02, 2014 "ICH"
Obama needs to articulate clearly to the American
people, and very soon, that the Ukraine crisis is
the most important challenge to the international
system since the end of the Cold War.
It is more
than a month since the Russians annexed Crimea, and
recent events have only exacerbated the crisis, with
pro-Russian rebels reportedly shooting down two
Ukrainian helicopters in separatist-held Slaviansk
on Friday. Yet the president still hasnít laid out a
comprehensive statement of what is really at stake:
why we are facing this problem; why it is in our
common interest to resolve it with the Russians if
possible; and why, if negotiation does not work out,
we have an obligation to help Ukraine. Above all the
president must clarify why we cannot tolerate an
international system in which countries are invaded
by thugs and destabilized from abroad. And why this
is a common responsibility not just for us but for
our allies and other friends like the Chinese, whose
stake in stability should be as great as ours.
whole I support the actions the president has taken
so far. Considering the kind of democratic alliance
we have, I think he generally did as well as is
possible under present circumstances. He has had to
tread carefully. What I do fault him for is not
explicitly and calmly, but in a broad perspective,
addressing the American people on this issue. He
hasnít made a single major statement to them on what
potentially could be a major international crisis.
He needs the support of the American people. Thus he
has to convince them that this is important and that
his stand deserves both national understanding and
has to generate some degree of conviction in the
West that this is a joint responsibility, and he has
to convince Moscow that we are serious. If we are to
deter the Russians from moving in, we have to
convince them that their aggression will entail a
prolonged and costly effort. But it will be such
only if the Ukrainians resist. Thus, we should be
making an effort to negotiate with Russia even as at
the same time we should be more open to helping the
Ukrainians defend themselves if theyíre attacked.
The Ukrainians will fight only if they think they
will eventually get some help from the West,
particularly in supplies of the kind of weaponry
that will be necessary to wage a successful urban
defense. Theyíre not going to beat the Russians out
in the open field, where thousands of tanks move in.
They can only beat them through prolonged urban
resistance. Then the warís economic costs would
escalate dramatically for the Russians, and it would
become futile politically. But to be able to defend
a city, you have to have handheld anti-tank
weaponry, handheld rockets and some organization.
At the same
time we need also to explore the possibility of a
negotiated solution with Russia regarding Ukraine.
It still might be possible to design it along the
lines of the relationship that Russia has with
Finland, which is not a member of NATO but enjoys
full participation in Europe as best it can, even as
it enjoys also a normal relationship with Russia.
Obama should convey clearly to Russian President
Vladimir Putin that the United States is prepared to
use its influence to ensure that a truly independent
and territorially undivided Ukraine pursues policies
toward Russia similar to those so effectively
practiced by Finland: mutually respectful neighbors,
wide-ranging economic relations both with Russia and
the European Union, but no participation in any
military alliance viewed by Moscow as directed at
itself Ė while also expanding its European
connectivity. The Finnish model may be the ideal
example for Ukraine, the EU and Russia.
As far as
Russian worries about Ukraine being absorbed into
the EU, I would remind the Russians that to join it,
a country has to pass 32 different examinations to
get in. That takes time. The Turks were told they
could join back in the 1960s, some 50 years ago. So
the Russians need not fear a prompt integration of
Ukraine into the EU.
effort to explore such an outcome might be
productive, although it may be difficult to bring
the Ukrainians themselves on board. In any case, we
are dealing with the very real threat that Russia is
trying to alter the post-Cold War individual
security arrangements by force. We are also facing
the possibility that the net dynamic effect of such
an accomplishment could be much-intensified pressure
on some of the more vulnerable NATO countries. Hence
I think we have to be very clear in indicating to
the Russians what the stakes are, what the possible
high costs for them are likely to entail and what
the parameters of a constructive solution might be.
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