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16 March 2014


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Yes. I have also asked the question "what is Obama's off-ramp". Now Putin is, like in Syria, offering one.

The new constitution of the Ukraine, if the Obama administration manages to press the locals to make one, will include federalism with lots of freedoms for the eastern and southern areas to keep their good connections with Russia. This probably with a federal chamber (Senate) that will be able to block major laws and treaties. Russia will then have the benefits of the Ukraine while the "west" will have to pay for their puppets in Kiev (and Gazprom deliveries from Russia) without having its hands on the richer industry and resources in the east.

NATO and EU membership will, of course, be off.


... and by all means, they should go for it.

When I read stuff like that I always wonder - are the Russians really so smart or is the West, and the US more than the rest, just THAT dumb and delusional to be unable to imagine up something like that themselves?

And I am afraid that the answer is that they really are THAT dumb and delusional.

Kerry certainly give me the idea when he merrily blathers his various ultimatums, making a grave face to the extent that Botox allows him that.

Kerry's ultimatums fortunately seem to have a tendency to come to nothing. That gives me the hope and impression that apparently there are hidden reservoirs of reason and rationality left in DC, who must be working overtime in face of what Kerry, and Obama's ladies concoct all day.

They probably must be kept secret and out of sight, lest the neocons, neo libs, and R2Ps descend on them like a horde of howling baboons, fond of escalation ladders, first throw excrement at them, and then stones.


Well, Ukraine will also join the EU "de facto if not de jure", no matter what. IMO the Russians don't really care. What's the worst that can happen? Russian-speakers in the European parliament? Hardly a strategic nightmare.

The real red line is NATO membership. That won't happen as long as the East remains part of Ukraine. Which is probably the main reason why Russia didn't invade it.

One question is whether some group in the Russian services will try and start some kind of trouble in the East. Apparently, it would be ridiculously easy to start a long-term, low-intensity ethnic conflict there. This would create maximal destabilization in Ukraine, at very little cost for Russia, with complete plausible deniability. What's not to like?


"Howling baboons throwing excrement and stones"…..why don't you tell us, what you really think of these clowns of the Imperial Capital?

Unfortunately, I agree with you about the foreign policy elites being dumb and delusional. Not to mention a few dumb as a post republican senators.

Alba Etie

As long as we do not have another moment of 'strategerry " where we invade and occupy another country - or worse start a war - even a cold one , with the Russians , in the end we will probably be OK . I also want to believe that President Obama is playing the neocons et al as much as he can in the context of domestic politics . I think it was you that commented once on how we all need to ignore Senator McCain and his well known office wife Senator Lindsey when they both croak & chirp about bombing them or arming those.. And then when you say here about the howling R2P Baboons ,- I had this image in my mind's eye of Samantha Powers dressed up like the Wicked Witch - releasing her flying monkees -one whose face resembled Bill Kristol ,. Anyway I cling to the belief that President Obama is playing the neocons et al as best he can . We Shall See.

Charles I

That would be sensible, but I look forward to a lot of screaming frustrated wannabe-Nato/European Ukrainians of many incompatible ilks - and their complement of snake-oil salesmen, deleriously happy Crimean Russians, and miserable Tatars.

Toss in a banana peel, a few loose rounds, sign right here.

Peace in our time some wag will insist, and then after blaming everyone else for the present fix, set about undermining it all over again.

Charles I

There's going to be a lot of angry and disillusioned Ukrainians, all feeling betrayed yet again, just for being Ukraine. Between this and the massive anti-corruption needs of any legitimate aspiration to democratic or western style political reform, there will be no need to start anything.

Anything else, I mean.


If so, and I believe this may be the case, it's once again advantage Putin and Russia. He and Russia are two for two now when you include Syria. Putin needs to do and get what he can while he can, meaning there is a great deal of power concentrated in his hands and he's a good, strong leader. The problem with that is, though, when most of the eggs are in that one basket and that basket falls, there go your eggs. It's difficult to imagine another Putin after Putin. It will be some rather large shoes to fill and this is the Long Game.

David Habakkuk


The critical question, I think, is whether this implies that the U.S. has come found to accepting that a federalised Ukraine is the least worst option. One good reason for doing so is that it might provide a means where different parts of Ukraine could work out how they wanted to relate alike to the Euro-Atlantic world and the Russian world without violence.

A problem, I think, is that the country’s industry, which is concentrated in the South and East, requires the maintenance of tariff-free access to Russian markets, but, at this point, an absolute avoidance of the demolition of tariffs against EU products. Much of this industry is certainly ‘rustbelt’ manufacturing, with questionable long-term future, but significant parts of it appear not to be – and there are important elements of defence industry which are still strongly linked to parallel industries in Russia. And many industries which have better prospects of finding a ‘niche’ in civilian production in the global economy are actually defence related.

Accordingly, if the Ukrainian nationalists and their allies in the E.U. and U.S. retain their enthusiasm for free trade with Europe, there may have, in effect, to be trade barriers between different regions in a federal Ukraine.

So far, it seems to me, the Ukrainian nationalists have been playing into Moscow’s hands. In the past, the fact that people in the South and East of the country – and above all in the centre, and critically in Kiev – might speak Russian in preference in Ukrainian has emphatically not meant that they had the least desire to rejoin Russia.

However, Victorian Nuland’s little friends have made amply clear both their unremitting hostility to the Russian language and Russian culture, and their identification with the heritage of the ‘Banderistas’: the Ukrainian nationalists who were, among things, the instruments of ‘Lviv pogrom’ of June-July 1941. It seems to me difficult to think of a better means of persuading not simply ethnic Russians but many ethnic Ukrainians that their least worst option, however much many of them may dislike it, is to draw closer to Moscow.

After all, there are plenty of ethnic Ukrainians who have relatives who served in the Red Army which broke the back of the Wehrmacht. Does anyone in their right mind expect that all such people will accept the self-proclaimed heirs of the Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera as their natural leaders?

It has long seemed to me that a central priority for maintaining security in Europe was to maintain the independence of Ukraine. Up to a certain point, countering Russian influence was a sensible way of doing this. However, it was also clear that the maintenance of Ukrainian independence required avoiding at all costs ideas of integrating the country in NATO, which must inevitably split it, and also, keeping the skeletons in the cupboard left by the Second World War firmly in the cupboard.

It is the West, not Putin, who have decisively violated these basic conditions for maintaining a coherent and independent Ukraine. How this has happened I have difficulty understanding. What happens in American universities these days, for God’s sake? Sometimes it seems to me that some kind of lobotomy has to have been practised, to produce people as stupid as Victoria Nuland.


It is not Russia that is blocking Ukraine entry of the EU. It is the EU that is doing it. The treaty that the ex president didn't sign was a more along the lines of "We will follow EU regulation but will never be allowed to enter the EU"

David Habakkuk


You are doubly wrong.

It is often difficult to explain to Americans how deeply the Second World War resonates among Europeans. After all, it wasn’t an ‘existential struggle’ for you, with thousands of miles of fish to your east and west, and those formidable military powers Canada and Mexico to your north and south.

Over the past few days, I have been in Shropshire, being introduced to my niece’s first child. Her husband talked about his grandfather, to whom he was close, and who had a large collection of Second World War medals. How he got them was a matter about which he was reluctant to talk – apparently he said they were awarded for ‘stupidity’.

As to Putin, he was born in Leningrad, as it was then was, eight years after the siege, in which the boy who would have been his elder brother died of diphtheria. It seems to me likely that his childhood was replete with stories told by his parents and grandparents generation of their ‘existential struggle’ with Nazi Germany. Probably some of them were as reluctant to talk as my niece’s husband’s grandfather.

It appears that, after comparing Putin to Hitler, Hilary Clinton partially backtracked. From the Washington Post, we learn the most recent version of her idiocy:

‘“As for President Putin, I know we are dealing with a tough guy with a thin skin,” Clinton said. “I’ve had a lot of experience, not only with him but people like that.”

‘Clinton added that Putin’s “political vision is of a greater Russia. I said when I was still secretary of state that his goal is to re-Sovietize Russia’s periphery. But in the process, he is squandering the potential of such a great nation – the nation of Russia – and threatening instability and even the peace of Europe.”’

(See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/03/05/hillary-clinton-calls-putin-a-tough-guy-with-a-thin-skin//?print=1 )

The actual truth is that, by virtue of his whole background and experience, Putin is deeply conservative. Precisely what he dreads is instability, be it in the Middle East, the Ukraine, and most of all, Russia.

Some of those very few conservatives that remain among American elites have begun to get some inkling of this.


Thank you for sharing this PL. Hopefully this is now not going to result in WWIII. (I am not an American, so forgive the tone: I'm not meaning to tell you what to do, but everyone in the world has an interest in not turning it into a cinder.)

Kerry also said yesterday that Russia has interests in Ukraine. Someone has managed to pound that obvious little truth into his steel-woollen hair http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26583697

Something needs to be done about the state department. The US cannot afford to let them blunder the US into world war three. It is probably not possible to put individuals who are partially responsible for this in front of literal firing squad. But it must be the moral equivalent. And it must be public.

The US also needs to remind Europe that nobody can afford Russia becoming a failed state. A nuclear power capable of destroying the world cannot ever become a failed state. This means Europe paying Russia for its gas for the next 50 or so years may well be an imperative of national security.

The United States long ago made its red lines clear during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I think the USSR genuinely respected them, and this respect was the route that led to a detente, and allowed to Soviet Union, when it was at severe risk of becoming a failed state, to more-or-less carefully disintegrate without risking chaos.

There needs to be US-Russia summit immediately, in which Russia spells out what its red lines are, and they and the US agree to inform each other whenever they feel they are being approached. It would be good if these red lines were public, but they at minimum need to be shared with appropriate committees.

The US and Russia ought to agree that Russia pay some token of contrition to Ukraine. Ukraine also cannot become a failed state, if Russia feels it's interests are so central to it. And so Russia needs to acknowledge some responsibility for allowing it to descend to the point that it has.


The Russian "off ramp" documented in this Russian non-paper (http://newsru.com/pict/big/1638517.html) has been accepted by the U.S. This after a strategy session in the White House today.

Kerry is now selling this as HIS idea and is "urging Russia" to accept its own demands.

The non-paper says new constitution with strong federalization and a political and military neutral Ukraine, guaranteed by U.S., EU, Russian and a UN Security Council resolution. Crimea would be free to do what it wants.

Here is Kerry accepting the demand:

Secretary of State John Kerry called on Moscow to return its troops in Crimea to their bases, pull back forces from the Ukraine border, halt incitement in eastern Ukraine and support the political reforms in Ukraine that would protect ethnic Russians, Russian speakers and others in the former Soviet Republic that Russia says it is concerned about.

In a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, their second since unsuccessful face-to-face talks on Friday in London, Kerry urged Russia "to support efforts by Ukrainians across the spectrum to address power sharing and decentralization through a constitutional reform process that is broadly inclusive and protects the rights of minorities," the State Department said.
Funny how "power sharing and decentralization through a constitutional reform process that is broadly inclusive and protects the rights of minorities", which Kerry had never mentioned before, must now be "urged" on Russia.

Putin won this one.


I forget who it was exactly, but there was at least one editorial that I came across last day or two that suggested "Bosniaization" of Ukraine: the whole country would remain "neutral," but constituent parts will be given large degree of autonomy and be allowed to gravitate towards Russia or the EU as the locals see fit. This seems to be the best possible situation. At minimum, this avoids the prospect of creating a government that forces the Galicians and the Crimean Russians to cooperate with each in anything meaningful, which I've been convinced is impossible in any medium term future. It prevents creation of a hostile state right on Russia's own borders. It provides sufficient assurance for the ethnic Russians in Crimea that they wouldn't be able to force Kremlin to take too rash an action while allowing Russia to take enough credit for "protecting" their "kin." We shall see how this pans out, though...


@ Patrick Lang
"The EU and the US insist on meaningful constitutional modification by the Ukrainian state."

I wonder how receptive the neo-Nazi factions, who reportedly control the army (what there is of it) and police, will be to codification of Russian rights and increased autonomy in the east.

@ David Habakkuk
" Sometimes it seems to me that some kind of lobotomy has to have been practised, to produce people as stupid as Victoria Nuland."

It only seems that she is a moron if one makes the assumption that she is consciously seeking to further American national interests. She is a neocon/lib, so I suspect that this is not the case.


All -

It appears that Putin has basically won, as Lavrov's announcement appears to reflect in principle Russia's clearly stated position since the February 21 agreement was signed by the Ukraine government and opposition leaders that called for constitutional reform along the lines of Lavrov's statement.

And Kerry is apparently now urging Russia to support essentially these same concepts that Russia's has been demanding since February 21.


Seeing how Obama screwed up the healthcare reform and gave us the package that's barely better than the status quo, I have trouble trusting Obama's judgments.

What I think is going on is that Obama is basically a vainglorious weathervane without any conviction of his own (there was a recent piece by David Bromwich on Huffingtonpost, I think--although it was reproduced quite widely--that made this case). This lack of conviction is probably a good thing: Obama will resist making himself look bad publicly, but, otherwise, he will bow to the most forceful argument from his advisors. I don't think this is unique to Obama: every major American politician nowadays is probably guilty of this.

If there is enough reservoir of sanity in Washington, this should mean that totally irresponsible warmongering can be avoided, but that also means that the irresponsible warmongers will be doing their best to deplete such reservoirs so that they can merrily blow everyone up in the name of whatever. I am pessimistic that we can always count on such reservoirs being there, as the previous administration has shown so vividly.

William Herschel

It isn't just botox. That ain't his hair. That is a rug.

"In the end the U.S. never held the cards it needed to win this game."


The beaver

In the meantime, Ukranian hackers have targeted NATO websites, after taking down some Russian ones last week.


Their complaint " Stay out of Ukraine"

David Habakkuk


Whose interests do you think Nuland is seeking to further? And, whoever's interests you think she is trying to further, do you think the means by which she seeks to do this are likely to be well-calculated?



Two for two? Putin did not create either situation, he responded to the disastrous policies of the United States government.

After Obama it is hard to imagine another Obama. The neocons, however, will still be around.


I wonder if this "off ramp" is a disguised path to the proverbial (or perhaps even literal) hell.

AJP Taylor, in his controversial book examining the diplomatic failure leading up to World War II in Europe, argued that the main problem with Munich was that Britain and France fell squarely behind neither resistance nor appeasement. On the one hand, their leaders recognized that it was politically and militarily infeasible to fight a general war over the status of ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. On the other hand, they did not want to be seen as surrendering to an unsavory dictator so they fudged the details of what they agreed to in order that they might look more, eh, respectable before their publics. The consequence was that the "red line" that Germany should not cross and what the British and French responses to such transgression would be was made clear to no one, including to the British and French themselves. In other words, the problem with Munich was that it a badly drawn up contract that was left intentionally vague on the specifics to save the face of the British and French leaders. Because of this, it did not prevent the war nor save the faces of the British and French leaders.

So, how much details will be in the present contract over Ukraine? How much influence will Russia have in Donetsk? In Kiev? How will they implement their influence? If, say, Galicians try to subvert Russian influence outside Galicia and do so in a manner that casts Russias in bad light in the West, will the Russians have a mechanism to assert their "rights"? Will the Western politicians be able to accept such Russian actions without embarrassing themselves? If the Russians do overreach, will there be mechanisms for the West to push them back legalistically? Whatever deal that might be reached, it will have to have a lot of secret protocols, secret implementation mechanisms, and cynical deals. In order to work properly, it will have to be both unbelievable cynical and amoral and very much legalistic. I don't know if it can be easily stomached in the West and attempts to obfuscate what it really is will lead to even greater distrust for everyone involved. I am not at all optimistic about its prospects in the long run.


I am trying to be polite.


That link goes to a page not found.


" On the one hand, their leaders recognized that it was politically and militarily infeasible to fight a general war over the status of ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. "

Politically, true enough, but militarily...

Compare a Skoda T-35/T-38 to a Pz III, and note that in 1938 Czechoslovakia had lots more T-35/T-38 than the Germans had Pz IIIs.

Then consider the Czechoslovak fortifications in her forested mountains.

Then consider her alliance with the USSR & France.

Then consider that the Romanians had given permission for Soviet aircraft to transit Romanian airspace to Czechoslovakia.

This was one that Adolph was gonna lose. He himself referred to Czechoslovakia as '...a spearhead in my side..." paralyzing his strategic freedom of action.

Chamberlain's solution for Adolph's problem was:

"Supposing it (Czechoslovakia's alliances) were modified, so that Czechoslovakia were no longer bound to go to the assistance of Russia if Russia was attacked, and on the other hand Czechoslovakia was debarred from giving asylum to Russian forces in her aerodromes or elsewhere; would that remove your difficulty?"

"Munich" wasn't about peace. Chamberlain's own words show that the main problem with Munich was it was about protecting Adolph from Soviet counteraction"...if Russia were attacked..."

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