Time to Move Past Ukraine and Declare New Normalcy?

In this episode of Agora, TNH Executive Editor Constantinos Scaros and poet/historian/anarchist Dan Georgakas lock horns over Ukraine and US foreign policy.

In this episode of Agora, TNH Executive Editor Constantinos Scaros and poet/historian/anarchist Dan Georgakas lock horns over Ukraine and US foreign policy.


Dino,These past few weeks we have discussed what conditions warrant direct or indirect American military action in international affairs. The current crisis in the Ukraine is the latest focus of such consideration. Americans need to ask if our vital national interests or national security is at stake.

The economic interactions between the United States and Ukraine are miniscule. Indeed, the largest sums involved are the billions in financial and military aid by the U.S., sums that would be better spent at home.

The oil pipeline that runs through Ukraine is vital to Europe, but not to us. Our general meddling in the social unrest in Ukraine involves an outdated Russophobia that was previously evident in our actions in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and other states bordering Russia.

In contrast, Russia’s interests in the Ukraine are vital. The specter of NATO bases in Ukraine, a proposal raised by some American politicians, is equivalent to having Russian bases in Canada or Mexico.

We’ve already shown that it was intolerable for us to accept Russian missiles in Cuba. Russia feels the same about the military posture of its neighboring states. Surely, Ukraine needs to keep free of military alignments with the West if it wishes to normalize relations with Russia.

The EU’s vital interests in Ukraine are not limited to the fact that the bulk of gas and oil used by the EU comes from Russia via Ukraine. The EU and Russian have numerous and broadly-based economic connections.

That economic reality assures that the EU will not impose serious sanctions on Russia. American hawks have suggested suspending all flights between Russia and the United States. You can bet the farm that no such cessations will occur in Europe.

Ukraine, of course, is concerned about its national integrity. Crimea, once unilaterally ceded to Ukraine by Russia, has been reclaimed. A section of eastern Ukraine has been seized by pro-Russian separatists.

Whatever the specific outcome of that conflict, Ukraine remains totally dependent on Russian oil and gas. In due course, Ukraine needs to find a path that allows it to trade with the West and Russia without being absorbed by either.

President Barack Obama has kept a cool head and refers to the downing of the Malaysian plane as an accident. In contrast, former Republican Presidential nominee Senator John McCain has led the call to escalate the violence by shipping more military hardware into the area and toughening anti-Russian sanctions.

Republican Presidential hopeful Senator Rand Paul urges immediate restraint while advocating that the U.S. replace Russia as the EU’s major provider of gas and oil.

This works nicely for American interests but is unlikely. Europeans are wary about being dominated by the U.S. and have the longer-term prospective of integrating Russian and EU interests in a mutually profitable manner.

Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine likely shot down the plane. Just as likely, it was an error. Downing a commercial aircraft only serves to strengthen rather than weaken international support of the central government.

Rebels probably thought they were targeting a Ukrainian supply plane. Whatever the details, resolving the crisis must allow all involved to save face in some diplomatic manner.

The air route affected concerns transport between Europe and southeast Asia The Dutch suffered the highest loss of life. This offers Europe a chance to take a leadership role in shaping a reasonable dynamic between Europe, Russia, and Ukraine. Prudent American politicians, in turn, need to turn their backs on inflaming anti-Russian hysteria and allow us to behave like a mature and responsible Great Power rather than an insecure and pugnacious adolescent.


Dan, your argument would make perfect sense if we lived in a decent, rational world in which folks played by the rules and there was some semblance of order and mutual respect.

If we had a true United Nations organization, instead of one that, that save for the noble and important purpose of helping indigenous populations, say, obtain clear drinking water, is a disgrace to its very name.

Diplomacy without teeth – make that, fangs – is not even worth the effort, and military misadventures usually lead to more trouble ahead.

I have written often in the recent past why going to war should be our last resort, but that a limited war is a disastrous oxymoron that only gets us into a deeper hold in the long run.

I have also written why in this crazy world of ours we remain, if only by default, “the last best hope of earth,” as Abraham Lincoln said, and so there is no moral equivalency here: yes, Ukraine may be to Russia what Canada or Mexico is to the United States, but we as a nation are morally superior to Russia, period. And that gives us the right to live by a double standard.

On the other hand, Rand Paul’s brand of New Normalcy does sound tempting, just as Warren G. Harding’s original version did 94 years ago, when in one fell swoop America divorced Wilsonian globalism and elected Harding to the Presidency by an astounding 60.3 percent of the popular vote.

Even Ronald Reagan, who won 49 out of 50 states in 1984, didn’t prevail by that high a popular vote percentage. The only problem with isolationism is, pardon the pun, when it is taken in isolation.

If we decide, once and for all, to mind our own business, then we really need to mean it. We cannot continue to meddle in world affairs so long as we do not commit troops to the cause.

We need to bring home not only our soldiers, but also our diplomats and most of all, our checkbooks. Until a new and improved international organization emerges, let someone else pick up the tab for foreign aid.

And then comes the hard part: refocusing on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). There are few partisan-motivated cheap shots that I consider more preposterous than the suggestion that President Obama was born in Kenya – and that his birth certificate is not real.

But one even worse than that, though, is a reference to Reagan’s SDI as “Star Wars.” That implies an aggressive, belligerent maneuver, rather than a means of security and protection.

It would be as absurd as if you or I had state-of-the-art alarm systems installed in our homes and, as a result, others accused us of planning to burglarize some homes on the other side of town.

And then, there is step three: a bona fide moratorium on immigration until we can get our ducks in a row. A “Sorry, Filled to Capacity” sign hanging from the Statue of Liberty.

Because this is not 1920 and we can no longer afford the luxury of being isolationist unless we truly have “two oceans protecting us,” as we did back then. That means rendering potential nuclear missiles headed our way obsolete, and pouring some quick-hardening cement to fill the holes of our porous immigration system.

If we can make all of that happen, Dan, then I’m all for fencing in our American backyard, tending to our cookouts, baseball games, and Fourth of July celebrations, and leaving the rest of the kooky world to its own devices.