Hawks vs. progressives: A brief on Russia, Ukraine, and U.S. foreign policy dollars
In 2008 Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice gave a speech at the German Marshall Fund. She said:
“What is more disturbing about Russia’s actions is that they fit into a worsening pattern of behavior over several years now. I’m referring, among other things, to Russia’s intimidation of its sovereign neighbors, its use of oil and as as a political weapon, its unilateral suspension of the CFE [Conventional Armed Forces in Europe] Treaty.”
At present Sec. of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama find themselves in a standoff of sorts as Russia boldly inserts military troops into Crimea, a peninsula that is part of Ukraine. The BBC reported on Monday, “Russia’s UN envoy has said ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has asked Russia to use military force in Ukraine.”
When U.S. military force is off the table, and you can bet it is just as it was with President George W. Bush, what, exactly does the rest of the world do in such a situation?
Although Ukraine has dominated headlines for days, most Americans probably rarely thought of that country until Russian President Vladimir Putin shook his saber.
NOTES ON UKRAINE
Ukraine is majority ethnic Ukrainian, not Russian, although Crimea has a slight majority of ethnic Russians and more Muslims than any other part of Ukraine, according to government census figures. About one quarter of the Crimea population is ethnic Ukrainian.
Tension between Ukraine and Russia is nothing new, and memories run long. The CIA World Fact Book puts it in historical perspective:
“Following the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine was able to achieve a short-lived period of independence (1917-20), but was reconquered and forced to endure a brutal Soviet rule that engineered two forced famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) in which over 8 million died. In World War II, German and Soviet armies were responsible for some 7 to 8 million more deaths.”
Although agriculture, coal, and metals are significant drivers in Ukraine economy, the country is primarily services-based. Russia is Ukraine’s top export and import partner, so much so that others pale in comparison.
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION AND RUSSIA
Just as Bush 43 found Russia challenging to deal with, so has Obama. Progressive think tanks had great hopes for the Democrat administration in 2009, with some advising Washington Russia wanted her interests taken more seriously. At the same time, talks about democracy and human rights would need “consistency,” and pains should be taken to avoid “embarrassing Russia.” Both sides should reduce nuclear weapons.[Brookings Institution/2009]
With Obama apparently feeling positive about his relationship with Moscow, Russia succeeded in entering the World Trade Organization in 2012. Ironically, just as China’s membership (promoted by another Democrat, President Bill Clinton) led to increased exports and imports for both countries, so did Russia’s entry into the WTO.
One negative for the U.S.? Trade deficits with both Russia and China.
At the end of 2013, the trade deficit with Russia was $38.7 billion, a sum more than twice as large as the deficit with Russia during Bush’s final year (or for any year in Bush’s entire term).
U.S. TAX DOLLARS FOR CIVIL GROUPS IN RUSSIA
In December, 2011 Deputy Assistant Sec. of State Thomas O. Melia appeared before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to give an update on “supporting human rights and the rule of law in Russia.”
Melia talked about “dual-track engagement”—working in the government sector and in the civil sector “to advance democracy and defend human rights.” Melia gave a long, largely idealistic speech and then stuck his hand out.
Sec.of State Clinton’s deputy wanted $50 million from liquidated proceeds of the U.S. Russia Investment Fund created under Clinton. That fund, started with $329 million U.S. tax dollars in 1995, was aimed at promoting a free market in Russia by providing capital to entrepreneurs. The fund allegedly yielded more than $350 million and drew more than $1 billion in “outside equity, debt, and co-investments.” [U.S. AID]
It must be pointed out that progressives do not confine redistribution of wealth to the U.S., but to the world at large.
How the investment fund benefited the U.S. taxpayer is an unknown, but we can conclude a number of Western allied or politically connected mega-corporations were happy about it.
AID TO RUSSIA
Melia also reminded the Senate that since 2009, “[T]he U.S. Government has provided approximately $160 million in assistance to advance democracy and promote civil society in Russia. We have prioritized small, direct grants to Russian civil society organizations. And we help them take advantage of new technologies to make their work more effective.”
Meanwhile, USAID devoted resources to disease prevention and treatment, child welfare, and human rights. Just as progressives dominate think tank and government policy groups in the U.S., the movement did the same in Russia:
“USAID supports civil society organizations whose number and influence has grown from 40 registered organizations in 1987 to approximately 300,000 today, not including state-funded public organizations.”
By October, 2012, USAID said the agency “ended” its programs in Russia. Most media put in in a different perspective—Putin kicked them out.
RUSSIA’S OPINION ON U.S. “AID”
An editorial at Russia Today puts all those progressive efforts in context, Moscow style: “From Kabul to Kiev, American meddling wreaking havoc.”
Beneath that headline there was a photo of Obama’s Assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, a familiar face to political junkies in the U.S. Nuland was handing out cakes to riot police in Kiev, in December, 2013. Yes, fact is often stranger than fiction.
The RT editorial reminded the reader of Nuland’s colorful “F_ _k the EU” comments in a taped conversation with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Nuland wanted to craft a deal to resolve the pending crisis. She apparently had no idea her taped conversation would be uploaded to YouTube.
Railing against U.S. foreign policy, the RT today columnist chastised both Obama and Bush 43 (Libya and Iraq respectively):
“This tendency of Washington playing God in the affairs of sovereign states, revealed by Nuland’s comment, has proven itself to be a destabilizing factor from Kabul to Kiev.”
Obviously, the columnist appears fine with Russia “playing God.”
In 2008 Sec. of State Rice concluded her remarks with a forecast that proved true:
“The picture emerging from this pattern of behavior is that of a Russia increasingly authoritative at home and aggressive abroad.”
Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers have no readily accessible account of where hundreds millions of dollars have gone, and presumably come, a common consequence of progressive foreign policy in decades past and present.
Globalization continues its volatile march around the world.
(Analysis by Kay B. Day/March 4, 2014)