Brother Ivo has surely not been alone in his response to the news stream from Ukraine. He has veered between anger, frustration, and no little fear for the people of that country, who relied upon western promises of protection as they undertook significant disarmament to appease their Russian neighbour, which they agreed to do as part of the price of moving away from the sphere of influence of their former Soviet compatriots.
Now they are fearful of how far Russia will go to reassert its hegemony in the region, and their insecurity has inevitably been compounded by a clear realisation that the West has displayed uncertainty and weakness.
During the course of last week we heard Germany disinclined to invoke sanctions relating to Russian energy and the UK refusing to deny them financial services. The EU “Foreign Minister” Cathy Ashton has demonstrated a complete waste of her £400,000 salary by calling an “emergency meeting”- for Monday morning. It has not yet occurred.
No wonder some wag on Twitter suggested that the worst the West was prepared to do it is dock 10 points from Chelsea’s Premier League campaign.
Our discomfort is nowhere near as acute as the citizens of that country, and yet we too are fearful. We remember that this is the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War when a series of promises, treaties, and misjudgements in such a region precipitated a holocaust.
A generation that has never lived under the threat of the Cold War is learning that there was a reason some of us promote the teaching of history in our schools; those who do not learn from history truly are condemned to repeat it.
We have yet to hear from the UK “Peace Movement”: some are talking of leaving Ukraineans to their fate, doubtless in ignorance of a former time when we turned our back on a ” faraway country of which we know nothing”. For readers who do not recall that phase- it did not turn out well.
Such sentiments are however tinged with a sense of guilt. We are learning the wisdom of Roger Srutton that the default position of humanity is not one of rational tolerant democracy but tyranny, and whenever institutions break down, there is great danger to the society that suffers it. Worse, it sucks other countries into the dispute and uncertain consequences then happen.
We should never have got here and would not in times of earlier clearer thinking leadership.
Ukraine is a country whose component peoples lack the cohesion of older countries like the UK where Scots, Welsh, Irish and English have centuries of commonality to hold them together, even as some try to weaken the bonds.
Ukrainian institutions lacked the deep roots of our own as the brawling in its Parliament demonstrates. If the crisis teaches us nothing else, respect for and the need to value our own stable cultural institutions, however imperfect must surely be at the top of the list.
The situation is made worse because so much of the ideology of western progressives is being shown to be inadequate to the challenge.
President Putin may have parotted the need for United Nations support for any interventions in other countries during the debates over Iraq or Syria, but he has shown beyond doubt that faith in the UN is nonsensical. That institution is a busted flush when the big players perceive their vital interests to be threatened. Russia and China will veto any UN action: they always do and they always will.
Advocating recourse to the UN and “International Law” truly is to engage in the “science of imaginary solutions”.
If ever a crisis called for a strong leader of the West, this was it, and the PR stunt which is the Presidency of Barack Obama is certainly not that.
Reuter’s White House Reporter reported that the Leader of the Western World did not even attend the White House briefing on the crisis as it unfolded last Friday but received an account of it from his National Security Advisor Susan Rice. This leads to a simple serious question.
What exactly was he doing that was a greater priority in these dangerous times? Date night with Michelle?
Whatever one thinks of any of his predecessors, one cannot concieve of any of them being so lazy, cavalier and ineffectual. The Illinois Senator who routinely preserved a record of abstention before his Presidential run by simply and consistently voting “present”, has continued that practice by absenting himself on vital occasions. We do not know what he was doing on the night the unprotected Benghazi compound was stormed and its Ambassador killed and we do not know what he was up to as this crisis unfolded.
A President is supposed to be present, and this one is not, intellectually or apparently, physically.
The UK Prime Minister has been no more effective either in restraining the Russian President or assuring his electorate that a robust response would be forthcoming. Today we learn that a Government adviser has been photographed imprudently carrying a briefing document into Downing Street which revealed a distinct lack of robustness. One hopes that was inadvertence and not the triumph of “management of expectation” over principle.
As readers might deduce from this, Brother Ivo had joined the majority of folk in concluding that our leaders are either uncertain or that they have decided there is nothing to be done save a few diplomatic niceties.
It was thus with considerable relief that Brother Ivo came across proposals of US Senator Marco Rubio.
Whilst all the major western politicians seem to have have failed the test of leadership, Sen Rubio has published a list of 8 specific proposals which would represent a series of robust peaceful practical measures to exact a price from the aggressors and form the basis upon which “normalisation” would thereafter be negotiated.
Normally Brother Ivo would post a link but it is so important to make them available that he reproduces them with full attribution.
We need to publish the fact that some are thinking intelligently.
Here is what Sen Rubio proposed in Politico Magazine on Saturday.
Russia’s illegal military incursion in the Crimea region in Ukraine is a grave violation of a nation’s sovereignty and cannot go unpunished.
First, President Obama should speak unequivocally and call this what it is: a military invasion. The Obama administration must publicly acknowledge that its “reset” with Russia is dead. The president must now accept that the only way to deal with tyrants like Vladimir Putin is with a clear understanding that they can’t be trusted and that only decisive action will deter their provocative moves.
Second, President Obama should dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Kiev to show U.S. support for Ukraine’s transitional government, and urge our allies in the European Union and NATO to send representatives there as well. The United States should convene an emergency meeting of NATO to develop a strong united response from the trans-Atlantic alliance. And we should send high-level delegations to our allies in Central and Eastern Europe to reinforce the fact that we are standing by them. As part of this work with our allies, we should develop a series of economic and security assurance measures to help the transitional government in Kiev remain stable and carry out a democratic transition.
Third, the United States should rally our allies to boycott this June’s G-8 summit in Sochi, Russia. And if Russian troops do not leave Ukraine immediately, Russia should be expelled from this group altogether.
Fourth, any and all discussions and negotiations with Moscow on any issue unrelated to this crisis, including trade and other matters, should be immediately suspended.
Fifth, the U.S. and our allies should put forward a condemnatory resolution in the United Nations Security Council. A Russian or Chinese veto would make clear to the world the hypocrisy of these governments, since they say they oppose foreign intervention into the affairs of sovereign countries—unless of course they are the ones intervening.
Sixth, we should renew a push for eventual membership in NATO by the Republic of Georgia and aim to provide the country with some of the defensive capabilities the Georgians have requested ever since they were invaded by Russia in 2008.
Seventh, the Obama administration should immediately add more Russian officials to the Magnitsky list, which places travel bans and other sanctions on them – something President Obama failed to do in December. Living in Miami, I have seen in recent years the wave of Russian tourists coming to our city and state to spend money and buy property. Many are government officials or allies whose wealth stems from allegiance to Putin, and we should limit their ability to travel here.
Finally, in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid should immediately halt his effort to force a Senate vote on Rose Gottemoeller next week to be under secretary of state for arms control and international security. As I, Sens. John Cornyn and Jim Risch said yesterday, we shouldn’t even be thinking about arms-control negotiations with Russia anytime soon. And especially not negotiations led by a State Department official, such as Ms. Gottemoeller, who has tried to play down and potentially kept information from Congress and our allies about Russian violations of arms-control agreements.
This is a critical moment in world history. The credibility of the alliances and security assurances that have preserved the international order is at stake. If Putin’s illegal actions are allowed to stand unpunished, it will usher in a dark and dangerous era in world affairs.
Brother Ivo holds no specific brief for Sen Rubio, yet warms to him for simply offering hope of confident and competent leadership when so many others seemed to be faffing around. He has subsequently made clear that he does not envisage military intervention.
One cannot help but think that if such clarity of thought had been displayed at the start of the crisis, President Putin might have considered riding his horse off into the sunset instead of seeking to exercise power in the face of western weak leadership.
Coupled with Sarah Palin’s reminder that she and Mitch Romney were mocked when she predicted this danger, and Douglas Carswell’s that he warned of Europe being too dependant on Russian Ukranian oil, it seems to have been a better week for those of a more conservative mind.