Five questions western leaders should be asking themselves about the crisis in Ukraine — but don’t appear to be



2014/08/26 • Featured, Politics

By Paul Goble

The leaders of major Western countries declare that they are seeking to find an answer to the crisis in Ukraine, but in order to find an answer, it is important that they begin to ask the right questions.  It is all too clear that many of them are not doing so – and the consequences for Ukraine and the world may be dire as well.

Below are five questions which none of these leaders appear to be asking and yet which should be addressed if this crisis is not going to grow into a more serious one:

First, if any country other than Russia had invaded and annexed part of the territory of one of its neighbors, would the first thing that the leaders of other powers worry about is ensuring that the country that was invaded take into account the feelings and needs of the country that did the invasion?

Second, why are Ukrainian desires for integration with Europe and the West viewed as things that Europe and the West should temper in order to meet Russian demands – or at least viewed as having a lesser claim on Western governments than do the demands, including those that are illegal under international law, emanating from Moscow?

Third, if Russia’s Anschluss of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea is accepted as the price to pay for getting Moscow to promise to reduce its military backing of its agents in southeastern Ukraine, why should anyone think that Vladimir Putin would not employ the same strategy again, seizing one territory and destabilizing another to get the world to legitimize its first action?

Fourth, as members of the United Nations, the Western leaders seeking to “resolve” the Ukrainian crisis are committed to the supremacy of citizenship over ethnicity. Vladimir Putin has proclaimed exactly the reverse with his stress on the importance of what he calls “the Russian world” over the citizenship of people in neighboring countries. If the West facilitates his actions by forcing Kyiv to bow to that idea, does anyone believe Putin won’t try it elsewhere?

And fifth, given that the Russian government has violated its past undertakings to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, what basis is there for assuming that it can be counted on to respect any verbal commitments President Vladimir Putin or Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov make about the future?

Unless Western leaders can come up with good answers to these questions – and doing so is likely to be impossible – they shouldn’t be rushing to help Russia with a solution to the crisis in Ukraine that doesn’t help Ukraine in any fundamental way.

Source:, republished with permission

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  • Rods

    Very good.

    The problem is that they don’t want to confront Putin over Ukraine for a number of reasons:

    1. The first for Europe is oil and gas. Although they have reduced their dependence it is nowhere near enough at 30%.

    2. The second is again a European problem, where their one-size fits all Euro currency, means that most countries are struggling to match the equivalent of the Gold Standard which is the German cost base, productivity standard. and their tax first and reform later austerity is geared to create recessions. This means that they are not prepared to do anything that threatens growth and that includes minimising sanctions to maximise trade with Russia.

    3. Russia and the US have many political and project ties, especially concerning space and rocket motor technology.

    4. The US has a very weak pacifist President, who has no foreign policy, no credible strategies and who reacts weakly and badly after events, rather than acting firmly before to prevent them. I though Jimmy Carter was bad, but is comparison to Obama he was an absolute hawk. In any major confrontation between the US and Russia, Obama will always blink first and Putin knows it.

    5. Europe has a very bad record in intervening in wars on their doorstep as they showed with Yugoslavia, politically it is easier for the politicians to bury their heads in the ground going la, la, la.

    6. Where Russian aggression is now, a ful in the open invasion, the Ukrainian resistance to date hasn’t deterred Putin. How robust this resistance stays and how reactive partisans are in East Ukraine and Russia are the only thing that may curtail the gradual complete annexation of Ukraine. This will be followed by Moldova, Georgia and the Baltic’s and the end of NATOs credibility. The only thing at the moment that I can see really deterring Putin is the west supplying weapons to Ukraine, so it is a no win game for him, by there is no sign of this. MREs, First aid kit and toilet paper, welcome as they are, will not figure in the costs to Russia of their aggression.

    7. I think the chances of getting your questions, considered let alone answered by any western politician is sadly, at best, remote. Unfortunately most of the MSM are very biased towards telling the Russian side of any story where most of the correspondents covering this war are based in Moscow.

    8. Although ISIS and Iraq are grabbing most of the headlines I think that this war in Europe is by far the most dangerous, where Putin is in a hurry to create his new empire from Lisbon to Vladivostok, where he has about 2 years before he runs out of currency reserves and also before the US presidential elections. MH17 and Hitler in the 1930’s both show what can go wrong, when a dictator is on an extremely aggressive, expansionist mission. Personally, I think there is a 50-60% chance that Putin will start WWIII, that at some point will lead to a nuclear exchange. The weak liberal, appeasing, politicians to date, like they were with Hitler in the 1930’s are only an encouragement rather than a deterrent to Putin and like Chamberlain, their reputations won’t be treated kindly by history.

    • Dirk Smith

      Great synopsis. I believe No. 4 to be the most important. Putler had his KGB wet dream when Odumba removed the defense systems out of Poland and Czech Republic. Odumba makes Neville Chamberlain look like Churchill. This is much more important than anything on our planet right now. The muscovites murdered 298 innocents in broad daylight along with ‘annexing’ Crimea and we continue to placate this USSR megalomaniac? The former USSR satellite countries understand this. Open the history books everyone before it’s too late.

  • Milton Devonair

    Looks like the european nato is finally waking up:
    “Nato plans east European bases to counter Russian threat

    Nato chief announces move in response to Ukraine crisis and says alliance is dealing with a new Russian military approach”

  • evanlarkspur

    Yes. Frankly, the position of western leaders is baffling to me. Essentially it seems to boil down to “we can’t stop Putins criminal behavior because he might launch nuclear weapons if we do.” Obviously, possessing nuclear weapons allows you to kill anyone and violate any border or agreement with impunity. Somehow these leaders don’t get that this refusal to confront doesn’t buy any security, but destroys security utterly.

  • Imemiahara

    The problem is that Ukrainian THINK that anyone cares for them. Unfortunately (they do this in all countries) the ONLY target is the pipelines. No one in the West gives a dime for Ukrainian people. So the fact and only that you look at the problem from the Ukrainian site makes you sound like a 9 year old.
    My friend – you have been tricked to create chaos in your country for the benefit of the US. Now deal with it – and learn whether US has friends!

    • sandy miller

      Everyone in Ukraine knows USA nor western europe cares about them. Ukrainians are realistic and pragmatic people. They’re looking for friends who have the courage and morals to help them against this Putler maniac. I agree Putler and what he’s doing in the west is 10 times more dangerous than anything or anyone in the middle east. That fool Obama is going after ISIS because of one journalist. The man is an inexperienced fool. All he cares about is having celebrity.

    • Murf

      Don’t naive, nations don’t have friends Nations have interests.
      Having said that many nations interests a line (more or less) with the US.
      lets see there is:
      New Zealand, Australia, Japan, S Korea, Taiwan, Philippians, Vietnam( to an extent) the Arab Gulf States, Iraq(the Kurds at least). Jordan, Israel, Egypt, NATO, parts of the EU, Morocco, Columbia, Brazil (Bit less so since Snowdon) and Mexico.
      When the son of the Vice President sits on the board of the UA’s gas company you can bet Ukraine will be also.
      Russia’s list is…Well, shorter.
      Russia’s best case scenario is it gets a portion of a rust belt industrial area that it doesn’t need, a barren peninsula with a port he already had access to.that will cost him 2 billion year to maintain.( Personally I thing UA is well ride of Crimea but they are fond of it so whata ya gona do?)

  • Mick Frodsham

    The only question that anybody that matters in the west is asking themselves about Petro is “Did we install this puppet so that he could dictate our policy or did we install him so we could dictate Ukraine’s policies?”
    The answer to that question is pretty obvious.

  • arpete29

    you’re right Rods but I would like to make some remarks, Ukraine fault has been first to want to join UE, then ukrainian governements have been always unstable and even in others countries there are separatists : Spain with catalans and basques, France with corsica and britains in the past;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

    • sandy miller

      arpete29 how do you expect Ukraine to have stable governments when Russia hasn’t allowed it. Stalin made sure to put Russians into most ex-soviet countries to keep them under the Kremlins control. They’ve never had an opportunity to get on their feet.

  • Jehepp

    1. Has the feelings and needs of Russia been prioritized? I have not seen that. It would be wrong, if so.
    2. Because consequences are considered, fearing more aggression. At the top of the food chain it is about air superiority which is hard over Russia with S-300 and S-400 missiles. Not even US can bomb Russia. Also US missiles would be shot down by BUK and S-300/400, and Russia would retaliate on neighbouring countries, and also get an excuse for an invasion at Russias choice.
    3. See 2.
    West is confused about what to do, Russias neighbors are terrified. Putin has for sure considered the options of the democracies of the west.
    4. Putin is saying that because it fits his purposes, uniting slavic people. Putin can set an own standard that has to be considered, as Russia is strong. Regarding the final word – nuclear bombs, Russia has many more than US. And nationalism IS strong and motivating for people, giving them an identity that many have been lacking, also in the west.
    5. Putin can say anything, very few believe in his words. But the possibility must be emptied because it MIGHT work.

    That is my opinion. A war on Russia would not be cheap. I believe Israel has a ECM, electronic countermeasure, against some Russian missiles, also S-300/400.

    • Murf

      A response to a couple of points.
      Russian anti air craft defenses are formidable but not impregnable. One B-52 can launch 30 cruise missiles with a range of over 1200 miles. well out side the SA’s range and they can not get them all. NATO has excersized extensively against the SA-300 (Slovakia and Cyperus have them). It’s capabilities are known. Nobody does Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) better then the US.
      Russia is not very strong in conventional forces. They have cover from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Making concentrating forces in one area difficult. Look at the 40k they massed in April. UA’s army was in complete disarray and they still didn’t attack.Their force projection is minimal. Their economy is compleatly based on energy export, which can be cut off quickly.
      If Europe had cut off the tap at the start of this business it would have been over in June.

      • Jehepp

        Thanks Murf for the info about the S-300, that is actually one of my greatest concern regading Russia.
        To send 30 cruise missiles would be a tremendous escalation of the conflict and should be a well motivated. Before that step, I am afraid that many must die, for nothing – before that top of the food chain war would start.
        —–I believe that the Russian batallion inside Ukraine most be proven to exist and dealt with politically first, and then dealt with “physically” shortly after.

        Otherwise, this will go in Russias direction. Like Crimea, quite humble sweet peaceful soldiers can just appear, and if it is slow enough, reaction will not be so strong. But naive part of population is decreasing. A batallion in the forest that does nothing while separatists does it all, can seem quite harmless in some peoples eyes. But the positions will be moved forward, while separatists are in the frontline with the blame.
        I see no other solution than the above. It is in par with the right of self defense.

    • sandy miller

      Jehepp…The West isn’t confused. They must know exactly what he’s doing and have turned a blind eye because they’re greedy and immoral. They will rue the day they appeased Putler!!!

      • Jehepp

        West is not confused about what is happening, they are confused about what to do. Quite a lot of people have been totally convinced that there would be no war again as the world has gone good.
        I believe that the confusion also consists of politicians that do not agree on the situations as well as actions to take.
        That so many countries of the west are in a bad economical state also affects – the general feeling these days is not optimistic.
        I believe like you that something must be done against Putin, and the sanctions may even strengthen Putins position in Russia.

  • feradz

    The straight answer why the West does not ask these
    questions is that in fact they ask them and know the answer. Because the answer
    is very uncomfortable the West prefers to speak about the weather.

    The already proven to work solution for this kind of
    crisis is the economic isolation of Russia. As soon as the West stops its trade
    with Russia and US starts selling oil from its reserves for cheaper price Putin
    will be gone in less than a year.

    However the West’s knows that intervening that seriously
    will worsen its already bad economy at home and then have problem in their own streets
    with the many jobless people. It was all wrong for the West to trust Russia as
    a dependable partner and build economic links.

    Although, I understand and acknowledge the responsibility
    of the West in this crisis, I really don’t like the voice of complaints from
    Ukraine against the West that it does very little. In fact, the very first reason
    of Ukraine being in this shit is because Ukraine and the Ukrainians allowed it
    to happen. Since its independence Ukraine has been in a constant downfall and decline
    rotten and wasted by corruption seen only in African countries. A country of 46
    Million people did not have the means to react against the 100+ armed men who
    first occupied the administrative buildings in Sloviansk. This is nothing but a
    shame. And even now, Ukraine does very little to fight against the Russian
    terrorists. Until recently, it did not have any sanctions against Russia and
    still continues to sell military equipment to Russia.

    Ukrainians should understand that the West will not do
    nothing more than to protect their own interests. And if this something is
    aligned with the interests of Ukraine then it can be counted as a bonus. I
    personally would be very frustrated to channel European resources and taxpayers’
    money to Ukraine only to install another corrupt government there.

    • sandy miller

      Aren’t you being a little unfair to Ukraine? You may or may not know people in Ukraine have been beaten down by russia through the centuries…they have been murdered, starved to death, sent to gulags, and experienced two wars on their land in the 20th century. Today some of the young in Ukraine were courageous enough to fight against corruption in their own country and they obviously had no idea that Russia would stoop to such a low as to make up vicious lies about them and invade them with experienced mercenairies. You know as well as anybody else their military has been destroyed they hardly have any trained soldiers and they know if the west doesn’t come with lots of help including manpower they will either be slaughered or have to surrender. Would you rather be dead or under a meglomanical imperialist? Most of us would rather live to fight another day. What can they do now without enough experienced manpowower or weapons even the basics like food and water.

  • Nancy Turner

    Ukraine should do what it thinks is in their best interests and not let other countries tell them what they should do. You can listen to other people/leaders ideas of what is the right thing to do, but then decide what is right for your country and do it. Ukraine has been doing an excellent job in a very bad situation. The ATO is a very professional, high performing military. The West has helped Ukraine with sanctions and supporting and speaking on their behalf. They might have also helped the military with more than you know also, although not weapons. The USA has very little ties with Russia. The space program grew out of international cooperation. The USA does not need Russian to support their space program and the international astronauts are pursing their love of science. It is not political. Lastly, the Russian economy is struggling because of the western sanctions and is expected to get worse. Putin doesn’t seem to care but maybe the Russians will eventually make him care. Try to find some gratitude instead of frequently criticizing the people that are and have helped Ukraine. No one wants another world war in Europe! There is already a vicious war going on in the Middle East that everyone is concerned about.

    • sandy miller

      You’re right nancy…except what you’re saying is lets appease Putin…Let him have eastern and southeastern Ukraine which are ancient historic Ukrainian lands and also Ukraine’s industrial center. How many more Ukrainians should die to satisfy Putler and the West?? Putler right now is helping to turn more Russians against Ukraine with his propaganda and with the mercenares bringing the war into civilian centers where it’s impossible to fight without killing civilians. this is all Putin’s doing and America and Nato could still put boots on the Ukrainian border and stop Putin…no one wants WW3 but Putin laughs at the wests sanctions. Even if sanctions did eventually work they won’t be much good to Ukraine with it’s cities devastated and their people killed for no other reason than the wests lack of good decisions.

    • Murf

      I wish the Us had been mor eforth coming with a few key weapons systems such as High speed Anti Radar Missiles (HARM) missiles. and some AT-4s light anti tank missiles.
      That said, the billions of dollars in aid money, political support and sanctions have been instrumental in UAs ability to prosecute this war.
      When victory comes it will be Ukraine’s. not one we did for them.

  • Kruton

    Death to the commufacist murderers of children! Annihilate the Bolshevik mutant infestation!

  • Canigou

    Hey I can answer these!

    1. No.

    2. Because of realpolitik. The Ukraine is a weak power, and all countries are not equal. The desires of weak powers located next to stronger powers are not given the same weight in international affairs as the desires of their powerful neighbors

    Cuba is a sovereign independent nation with a right to conduct its own international and internal affairs—— but does that mean that it can expect to get away with inviting Russia to install a row of nuclear missiles on its shore pointed at the U.S., 90 miles away? Would Paul Goble argue that it has every right to do so and that the U.S. should meekly and respectfully stand by for that? Russia’s security concerns are a matter for other countries to be aware of, and it is simplistic to think that because every country gets a single vote at the U.N., they are all equal for all purposes.

    3. Because the Crimea is unique.

    4. The question is argumentative and poorly worded and presumes as fact certain assumptions which can be questioned, but as I interpret it, the correct answer is “no”—- it is not true that no one would believe Putin won’t “try it” elsewhere. I can prove that because I, for one, do not believe that Putin will “try it” elsewhere (assuming that he has already “tried it.”)

    5. There is no such basis. No leader should base his country’s actions on personal trust in the spoken words of any other leader—– all leaders will change their positions based on politics, including renouncing treaty obligations when they believe that is in the interests of their countries. Every country has violated undertakings at some point or another. The West should not base a policy towards Russia on “trust” in Putin, nor should Russia base its policies towards the U.S. based on “trust” of what any president says. Trust but verify, as Reagan said. (In 1991 Russia trusted the words spoken by U.S. leaders who said they would not allow NATO to expand towards Russia and look what happened).

    Do I pass the test?

  • Oleg Skaskiv

    1.Yes if the country is major fossil fuels exporter and has nukes so we cant just bomb them like Iran and Irak…
    2.We still need fossil fuels. So…
    3.It does not really matter as long as fossil fuel supplies are flowing.
    4.Who cares? As long as he keeps selling us fossil fuels. We rather bomb Irak since there is a risk that oil supply might stop.
    5.Well, we now they need to sell their fossil fuels thus we can trust their promise to keep selling them.

    Half of natural gas transit and in winter months 2/3+ go through Ukraine and have no alternative. Significant oil transit goes through Ukraine. Ukraine is largest consumer of Russian fossil fuels. The question is: Is mr.Putin an idiot??? Why is he pushing Ukraine so close to the edge??? If he kills Ukrainian economy isn’t it obvious how Ukraine will retaliate???