The ultimate outcome is likely to be written in the reality that Ukraine affects the strategic interests of Europe and America hardly at all, whereas it is crucial to Russia’s strategic well-being […]

We don’t yet know the details behind the tragic downing of the Malaysia Airlines jetliner over eastern Ukraine on July 17, but in one sense, the details aren’t going to matter very much in the global scheme of things. The geopolitical outcome is already known. World outrage has focused on Russian president Vladimir Putin to such an extent that Putin has suffered a huge loss of moral authority. That, in turn, lessens his range of actions in his ongoing confrontation with the West over Ukraine and increases the likelihood that Russia will lose its traditional dominance over that split country that straddles Russia and the West.

If that happens, prospects for a rapprochement between Russia and the West will be dead for a considerable period. And the watchword in U.S.-Russian relations will be hostility.

Thus, the downing of the Malaysian airliner is likely to be one of those hinge points that historians look back on as having deflected the course of world events. In these spaces the other day, Jacob Heilbrunn suggested a possible correlation between the Malaysia Airlines disaster and the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Bosnia, which set in motion events leading to World War I. It’s worth pondering, particularly an element of the Sarajevo story that could prove pertinent to our own time—namely, the mushrooming of seemingly isolated events into major geopolitical confrontations.

It is noteworthy how quickly the political passions leading to the Sarajevo assassination were overwhelmed by much larger and more profound geopolitical realities and tensions. The fate of the Serbs and their struggle against their Austrian overlords, a matter of intense political anguish in the Balkans at the time, evaporated in significance as Europe’s great powers grappled with complex alliance structures, far-reaching foreign-policy imperatives, internal political threats, and the exigencies of national honor.

Similarly, the emotions generated the past week at the thought of innocent air travelers getting blown out of the sky will soon be subsumed under much more significant geopolitical ambitions and maneuverings. As columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote this week, “Miscalculation and thoughtless error have often sown chaos in the relationships among nations. The deaths of 298 innocent people . . . transformed the battle for Ukraine into a global issue.”

While nobody seriously believes the missile attack on the airliner was a purposeful effort to kill civilians with no stake in the fate of Ukraine, it appears that pro-Russian separatist elements in eastern Ukraine fired the missile that downed the plane and that they received the training for the weapon, if not the weapon itself, from Russia. And, since the United States considers the separatist insurgency in Ukraine to be illegitimate and Russia’s involvement even more so, it was inevitable that the July 17 tragedy would be leveraged for broader geopolitical aims.

It will work. World opinion is turning powerfully against Russia and President Putin, with a lot of help from important world leaders such as President Obama and his ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, as well as many others throughout America and Europe. The result is that Putin will lose much of whatever leverage he had in the matter of the fate and future of Ukraine. Whatever prospect he had of negotiating an end to Ukrainian bloodshed on terms acceptable to him will be lost in the storm of anger generated by that airliner attack.

Again, this is reminiscent of the Sarajevo crime, so heinous that it swept away much of the sympathy previously harbored for the Bosnian Serbs in their struggle against the Habsburgs. Even the timing of Ferdinand’s visit constituted a nasty insult to Serbs throughout the Balkans, coming as it did on the venerated Serbian holiday commemorating the 1389 Serbian defeat at the hands of the Ottomans. But now this insult, not to mention the broader Serbian struggle, no longer mattered in the geopolitical swirl unleashed by the assassin’s bullets.

Similarly, Putin’s range of options will be severely attenuated now in the wake of the Malaysian Airline disaster. We are likely to see in Ukraine a chain of events that Putin was seeking to prevent through a series of extremely delicate and calculated maneuvers. To understand what this is all about, it is necessary to explore the fundamental interests that Putin was pursuing in Ukraine as well as President Obama’s attitude toward those interests.

Russia’s interest in Ukraine is two-fold. First, it is imperative for Russia’s national interest, and also for its cultural sensibility, that eastern Ukraine be allotted a reasonable degree of autonomy from the central authority in Ukraine. Ukraine is a split country. Half of its people are of western origin and look to the West as the locus of their cultural identity. But the country’s eastern half is populated by people of Russian origin, who speak Russian and whose cultural identity emanates from what they consider the Motherland. Russia considers it a national imperative to prevent these people from being swallowed up in a Ukraine dominated by the Western-oriented people of its western regions.

More significantly, Russia’s national interest requires that Ukraine never come under the full sway and influence of the European powers. Ukraine has been part of the Russian sphere of influence for more than 350 years, and this reality has contributed greatly to the country’s sense of security. The geography of Russia—vulnerable to attack through lands devoid of natural protective barriers—gives it a sense of vulnerability that has been, for centuries, uppermost in the minds of its leaders and populace. The result is a need to control surrounding territory as a hedge against that inherent vulnerability. Ukraine has been part of this strategic concern for centuries.

What this means is that Russia may accept Ukraine as a buffer nation between East and West, so long as its Russian-speaking people are accorded a proper degree of cultural respect and autonomy. But it will never allow Ukraine, and particularly eastern Ukraine, to be pulled away from its historical tie with Russia and become a part of the West. This geopolitical necessity is as firmly embedded in the Russian consciousness as the Monroe Doctrine is embedded in the American geopolitical outlook.

With this in mind, let’s turn to the facts on the ground. When Ukraine’s previous president, Viktor Yanukovych, was forced from office following massive pro-Western street protests that turned violent and generated threats on his life, the country appeared to be headed toward civil war. The new president, Petro Poroshenko, faced the need to put down the separatist insurrection in the country’s east. Russia’s Putin, after annexing Crimea in the crisis, seemed willing to accept Poroshenko’s governing mandate to keep his remaining nation intact.

He asked his parliament to rescind the previously enacted law giving him the right to invade Ukraine. He said he and his government “want to create conditions for [a] peace process.” He also ignored pleas from the separatist rebels in Ukraine that they be allowed to join the Russian Federation. Poroshenko welcomed these actions as the “first practical step of support for the peace plan.”

Further, when Poroshenko launched a military attack on insurgent positions in the east, Putin did not embrace the insurgent cause. Soon Ukrainian government forces had cut in half the territory controlled by the rebels and squeezed them largely into the eastern industrial city of Donetsk. Morale crumbled in the rebel forces, and dissention emerged. As described in an excellent dispatch in Canada’s Globe and Mail, several dozen militia fighters in Donetsk abandoned their weapons and fatigues and disappeared. One rebel recruit was quoted as saying, “Russia abandoned us. The leadership is bickering. They promise us money but don’t pay it. What’s the point of fighting?”

Meanwhile, the putative leader of the separatist rebellion, Igor Girkin (or Strelkov, as he is more widely known), acknowledged substantial impediments to enlisting support from locals. “It is very difficult,”  he said, “to protect this territory with the forces at our disposal.”

In other words, Poroshenko was winning the war for control of eastern Ukraine, and Putin did not pursue overt actions to reverse his gains. That’s the most salient reality of the situation on the ground.

But Putin did provide covert support to the rebels in an effort to keep them from being overrun. Most likely, he pursued this approach largely to protect his bargaining position, and that of eastern Ukraine, in any peace negotiations that might emerge.

After all, Poroshenko has not exactly conveyed a sensitivity to the interests of Russia or his own Russian-oriented citizens. Upon taking office, he seemed to accept a degree of autonomy in the East, but he set clear limits. Ukraine, he said, “was, is, and will be a unitary state.” More significantly, he forcefully advocated a move “towards fully fledged membership of Ukraine in the European Union”—building upon, he said, actions already taken to create an association agreement with the EU and visa-free travel for Ukrainians to European countries. The call for “fully fledged” EU membership generated prolonged applause in the Ukrainian parliament.

It isn’t difficult to see why Putin bristled at this and why he felt a need to preserve his bargaining leverage in any negotiations that could be established to bring peace to this troubled land. After all the civic drama, the destruction of an elected government, the eastern rebellion, the resulting bloodshed, the Russian grab of Crimea, the great-power confrontations, it appears that the Ukrainian government is still dedicated to pulling the country out of Russia’s sphere of influence. And it is equally apparent, manifest in Obama’s increasing sanctions squeeze against Russia, that the EU and the United States stand ready to aid and abet Poroshenko’s vision.

That’s the significance of the enhanced sanctions announced by Obama just prior to the downing of the Malaysian jetliner. Obama wants Russia to stop supporting the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine who wish to break off from the government in Kiev. Obama also wants Russia to intervene with those separatists to get them to give up the fight and accept a negotiated settlement favored by Obama and his European counterparts. In other words, Obama and the EU want to neutralize Russia in the matter of Ukraine’s future so they can terminate Russia’s centuries-long dominance over the territory of Ukraine.

Russia can never accept this. No Russian leader could permit it and expect to remain Russia’s leader. So long as that threat hovers over those struggling to deal with this tragic mess, relations between Russia and the West will continue to deteriorate.

Prior to the Malaysian airliner disaster, the outcome of this standoff was an open question. But now, in the wake of this anger-generating event, Putin’s delicate maneuver game is on the verge of collapse. In the short term, it isn’t likely he will be able to reverse or impede the events leading to the integration of Ukraine, including eastern Ukraine, into the European community.

But in the long term, Russia will never accept this humiliating geopolitical defeat. Thus, will Ukraine become a festering sore between East and West, a lingering flashpoint between Russia and America. In this environment, there will be hardly any prospect at all of U.S. diplomacy enlisting Russia’s help in the pursuit of American goals in Iran, in the rest of the Middle East, in U.S. efforts to deal with a rising China, in our efforts to maintain stability in the Caucasus, or in global energy.

The ultimate outcome is likely to be written in the reality that Ukraine affects the strategic interests of Europe and America hardly at all, whereas it is crucial to Russia’s strategic well-being. That reality, coupled with the calamitous fallout of an aviation tragedy, will guide events in Ukraine and surrounding environs far into the future.


2014-07-23

About the author:

Robert W. Merry is political editor of The National Interest and the author of books on American history and foreign policy.

Source: The National Interest

We Recommend
Yesterday’s leak of the flagrant telephone talk between the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt has already hit the international media headlines. In short, it turned out that the US officials were coordinating their actions on how to install a puppet government in Ukraine.In this flagrant telephone talk between the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt agreed to nominate Bat’kyvshchina Party leader Arseniy Yatseniuk as Deputy Prime Minister, to bench Udar Party leader Vitaly Klitschko off the game for a ...
READ MORE
Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, a little more than a year ago, in July 2014 were the focus of attention in Europe and North America, accused, without a shred of forensic evidence, of shooting down an unarmed civilian Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine. The Russians were deemed out to restore the Soviet Union with their agreement to the popular referendum of Crimean citizens to annex into the Russian Federation and not Ukraine. Western sanctions were being thrown at Russia by both Washington and the EU. People spoke of a new Cold War. Today the picture is changing, and profoundly. ...
READ MORE
The fundamental and justifiable reasons of a Russophobic hysteria around the world by liberal-democratic governments, politicians, academics and political parties/movements are: Constant Russian global imperialism. Russian policy to transform world into Pax Russiana. Russian war crimes across the globe. Russian military presence across the globe. Russian occupation of foreign countries. Russian installation of puppet regimes across the globe. Russian collaboration with the terrorists. Corruption of Russian government. Etc.See below images as proves of justifiable reasons of a Russophobic hysteria around the world: SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave
READ MORE
With a general election looming in the United Kingdom and Spain possibly following Greece’s revolt against austerity later this year, we need to think, not just who or what we are voting for, but why we should vote at all.People are suffering from a deficiency which is as unbalancing as a hormone or vitamin deficiency. What we are severely lacking in is democracy. Many of those pondering on the state of politics feel unhappy and somehow depleted. They haven’t yet realised it is democracy that’s lacking because they have believed what so many politicians have told them, over and over ...
READ MORE
Editor's note: the article was originally published on August 17th, 2016Ukraine is an East European territory which was originally forming a western part of the Russian Empire from the mid-17th century. That is a present-day independent state and separate ethnolinguistic nation as a typical example of Benedict Anderson’s theory-model of the “imagined community” – a self-constructed idea of the artificial ethnic and linguistic-cultural identity. According to Anderson, the nation is abstract and firstly subjective social construction that defy simple, objective definition yet have been for the last two centuries the crucial basis of conflict in world politics and international relations, ...
READ MORE
In a speech delivered in the southern suburbs of Beirut on October 23, 2015, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, a resistance organization rooted in Lebanon’s Shia community, presented a description of US imperialism that largely comports with that of secular leftwing anti-imperialists in the West.Hezbollah was established in the early 1980s to end Israel’s occupation of Lebanon. With Israel’s withdrawal in 2000, and a subsequent Israeli incursion in 2006 repulsed by Hezbollah fighters, the resistance organization remains on the qui vive against future Israeli aggressions. It is now assisting the Syrian Arab Army in its death struggle against ...
READ MORE
When great powers fade, as they inevitably must, it’s normally for one of two reasons. Some powers exhaust themselves through overreach abroad, underinvestment at home, or a mixture of the two. This was the case for the Soviet Union. Other powers lose their privileged position with the emergence of new, stronger powers. This describes what happened with France and Great Britain in the case of Germany’s emergence after World War I and, more benignly, with the European powers and the rise of the United States during and after World War II.To some extent America is facing a version of this—amid ...
READ MORE
A Reuters news report under the names of presstitutes Robin Emmott and Sabine Siebold shows how devoid the West is of honest, intelligent and responsible journalists and government officials. http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-nato-summit-idUKKCN0ZN2NN First we will examine the dishonesty or incompetence of the reporters and then that of Western government officials.Emmott and Siebold describe NATO as a “Western defense alliance.” Since the Clinton regime NATO has been an alliance for waging offensive war, a war crime under the Nuremberg rules established by the United States. Under the NATO banner a number of countries have been bombed, invaded, and had their governments overthrown by ...
READ MORE
The Islamic State is not only protected by the US and its allies, it is trained and financed by US-NATO, with the support of Israel and Washington’s Persian Gulf allies.  Al Qaeda Affiliated Entities are “Intelligence Assets. Instruments of US Intelligence. The Global War on Terrorism is a fabrication used to justify a war of conquest. The Jihadist terrorists are “Made in America”. They are instruments of US intelligence, yet they are presented to public opinion as “enemies of America”.IntroductionThe Obama administration has embarked upon the ultimate war crime, a Worldwide military adventure, “a long war”, which threatens the future of humanity. The Pentagon’s global military design is ...
READ MORE
Last movie by famous French movie maker Paul Moreira on Canal+ (France) broadcasted 01/02/2016.Some French citizens are now shocked after discovering the truth about the Odessa massacre and the Euromaidan bloody coup in 2013/2014.Interview to Paul Moreira:http://www.humanite.fr/derriere-les-masques-de-la-revolution-ukrainienne-597568Preview screening on January, 20th 2016 at FIPA Biarritz 29th edition, selected out of competition in Reportages and Investigation – Panorama of Creation category.Without them, there would have been no Ukrainian revolution.In February 2014, paramilitary groups fought against the police in the streets of Kyev and ousted President Yanukovych. They settled a new government.According to the western media, they were the revolution heroes. They ...
READ MORE
Five days before the celebration of the 71th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s capitulation to the Soviet and allied troops in the WWII, the new NATO Supreme Commander in Europe Curtis Scaparrotti announced that he came to beat the drums of war again. Ignoring the historic facts and legitimate Russian interests in its around, in his first speech after assuming office he condemned alleged “Russian aggressive behavior that challenges international norms” and called the bloc members to “fight tonight if deterrence fails.”This commonplace declaration fairly correlates with the military and media strategy the Western ruling class adopted decades ago. Even putting aside the ...
READ MORE
Can the world wake up?On September 19, 2000, going on 16 years ago, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London Telegraph reported:Declassified American government documents show that the US intelligence community ran a campaign in the Fifties and Sixties to build momentum for a united Europe. It funded and directed the European federalist movement.The documents confirm suspicions voiced at the time that America was working aggressively behind the scenes to push Britain into a European state. One memorandum, dated July 26, 1950, gives instructions for a campaign to promote a fully fledged European parliament. It is signed by Gen. William J. Donovan, ...
READ MORE
New terminal of the Simferopol international airport under construction, November 2016Due to the international media’s continued claims about the «annexation of Crimea», it’s been difficult for the citizens of the US and Europe to make sense of the details of the peninsula’s recent history. Exactly three years ago, on March 16, 2014, the Crimeans were offered a choice: to rejoin Russia or to return to the constitution of 1992 that proclaimed Crimea a legal, democratic, secular state whose relationship with Ukraine was based on bilateral agreements. That constitution was unilaterally abolished by Kiev on March 17, 1995, and here’s what’s surprising: no one ...
READ MORE
As the Second World War advanced from its early stages, the United States was assessing which sections of the earth it would hold conquest over. American planners had to remain patient, however. A seemingly endless string of conquests for the Nazis had astonished the world – particularly those in the US – and led to Adolf Hitler being crowned as “the new Napoleon”.In the summer of 1942, under Hitler’s domineering command of the military, the Germans controlled vast swathes of Europe – from Warsaw to Oslo to Paris, and eastwards onto Athens, Kiev and Sevastopol. It was one major victory ...
READ MORE
I stated some months ago, while assembling a criminal dossier against the NATO powers for the ultimate war crime of aggression, that the build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe, particularly American, concentrated on the Baltic states and Ukraine, presaged hybrid war operations against Russia leading to a general war. This build up of forces and ancillary developments I termed Operation Barbarossa II in light of the remarkable similarities to the build up of forces by Nazi Germany for the invasion of the USSR in 1941 which the Germans code-named Operation Barbarossa. Events have only confirmed my views.The degradation of ...
READ MORE
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations. SaveSave
READ MORE
In the spirit of the New Cold War and following on its success in snuffing out South Stream, the US has prioritized its efforts in obstructing Russia’s Balkan Stream pipeline, and for the most part, they’ve regretfully succeeded for the time being. The first challenge came from the May 2015 Color Revolution attempt in Macedonia, which thankfully was repulsed by the country’s patriotic citizenry. Next up on the destabilization agenda was the political turmoil that threatened to take hold of Greece in the run-up and aftermath of the austerity referendum, the idea being that if Tsipras were deposed, then Balkan ...
READ MORE
A NATO warmonger President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite (her surname means a mushroom in the English) is observing Russia's "aggressors" and "cannibals"SaveSaveSave
READ MORE
One of the consequences of the geopolitical changes that has come to characterize modern civil society has been the surge in popularity of paramilitary units across Europe. This phenomenon is particularly observable in the Baltic States. The Lithuanian Riflemen’ Union is a telling example. Established in 1919, the Union has become very popular in the past few years; its number has grown significantly. Now it has around 8,000 members up from 6,000 two years ago.Trained by military personnel and falling under the responsibility of the defence ministry, the Union serves the clear purpose of supporting the regular army’s capabilities and ...
READ MORE
One of the West’s top points in condemning Vladimir Putin’s “regime” since 2007 has been his alleged suppression of democratic institutions, including an assault on media freedom and imposition of government-directed propaganda. This week, the accusation was repeated in a resolution of the European Parliament calling for stronger counter-measures in defense of European values against “information warfare” from Moscow.The charges — that Russian media are only an instrument of state propaganda directed at the domestic population to keep Russian citizens in line and at foreign audiences to sow dissent among Russia’s neighbors and within the European Union — are taken ...
READ MORE
What About Apologizing To Ukraine, Mrs. Nuland?
Putin Is Defeating More Than ISIS In Syria
Why do They Hate Russia?
Has Democracy Gone Missing? Or Was It Ever Here?
Who are the Ukrainians?
America’s Hegemonic Ambitions: The US “International Dictatorship”, Its Friends, Its Enemies
America and the Great Abdication: Don’t Mistake Donald Trump’s Withdrawal from the World for Isolationism
Vladimir Putin is the Only Leader the West has
The Ultimate War Crime: America’s “Global War on Terrorism”
Documentary Movie “Ukraine: Masks of the Revolution” (2016, by Paul Moreira)
“Operation Unthinkable” (1945) And US-NATO’s Threats To Wage War On Russia
Somnolent Europe, Russia, And China: Accept US Hegemony Or Go To War?
Who annexed the Crimean Peninsula?
The Forgotten Postwar US-Nazi Alliance
From Cold to “Hot War”? Operation Barbarossa II
The USA Bombing List: The Democracy World Tour
A Hybrid War to Break the Balkans?
Russia’s Message to the Mushroom
Emergence of “Right Sector” in Lithuania?
Demonizing Russian Media
Categories: Ukraine