Opinion: What a sensible Ukraine policy would look like

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By Katrina vanden Heuvel. Jan 4, 2022

WARNING: the Wapo has decided to allow kremtroll fuckery from an evil skank who belongs to the “chuck Ukraine under a bus” club. Article could have been written by Michael Savage or Tucker Carlson.

With tensions between the United States and Russia over tens of thousands of Russian troops now massed near Ukraine’s border, recent phone calls between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin last week and the announcement of U.S.-Russia talks in Geneva this month were both wise and welcome.Opinions to start the day, in your inbox. Sign up.

But lessening tensions won’t be easy. Putin forced the talks with his military buildup and publicly demanded immediate guarantees: that Ukraine not join NATO; that NATO not expand farther to the east; that the United States not deploy missiles on Russian borders; and that NATO reduce its forces in Eastern and Central Europe. These “red lines” have been rejected out of hand by the Biden administration.

But instead of demanding de-escalation beforeprogress in talks could be made, imagine if Biden had taken the first steps toward negotiations between the two countries. What would a sensible U.S. posture look like?

It would start with a serious review of U.S. security concerns — and how a “foreign policy for the middle class” would prioritize those concerns. Surely, the global pandemic — which has taken 824,000 American lives and counting — would be top of the list. Addressing that demands massive efforts both inside the United States and around the world to provide vaccines and build public health capacity to track, test and treat.

The existential threat of catastrophic climate change — already costing lives and billions of dollars in extreme weather events — would come next. That would require not only a Green New Deal at home, but engaging other countries — particularly China and India — to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.

And then there are the many domestic concerns — rising “deaths of despair,” declining life expectancy, extreme inequality, racial tensions, a democracy under siege. Solving these problems means a respite from adventures abroad — avoiding a resumption of the forever war in Afghanistan and pulling back on drone assassination bombings.

In this context, Biden would take a hard look at Russia and Ukraine.

The United States has no significant national security interest in Ukraine. A civil war has been internationalized into a geopolitical struggle. Ukraine’s people are divided, with millions speaking Russian and looking to the East. The poverty rate is over 50 percent. We’re not about to spend the money and energy needed to bolster the country internally.

The esteemed diplomat George Kennan correctly predicted in 1998 that Russia would “react quite adversely” if NATO expanded to the East. “I think it is a tragic mistake,” he said. “This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way.” Since then, NATO has added 11 member countries that were once either Soviet republics or a part of the Warsaw Pact. NATO expansion has, unsurprisingly, driven Russia and China closer together, a strategic debacle that no U.S. president should encourage.

If he’d taken stock early, a sensible Biden might have decided to defuse tensions with Russia so we can focus on real security concerns. Extending the New START arms-control pact, as Biden did, would be only a first step.

Instead of ramping up military aid to Ukraine and allowing loose talk about Ukraine joining NATO, Biden could call for a joint guarantee of Ukraine’s independence and neutrality. The United States and NATO would agree not to station troops or offensive weapons in former Soviet republics; the Russians would guarantee not to threaten them with military force. Both would pledge not to interfere with those countries’ internal political affairs.

With NATO already encompassing many of the former republics, right up to the Russian border, full disengagement now is too difficult politically. But even at this late stage, a declaration of Ukrainian independence and nonalignment as part of an internationally negotiated settlement, perhaps protected by the U.N. Security Council or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, would de-escalate tensions and make a durable cease-fire possible.

Biden is already under fire from the hawks in both parties for even entering into negotiations. But despite all the bellicose blather, the real security interests of Americans are clear. Ukraine is not among them. Even if Ukraine were part of NATO, no U.S. president would go to war with Russia to defend it. Paradoxically, NATO now largely exists to manage the risks created by its existence. We have a compelling interest in cooling tensions with Russia, and in sustaining the independence of countries on its border. That may be uncommon sense in today’s national security establishment, but it surely is wiser than a conventional wisdom that seems intent on gearing up for a violent conflict on Russia’s border.

Opinion by Katrina vanden HeuvelKatrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the Nation magazine, writes a weekly column for The Post. She has also edited or co-edited several books, including “The Change I Believe In: Fighting for Progress in the Age of Obama” (2011) and “Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover” (2009).

14 comments

  1. Full credit to a commenter named Cedric Hinsch, who has posted an excellent rebuttal to this loathsome article:-

    “I am truly amazed by the discrepancy between WaPo columnists in terms of their strategic thinking and insight. To be clear, I am certain the author is quite sincere with her dangerous and short-sighted comments. After the Tea Party and Trump on the right and progressives on the left, crypto-isolationism disguised as so called „restraint“ is now being advocated by more and more people, since there is a perception that the American electorate would no longer support so called „adventures“. Simply by using said terminology, the author reduces critically important responsibilities to mere juvenile games. It is an amateurishly written piece that relies heavily on the rather unorthodox thinking of the Quincy Institute. The underlying concept of conducting foreign relations in this article appears to be Jeffersonian. Americas most important contributions to the world and its own interests originated, however, from the Hamiltonian and Wilsonian paradigms. Euro-atlantic security is of immense importance. Every US president in the post cold war era understood that very well -except for one obvious aberration-. Conceding decisive strategic ground in the black sea region shows the very anti-geopolitical naïveté that Germany demonstrated over the last years vis a vis Russia. US should not follow its footsteps. Taiwan, Ukraine, Iran will be the three major security challenges in 2022. Creating a dubious rationale backed by a highly ideological and partisan perception of domestic US realities for deprioritizing essential challenges will do nothing to help alleviate the risk they pose in terms of their evidently corrosive effect on the remainders of the liberal international order.”

    A commenter called BastogneBulldog wrote :
    “Another appeaser and Putin devotee.”

    Wink Man wrote: “Did putin help write this opinion piece?”

    BHuggins writes: “You could be a spokesperson for Putin and Xi. Where is it on our nation’s interest to ignore democracy in former vassal states of the Soviet Union?
    For promises from Putin that he will not militarily invade Ukraine and Xi to protect the human rights of Uyghurs, and democracy in Hong Kong?
    Are we to forget who we are dealing with?
    This is bad writing and bad reasoning dressed up as modern blithering pragmatism. If you are going to write, write something worth reading.”

    Overall, the bulk of the 500 or so comments are intelligent and pro-Ukraine. Worth having a look. Well done WaPo readers.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I had to stop after she said Ukraine was “an adventure abroad.” Last night Tucker Carlson referred to the war in Ukraine as an “distant border dispute.” Yet these two dingbats are probably the first to start chirping about human rights and liberty at every turn……….just human right and liberty for them and theirs, not for some strange white Christian country that some mad dictator wants. Funny they seek to protect Putin’s borders but not Ukraine’s. In the old days if YOU started a fight YOU were guilty. Period.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I just looked up who the writer of this piece is. It turns out she is the widow of an exceptionally evil kremtroll: Stephen Frand Cohen; a friend of Michael Savage and massive putler jackboot licker.

    Liked by 4 people

          • Its funny, they kept sending me “we miss you” emails. I told them when I cancelled why I cancelled. Not to mention when I first cancelled they sent me bills anyway. When I looked for it on my bank statement I saw they used Malaysian currency! So I went in to Netflix and I saw my account had all these Malaysian movie “favorites”. Somebody hacked me but that’s all they charged me. I closed the account to be sure and opened a new one. Screw them. I’m just hoping Amazon doesn’t screw up too much, I’d hate to part with my Firestick! lol

            Liked by 2 people

  3. Here’s what I wrote on WP in response to the skank’s article.
    Well done, Mrs. Katrina vanden Heuvel, this piece qualifies you to work for Putin’s propaganda outlet RT.
    Thus, taking from what you wrote, it is fully okay for you to let a bully be a bully while we simply look the other way. It is such opinions, articles and comments that continue to disappoint the Ukrainian people. They are one of our staunchest friends–they look up to us and respect us–unlike most other nations whom we’ve supported, most of which with vastly more money. My opinion is that we can tackle all those problems that you’ve mentioned in your article because we are the greatest nation on earth and we’ve mastered worse situations before. If we have had politicians of your caliber during those trying times, we would have stopped existing as a nation some time ago already.
    If we surrender to Putin, who is actually nothing more than a filthy little gangster, then we will lose what little credibility we have left over after our humiliating Afghanistan debacle.

    Liked by 4 people

    • You’re absolutely right Sir Facts, and worse, it would likely give 11 the green light to go ahead on Taiwan. US Generals have already said it will likely take 20 – 30 years for the US military to get their reputation back after the Biden retreat from Afghanistan. We used to be known for not leaving anyone behind and even now it is the volunteers…not the government…that are bringing our people home. Worse than a Saigon retreat…if Trump had done that he would have been impeached at least twice since then.

      Liked by 4 people

      • And, the leftist media CNN, NBC, CBS, NYT, Bloomberg, et al, would blast Trump daily over this. But, since it was their darling sleepy Joe, you hear nothing at all.

        Liked by 2 people

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