afghanistan, Israel / West Bank, Burma / Bangladesh, Turkey/Iraq, the Baltic countries / Russia.  These seem like little places to us.  Far away and perhaps not important.  But they are critically important to the millions that live there.
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And some of these are our allies.  We have pledged American to the defending of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - our NATO allies (countries 6, 13 and 14 in the map above - that giant green country bordering them is Russia.  After the 2008 grab of Georgian land, some in Congress wanted to extend NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia.  That would would have made this week-end really difficult.
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This land grab also reinforces the need for the Weak to get nuclear weapons.
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Why, you ask?  After the break up of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine had the 4th largest supply of Nuclear Warheads and missiles in the world (behind Russia, The US and Great Britain).  In return for a guaranty of sovereignty and set borders from the three countries, Ukraine gave up all their weapons.  Russia might be a little slower to push around the Kiev government if some crazy mofo in Ukraine had his finger on the button.
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Crazy Kim Jon doesn't look so crazy now, does he?

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