Friday, March 20, 2015

Russia, Ukraine, Crimea: Think of It as an Opportunity (29 March 2014)

You never let a serious crisis go to waste.
And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things
you think you could not do before. — Hon. Rahm Emanuel
           The diplomatic community seems to have rejected my suggestion that part of the bargaining over Russia's desire to maintain warm water ports on a peninsula should include a US offer of the State of Florida. Well, so be it; it was a long-shot suggestion and not entirely in earnest (I had family in Florida and still have friends living in Florida, and I think they think it better to have Russians around as "snowbird" guests in American Florida rather than living as American expatriates in a Russian Florida).

            Still, the very dangerousness of the confrontation over Crimea and Ukraine can offer opportunities to get some things done which should be done anyway; and there are historical precedents or at least historically-stated hopes that can be significant here, precedents from John F. Kennedy and Ronald W. Reagan.

            The upshot of the missile portion of Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was that the Russians noisily withdrew their missiles from Cuba, and the United States quietly removed our missiles from Italy and Turkey. One possibility of the Crimea/Ukrainian crisis is that the Russian Federation should withdraw their military away from the border of Ukraine "with all deliberate speed" — in the old sense of the term, before resistance to the US Supreme Court desegregation rulings made the phrase a sick joke — and keep them away. With all deliberate speed the Russians should pull back, and in return the US should finally get serious about removing our military forces from Europe beyond what is needed for a Korea-style "trip-wire." NATO forces, as in European Union forces should be at sufficient strength and appropriately positioned to preclude tempting Russia to move against them but not threatening Russia.

            Secretary of Defense Hagel, following ideas going back to Donald Rumsfeld and further, has already proposed cutting back on overblown portions of the US military. The Crimean crisis has shown just how useless a muscle-bound military can be, and comments from the Rumsfeldian neocons have shown clearly the temptations from prossessing the world's strongest military to look for military action to resolve conflicts.

            So much for Kennedy and Cuba.

            For the Reagan precedent I assume that President Ronald Reagan was sane and sincere in wanting to move away from "Mutually Assured Destruction" and eventually to serious nuclear arms reduction and sharing missile defenses with the Soviets.

            The Ukraine/Crimea crisis is another reminder that the superpowers remain nuclear powers and that there are just too goddamn many nuclear warheads in the world — period — for the safety of the human species. More directly, Russian seizure of Crimea and additional threats to the territorial integrity of Ukraine have undermined attempts at preventing nuclear proliferation: Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal  on condition that the great powers — Russia, the UK, and the USA — would defend Ukraine.

            If the crisis managers in the US, NATO, the EU, Ukraine, and Russia aren't careful, the main lesson from this mess may be that the only way for a country to avoid being bullied is to get nukes.

            We should not panic, but we should "be afraid; be very afraid" — all of us humans — and get our leaders to various bargaining tables to work out sharing missile defenses near Russia's borders with Russia and to call the Iranians are their claim that they only want nuclear materials for peaceful purposes.

            It is time for a rapid build-down of nuclear weapons starting with the USA and Russia and extending to the Iranian nuclear program, Israeli nuclear stockpiles and achieving a low-nuke Middle East (and reductions on the Indian subcontinent, given the tendency of the Indians and Pakistanis to occasionally fight).

            Two of the more pressing, if usually unrecognized, problems in the worlds of everyday people are that threat of nuclear annihilation and the threat that another "dip" in The Great Recession will lead us into another Great Depression.

            Really effective regimes of economic sanctions against Russian, those that will bite and bite deep, might throw Russia into economic calamity and take much of the globalized economy with it.

            It's time to cool it on all fronts and use low-grade, continuing, and highly realistic fears — the crisis — to move toward getting done what we should have long been doing. So:
                        * Pullbacks by troops of Russia and the United States.
                        * Cooperation between Russia and the United States — and what's become an Iranian (Shiite) Establishment — on the threat of terrorism, including potential nuclear terrorism, and concentrating first on Sunni terrorism and moving out from there to other "fundamentalisms" that are militant, armed, dangerous, and in the market for major fire-power.
                        * Radical cutbacks on nuclear weapons so that there are (1) too few world-wide to bring on nuclear winter or even "merely" the end of human civilization and (2) far fewer that might fall into the hands of "non-state actors" or fanatical leaders of states, whose agendas to achieve some transcendent goal allow for losing a city of two and a few million people to nuclear massive retaliation.

                        * International cooperation to finally get the global economy fairly and justly globalized, and up and running robustly. 

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