Ultra-popular in cyberspace these days is a cartoon showing Vladimir Putin as a shrewd strategist executing moves on a chessboard, while a laid-back Barack Obama incongruously plays a single checkers piece and yells “Bingo!”
We may agree or disagree with this depiction but such is the widespread perception of the Ukrainian crisis and the invasion of Crimea. The Russian leader is regarded as having handily outmaneuvered the American president and with him the entire West.
For Israelis, though, this is no laughing matter. We aren’t mere spectators on the sidelines. This sad spectacle couldn’t be more relevant to Israel. The implications to our own predicaments are compelling and quite inescapable.
From our vantage point there are no saints in this scenario. Our sympathies aren’t clear-cut. Ukrainians are recalled in Jewish history as the second-greatest-ever mass-murderers of Jews – directly after the Germans (with whom many Ukrainians avidly collaborated during the darkest days of the Holocaust).
And yet there’s a key element in the current Ukrainian travails that is particularly pertinent to the complexities and pressures which Israel faces.
When the USSR broke up, some of its former republics, like the Ukraine, ended up with massive nuclear stockpiles. The West, justifiably anxious, sought to convince the newly independent Ukraine to disarm. These efforts reached fruition in 1994 and the Ukraine’s reward was that America and Britain guaranteed its security and territorial integrity. In other words, they undertook to come to the Ukraine’s aid, should anyone threaten it. That anyone could be no other than Russia.
This was no trivial guarantee. Any novice should have understood what the Kremlin’s residual vital interests were. They foremost meant keeping both the Ukraine and Belarus under Russia’s aegis and away from any alliance with the West and especially NATO. The same went for Russian interests in the Caucuses, which resulted in Moscow’s aggression against Georgia.
Thus pledges made to the Ukraine should have been accorded exceptional gravity in Washington rather than be treated as inconsequential lip-service. The Ukraine’s violent internal upheavals – with their communal/linguistic/ethnic undercurrents – shouldn’t have been cheered as another hip street-happening, much as the misnamed Arab Spring previously was.
It should have been clear from the outset that Kiev’s unrest could in the very least produce troublesome ramifications vis-à-vis Crimea, which is hardly part and parcel of the Ukraine. It was awarded to the Ukraine in 1954 by the then-Communist chief Nikita Khrushchev, himself a Ukrainian. As long as the Ukraine was an integral component of the USSR this scarcely mattered. Afterwards it mattered hugely.
The amateurish and slipshod comprehension of crucial complexities in the Russian sphere reflects the Americans’ and Europeans’ systemic misreading of exasperating situations elsewhere – from Israel’s existential woes to Iran and North Korea. Disconcerting enough in and of itself, ineffectual crisis-management is bound to lead to fiascoes.
But it gets worse because the chronic inability to gauge geopolitical realities also emboldens both the Americans and Europeans to dispense promises which they later do not keep. This cannot but result in a corrosive effect on America’s deterrent, especially when the US military is being shriveled to its pre-WWII size.
However, the immediate victims are those who trusted American assurances – like, in this case, the Ukrainians.
Of course, they are not the only ones left with guarantees not worth the paper they were printed on. Many of America’s loyal allies were abandoned in the “Arab Spring.” Obama backtracked from the red lines he himself drew for Damascus despot Bashar Assad, leaving Putin and the Tehran axis with yet another victory. Red lines regarding Iranian nuclear ambitions were just as blithely ditched.
Israel is now being coerced to divest itself of all its strategic assets in Judea and Samaria and expose its soft underbelly – its frightfully narrow and heavily populated central region – to terrorist predations.
Israel’s sole safeguards are to be guarantees disturbingly similar to those supplied the Ukrainians. What now unfolds in the Crimea should serve as a thunderous warning against placing ourselves at the mercy of apparent allies. Here, but for the grace of God, go we.
Another mistake the West makes is to think of the Russian mentality as European when in fact it veers towards Asian thinking. Putin will do what he thinks is right for Russia and I suspect his longer term plan for a new alliance based loosely on the principles of the old former USSR. He’s obviously got more street smarts than Obama, and in the final analysis couldn’t give shoot what the USA or Europe think.
However what concerns me about Israel through the present world stage setting, is the fact that it appears to be absolutely on its own throughout the world. The assurances by the Obama directly, his “management team”, and recently through his messenger boy John Carey this week to a fawning AIPAC audience, leave me cold and totally without confidence in Israel having a strong, dependable ally to help out in a time of need and crisis.
The posturing over the present Arabian regional crisis, the Russian / Ukranian turmoil, the abject failure of ANY USA policies internal or external coming to fruition or being declared a success throughout the Obama reign over the last 6 years, and the reneging of promises on given agreements made, have shown clearly that Israel CANNOT rely on the USA for anything at all.
Perhaps the left wing Jewish intelligentsia within Israel and diaspora should seriously reconsider their position and address their energies and efforts in a more constructive and relevant way.
American and British guarantees are worth as much as Palestinian promises. Nothing. Nada. Gornisht.
So true Sarah !
Israel MUST resist Obamas coercion efforts, or it will be doomed.
Obama & Kerry are Israels enemies and allies of the Arabs and helpers of Iran, Kerry in particular is OBSESSED with the mad idea of splitting up the Jewish land…!
Luckily, both Americans are sorry whimps and will soon be gone and forgotten…
The Ukrainian crisis should also help, to distract Mr. Kerry form his constant travels to Israel…oh well.
You are missing a lot here.
It is not just the Ukraine that is reviving its Third Reich ambitions. The breakup of Yugoslavia was also a neo-Nazi based nationalist revival against the Serbs. NATO bombed Serbia, while Russia was forced to sit on its hands. The Serbs have managed to uphold and advance Serbian national integrity and a Serbian future for its people in the face of overwhelming pressure. The situation continues to be extremely volatile.
The present status of Kosovo as some kind independent state is the price that Russia has paid to move aggressively in its own interests on its own borders. Unfortunately, reports seem to suggest that Putin fumbled a similar report. No matter, history speaks louder.
The situation in the United States that informs its allies is that even within its own borders it is having a hard time defending its interests. The institution of citizenship itself is under siege. All you have to observe is that for every ally threatened by violent subversives, you see elected officials in our country allowing those same subversives to come here.
rather dsiturbing Sarah, thank you again for your writing, oh dear, what are we in for next?
Something that worries me…Bibi seems to rely in his rethoric on the simple fact, that the Arabs will never accept Israel as the Jewish state…but words are cheap.
It worries me…hopefully Abbas will never read Machiavelli.
In any dealings with the US Israel is being shackled to a corpse. Jews of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains.
Obama is an arrogant loose canon who doesn’t care what damage he causes. He finds no problem “believing as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” It’s that he lives in a fantasy world. Lies and deception have no meaning to him. Kerry is no better. Israel cannot allow any other nation to guarantee its security. The stakes are too great. As I have said before, if Israel counts on international guarantees the last thing she will see are those very same guarantors shedding crocodile tears whilst professing profound sorrow and regret at her demise and the slaughter of the Israeli people. All the while they will be secretly celebrating.
well said sir!, this is spot on. stand firm.
There is one thing, amidst all these totally worthless guarantees, that’s absolutely 100% guaranteed: Obama is out to destroy Israel, any which way he can.
Exactly. If treaties are worthless and meaningless and signed only for the news cameras and the occasional academic paper then let’s admit that. Let’s admit that the west effectively stands for nothing outside the borders of their own countries and the hell with everyone else. At least we’d all have the same expectations of what American or EU support are in practice. Let’s begin to dismantle NATO and throw western Europe’s protection into the lap of NATO’s #2 largest member – Turkey.
But at the same time, if the borders of the Ukraine are sacrosanct and are only relevant to and subject to revision and negotiation by the citizens of the Ukraine then let’s remind our western ‘leaders’ to stay out of Israel’s affairs for exactly the same reason.
No need to go far:
President Bush’s letter clearly – and unambiguously – assured Sharon that;
1. The borders of any Palestinian Arab State would not encompass the entire “West Bank” despite successive Arab leaders having demanded this outcome for the previous 37 years,
2. Jewish towns and villages in the “West Bank” would be incorporated into the borders of Israel
3. The Arabs would have to forego their demand to be given the right to allow millions of Arabs to emigrate to Israel and
4. Israel’s existence as a Jewish State would be non-negotiable
Bush’s commitments to Sharon were approved – almost unanimously – by both the US House of Representatives and the Senate.
What was left from a presidential letter backed up by both the house and Senate?
read the rest.
Going backwards to 1956
“One reason Israel did give in to Eisenhower was the assurance he gave to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Before evacuating Sharm al-Sheikh, the strategic point guarding the Straits of Tiran, Israel elicited a promise that the United States would maintain the freedom of navigation in the waterway.7 In addition, Washington sponsored a UN resolution creating the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to supervise the territories vacated by the Israeli forces”
When Israel asked to fulfill the promise in 1967 the answer was that it was lost (no kidding) .
Time for Israel to grow a pair. American Jews are Democrats first, Jews second. Stand up Israel
In the main yes – I agree but not all. There is a strong minority that is the antithesis of American Democrat Jews; are not apologist, lip service actors or hide their background or faith. Your comment kind of reminds me of the Jews in Germany in the last century. German first and Jews second. And we all know what a disaster that turned out to be. And arguably they think it couldn’t happen in the U.S.A.?
Thanks Sarah! The Russians are definitely better strategists. The current USA administration seems to have zero understanding of military strategy or grand strategy.
Shows the disadvantages of affirmative action. Unlike the Peter Principle, where people rise to their level of incompetence, and then stop, affirmative action babies keep rising, despite having never done anything constructive in their lives. When they get to the top, the only option they have left is playing the blame game, trying to con the gullible public into believing others are at fault, not their own shortcomings.
Interestingly, Obama is keeping his word on only one issue: withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan. HIS words. Promises made before by other American leaders don’t count. How can we make an agreement with somebody like Mahmud Abbas, (our last chance to make peace according to Kerry) and expect the next Palestinian government to honor anything signed before if even grand American does not keep its word.
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