Center-Right Consensus

Larison:

Robert Gates worries that the public doesn’t understand what is at stake in Ukraine:

Crimea and Ukraine are far away, and their importance to Europe and America little understood by the public.

Therefore, the burden of explaining the need to act forcefully falls, as always, on our leaders.

Gates points to a recurring problem in our foreign policy debates, which is the large and increasing gap between the public and our political leaders on what the U.S. should be doing in the world. It may be true that most Americans don’t know and don’t care very much about the crisis in Ukraine, but to date no one has given them much of a reason to think they are mistaken in thinking that the U.S. shouldn’t get too involved. The burden of explaining why it should does fall on our leaders, but for decades our politicians and supporters of an activist foreign policy have acted as if the burden is on the skeptics and opponents to explain why the U.S. should mind its own business. Now that supporters of an activist U.S. role in the world are forced to make their case to a skeptical audience, they prove to be not very good at it. This is perhaps because the arguments in support of this view are so much weaker than the activists think they are.  […]

I read the Gates piece because I wanted to see what he thought we ought to do in Crimea. After all, he’s a “wise man” or “best and brightest” or “old hand” or whatever we’re calling the center-right establishment these days. Read it for yourself, but it boils down to two things. First, Putin is a SOB and probably has some Machiavellian dreams where he’s the star of a one-man show called “Vlad Impales the World”, and re-annexing the historically more Russian parts of Ukraine is a step towards realizing those dreams. Second, Europe is too reliant on Russian gas. Neither of these are immediately dangerous to the US, and Gates doesn’t make a clear argument for their danger in the near future. Then Gates lists a bunch of small ball sanctions, interventions and insults, most of which are clearly not going to address the two dangers he raises. And he ends by whining about leadership.

This is the kind of “leadership” that is mentioned with reverence at keynotes at motivational seminars or sales conferences. It’s some kind of magic fairy dust that’s sprinkled on plans that don’t make sense without some loud clapping and flashy powerpoints.

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81 replies
  1. 1
    Cervantes says:

    Larison:

    Now that supporters of an activist U.S. role in the world are forced to make their case to a skeptical audience, they prove to be not very good at it.

    Worth repeating.

    Except “activist” probably isn’t the word I’d have used.

  2. 2
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    @Cervantes:

    “Interventionist.”

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    Then Gates lists a bunch of small ball sanctions, interventions and insults, most of which are clearly not going to address the two dangers he raises.

    Um…isn’t that what we are doing?

  4. 4
    randomworker says:

    More chest thumping would be a start. Some bellicosity. Fiery speeches to rouse the couch potatoes.

    I recommend that Obama kill Assad. Like right now. Today. Hit him with bunker-busters and cruise missiles. Make sure you get his wife and kids, too. Then just feign surprise when the finger points to the US. Putin will get the message.

  5. 5
  6. 6
    RuhRow_Gyro says:

    I think the ‘leadership’ alluded to in the piece means the Americans president not exhibiting Beta behavior (shrugging shoulders, looking down) whenever in the presence of the Russian president. This is especially unusual in that the American president is taller than the Russian president. Something isn’t right.

  7. 7
    Betty Cracker says:

    I think this “leadership” of which they speak consists of lying and liberal applications of propaganda to inspire the masses to back foolhardy meddling in foreign affairs. Worked like a charm in Iraq, from a “leadership” perspective. Just ask Colin Powell.

  8. 8
    dmsilev says:

    @Baud: Yes, but it’s being done in the wrong way. Where ‘the wrong way’ is defined as ‘whatever way Obama and his administration are doing it’.

  9. 9
    Feudalism Now! says:

    Leadership seems to mean doing it louder and not being an actual leader. I mean the Gipper would have looked across into Putin’s eyes, and offered him a jellybean and invaded Key West. That kind of steely resolve would have had Putin mewling in Moscow and offering up Assad as a Christmas gift.

  10. 10
    MomSense says:

    If you haven’t seen the full response from Obama to Jon Karl from ABC at the presser in the Netherlands–you will enjoy Obama’s response. Karl asks a question that is just Republican talking points about leadership and Putin and blah blah blah Romney was right–and the President dismantles it thoroughly.

  11. 11
    MomSense says:

    @Feudalism Now!:

    Leadership means doing it louder and with little consideration and zero doubt. Do something and when it turns out to be the wrong thing, a disastrous thing even, keep doing it.

  12. 12
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    The U.S. is emerging from more than a dozen years at war and leaders in both parties face growing isolationism among voters, with the prospect of another major challenge abroad cutting across the current political grain

    I wonder which fucking foreign policy geniuses created that situation.

  13. 13
    scav says:

    Agree with all these definitions of the desired “leadership”. Like “bipartisanship”, it’s basically doing what the repubs traditionally want in all circs (the boys who call armed intervention, so long as minimally humanitarian) with some elements of LCD cut-rate movie-inspired body language indicating ritual hyper-masculity. Competitive shirt-doffing.

  14. 14
    Ash Can says:

    Meh. Let Gates whine. He’s evidently too used to what passed for “leadership” under his previous employers. People like him need to understand that the world has changed, and so has effective confrontation. The American response so far has been entirely appropriate — acknowledging the fact that military confrontation of a nuclear power headed by a KGB runt with a Napoleonic complex is less than smart, and opting for economic actions instead. These kinds of actions, additionally, have the desired effect of hitting said nation where it hurts. They hit the oligarchs propping up Runt’s government directly, who theoretically can then put pressure on Runt that other Russians (let alone any non-Russians) could not.

    Will it be enough to reverse Russian actions in Crimea? Probably not; Runt seems to be having too much fun playing out his Soviet fantasies there. Will it be enough to keep him from fucking with any NATO allies, which various loose cannons in his government have been making noises about? That may be where the more sensible among the Russian crooks get some traction. There’s no way they’ll want their Western pay windows to slam shut altogether.

  15. 15
    xenos says:

    This is just Cold War #2, this time being the farce, not the tragedy.

    Putin has the tactical, or at least short-term advantages, NATO and the EU & US have the strategic and long-term advantages. This is not the great game, this is the end game. The guy with only a rook and a knight can still do a lot of damage if he can maintain an open game that he can do the unexpected in. But he is not going to win without really stupid actions on the part of his opponent.

    Same correct answer as last time in terms of correct approach – containment. Hem him in, wait him out, let him run out of moves. We know how to win this game, but it is really hard to explain to a TV audience.

    This has been your extended metaphor of the day, with bonus Fischer-Spassky nostalgia thrown in for free.

  16. 16
    xenos says:

    Also, we should be using the approved French spelling for his name: Poutine. It fits.

    “…one city looks like another when your head’s down over your pieces, brother!”

  17. 17
    gene108 says:

    One thing that got me to perk up on the topic of the annexation of Crimea is what will happen, if other bits of disputed territory get gobbled up with the country that has the most guns based on flimsy reasons.

    China has disputed borders with India and Vietnam.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....er_dispute

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/S.....60214.html

  18. 18
    Gin & Tonic says:

    historically more Russian parts of Ukraine

    Can you just call them the “recently more Russian parts”? History has a long arc, and it would be pretty darn hard to make a case that the Crimean peninsula is “historically” ethnically Russian. It had been under Russian control for less than two centuries, and has been predominantly ethnically Russian pretty much since Stalin deported and killed the Crimean Tatars.

  19. 19
    John S. says:

    @MomSense:

    I love reading the comments around the web about this exchange between Karl and Obama. Obama is simultaneously a tyrranical dictator who is going to have Jon Karl sent to Gitmo, and the weakest leader ever who cowers in fear from Putin.

    Cognitive dissonance. It’s what’s for dinner.

  20. 20
    C.V. Danes says:

    It may be true that most Americans don’t know and don’t care very much about the crisis in Ukraine, but to date no one has given them much of a reason to think they are mistaken in thinking that the U.S. shouldn’t get too involved.

    Other than the fact that most of their reasons are bullshit, the biggest hurdle is that a sizable chunk of the population still, quite vividly, remembers what life was like during the cold war, has no desire to go back, and rightly understands that much of the terrorism we have recently been subjected to is merely chickens coming home to roost from decades of “activism” directed at countries that really, really, wish that we would just shut up and leave them alone.

    If Gates has a problem, its that he’s the face of an organization that has demonstrably no clue as to how to handle the current threats to our security, and wishes to go back to a time when it at least appeared to have one.

  21. 21
    danielx says:

    First, Putin is a SOB and probably has some Machiavellian dreams where he’s the star of a one-man show called “Vlad Impales the World”, and re-annexing the historically more Russian parts of Ukraine is a step towards realizing those dreams. Second, Europe is too reliant on Russian gas.

    Clearly the only correct response is to bomb somebody.

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Just another one of those unintended consequences that no one could have foreseen, kind of like the tripling of the national debt to pay for George and Dick’s Excellent Adventure. Very frustrating it must be, to actually have to convince people there’s legitimate cause to use all those wonderful taxpayer-funded toys.

    On the other hand, we and Bloody Bill Kristol mustn’t lose hope. With the mighty Wurlitzer at hand, the powers that be could probably convince at least the mouthbreathing portion of the polity to drink paint thinner, let alone agree that our leaders should put “boots on the ground!” in some godforsaken shithole for some specious reason. It’s not like they haven’t done it before.

  22. 22
    inkadu says:

    It may be true that most Americans don’t know and don’t care very much about the crisis in Ukraine, but to date no one has given them much of a reason to think they are mistaken in thinking that the U.S. shouldn’t get too involved.

    I had to read that last clause three times. This guy is making complaints about not making convincing arguments to the public?

  23. 23
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @gene108: This. Other than perhaps “frozen” parts of Kashmir, I do not believe national borders, arbitrary though they may be in some cases, have been re-drawn by force since the end of WWII. Counterexamples welcomed if I’m wrong, but the lesson here seems to be that if you want to, you can do it with limited consequences. I do not think that is a useful lesson.

  24. 24
    Juju says:

    @MomSense: That was better than sex or chocolate. I can’t decide.

  25. 25
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    Now that supporters of an activist U.S. role in the world are forced to make their case to a skeptical audience, they prove to be not very good at it.

    It doesn’t hep that you spent many decades lying to the public. People tend to turn a deaf ear to liars.

  26. 26
    danielx says:

    @MomSense:

    Leadership as practiced by George W….er, He Who Must Not Be Named.

  27. 27
    Patrick says:

    It is rather humorous to hear Gates whine about lack of leadership. Gates was the one who wrote a fricking book about Obama before Obama’s Presidency was even over.

    Hearing Gates instruct us about leadership is like Cheney/Rumsfeld/McCain instruct us about foreign policy.

  28. 28
    amk says:

    And he ends by whining about leadership.

    shorter gates, we need a mcangry/mittbot in the whitehouse.

  29. 29
    Chris says:

    I read the Gates piece because I wanted to see what he thought we ought to do in Crimea. After all, he’s a “wise man” or “best and brightest” or “old hand” or whatever we’re calling the center-right establishment these days.

    My opinion of him has really gone down recently. I suppose his staying on with Obama made me think he was, well, something better than your average neocon. But no, turns out he’s the same kind of asshole whining about Obama’s lack of manliness, even as he offers no suggestions other than what Obama’s already doing.

    Love the dig at the American people, too. “This one of these things those yokels, God bless ’em, just don’t understand.”

  30. 30
    MomSense says:

    @John S.: @Juju:

    The reality of Obama is that he is smarter than his Republican and media critics. The fictional Obama that they create is just the strangest thing and says more about their own insecurities and issues. He is this affirmative action never worked a day in his life teleprompter dependent empty suit elitist mastermind destroying our constitution and way of life with his tyrannical government take over using Soros money to usher all the gun owning defenders of our liberties into FEMA camps.

    Part of why that response to Karl was so cathartic is because we have been listening to all this blathering about Romney being right, and spin about leadership and how Reagan would have controlled the situation and the President just destroyed the whole mess. I was arguing like a crazy person with my tv on Sunday morning and wondering why Bob Schieffer just let all that BS go unchallenged. I wonder at what point exactly Karl realized that he looked like an arse.

  31. 31
    Citizen_X says:

    @RuhRow_Gyro:

    I think the ‘leadership’ alluded to in the piece means the Americans president not exhibiting Beta behavior (shrugging shoulders, looking down) whenever in the presence of the Russian president.

    Obama needs to rip his shirt off n’ wrassle a gator.

  32. 32
    Chris says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Nah, “leadership” consists simply of “being a Republican.” Obama could mirror-image every bit of Bush’s actions, speeches and body language and they’d find a reason not to like it. “He’s acting like a Chicago thug! No wonder the world doesn’t respect us!” Etc.

  33. 33
    ice weasel says:

    Gates, it needs to be said, is a tremendous douchebag.

  34. 34
    MattF says:

    @MomSense: I’ve always been boggled by the right-wing image of Obama. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it’s one-third not-very-well-repressed racism and one-third flat-out resentment. The remaining third still doesn’t make any sense or match with actual reality. It’s a malevolent fairy tale– possibly comforting for winger babies, but really just wish-fulfillment.

  35. 35
    Ben Cisco says:

    I read the Gates piece because I wanted to see what he thought we ought to do in Crimea.

    Passive-aggressively bitch about President Obama while offering nothing of substance. SSDD.

  36. 36
    jomike says:

    This is the kind of “leadership” that is mentioned with reverence at keynotes at motivational seminars or sales conferences. It’s some kind of magic fairy dust that’s sprinkled on plans that don’t make sense without some loud clapping and flashy powerpoints.

    Hmm, he’d better follow up soon with a vague whinge aimed at the GOP. The Centrist Wise Head image won’t maintain itself, y’know. Fair and balanced!

  37. 37
    Ben Cisco says:

    @Ben Cisco: Of course, if PBO did start banging his d*ck sh*e fist on a podium, they’d find a reason to bitch about that, too.

    That’s what whiny, petulant, self-absorbed, cowardly f*cking chickenhawks do.

  38. 38
    xenos says:

    @RuhRow_Gyro:

    I think the ‘leadership’ alluded to in the piece means the Americans president not exhibiting Beta behavior (shrugging shoulders, looking down) whenever in the presence of the Russian president. This is especially unusual in that the American president is taller than the Russian president. Something isn’t right

    ‘Beta’ behaviour makes a lot of sense here. It is the sort on non-aggressive pose you take with the mentally disturbed and erratic people. ‘Sure buddy, you get to be the big guy.’ It looks very different outside the states, where we don’t forget so easily that the US and NATO could run circles around the Russians if they need to.

    Ukraine is a mess, Russia is a mess, but Poland and the Baltic states are very secure, and the Ukraine is small enough for Russia to invade but way too big for Russia to control for long once they do invade. It is a real poison chalice, and there is no benefit in getting all macho and effectively daring the Russians to drink it – it will just mean more mess to clean up down the road.

  39. 39
    Chris says:

    @C.V. Danes:

    If Gates has a problem, its that he’s the face of an organization that has demonstrably no clue as to how to handle the current threats to our security, and wishes to go back to a time when it at least appeared to have one.

    QFT.

  40. 40
    Cervantes says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Can you just call them the “recently more Russian parts”? History has a long arc, and it would be pretty darn hard to make a case that the Crimean peninsula is “historically” ethnically Russian.

    That’s a good point, I agree.

  41. 41

    @John S.:
    There is no conflict between those opinions. They’re projecting their bullying personalities onto him. They think he’s weak and doesn’t have the manly asshole strength to bellow and strongarm the rest of the world into doing what we want, but instead takes the easy route of exploiting and abusing the godlike power of the presidency, which he didn’t earn because everything is rigged to give blacks a hand up over whites these days. Punch down, run away from actual threats. That’s the way conservatives and toddlers think.

  42. 42
    Paul in KY says:

    @RuhRow_Gyro: I think you are reading too much into that. It might be Pres. Obama trying not to laugh at Putin.

  43. 43
    Paul in KY says:

    @Gin & Tonic: I think the Palestinians may quibble a bit on that force thing.

  44. 44
    Chris says:

    @xenos:

    It looks very different outside the states, where we don’t forget so easily that the US and NATO could run circles around the Russians if they need to.

    This is what drives me insane every time the “credibility” argument shows up. The total ignorance of how the world looks from the POV of anyone outside the U.S. required to whine about “we must bomb Syria/invade Ukraine or our credibility will be destroyed for all time…” oy.

  45. 45
    Morbo says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Rumsfeld: “trained ape could get a status of forces agreement” in Afghanistan. The self-awareness of these people is about on par with that of a shrimp. After cooking it.

  46. 46
    Poopyman says:

    @MomSense:

    I wonder at what point exactly Karl realized that he looked like an arse.

    I’m sure it hasn’t happened yet. And I ain’t holdin’ my breath.

  47. 47
    scav says:

    @Paul in KY: Gasp! You mean the loudest person (with the biggest hat) in the room isn’t necessarily the ultimate boss of all he surveys?!

  48. 48
    MomSense says:

    @MattF:

    If only there were one weird trick for understanding the crazy.

    @Poopyman:

    Yeah, you are probably right.

  49. 49
    geg6 says:

    @RuhRow_Gyro:

    Hmmm, I usually look down when in the presence of shorter people. That’s because that’s where they are.

    And I think this whole beta thing is ridiculous. Alphas are, without an exception I can think of, assholes IRL. No one likes alphas and no one want to be around them because of their assholishness (see: Bush, George W. or McCain, John or Rumsfeld, Donald or Kissinger, Henry for examples) except for other alphas and wanna be alphas. I want a president who listens, who does the right thing and who isn’t continually looking around to measure dick size against another. I want a president with self-confidence enough to not do that. We’ve got one and I’m pretty happy with that.

  50. 50
    Mike in NC says:

    Leadership? The Villagers are calling for JEB! to come down from the mountaintop to save us.

  51. 51
    Chris says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    Punch down, run away from actual threats. That’s the way conservatives and toddlers think.

    Pretty much.

    There’s a reason why, of the three countries listed on the “axis of evil,” the one Bush chose to attack was Iraq – which had already been beaten the shit out of in the Gulf War, submitted to inspections, strangled by embargos, had large chunks of its territory cordoned off from Baghdad’s authority, not to mention the no-fly zones and airstrikes…

    I’ve never understood the mindset that attacking the easiest, weakest pushover in the room is somehow a sign of strength or will in any way deter the people who actually could mess with you, but then I never understood it in the playground either.

  52. 52
    Mike in NC says:

    @xenos:

    Ukraine is small enough for Russia to invade but way too big for Russia to control for long once they do invade.

    Ukraine is roughly the size of France; far from small. During WW2 the Nazis were unable and unwilling to occupy all of France, so they controlled about 20% of the country and let the Vichy regime pretend to control the rest, with appropriately dismal results.

  53. 53
    Cervantes says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Other than perhaps “frozen” parts of Kashmir, I do not believe national borders, arbitrary though they may be in some cases, have been re-drawn by force since the end of WWII.

    Tibet, ’50-’59
    Pakistan/Bangladesh, ’71
    Vietnam (shall we count it?)
    Cyprus, ’74
    East Timor, ’75
    Yugoslavia in the early ’90s (shall we count it?)
    Israel/Palestine, several times

    We could go on.

  54. 54
    andy says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Well, Russians have thought the Crimea was theirs as long as we’ve thought New Mexico and California were ours. And we took them by conquest and pretty much wiped out/marginalized the locals to boot…

  55. 55
    Cervantes says:

    @Steeplejack (tablet): Both “activist” and “interventionist” leave out the motive.

  56. 56
    Julia Grey says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Other than perhaps “frozen” parts of Kashmir, I do not believe national borders, arbitrary though they may be in some cases, have been re-drawn by force since the end of WWII.

    Israel 1967.

    China and Nepal?

    Although I suppose to be fair, these are “disputed” borders or areas of questionable sovereignty imposed by force. And in the case of Israel, the other guys started it.

  57. 57
    Julia Grey says:

    I think I meant Tibet. One of those Himalayan countries, where the Dalai Lama was exiled as a result.

    Signed, Former International Relations Superstar Student Who Had Three Kids in the Meantime

  58. 58
    Mnemosyne says:

    @xenos:

    It is the sort on non-aggressive pose you take with the mentally disturbed and erratic people. ‘Sure buddy, you get to be the big guy.’

    I think the kind of people who think a lot about who the “alpha male” in the room is don’t how to react when someone refuses to play that game. It’s kind of tough to claim that you’re the alpha male when your opponent points out that you’re leading a “regional power.” It’s like, Yeah, you’re a big fish in a small pond, but throw you in the ocean and it’s a different story.

  59. 59
    Goblue72 says:

    Leadership is increasing the DoD budget. That’s the endgame for these beltway mofos.

  60. 60
    Roger Moore says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Other than perhaps “frozen” parts of Kashmir, I do not believe national borders, arbitrary though they may be in some cases, have been re-drawn by force since the end of WWII.

    Korea. Yugoslavia. Israel.

  61. 61
    Roger Moore says:

    @Mike in NC:
    I don’t think you’re disputing what Xenos was saying: small enough to invade but too big to control. Your example of Germany and France in WWII supports that general interpretation: Germany most certainly did invade France, but had a hard time controlling it. They invaded Ukraine and had a hard time controlling it, too. Not surprising, really. Our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are a more recent example of the difference in difficulty between invasion and control.

  62. 62
    Steeplejack says:

    @Cervantes:

    Well, then what is the word you would have used?

  63. 63
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Roger Moore: Replying to this, but thanks to the others who gave counterexamples as well.

    Korea and Vietnam don’t really count, IMO. The issue there, it seems to me, is just whether there’s one or two Koreas or Vietnams; I’m not aware of any movement of the China-Vietnam or China-Korea borders. Yugoslavia is a pretty special case, as it just broke apart into the constituent parts which were held together only by Tito. Pakistan/Bangladesh wasn’t a movement of borders (that was the Indian partition,) it was independence of East Pakistan, when the East/West Pakistan situation was just unsustainable.

    Other than Israel, I’m trying to think of outright annexations of land and coming up empty.

  64. 64
    Linnaeus says:

    A friend of mine who has done a lot of work with the Peace Corps in Ukraine was talking about the situation there and offered his view that the US isn’t doing enough to help Ukraine, in light of the agreement back in the 90s that the US signed onto (with others) in which Ukraine’s territorial integrity would be secured in exchange for their giving up nuclear weapons. I was surprised to hear him argue that war as an option shouldn’t be taken off of the table – he’s not at all a rah-rah super patriot. I was a bit more skeptical and asked him how far he was willing to go with that. He replied something to the effect that the US could do more short of war, but it could escalate and the US needs to have that option because the US needs to live up to its agreements. I understood where he was coming from, but war? Dunno about that.

  65. 65
    Carolinus says:

    @RuhRow_Gyro:

    I think the ‘leadership’ alluded to in the piece means the Americans president not exhibiting Beta behavior (shrugging shoulders, looking down) whenever in the presence of the Russian president. This is especially unusual in that the American president is taller than the Russian president. Something isn’t right.

    Eh? I’ve mostly seen the opposite, with Putin always slouched in his chair, constantly looking at the floor and wringing his hands. As an example, here’s a bunch of photos and video from last yea’rs G8, and it’s even the Daily Fail, who usually cherry pick weird photos to appease their US wingnut audience:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new.....ummit.html

  66. 66
    Paul in KY says:

    @scav: I know! Crrraaazzzzyyyy

  67. 67
    Paul in KY says:

    @Julia Grey: IMO, the other guys didn’t start it in 48.

  68. 68
    Carolinus says:

    @Linnaeus:

    A friend of mine who has done a lot of work with the Peace Corps in Ukraine was talking about the situation there and offered his view that the US isn’t doing enough to help Ukraine, in light of the agreement back in the 90s that the US signed onto (with others) in which Ukraine’s territorial integrity would be secured in exchange for their giving up nuclear weapons … the US needs to live up to its agreements. I understood where he was coming from, but war? Dunno about that.

    Your friend is reacting to RW myth-making about what Budapest Memorandum entails. The memorandum of understanding isn’t any sort of a defense pact but is instead almost entirely about the signatories promising not to threaten / breach Ukraine’s sovereignty or territorial integrity. When a country does violate those provisions, as Russia clearly has, the signatories are at most called on to “consult” with one another. If nuclear weapons are used they are additionally called on to bring the matter before the UN Security Council.

    Summary of the provisions:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B.....Assurances

    According to the memorandum, Russia, the US, and the UK confirmed, in recognition of Ukraine becoming party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and in effect abandoning its nuclear arsenal to Russia, that they would:

    * Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders.

    * Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.

    * Refrain from using economic pressure on Ukraine in order to influence its politics.

    * Seek United Nations Security Council action if nuclear weapons are used against Ukraine.

    * Refrain from the use of nuclear arms against Ukraine.

    * Consult with one another if questions arise regarding these commitments.

    The actual text of the memorandum:
    http://www.cfr.org/arms-contro.....994/p32484

  69. 69
    Chris says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Tibet. Sikkim. Goa.

  70. 70
    Linnaeus says:

    @Carolinus:

    You’re friend is reacting to RW myth-making about what Budapest Memorandum entails.

    That’s what I got to thinking too. His reaction surprised me a bit because he’s not a right-winger by any stretch. I vaguely knew that the memorandum wasn’t a binding defense pact or anything like that, but didn’t know the details at the time of the discussion. Appreciate the links – I’ll definitely save them.

  71. 71
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Linnaeus: Ukrainians, rightly or wrongly, believe the Budapest Memorandum is stronger than Americans or Brits generally believe it is.

    The question its violation raises, which is no longer pertinent to Ukraine, is why any other country which now has nuclear weapons would believe it is in its interests to give them up.

  72. 72
    Cervantes says:

    @Steeplejack: Good question!

    (Sorry, I forgot to thank you for the suggestion.)

  73. 73
    Linnaeus says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Fair enough, although it seems to me that the Memorandum stops short of guaranteeing military action. That doesn’t mean that nothing should be done. It’s just that the road to war ought to be treaded upon very, very carefully, if at all.

  74. 74
    Cervantes says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    The U.S. is emerging from more than a dozen years at war and leaders in both parties face growing isolationism among voters, with the prospect of another major challenge abroad cutting across the current political grain

    I wonder which fucking foreign policy geniuses created that situation.

    Shameless. And then he said:

    The aggressive, arrogant actions of Vladimir Putin require from Western leaders strategic thinking, bold leadership and steely resolve—now.

    And then I died laughing. What does he see in the mirror, I wonder.

  75. 75
    liberal says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    The issue there, it seems to me, is just whether there’s one or two Koreas or Vietnams…

    (emphasis added)

    LOL.

  76. 76
    liberal says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Korea and Vietnam don’t really count, IMO.

    That’s right. We went into Vietnam, even though it was none of our business, and over the span of the entire Indochinese conflict murdered about 4 million Vietnamese. But since the borders weren’t changed (apart from us helping to create South Vietnam de novo, which for some reason doesn’t count as a border change), it’s not really relevant.

    Your constant crypto-war-mongering re the Ukraine issue is contemptible. If you want to get yourself killed, be my guest. Leave the rest of us out of it; we’ve got no interest in confronting another nuclear power over an issue we have no national stake in.

  77. 77
    Cervantes says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Interesting exercise, thanks!

    Korea and Vietnam don’t really count, IMO. The issue there, it seems to me, is just whether there’s one or two Koreas or Vietnams; I’m not aware of any movement of the China-Vietnam or China-Korea borders.

    I think you requested “national borders … re-drawn by force since the end of WWII.”

    The erasing of the line between North Vietnam and South Vietnam was a re-drawing of a border and, as I recall, it did involve some force. As to whether NV and SV were separate nations, well … Anyhow, was it an annexation of the South by the North?

    In the Korean case, the border did not change (much), so I did not mention it.

    (Incidentally, both Koreas and both Vietnams were created out of whole cloth by others, without asking the millions of people who lived there. Not an argument against you, necessarily: just a point worth noting so we don’t ever forget.)

    Yugoslavia is a pretty special case, as it just broke apart into the constituent parts which were held together only by Tito.

    Yes, but there were no international borders and then, after hostilities, there were.

    Pakistan/Bangladesh wasn’t a movement of borders (that was the Indian partition,) it was independence of East Pakistan, when the East/West Pakistan situation was just unsustainable.

    Sure, the Bangladeshis weren’t annexing their own territory, I agree, but there was a war.

    Other than Israel, I’m trying to think of outright annexations of land and coming up empty.

    Did you consider East Timor, Cyprus, and so on? Or are those cases not interesting to you?

  78. 78
    Cervantes says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Oh, and did you consider Tibet?

  79. 79
    liberal says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    The question its violation raises, which is no longer pertinent to Ukraine, is why any other country which now has nuclear weapons would believe it is in its interests to give them up.

    LOL. That question was already raised when Ghaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program, only to have a knife shoved up his a$$.

  80. 80
    liberal says:

    @Cervantes:
    Why would he be interested in the case of East Timor, when the Indonesians murdered perhaps a third of the resident population? The Indonesians aren’t bad guys since they were nominal allies, and we greenlighted the invasion of East Timor anyway.

    We’re good, Putin’s bad. Pretty simple.

  81. 81
    K. G. says:

    We tend to leave historical context out of this but the Ukraine has never been a friend of Russia. They joined the Nazis in WW2 & even up to this day treat Russians like crap.The Russians lost as many people in WW2 than all the other nations combined. You think that hatred goes away? The Ukrainians murdered Jews, joined the Nazi police & fought for the Germans.
    We can’t fathom losing 20 something million in a war & having one of the countries responsible on your border mistreating your people If anyone wants to argue it’s long past & get over it then explain Cuba.
    The area is in their backyard & it’s for Russia & Europe to deal with.

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