Chas Freeman on Unforseen Complexities in the World

Ambassador Chas Freeman delivered a speech today in Victoria, B.C., with a brilliant analysis of changes in the world that have caught American policy makers, and must media pundits, by surprise. I would call attention especially to his observation, “The underlying strengths of the United States are so great that it can still make all the difference. But, what sort of difference it makes depends on how linked American strategic behavior is to regional realities, resource constraints, and international prestige and influence.” In several recent problem areas, we seem to have de-linked all three of these limiting factors in forming our policy Continue reading

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Pavel Palazhchenko kindly translated an article I wrote for Комсомольская правда, but which was published in a garbled and, in places, inaccurate translation. I am much obliged to him for making clear to the Russian reader what I wrote.

Перевод П. Палажченко

Вопрос не простой, поскольку на это счет было немало сказано многими политическими лидерами, причем в основном в форме не обещаний, предложений или соображений для переговоров. Если же говорить о дипломатических контактах между США и СССР в 1989 —1990 годах, то мне представляется, что наиболее важны следующие моменты:

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The Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda asked me to write an article on what was said regarding NATO expansion during the negotiations concerning German unification in 1990. I submitted the following:

This is not a simple question since much was said by many political leaders and most were proposals or ideas for negotiation, not promises. But the following points seem to me the most important regarding diplomatic contacts between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1989 and 1990:

(1) All the discussions in 1990 regarding the expansion of NATO jurisdiction were in the context of what would happen to the territory of the GDR. There was still a Warsaw Pact. Nobody was talking about NATO and the countries of Eastern Europe. However, the language used did not always make that specific.

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Anatol Lieven: Ukraine should be a bridge, not a battleground

Anatol Lieven has published a brilliant essay that should be read and absorbed by everyone who wishes to understand what is happening in and around Ukraine today. I quote it with thanks to the author for permission to do so.


Ukraine Should Be a Bridge, Not a Battleground

In recent weeks, rational argument concerning Ukraine in both Russia and the West has been overwhelmed by a flood of hysteria, lies and self-deceptions. Russia has engaged in openly mendacious propaganda. Western governments and too much of the media have responded with lying counter-propaganda of their own.

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Why Putin Should Thank Obama

Igor Oleynik, CEO of International Business Publications in Washington, DC, has sent me a spoof letter from Putin to Obama. Like most satire, it is over the top in some of its points, but it does illustrate the obvious fact that the way the Ukrainian situation has been handled by the Obama Administration has in fact strengthened President Putin’s hand at home.

It is hard for me to believe that this was President Obama’s intent. So the question arises: have the pressures of domestic politics so blinded the Administration to the consequences of its actions abroad that it has lost the presumed American virtue of pragmatism?

Now the tongue-in-cheek draft letter:

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Russia’s Media Distortions Are Dangerous for Russia

I have been told that some of my comments on this blog have been taken out of context by some Russian media and presented as if I were justifying current Russian policy toward Ukraine. I do not have time to search out on the internet and listen to what was actually said, but if I have been quoted in a way to suggest that my comments in any way approve or condone the recent Russian actions in and in regard to Ukraine, then the impression given is the opposite of that intended.

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Russia Should Leave Crimea in Ukraine

Pavel Koshkin, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Russia Direct, has asked me the following question:

Today Crimea’s parliament have voted for its accession to Russia as a subject of the federation and scheduled this issue for a referendum on March 16. How can this stance escalate the tensions around the Crimea crisis? Some Russian experts (like Carnegie Moscow Center Director Dmitri Trenin) argue that it may drive Russia and the West at another cold war . Do you agree? Why? What are the implications for Russia, the U.S. and the EU?”

The appeal by the Crimean self-appointed parliament is very serious indeed, and if it results in the Russian Federation accepting Crimea as a subject of the federation, it will rebound seriously to Russia’s disadvantage. Continue reading

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Ukraine: Ethnicity, Language, and Attitude Toward Russia

Among the many questions in the current debate about the crisis in Ukraine, that of ethnicity, language and attitude toward Russia has drawn great heat but cast very little light on the actual situation. Simplistic arguments thrown about in the acrimonious debate are usually misleading and sometimes flat-out wrong. They confuse what is a complex and often ambiguous situation by attributing to it implications and contrasts that are far from clear.

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Obama’s Confrontation over Ukraine Has Increased Putin’s Support at Home

I received the following comments on yesterday’s essay from a Russian-speaking American now resident in Moscow. They include some important points about Russian opinion and on the impact of the Ukrainian events on politics in Russia itself. Each of the points deserves a separate essay, but I wish to share them without delay. (I have added some emphasis by italics or boldface here and there.)

[Begin Quote]

1) In Moscow even anti-Putin liberals seem to think that the US/EU has pushed too far in Ukraine. Continue reading

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Ukraine: The Price of Internal Division

With all of the reports coming out of Ukraine, Moscow, Washington, and European capitals, the mutual accusations, the knee-jerk speculation, and—not least—the hysterical language of some observers, bordering on the apocalyptic, it is difficult to keep in mind the long-term implications of what is happening. Nevertheless, I believe that nobody can understand the likely outcomes of what is happening unless they bear in mind the historical, geographic, political and psychological factors at play in these dramatic events. The view of most of the media, whether Russian or Western, seems to be that one side or the other is going to “win” or “lose” Ukraine.

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Posted in In the World, Musings and Polemics | 48 Comments