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25 February 2015


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Dave Schuler

Wondeful post and an apt analogy. What Heinzmann's experiment demonstrated was that if the water were heated slowly enough the frog would not jump out. We are not a patient people, I don't believe we have enough patience to prevent this particular frog from jumping out, and this is not the time or occasion to turn up the fire.

João Carlos

"A first step in this direction could be for the Ukraine to join the European Union."

The problem is that I don't think Russia will accept Ukraine joins to EU, like it will not accept Ukraine joins NATO. Russia wants Ukraine join russian federation economic union...

Babak Makkinejad

Dr. Polk:

I agree with you that Peace requires acceptance of the concept of "Sphere of Influence".

But will NATO states accept that?

Bill H

The "Childrens Crusade" and the media speak as if Putin does not represent the people of the nation of Russia. Somehow Obama represents the great principles and the will if the people of this nation, but Putin is operating purely on his own will and is not supported by the will of the people he governs.

In actuality it would seem the opposite is true, since Obama's popular support is in the 40% range while Putin is enjoys a popularity rating in the 80% range, but let's not let facts get in the way of our war game.

And don't forget that we are being led by children. They do not recall the Cuban missile crisis, Obama was only one year old at the time, and they do not think that such ancient history has any relevance to today's world. Nor do they recall that Russia played any role in WW2, or have any concept of the role that Ukraine played in that chapter of history.


I don't think Ukraine joining the EU would be acceptable to Russia. One of the things this crisis has shown is just how much in the thrall of the US the EU is. So Ukraine joining the EU would essentially be conceding it to the US.

João Carlos

Dr. Polki,

there is only ONE state at NATO... USA. It is better don't have illusions.

João Carlos

Bill H,

I think both Putin and Obama were elected, so both have legitimacy, so popularity is not so much important as you think. Popularity will affect only the number of foot soldiers that will want go to war or how much the population will tolerate impopular measures before revolt, so Russia will have an advantage (yes, I am being very cynical).

And, cynical as I am, I don't think Putin election was more flawed than Bush junior first election...

Carl O.

Heck, these children don't even think that what they themselves did in 2011-i.e. Libya-has any relevance, even though it helped put them on the road to the confrontation that we're faced with now.

BTE: Very informative piece, Mr. Polk. thank you.


João Carlos,
I think the problem is that EU is not only a economic partnership. It has security aspects as well.


I think the problem is that EU is not a purely economic partnership. It has some security aspects as well. At least the EU deal that was offered to Ukraine in 2013 had certain "back doors".

Bryn P

I quite agree. There is a clear political divide between the western-looking peoples of West Ukraine and the Russophiles in the South and East. One solution could be to to divide the country in two reflecting their natural inclinations. This would allow the west to join the EU and the rest to seek some form of association with the RF. However Putin has made it clear from the very beginning that his preference is for a united Ukraine, one totally unaligned, and with the regions allowed a fair bit of autonomy. He would like it to be a buffer between Russia and the EU. The Crimea is lost. Even if he agrees to a further vote there under some wholly independent auspices I believe the result would be the same.

The current sabre-rattling by the US and NATO, aided and abetted by the UK government, is not helpful, but positively dangerous.

Ishmael Zechariah

Professor Polk,

Thank you for the analysis. Could you tell us why "some" policy analysts insist on using a set of assumptions that can cause the end of the world as we know it?

Ishmael Zechariah


Dr. Polk, it was a privilege to read your post. There is one passage that arrested me for quite a few minutes.

"Both Russia and the United States are governed by men who are unlikely to be able to accept humiliation -- and almost certain murder by "super patriots" in their own entourages"".

I understand you went through the passage of President Kennedy's assassination. But do you truly believe President Obama would be prone to assassination should a 'humiliation' occur? And from someone in his own administration? If so, that is breathtaking and leaves me mind boggled.

David Habakkuk


You are absolutely right. It surprised me that, at the end of a characteristically sagacious essay, William Polk produced a proposal which appears to me to indicate a total blindness to what has happened in Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The British scholar Richard Sakwa – of Polish immigrant background – is one of the best commentators on the shambles in Ukraine. A review in the 'Guardian' by Jonathan Steele of his recently published book on the subject is I think worth quoting.

In it, Sakwa argues that, as Steele puts it, 'three long-simmering crises have boiled over to produce the violence that is engulfing eastern Ukraine.'

What Sakwa has to say about the first two crises seems to me wise. However, from an American and European point of view – and, unlike many of my countrymen, I do regard Britain as part of Europe – it is the following section of Steele's summary of Sakwa's view which I think most to the point:

'The third crisis, also linked to the Nato issue, is the European Union's failure to stay true to the conflict resolution imperative that had been its original impetus. After 1989 there was much talk of the arrival of the "hour of Europe". Just as the need for Franco-German reconciliation inspired the EU's foundation, many hoped the cold war's end would lead to a broader east-west reconciliation across the old Iron Curtain.

'But the prospect of greater European independence worried key decision-makers in Washington, and Nato's role has been, in part, to maintain US primacy over Europe's foreign policy. From Bosnia in 1992 to Ukraine today, the last two decades have seen repeated occasions where US officials pleaded, half-sincerely, for a greater European role in handling geopolitical crises in Europe while simultaneously denigrating and sidelining Europe's efforts. Last year's "Fu-k the EU" comment by Victoria Nuland, Obama's neocon assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, was the pithiest expression of this.

'Sakwa writes with barely suppressed anger of Europe's failure, arguing that instead of a vision embracing the whole continent, the EU has become little more than the civilian wing of the Atlantic alliance.'

(See http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2015/02/frontline-ukraine-crisis-in-the-borderlands.html#more .)

If this perception is realistic – as I think it is – it follows naturally that Russia will be as opposed to EU membership for Ukraine as it is to NATO membership: it will conclude, quite realistically, that the one will eventually lead to the other.

For all kinds of reasons, I never thought that Putin's vision of Europe 'from Vladivostock to Lisbon' was realistic.

However, I also thought that there was no reason why the alternative should 'Greater Asia, from Shanghai to St. Petersburg.'

And this, it now seems likely, is what a generation of incompetence from European and American 'policymakers' has given us.


"Both the Russians and the Americans are guided in their foreign policy by what they believe to be "core concerns.""

Fair enough. As it happens, Europeans also have a "core concern" with regard to Russia, which can be summarized as "Stop invading us".

"A first step in this direction could be for the Ukraine to join the European Union. "

Unfortunately, Ukraine moving towards the EU is precisely what started this whole mess. Besides, Russian reaction to the EU-Ukraine association treaty has been quite explicit.

The author evidently accepts the Russian protestation that their main objective was to prevent NATO bases in Sebastopol. Maybe it was.

An alternative interpretation is that this is self-serving rubbish. NATO membership was never in the cards for Ukraine (even if the Ukrainians had asked for it, good luck convincing Europeans to automatically commit ground troops in the case of a Russian invasion in Kharkiv...)

In this interpretation, the Russian objective was to maintain essentially total control of Ukraine by any means necessary. That won't happen. So, barring that, destabilize the rebellious natives, and gobble up as much territory (and industrial infrastructure) as possible. This part is going on pretty well at the moment.

IMO the simultaneous prodding of Baltic countries seems more compatible with the second interpretation than the first.

Misanthrope: "One of the things this crisis has shown is just how much in the thrall of the US the EU is."

One of the things this crisis has shown is that European leaders suddenly found their collective spine, much to the surprise of this European expat.

Europe cannot prevent Russia from drifting back into Soviet mode. But what we can do is attach a price tag. "Tough luck Ivan, it's not 1968 any more. This time, invading uppity countries who try to break free is going to cost you a bit more than just the petrol for the tanks. Enjoy your economic meltdown."

different clue

Since the Space Kidettes are impervious to this logic and the neos are hostile to this goal, what can the rest of us do to force the Space Kidettes and the Neos into surrendering to policy based on this logic in pursuit of this goal?

What pressure points can the rest of us kick, sprain, stick hatpins into, etc. to cause our Deciders such intense pain that they are forced to do what this post suggests just to make the pain stop?


Agreed -- can't think why this otherwise sensible analysis goes wrong right at the end. Apart from anything else, joining the EU is not likely to benefit Ukraine economically: look at the fate of Greece.


"When what must be said can’t be said, multiply your risk by ten. If the denial is tainted by arrogance or fear, multiply your risk by ten again."



"Somehow Obama represents the great principles and the will if the people of this nation"

No, no, Americans have over the Cold War come to see themselves as far more than that - leaders of the free world.

That self image has practical consequences beyond the conceit.

They speak for us, too. Since the world is flat, in the West - the free world - anyone is alike, there is no need for consultation. Everybody is essentially American under the surface.

That's why dissent always causes such puzzlement.

Clearly there was no flaw in the policy they could object to. Think of the invasion of Iraq - a splendid idea that Europoe irrationally rejected.

That was the time of the joke, made in earnest in the US, that Europe was isolated from America and their New Europe clients and the fabled coalition of the willing.

When Europeans objected, it must be because of fatal flaws of character - cowardice, girlishness, being a weak-kneed leftist or terrorist lover and naturally Anti-Americanism - and in 2003: people generally hating George Bush.

The archives of Nationa Review Online and the Weekly Standard are full or that.


Forget Mexico joining the Warsaw Oaxt; think "Zimmerman Telegram."

We can't even get Turkey to let us use Turkish bases to run our air operation against ISIS. How do we run an operation in the Ukraine over the objection of Angela Merkle?


To Dr. Polks excellent paper, I would like to make one further observation - anomie and boredom among the young is I believe a great danger to all us. I suspect that during the Cuban missile crisis older and wiser heads were in charge. By that I mean leaders who had proximate experience of continental general war in all its horrors. Today we do not.

I am concerned that the disconnect between the reality and fiction of war is growing. There are too many glib commentators, their acolytes and sections of the younger community who think war might be adventurous fun (as has happened before). Continental America has not been touched by war since The War Between The States.

I think I understand that memories may also be fading in Europe but I am not sure.

We seem to be replaying August 1914.

Babak Makkinejad

I think that the statement: "...the EU has become little more than the civilian wing of the Atlantic alliance.." is not accurate.

EU pushed 20 million people into poverty in Iran as it waged an economic war against her.

Likewise against Syria.

Civilians they are not.

Babak Makkinejad

Because they can.

Babak Makkinejad

West or Urals, Russia has a population of 115 million - larger than Germany's.

And if the other states East of the Theosious line (extended vertically North) could be part of EU, so could Russia - as an economic common market.

João Carlos

IMHO, the problem with EU is that they made sanctions against Russia, so Russia is no more seeing them as friendly, but as unfriendly. That is the reason is moving the economy in direction to East (China) and said they will stop to use Ukraine for transport the gas after the Turkey's nat gas pipeline is ready.

And take note, the only thing Ukraine have for UE was the chance of transport that gas, the european companies were to take that pipelines out of Grazpon control. Now Ukraine is a "grande mico"...

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