Thursday, August 03, 2006
Cuba and Ukraine
The first is Cuba. I think Miami exiles are celebrating prematurely about Castro's demise. Just as Mao's death did not lead to the return of the KMT to power, I think the Cuban regime will be able to consolidate itself and try to hold out the prospect of a China-like transformation. I think Cubans have many complaints against the current regime--poor living standards and lack of civil and political freedoms--but I also think they are leery about restoration of what was in Cuba prior to 1959--and that the regime can capitalize on this.
In Ukraine, what a political resurrection. Yanukovych returns as prime minister--the villain of the Orange Revolution.
Let's relax in Washington and not overreact. In the run-up to the 2004 elections, Yanukovych tried to send emissaries to DC to stress that he would try to pursue a balanced policy. He will continue to pursue cooperation with the EU, recognizing that the EU is not going to be offering membership anytime soon. He may be in a better position to negotiate with Russia in terms of making Ukraine more of a real partner. And I think it is perfectly reasonable to have the condition that any Ukrainian overtures to NATO need to be ratified by a referendum; I never understand the logic of trying to integrate Ukraine into NATO against the will of a majority of its citizens.
Of course, the temptation here is not going to be to work with Yanukovych but to portray this as a "defeat for democracy" and tie U.S. policy to the success of the Tymoshenko bloc.
Cuba and Ukraine both represent cases where we DC based policymakers and pundits should carefully assess realities on the ground rather than substituting our hopes and wishes as the basis for our approach.
I caught up with Oswaldo Payá late Wednesday. Payá, as leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, made headlines by collecting 25,000 signatures on the island for a referendum on democratic freedoms in the late '90s.
Payá told me that Castro's transfer of power to his brother has had ''a real impact'' on average Cubans.
''It's a new situation, in which there is a possibility of the end of an era in Cuba,'' which leads to ''a variety of feelings, because there are many people who are identified with the government,'' he said. The climate on the streets is one of ''caution, and a certain silence,'' he said.
Asked about the Bush administration's statements following Castro's announcement, Payá praised the U.S. government for its ''caution'' and ''prudence'' so far.
But he said that statements such as those by Miami Republican Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart on Tuesday, saying, ''The time has come in Cuba for a campaign of civil resistance, civil disobedience,'' and a recent Bush administration report from its Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba, which outlines U.S. plans for a post-Castro Cuba, can do more harm than good.
In addition to meddling in Cuba's internal affairs, they give the Cuban regime much-needed ammunition to continue perpetuating the myth that Washington wants to invade Cuba, and that Miami exiles are intent on evicting Cubans from their homes.
''We're in a very complex, very tense situation,'' Payá said. 'The U.S. message should be to ratify that there is no such thing as a U.S. threat on Cuba, that there is no intention to intervene. It should say, `Look, the Cuban process must be defined exclusively by the Cuban people.' ''
Asked about Díaz-Balart's statement, Payá said that he doesn't want to get involved in any ''domestic U.S. political debate,'' but added that ``a congressman from another country, whatever his origin, and without being disrespectful, should not call on the Cuban people to do this or that. That's meddling in another country's affairs, and it's irresponsible.''
''The United States, which I think has good intentions, should become aware that the leading role in Cuba's change does not lie with them,'' Payá continued. ``Creating a commission that does a program that defines what must happen in Cuba should not be the U.S. role. . . . What the United States should do is wait for the Cuban people to ask for the help it deems necessary, in the form it deems necessary.''
What about the argument that democracies should help freedom-loving people everywhere, I asked.
''There are moments, and moments,'' Payá responded. ``Now, the message should be of calm and nonintervention. These are very tense days in Cuba, and the most important thing is that there be peace, because there is a danger of [government] repression, and repression would bring about confrontation, and that could open up a process which nobody knows where it could end.''
So I believe until someone shows my evidence to the contrary.
As PM in a unity/gridlock with Yuschencko, Yanukovich maybe isn't the end of the world.
Its population is divided between Russophobes(Western Ukraine) and Russophiles (Eastern Ukraine).
It has no place in NATO: its polity and state will fracture the moment push comes to shove against Russia.
US, EU, NATO should leave Ukraine alone; it can be easily destabilized by Russia and broken into at least 2 pieces with the West picking the smaller of the piece.
The Russians in eastern Ukraine are in a somewhat different situation. But I don't think their differences with western Ukraine go as far as wanting to break up the country over potential NATO or EU membership. Nor is it clear that Russia is willing to do so.
What would clearly be best, though, is a Western policy that embraces Russia and Ukraine together. I don't see any grounds for admitting or excluding Ukraine from NATO that does not apply equally to Russia. Closer ties to Europe and the USA might strengthen the kinds of trends we would like to see grow stronger in both countries.
Russia is the only country in the world that can physically destory US & EU (among others). There is no military sense for it to be part of a historically Anti-Russian military alliance.
The Baltic states are not a threat to Russia: they are too small. But their inclusion into NATO did not make political or military sense: they cannot pay for the equipment themselves, their membership in NATO confirmed Russia's suspicions, and-in the final analysis-NATO will not go to war with Russia over them.
Ukraine is, as you have observed, in a totally different category both for historical and cultural reasons. Extension of NATO to Ukraine is a provocation that will not go unanswered. I suggested a destabilization campaign by Russia as a possible response. There could be others.
Russia might decide that two rump Ukrains; one in NATO and one in Russia is still preferrable to a unitary Ukraine under NATO.
Other responses could be the revival Russian claims to Crimea, cutting off gas supplies etc.
If you look at the map you can see that Ukraine cannot be defended. Again: the question is will NATO go to war with Russia over Ukraine? If the answer is NO, if you care more about Paris than about Kiev; then I suggest you leave Ukraine out of NATO.
And yes, some citizens of Ukraine are more Ukranian than others; will the ethnic Russians and Russophile (Orthodox) ethnic Ukranian fight against Russia? I seriously doubt that.
Let the sleeping dogs lie.
"My first visits will be to Brussels, Moscow and the United States," said Yanukovich after his approval.
Russia's ability to destroy the US and EU should not disqualify Russia from joining NATO unless the strategic needs of one are incompatible with the other.
Russia's strategic needs are security against attack from neighboring countries and a place at the head table with the other major NATO powers.
Trying to recreate a sphere of influence in Eurasia outside of (or in competition with) NATO cannot work in the long run. The power of the Soviet state will not be restored with Russia's military in its present and likely future state. Any effort by Russia to rearm and expand will place demands on Russia's industry and declining population that would be impossible to sustain.
Russia needs to belong to NATO. The question is whether NATO (a) wants to include Russia under its present form of government and (2) wants to move the eastern frontier of the alliance to the Amur river. I'm not sure a stronger tie to Russia is possible that doesn't also take China into account.
NATO is now a political club, not an effective collective security organization, and under htose parameters Russia is never going to be in NATO.
Just which neighbours are threatening Russia? China is the pnly one that comes to my mind and that is very very far-fetched.
My point was that NATO is still a threat to Russia and is pursuing anti-Russian policies. That it could become a shell in not too distant future does not diminish its potency now.
US and Russia are the only serious threats to each other.
I don't think NATO's capacity for out-of-area deployments should be the measure of its capacity to defend member states in-area.
Yes, NATO is primarily a political club, but membership gives a real commitment to the territorial integrity and (implicitly) the democratic institutions of its members. If a serious external threat appeared on its periphery again, it would pull itself together as necessary to meet it. NATO is slack right now because there isn't such a threat.
The need for a permanent alliance is not the state of current threats but strategic needs in the long term.
Russia has to consider its future over the next half century and membership in a permanent alliance with the United States and Europe could provide vital security in the long run against China and any Islamic powers that arise in the Middle East during this long time interval.
NATO is only a threat to Russia in the sense of obstructing Russian irredentist ambitions, such as they are. But these are motivated in part by Russia's isolation and reflexive concerns for buffer territory. NATO membership would relieve these concerns and provide an incentive to abandon any imperial yearnings beyond them.
This is very nice. Now get the Poles and Balts to agree. When we decided to include them without simultaneously including Russia, we decided to exclude Russia.
"NATO is only a threat to Russia in the sense of obstructing Russian irredentist ambitions, such as they are."
Then why is a collossal conventional ground armament, far in excess of NATO's legitimate defensive needs, being maintained?
"But these are motivated in part by Russia's isolation and reflexive concerns for buffer territory."
Indeed. And Russia is going to continue to be excluded from any serious role in Europe's security structure, and will remain isolated in the face of a military alliance which maintains a collossal conventional ground armament, far in excess of NATO's legitimate defensive needs.
"NATO membership would relieve these concerns and provide an incentive to abandon any imperial yearnings beyond them."
It would. And the fact of the matter is that NATO membership will not be offered to Russia, no matter what Russian governments do.
I'll respond below and then give you the last word if you want it.
"This is very nice. Now get the Poles and Balts to agree. When we decided to include them without simultaneously including Russia, we decided to exclude Russia."
It was unfortunate that we excluded Russia. But if the Poles can agree to an alliance with Germany, they can agree to an alliance with Russia.
"Then why is a collossal conventional ground armament, far in excess of NATO's legitimate defensive needs, being maintained?"
NATO has never had the ground forces to go on the offensive against Russia and does not have them today. The majority of NATO's ground forces are in Germany (and the US component is being reduced). These forces are nowhere near Russia, and nobody would claim that the eastern European NATO members have ground forces that threaten Russia.
"It would. And the fact of the matter is that NATO membership will not be offered to Russia, no matter what Russian governments do."
Russia is already part of the larger OSCE and I think the main barrier to NATO entry is the character of its government and foreign policy right now. Relations with NATO could be closer if these change. But NATO may also be unwilling to take on the Chechens or extend its frontier into Asia. It would be very bad if Europe holds out the prospect of NATO membership and then has second thoughts, as has happened over Turkish entry into the EU.
Russia may remain outside NATO but my sense is that the reasons have less to do with aggressive Western designs than with the peculiar circumstances of Russia's geography and with the fact that the form of government that its leaders believe they need right now may be at odds with the political requirements for NATO membership.
Um, the Germans were already in the alliance. You have a basic confusion about who was offering, and who was the recipient. Any your confuusion is not removed in the rest of your post.
Thank you for catching that and sorry to follow up, but I wonder if you would clarify your point.
I would have thought that Russian membership in NATO would reduce the threat to Poland in the same way that German membership of NATO has done. You are quite right that Poland could not oppose German membership when Poland was the recipient of an offer to join NATO. But for Poland to exercise its right from inside NATO to oppose Russian membership doesn't make sense to me unless one or both of two things are true.
One would be that Polish security will be diminished somehow by Russian membership in NATO. If you think so, may I ask how? The other is that Poland has historic grievances against Russia that, as the offering party, the Poles would have the discretion to express by saying no. Is that the reason you believe Poland would say no?
There is no Russian military threat to Poland. NATO has a crushing conventional military superiority over Russia.
"The other is that Poland has historic grievances against Russia that, as the offering party, the Poles would have the discretion to express by saying no. Is that the reason you believe Poland would say no?"
Bingo. And the Baltic States governments feel much the same.