“It’s been interesting to observe the large numbers of people who suddenly think they’re experts on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine—both those on the left who blame it on Obama for intervening too much and those on the right who blame it on Obama for not intervening enough.
Delusions of Grandeur
“In reality, there seems to be little correlation between the willingness of Moscow to assert its power in areas within its traditional spheres of influence and who occupies the White House: The Soviets invaded Hungary in 1956 when Eisenhower was president; the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 when Johnson was president; the Soviets successfully pressed for martial law in Poland in 1981 when Reagan was president; the Russians attacked Georgia in 2008 when Bush was president.
“In each case, as much as these administrations opposed these actions, it was determined that any military or other aggressive counter-moves would likely do more harm than good. Washington cannot realistically do any more in response to Russian troops seizing Crimea in 2014 in the name of protecting Russian lives and Russian bases than Moscow could do in response to U.S. troops seizing Panama in 1989 in the name of protecting American lives and American bases.
“Like most U.S. foreign aid, some of it went for good things and some for not so good things. There was also some funding through the National Endowment for Democracy and other organizations to some opposition groups that were involved in the recent insurrection, but this was in the millions of dollars, nothing remotely close to $5 billion. And this aid went primarily to centrist groups, not the far right, so claims that the United States ‘supported fascists’ in Ukraine are without foundation.
“It’s also unfair to imply that such aid was somehow the cause of the uprising, thereby denying agency to the millions of Ukrainians who took to the streets in an effort to determine (for better or worse) their own future. To claim that U.S. aid was responsible for the Orange Revolution of 2005 or the more recent revolt is as ludicrous as President Reagan’s claims in the 1980s that Soviet aid was responsible for the leftist revolutions in Central America.
“At the same time, Yanukovych’s rampant corruption, repression, and divide-and-rule tactics had cost him his legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of Ukrainians. The protesters were primarily liberal democrats who engaged in legitimate acts of nonviolent resistance against severe government repression, many of whom spent months in freezing temperatures in a struggle for a better Ukraine dominated by neither Russia nor the West. To label them as simply puppets of Washington is as unfair as labeling peasant revolutionaries in El Salvador as puppets of Moscow.
“Whether for good or for ill, however, and despite whatever attempts Western powers have made to influence the outcome, the change of government is ultimately the responsibility of Ukrainians, not the Obama administration.
“While this is certainly a valid statement in itself, it is ironic coming from a man who so vigorously supported the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq on the phony pretext that Saddam Hussein had ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ Indeed, while Obama, to his credit, opposed the Iraq War, the fact that he appointed so many supporters of that illegal invasion and occupation to major foreign policy positions in his administration has severely weakened the United States’ ability to assume leadership in challenging the Kremlin on its own unilateral excesses.
“Similarly, in 2004, Kerry, Joe Biden, and other members of Congress who later became key Obama administration officials unconditionally endorsed then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to incorporate large sections of the occupied West Bank into Israel, a proposal denounced by international legal authorities worldwide as an illegal annexation. This makes it very difficult for the Obama administration to be taken seriously when it denounces the illegality of the proposed referendum to have Crimea incorporated into Russia.
“It means being willing to abide by and defend the same international legal norms for yourself and your allies as you demand of your adversaries. Until there is such a change in policies, there is little the United States can do.”
The excerpts from above article, Straight Talk on the U.S. and Ukraine by Stephen Zunes, is from Nation of Change.
Dr. Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he chairs the program in Middle Eastern Studies. A native of North Carolina, Professor Zunes received his PhD. from Cornell University, his M.A. from Temple University and his B.A. from Oberlin College.