Archive for the ‘Ukraine’ Category

US Wants Ukraine to Join NATO

July 21, 2009

Earlier today, Vice President Joe Biden said the US still supports Ukraine’s bid to join NATO despite opposition from Russia and European allies.  American officials have also expressed a desire to see Georgia join the alliance.

Russia is strongly opposed to NATO expansion near its border in countries that have historically been part of Russia’s sphere of influence. 

After a meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Biden said “We do not recognize any sphere of influence.  We do not recognize anyone else’s right to dictate to you or any other country what alliance you seek to belong to or what bilateral relationships you have.”  Perhaps to try to ease Russian concerns, he went on to say “We’re not trying to build our own sphere of influence.  The partnerships aren’t being built against anyone.”

It is disengenous for the US to claim that it is not trying to extend its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe by expanding NATO, because bringing nations into a political-military alliance with the US, which will necessarily bear most of the burden and hold most of the power in the relationship, inherently adds them to America’s sphere of influence.  And despite Biden’s assertion that the US does not recognize spheres of influence, America has claimed predominance in areas of the globe since the 19th century and the establishment of the Monroe Doctrine, which asserted US primacy in the Western Hemisphere.

Suggestions that NATO expansion and the continued existence of the Cold War alliance is not aimed at deterring Russia are also dubious.  If it is not directed against Russia, what is it directed against?  At the present time, Russia is clearly the only significant military threat to other countries in Europe.

Allowing Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO would be a mistake and have a destabilizing effect on the region.  Thus far, post-Cold War NATO expansion into Central Europe and the Baltic states has been a stabilizing force.  But allowing Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO would have the opposite effect and constitute a major mistake on the part of the West.  It is unlikely that Russia would sit back and allow those two countries to permanently partner with a group of nations that many Russian officials consider adversaries.  Russia would probably respond with military force or intense economic pressure against its neighbors, and diplomatic ties with the West would be strained at best.  It is doubtful that NATO forces could defend Ukraine and Georgia against a Russian attack without precipitating a major war.  Admitting two weak countries that would be difficult to protect into the alliance would not be worth risking a major conflagration or jeapordizing a relationship with a country that is strategically important to the US.

Obama Visits Russia

July 7, 2009

President Barack Obama is in Russia this week to meet with Russian leaders and reach agreements about several issues as part of an effort to improve Russo-American relations.  During a speech at the New Economic School, Obama claimed that Russia and the US share common interests.

But on closer inspection it appears that America and Russia share few foreign policy interests aside from preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists and perhaps reducing the size of their respective nuclear arsenals.  In other important areas, the two countries sharply differ.  Russia has long opposed NATO expansion and is vehement about its opposition to Georgia and Ukraine, traditionally satellites of Moscow, joining the Western alliance, whereas the US has been trying to minimize Russian influence in Eastern Europe and many American officials would like to see Georgia (which was invaded by Russia last year) and Ukraine join NATO (although allowing the union would be unwise from a military perspective).

Russian leaders also oppose the installation of anti-ballistic missile (ABM) sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.  The US claims they are aimed at countering an emerging nuclear threat from Iran, but the Russian political-military establishment believes the ABM system is intended to weaken Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

Speaking of Iran, the former Cold War adversaries also have different interests when it comes to preventing the Islamic Republic from acquiring atomic weapons.  The US wants to prevent a hostile power from joining the nuclear club, which in turn might precipitate nuclear proliferation in the Middle East if Arab nations feel that they need the Bomb to deter Iran.  Russia, on the other hand, has an interest in promoting instability in the region because doing so drives up the price of oil, which Russia has an abundance of and wants to export.

One puzzling result of recent talks is Russia’s decision to allow American military aircraft to transport weapons and other supplies across Russian airspace en route to Afghanistan, where the US and some of its NATO allies are fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda.  It is surprising that Russia would facilitate American intervention in a Central Asian state that used to be part of the Soviet Union, especially in light of the fact that in the past few years Russia has been more aggressive in trying to influence the policies of its former satellites, an effort which entails limiting American influence in those areas.  Perhaps the Russians are simply throwing the US a bone in a move to improve relations.