Russia’s Destruction of an Independent Ukraine Sets Ominous Precedent for Other States
Some thoughts on Ukraine: Russia’s invasion and likely absorption of that country into Russia (either swallowed whole or as a satellite), establishes some terribly alarming precedents for other countries embroiled in disputes. Thus far, China has merely rattled sabers at Taiwan. It has made threats and launched aerial flyovers into Taiwanese airspace. But it has not come close to what Putin did. There is no massing of hundreds of thousands of troops and thousands of tanks and warplanes on the Chinese coast.
But if you were Xi Jinping you would be looking at Putin’s actions with pleasure, rubbing your hands together with glee. If Putin can do this, then there’s no reason why China shouldn’t do the same to Taiwan. The west stands by (in China’s view) helplessly as Russia takes Ukraine apart and remakes it as a Russian colony. This is not lost on Xi. Also, Xi sees and understands Putin’s ambitions to return his country to its former glory. Not just to restore the supposed grandeur of the old Soviet Union, but the imperial greatness of the Czars. Xi has no less grand ambitions. Anyone who could single-handedly confront a time-honored Chinese tradition of succession and assume unto himself the powers of perpetual rule will have his own visions of personal grandeur. He too wants to restore China’s former imperial greatness. He too has ambitions for China to rule the seas and project Chinese power around the world. And who is there to stop him? A few second-tier powers like South Korea and Japan? And what will the US do to stop a takeover of Taiwan? Will it commit military forces to defend Taiwan? Will it attack China? Will it do what it takes? Or allow itself to be bluffed?
Whatever happens, Putin’s invasion has made Biden’s life a whole lot more complicated than it already was. We now have to commit military forces to defend other countries on Russia’s periphery whom Putin eyes as potential prizes. We have to anticipate escalations in other regions like Asia. Our military power will be stretched thin. Our military budgets will likely be increased, likely meaning less funding for major domestic priorities. This will not sit well with Biden’s Democratic constituency.
Another victim of Putin’s War is diplomacy. He has shown not only that it doesn’t work, but that you don’t need it. If you can’t get what you want via negotiation, screw it, you get better results by thrashing your opponent or rival. What country will now say: I can work things out with my opponent by talking, rather than fighting?
Putin Emboldens Israeli Ambitions
How could Ukraine’s fall affect Israeli policy? Israeli leaders and generals will look at Ukraine and say: Putin is right. If you want something, take it. Why should we care about what the world thinks? Putin doesn’t, and look where it got him. Admittedly, Israel is not the world power that Russia is. But Israel likes to think of itself in these terms and Putin offers a powerful example. Remember the world thought of Russia as a basket case. It considered its military a laughingstock. But look who’s laughing now?
Also, Israel loves strongmen leaders. So what if they’re corrupt and kill tens of thousands. The world wasn’t made without breaking a few eggs. Israel knows that democratic countries and leaders are its enemies (with the exception of the US). That’s why it admires Putin. It’s no accident that Netanyahu made numerous trips to Moscow to curry favor with the Russian leader.
They say that Bibi admired Winston Churchill. But we all know he admired Putin more. The Israeli ex-PM was a would-be tyrant while Putin was the real thing. There had to be a mutual admiration society going on there.
Ukraine is especially relevant regarding Iran. Netanyahu was willing to attack Iran and tried to persuade two US presidents to give him the green light. He never got one and this restrained him. He could not go to war in the face of such opposition (not to mention his military-intellegence leadership, which also opposed an attack).
But now, what’s to stop Israel? Will Biden stop it? If you go by the Ukraine model, he won’t or he can’t. Can he impose an arms embargo? Sanctions? No and no. Can he hurt Israel in any significant way? Unlikely, as he will feel the wrath of the Israel Lobby and the GOP. Thus, Israel will be emboldened to take matters into its own hands. An Israeli attack on Iran has become far more likely after Ukraine.
I continue to be mystified by the myopia of the hard left concerning Putin’s War. They claim they oppose western imperialism. And that Putin is somehow the countervailing force which will restrain such aggression. But when will Putin stop? Russia has historical claims to far more than Ukraine: think of the Baltic States and Poland. If he attacks them will this be simply a restoration of Russia’s rightfully claimed territory? Will it be the bloody nose these Putinophiles hope he gives the West?
Further, how can those purporting to be on the anti-war left support Putin’s attack? Are Putin’s wars acceptable, but all other wars not? I continue to marvel at those who claim they don’t support Putin, but support his war because it is a blow against western aggression and rapaciousness. It’s Putin’s war. You can’t oppose him but support his war.
37 thoughts on “Russia’s Destruction of an Independent Ukraine Sets Ominous Precedent for Other States – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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You must be hanging out with the wrong people!
Here in Israel no one has come out in favour of Putin, every interviewee on all the stations from all political parties are 100% anti-Putin. No Russian immigrant has come out in favour of him.
One or two may have shyly stated that the Ukranian people are famous for anti-semitic pogroms, and that their sympathy is reduced, but still no pro-Russia feeling (Russia’s anti semitic record is comparable anyway).
Just waiting how long it will take until ‘zionists’ will be blamed for the conflict.
The anti Semitic pogroms that my grandparents thankfully ran from in the beginning of the 20th century were Czarist Russian, prior to the revolution. Many left for Israel then too. My grandparents lived in the “pale of settlement”, south of Kiev in a shtetl. Jews then were not allowed to live in Kiev, in the big cities.Today Ukraine has a Jewish president.Ukraine seems liberal and multicultural, welcoming, democratic. People with memories and fears do have to allow for and encourage evolution. Part of the problem in Israel is not being able to go forward, leaders fomenting and take advantage of fears.I don’t mean forget. I hope Ukrainian Jews are not forced to run to Israel. Biden indicated that we would take refugees here as well.
@ Shai: You don’t understand my point. What the average Israeli thinks is irrelevant. I’m speaking of what Israeli military-intelligence and political leaders who lay out Israeli geo-military strategy are thinking. They are delighted with the war. It offers them a precedent for their own military aggression both against Arab states and Iran.
“They are delighted with the war.”
Richard’s suggestion is risible.
Putin’s invasion is too sudden and fluid for any Israeli military-intelligence or political leader to have a basis on which to form any opinion.
Israel’s primary concern is maintaining the status quo, vis a vis Russia, in Syria, and this military escapade in Ukraine only upsets that status quo.
@ Nate: Nonsense. The whole purpose of military intelligence is to, at times, make quick decisions based on available information. There is more than enough information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the generals and spy chiefs to determine how it will affect their own geo-military strategy. You clearly were not meant for military-intelligence affairs.
Do you claim to know what they are thinking? Or how decision-making is done?
A man who hasn’t been to Israel in decades!
@ Dan Lev: Yes, I know far more than you or most Israelis about many of these matters given my sources. Not to mention that you apparently live in the days of the telegraph and horse & buggy. In the 21st century you don’t have to live in a place to know quite profoundly a country and its leaders.
you talk nonsense, typical Israeli really…I have spoken to Russians in Israel that support that narcissistic psycho Putin and are vehemently anti-west…also, just today some Israeli’s told me due to the Ukranian involvement in Jewish persecution during the 2nd WW they have no sympathy for them and see no problem with psycho’s invasion
You make good points. It’s not only the hard left excusing Putin, it’s also the wacky Fox Trump right and the GOP cold war mongers dividing us. As well some “opinionators”, analyzers, historians, journalists, supposedly sober and knowledgeable about recent history, are making the judgement that: well look at what the US did in Kosovo 1999 (Masha Gessen New Yorker Feb 15th).After our unnecessary war in Iran, what we did and did not do Afghanistan post 9/11 has handicapped us. What about that?Those failures burned us, made us reticent. Many were saying then, I agreed, that Afghanistan should have been a job for special forces going after Bin Laden, not the big project of changing Afghanistan.
That is all water under the bridge though it pertains to our handicap and reticence now. International law has been breaking down if it ever was respected. Let’s face it. Maybe we were and are foolish to think that international law and norms and even visions are enough by mutual agreement with exceptions carved out because of might.So all the horrible stuff can still happen with bad actors, here and there,as they arise in democratic “good” countries as well as repressed totalitarian countries. Putin is taking advantage of a weak new world order. But even though we have a formidable military at the ready, Biden is duly reticent now to gather a coalition of the willing to go in and protect Ukraine, or to have already threatened Putin prior to this.. Putin knows this. So he will try to take Ukraine. (Trump admires this of course) Hopefully this will be Putin’s downfall- but some of us are deeply sad and crying inside because we will see death and destruction of people who are yearning to breath free, who do not deserve this.Putin needs fierce pushback.
You meant Iraq no ?
@ Potter: Of course the GOP and far-right support Putin. Though it may seem counter intuitive since Russia has been an enemy and rival state for the past 70 years. But there you go. Far be it from to plumb the right wing minds. It’s the hard left that leaves me even more flummoxed. That’s why I focus on rather than the POT (Party of Trump).
No one on the political Right has voiced any support for Putin.
The pain! The pain!
Richard, Some people say that Russia’s concern is NATO being right up on Russia’s borders and missiles pointed at Russia. They point out President H.W. Bush and his secretary of state Baker’s promise that NATO would not go eastward. One inch is the quote I think? So if Biden and NATO would be willing to not have NATO and missiles so close to Russia, do you think Putin would agree to that? Is that a concern of his at all? Or is it simply that Putin wants to restore the Soviet Union and that he wants to be the czar?
Richard, In asking you the above, I”m certainly no admirer of Putin. I am not!
Sorry I know you asked Richard but I have to say, it was never agreed to amongst NATO members that they would not go eastward; it was something said at the time, off the cuff sort of, not promised or written or generally agreed upon. Putin imagined this.That is my understanding.NATO is defensive, not aggressive. Russia had been and has been doing nice business with the West, and had partnership with NATO prior to 2014. What happened to that? The man is untrustworthy and maybe out of his mind, even talking about using nukes now. Ukraine should have kept their nukes or been on track to becoming a NATO member, and a member by now in hindsight. Don’t forget Ukraine said it wanted to be neutral when it became independent in 1991. Why has that changed to wanting to move towards the West?Could it be Putin’s Russia was not so attractive, or even threatening?
Thank you Potter. Though I did ask Richard and I am still looking forward to his response, I also value your response!
@ Walter: No, Biden offered to negotiate over these matters. It was clear from statements and our posture that we would be willing to promise Ukraine would not join NATO. I don’t know that we could or would promise this in perpetuity. But we would have been willing to negotiate on the matter. The problem was that Putin wanted all US weapons and troops removed from Europe AND wanted a promise Ukraine would never join NATO. That’s a non-starter.
And of course, now that Putin has invaded Ukraine, NATO will rather quickly admit Finland, the Baltic States and possibly Georgia (though that may be less likely). Not to mention the tens of thousands of troops which will be stationed in these countries which are right on Russia’s border. So he has gained exactly what has railed against: NATO on his borders and even more troops there as well. We’ll probably also add even more missiles in Poland than are already there. Then Putin will be faced with a choice: either he continues with his imperial misadventures and faces the combined forces of NATO & the US in defending NATO member states; or he sees reason and realizes he can’t go beyond Ukraine.
The idea that missiles needed to be removed from Europe is foolish. Russia has missiles aimed at us from thousands of miles away. They take a matter of minutes to reach us. China does too. We have the same. Missiles can reach you from half way around the world. Why worry so much about missiles close by? True Kennedy got upset about Russian missiles in Cuba. But our missiles today are infinitely more accurate and powerful and can do damage at virtually any distance.
Putin is thinking of his legacy as a Great Russian Leader. As such, he wants to be able to say “I was able to do what no other Russian leader has since (I don’t know) Peter the Great.” That would raise him to the Pantheon of great Russian leaders.
Thank you Richard. I was at the services of my progressive Jewish congregation here the Chico Havurah. We discussed Ukraine. Somebody did bring up the point that if this is all over NATO missiles near Russia’s borders that Putin discredits that argument by his actions. As for this “Then Putin will be faced with a choice: either he continues with his imperial misadventures and faces the combined forces of NATO & the US in defending NATO member states; or he sees reason and realizes he can’t go beyond Ukraine,” Putin must not even be allowed to take Ukraine.
With large demonstrations already taking place in several Russian cities, I can only hope this will lead to Putin’s downfall. I am glad that there are voices like you on the left that oppose Putin. It is inconsistent to oppose our country waging all these wars, supporting right-wing dictatorships and spending trillions of dollars on a bloated military budget, but then to worship a fascist despot like Putin.
Well said Richard, that bozo Tony Greenstein ( or is that Redstein?) tried to suggest that the narcissistic psycho Putin feels threatened by NATO (as if they would dare attack a nuclear armed-to-the-teeth country), what a joke!…the manly-man Putin only knows force and strength and sorely wants to restore ‘Russia to greatness’
Note: the Baltic states are already in NATO.
@ kevin: Yes they are. Thanks for the correction.
Fear Smith is Here: You didn’t read what I wrote. As I wrote about another comment (ugh I have to repeat myself so often with you hasbarists!) these strategic calculations aren’t made by the average Israeli or even by the “political right.” They’re made by politicians, generals and spooks who determine Israeli military objectives and priorities. Of course they scan the horizon for events which impact their decision making–like the Ukraine invasion. That’s what they are doing as I write this. If they weren’t calculating any advantage to them over the invasion, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs.
Given Netanyahu’s closeness to Putin do you really believe he doesn’t support Russia in its invasion? You’d be a fool to think otherwise. Has Netanyahu made any statement at all criticizing the invasion? If he did, all Israel would laugh at him.
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Indeed counterintuitive.. scratching my head on that one. Will read your piece on the hard left, though I know what you mean..
We need a UNSC resolution for the use of force, and then a “coalition of the willing” a la Kosovo. No we don’t go to Moscow. Putin certainly has weapons of mass destruction and is off his rocker but this is the right thing to do. Foreign Brigades as well individual fighters will be welcomed as well. NATO is not necessary if it can’t move.You can look back to whatever lesson you prefer…
Ukraine asks Israeli PM Bennett to mediate peace talks.
If the government of Israel condemns one side, they forfeit impartiality and are disqualified from mediating peace talks.
“ Silence, you mental midget.“
[comment deleted: No Russian propaganda]
That is a mischaracterization of what Albright actually said, never mind meant. Iraq In 2003, Albright opposed GWBush’s Iraq war. It was the sanctions that she supported prior that was causing Iraqi deaths. Here we are now using the sanctions tool because we are reticent or unable or unwilling to go to the violent alternatives.
What was/is happening in eastern Ukraine was because of Russian interference and support, violating Ukrainian sovereignty, denying it. The Donbass should have been entirely an internal problem for Ukraine. Putin’s “security needs” are about what dangers he has created. There was no agreement with NATO not to advance eastward.Another fake cry.
Read Richard about about missile systems placement and threat in today’s world.Putin shoots himself in the foot proving now without a doubt that Ukraine needs protection and even to be in NATO.
You throw the “nazi” word around promiscuously. Ironically the comparison to the Nazi’s resides more with Putin’s Anschluss.
“Putin is exploiting the trauma of the war and twisting history for his own interests” https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/24/putin-denazify-ukraine/
Information about Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) a Ukrainian nationalist party, that includes a neo-nazi fringe. A lot to read but when such stuff gets thrown around you have to look for the facts.
Putin is using fear, recalling Nazi’s, using this as propaganda. Deplorable.
[comment deleted: no pro-Russian propaganda permitted. If you have a Nazi obsession you’ll have to display it elsewhere]
NATO is defensive, not aggressive … nonsense. Read the statements from US Commander Gen. Breedlove @NATO HQ. Biden didn’t invent the term “pariah” state, that became US policy from 2007 forward and the Atlantic Council think tank initiated a new Cold War rhetoric. Former US Ambassador to the U.N. Ivo Daalder introduced the term in 2007, a few years later John Kerry made it official.
I do not recognize America anymore, I love many aspects of America especially its people and hardworking mentality. Foreign policy has been an abject failure … I come to the sad conclusion that GH Bush (how I hate him as CIA boss) with James Baker III did a good job. As division sank into a partisan US Congress in the 90s, so too the presidency and policy became erratic.
Negotiations and promises were made in 1990-91 with the re-unification of Germany, economic and financial support – in 1994 a devious Bill Clinton really got Boris Yeltsin mad … famous NY Times headline.
Boris Yeltsin’s “cold peace” blow up at Bill Clinton in Budapest in December 1994 – was the result
During Yeltsin Era, UK and US Stripped Assets Off Russia.
During the NATO Summit of spring 2008 at Bucharest, both Georgia and Ukraine were invited in the procedure to become a full fledged member. NATO and Washington DC has shut down all contacts and relations with Russia ever since. UK Defense minister Ben Wallace made an official visit to Moscow recently, the first one in over a decade.
No one accepts an invasion causing the deaths of hundreds of civilians or military. The US-Russia stand-off has run a course of twenty years. How many countries did the US and NATO invade or bomb in direct contravention of the UN Charter of sovereign states and a resolution of respecting borders and friendly approach to neighbours.
Some experts with a broader perspective on US-Russia relations are The Lost Peace by Richard Sakwa – Noam Chomsky – Ronald Suny. Their vision is a treaty between states to guarantee security for both Ukraine and Russia would have prevented this needless war. Where weapons speak, diplomacy stays silent.
Israel fails to sign onto US text condemning Russia at UNSC | JPost |
This is Richard’s blog whom I respect, this will be my single comment.
@oui: I’m gonna let this one slide because of your long history Here. But I don’t want a pissing Contest between pro and anti NATO commenters.
The US has soldiers stationed on Taiwan. I can’t see China invading.
As for Ukraine. What Putin is doing is wrong but Ukraine should remain neutral instead of becoming a NATO or Russian puppet. They’ve suffered enough and are better off free.
[comment deleted: Several posts ago I made very clear here that I would not permit Russian stooges in the comment threads. You are one. Your opinion masquerading as “analysis” isn’t worth a bucket of war piss as a vice presidential candidate once spoke of the office for which he was campaigning.
I don’t think Poland has anything to fear. Historically, Poland has fought tenaciously against Russian expansion, even more so than Ukraine is resisting now. And there are no significant Russian minorities in Poland, unlike the Baltic states, or territorial grievances since the borders were adjusted after WWII — the Soviets kept the eastern slice of Poland that had been a bone of contention (much of which went to post-war Ukraine). And Poland is in NATO and the US has already made it clear that this is a red line for the US. So, no, Putin is not going to go kamikaze and attack Poland or even the Baltics now that NATO is there. There is way too much paranoia and fear-mongering going on in the US and its mainstream media about this unstoppable Russian boogeyman rolling over Europe — when they patently can’t even roll over Ukraine with a huge preponderance of their military committed there.
Cui bono by this hysteria? Chicken-hawks, anti-Biden partisans, and US weapons manufacturers, primarily.
@ Kevin: Thanks for claiming to understand Putin’s psyche w/o having any evidence on which to do so. The one gaping error in your “analysis” is that Putin won’t touch the Baltics. They were once part of the Soviet Union, you forget. NATO or no NATO, the Baltic states are under extreme danger from Russia. Putin is still smarting that they declared their independence fr the Soviet Union.
I hate conspiracists. So stop with the conspiracy mongering about cui Bono. It’s nonsense. Esp w/o any other proof than your own opinion.