Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ukraine: An Ally?

So, Ukrainian President Poroshenko was in DC, asking, among other things, to a major non-NATO ally of the US.  My first reaction was: hell no!  Why?  Because the US should not commit to the defense of Ukraine.  That Ukraine is not nor could it be put into a category where one thinks of Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.  One could imagine Americans dying to protect such places (having already done so for Australia and South Korea). 

Then I saw the list and saw that the concept of major non-NATO ally has been stretched so far as to be broken, very, very broken.  Who is on the list?
  • Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand.  So far, so good.  Countries that have other agreement with the US that make it clear that there is a binding commitment.
  • Egypt and Israel.  Everything has to be for both--aid, alliance, whatever--to keep the Camp David agreement buttressed.  But Egypt now?  Hmmm, not so much.  And no, the US is not committed to the defense of Israel either.  Indeed, the friction of late between Netanyahu and Obama makes this all the more strained.
  • Jordan and Argentina?  Already we are slipping to a situation where non-NATO major ally means less and less.  
  • GWB went crazy, probably to cement support for his war in Iraq with: Bahrain, Philippines, Thailand, Kuwait, Morocco and ..... Pakistan.  Yep, any list that has Pakistan on it might just be a bit sketchy.  Philippines and Thailand make sense as former members of SEATO.  Actually, Pakistan was a member of SEATO too, but that alliance is dead for a reason or two.
  • Obama added Afghanistan, probably to try to get Karzai to agree to something.  I actually commented on this at the time, but had forgotten about it.
The bigger problem, of course, is that this is precisely that which Putin fears--Ukraine in the western camp.  Of course, everything he has done to Ukraine has only made Ukraine's desire to join Western clubs all the stronger.  That is what threats do in a balancing, security dilemma kind of world.  Still, I really don't want anybody to get the idea that the US would fight to help Ukraine, especially the Ukrainians.  This way lays madness ... or what Georgia did in 2008--act with way too much confidence.

So, sorry President Poroshenko, but a major ally Ukraine is not.


Vladimir said...

I would disagree with your characterization of Jordan. There is no question that the U.S. is committed to preserving the territorial integrity of Jordan, and equally important, the survival of the Hashemite dynasty. Jordan really is a state that matters in the regional balance of power i.e. a greater Jordan ruled by Palestinians (Israel would very uncomfortable) part of a Greater Syria or in alignment with Iraq, all scenarios the U.S would regard as against its interests. Friends are countries that we identify with -whose well being is deemed indivisible from your own- while allies are countries that help us achieve our foreign policy objectives ; and yes there is overlap.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Ukraine is that it is a failed state and its Eastern citizens are fed up with it. Putin's Russia is only attractive as the lesser of evils.

Diving into a civil war to prop up a failed state is a really bad idea. I think it's worth articulating the difference between clear aggression and provoking dissatisfied and alienated citizens into revolt. It's the job of a government to keep its citizens from being unhappy and alienated to the point of rebellion.

This is the same issue Georgia faced.

Anonymous said...

Please read Budapest Memorandum before commenting on this issue.