by Dan Lucas
A former Ukrainian foreign minister and a current member of the Ukrainian Parliament have recently called for Ukraine to rebuild a nuclear arsenal — given the West’s impotent reaction to Russia’s invasion. After the breakup of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Ukraine ended up with the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Their nuclear weapons were diverse, modern and survivable in the event of a first strike.
But the U.K. and the U.S. pressed them to disarm, resulting in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. Negotiated by the Clinton Administration, Ukraine received national security assurances from the U.K. and U.S. in exchange for relinquishing their nukes.
Those assurances have turned out to be meaningless. Obviously this not only hurts the Ukrainian people, it also hurts the world’s trust in our assurances. On something this vital, why would anyone trust the word of the U.S. in the future? We’ve left Ukraine to stand alone against Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Walter Russell Mead, writing at The American Interest, points out that while Putin is no Hitler, he’s still “been following Adolf’s playbook pretty closely.” Putin claims to be acting to protect Russians in other countries, just as Hitler claimed to be protecting Germans in other countries when he marched into the Rhineland, Austria and Sudetenland (part of Czechoslovakia). The National Review highlights the parallels by demonstrating that a speech given in 1938 by Hitler could easily be given today by Putin by just substituting Ukraine and Russia for Czechoslovakia and Germany.
A Salem-area Ukrainian even pointed out to me that both Hitler and Putin had showcased their nations in grand Olympic spectacles prior to their more egregious aggressions.
What is to stop further Russian aggression in Ukraine and beyond? The Russians are flexing their nuclear muscles, they have a much stronger conventional army than their neighbors, and President Obama has consistently signaled that the U.S. won’t stand in Russia’s way. President Obama scrapped a missile-defense agreement with Eastern Europe not long after he took office, he has waffled on his “red line” in Syria, and even recently he has pushed for cuts in U.S. defense spending. Cuts that an op-ed in the Washington Post says “telegraph that the United States is retreating, that it is war-weary and reluctant to deploy raw power as an instrument of national policy. President Obama’s undisguised distaste for using the military amplifies the message.”
President Obama is acting exactly as the majority of American voters wanted. He and Secretary of State John Kerry, both acolytes of the Neville Chamberlin school of international diplomacy, are placating tyrants and aggressor nations. They are faithfully representing an American voting public weary of the burden of world leadership.
OK, so American voters no longer want to be the world’s police — but then who will be? The United Nations? The U.N. didn’t stop Russia from invading Ukraine. The U.N. couldn’t even manage to put out a “strongly worded resolution” because it was vetoed in the U.N. Security Council by Russia, and China abstained. So it’s every nation for themselves.
Every nation must defend themselves, must deter aggressors and bad actors on the international stage like Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea and possibly even China. And most nations don’t enjoy the luxury of being isolated by huge expanses of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Even with those oceans, the U.S. is not completely immune from threat. An anchorman on state-owned Russian TV recently boasted “Russia is the only country in the world ready to turn the U.S. into radioactive ash.”
Unrealistic hope and misplaced trust do not make for a safer world. If history is any indication, America’s current neo-isolationism will not end well.
To read more from Dan, visit www.dan-lucas.com