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Competing Interests: The Ukrainian Crisis

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Ukraine's former president Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych was removed from office on 22 February 2014. Since then, U.S., E.U., and Russian diplomats have been working to influence the future of Ukraine.

After Yanukovych's removal, Ukraine's parliament took the decision to cancel a law that gives legal status to the Russian language in Ukraine. This would have potentially disadvantaged the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine. Additionally, Russia recognizes the removal of Yanukovych as illegal and unconstitutional making some arguments based on Ukrainian law during a press conference with Putin.

With the escalation of Western efforts in Ukraine, Russia deployed troops to the Crimea region. The West demanded Russia to pull its troops out under the threat of sanctions that the West imposed on 6 March. The U.S. expanded visa bans on Russian officials and hopes to get E.U. support in imposing further sanctions aimed at Russia's financial infrastructure and foreign-property holdings.

International Diplomacy 101

During this whole ruckus over Ukraine, a phone conversation between the U.S. Department of State's Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Jane Nuland, and the United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, was leaked, the content of which gives us a rare glimpse into American diplomacy. Whilst discussing who the future leader of Ukraine should be, Ms. Nuland favored Arseniy Yatseniuk over Vitaly  Klitschko, explaining that the former has more economic- and political-governance experience than the latter. To bolster U.S. interests, Ms. Nuland said she had spoken to UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeff Feltman, who "had now gotten both [UN's Robert] Serry and Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, F**k the EU."

It would not be unfair to refer to Ms. Nuland with regards to her EU comment as unstates[wo]manlike--and to both the U.S. and Russia governments as politicasters, i.e. pretenders to international politics. Why? This is because politics comes from the word 'politic' which is defined as "Wise; prudent and sagacious in devising and pursuing measures adapted to promote the public welfare". At present neither side seems to be looking out for Ukraine's welfare.

At a press briefing, U.S. Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the leaked conversation to which he responded, " Ultimately, it's up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future." The U.S. might say this but are not allowing this to happen. Neither is Russia because both sides seek to secure and protect their interests.

Western-sponsored protests?

President Putin pointed to irregularities in the Ukrainian protests. Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, Paul Craig Roberts, has also made damaging allegations against his country, alleging that, "The protests in the western Ukraine are organized by the CIA, the US State Department, and by Washington and EU-financed Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that work in conjunction with the CIA and State Department. The purpose of the protests is to overturn the decision by the independent government of Ukraine not to join the EU. The US and EU were initially cooperating in the effort to destroy the independence of Ukraine and make it a subservient entity to the EU government in Brussels".

This information may simply be conjectured but unfortunately CIA-sponsored overthrow of constitutionally legitimate regimes are not uncommon. If these allegations were true, what would be one motivation for such behavior? One answer may lie with the international-relations discipline, which was created in the U.S. by refugee academics from Europe. One of the theories of this discipline is known as realism. Many professional diplomats of have come across this in one form or the other in their studies. What does this entail?


Martti Koskenniemi details much of the history of international relations in his seminal work, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870-1960. In this book, Stanley Hoffmann is quoted as citing Hans Morgenthau as the founder of the international-relations discipline. Morgenthau is also listed (with Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, and Herbert Marcuse) among "the four most influential of [the] refugee intellectuals" in the development of political theory in the United States. By Koskenniemi's account, Morgenthau "became the theorist of power with idiosyncratic views about responsible statesmanship who is now known as the father of "Realism" in international relations".

The basic premise of a realist paradigm is "State power is the key--indeed, the only--variable of interest, because only through power can States defend themselves and hope to survive." Morgenthau believed that, "To look after one's interest -- self-preservation -- became both political necessity as well as moral duty," according to Koskenniemi. Realism presumes that the international system is filled with anarchy, therefore there's no central authority. As such the most important thing is for each state to look out for its own interests via the use of power. This power is manifested through means such as manipulation by economic or military means. Case in point is the military occupation of Crimea as well as U.S. and E.U. attempts to set up a puppet government by p umping US$5 million into Ukraine with the promise of a further US$1 billion.

Blame Game

The U.S., U.K., and Russia signed three memorandums on 5 December 1994, with the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances explicitly states that The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland commit themselves:  

"to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine..., to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine..., and to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind."

The West and Russia should respect this memorandum, recognizing Ukrainians as people just like their own with a right to their territorial integrity, political independence, and sovereignty.

The U.S. has also accused Russia of breaching this memorandum by its occupation of Ukraine's Crimea.

In response to this Mike Shedlock points out that, when the U.S. deploys troops to faraway lands with which they have no historical ties like Iraq and Afghanistan to occupy it in the pursuit of U.S. interests, this is OK, but when Russia does similar in a country next door, with which it has historical tie s, it's illegal?

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