War is the Worst Choice for Ukraine and the World – Article by G. Stolyarov II

War is the Worst Choice for Ukraine and the World – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 14, 2014

As I write this, people have already been killed in the confrontation between pro-Putin militants of the self-proclaimed “Republic of Donetsk” in Eastern Ukraine and the “anti-terrorist” forces sent by the interim Ukrainian government to suppress the insurgents. (Calling them “rebels”, “separatists”, “militants”, even “provocateurs” may be legitimate – but the use of the label “terrorist” here only further eviscerates any meaning that term once had in referring to people who deliberately kill civilians to make a political or ideological point.) It is not precisely clear what is happening on the ground – who is prevailing, and who is responsible for the initiation of force. What is clear, however, is that a deadly tragedy may be about to occur – unless reason, common sense, and every longing for peace and civilization are marshaled against it.

I have no love for Vladimir Putin or his regime. He is clearly an authoritarian despot, with little respect for the rights of his own people or those of others. He will pursue an agenda of personal power and aggrandizement through nationalistic rhetoric and attempts to rekindle the alleged glory of Imperial and Soviet Russia. Yet, despotic as he may be, one would hope that Putin is not suicidally stupid. It was one matter to seize control of Crimea, with its majority Russian-speaking population and popular support for annexation by Russia. Occupying the rest of Ukraine – in which even many ethnic Russians have no enthusiasm for union with Russia – is another matter entirely. A protracted occupation of Ukraine, amidst an unsympathetic populace – to say the least! – would bog down the Russian military and imperil an already precarious economic situation.  It would also risk the lives of many Russian soldiers in a prolonged partisan uprising, much like the one that the Soviet regime had to deal with for decades in Ukraine during the last century.  A reasonable person would hope that Putin recognizes this and does not stray from his characteristic modus operandi – which, however ruthless, is nonetheless marked by caution and pragmatic calculation.

Until the uprisings that led to the declaration of the “Republic of Donetsk”, it seemed to me that Putin’s conduct of “military training exercises” on Ukraine’s Eastern border was a strategic bluff. While the cover of military exercises affords Putin plausible deniability, he could also sincerely agree to withdraw the troops in subsequent negotiations, in exchange for the West’s recognition of the legitimacy of the Crimea annexation and a more loosely federated Ukraine. If Putin had pursued this approach, he would have likely gotten away with annexing Crimea after nothing worse than some griping and minor sanctions levied by Western governments.

Yet it is now unclear whether the separatist uprisings in the Donetsk region were orchestrated by provocateurs employed by Putin’s regime (as many in the Ukrainian government and foreign-policy hawks in the West allege), or whether they largely arose from local Russian nationalists who were inspired by the Crimea annexation and sought to repeat it in Eastern Ukraine (as many of the separatists do appear to be ordinary civilians). Nonetheless, Putin’s regime has officially endeavored to maintain plausible deniability – which means that an escalation of military force against the separatists by the Ukrainian government would give Putin exactly the pretext he would need to invade Eastern Ukraine, if that is indeed his goal.

The “anti-terrorist” operation by the Ukrainian government of President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk is – like any attempt by Putin to even consider an invasion of Eastern Ukraine – an act of suicidal folly. Not only do Turchynov and Yatseniuk undermine their own legitimacy in the eyes of Eastern Ukrainians by treating their own citizens as “terrorists” (), they also create the actual war that they accuse Putin of fomenting! Logic suggests only two possibilities: either the separatists are Russian provocateurs, or they are not. If they are indeed Russian provocateurs, then Turchynov and Yatseniuk have effectively initiated hostilities against Russian forces. If the separatists are not Russian provocateurs, then Turchynov and Yatseniuk are deploying military and “counter-terrorist” forces against their own people, instead of dealing with any insurgent or criminal behaviors via the police and the civilian justice system. Either way, the Ukrainian government is not doing itself any favors and is itself engaged in dangerous brinksmanship, which, unless restraint wins the day, could cost the lives of at least thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians.

If this crisis were merely an episode of competing follies between two Eastern European regimes, I might have left the matter at that. Unfortunately, prominent neoconservative war hawks such as John McCain and certain NATO generals, such as Supreme Allied Commander Philip Breedlove, remain unable to transcend the insane era of the Cold War, when the civilized world was never far from nuclear annihilation due to the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. They continue to call for “harsh” and “forceful” measures to be taken against Putin’s regime – whatever that means. Economic sanctions would, of course, be wholly counterproductive and would further impoverish Russian civilians, driving more of them, in desperation, to further embrace Putin’s nationalistic agenda. But military action of any sort by NATO or the United States would be an absolute calamity for human civilization – risking not just another cold war, but World War III between the world’s two major nuclear powers. Such a war would paralyze the progress of humankind for decades and lead to the eradication of much of the infrastructure needed to make comfortable, prosperous lives possible.

The neoconservative and NATO hawks are the Western mirror image of Putin’s nationalistic aggrandizement. They warn of the United States’ weakening image in foreign policy, of a perceived softness of the Obama administration’s response. They fear, in essence, a loss of American “national honor” and “national pride” if the United States were to withdraw from its role as global policeman and global human-rights enforcer. But they overlook the essential question: Why should the United States government be involved in the situation in Ukraine? There is no danger to American citizens, to whom the United States government’s duty of protection is owed, even in the worst-case scenario of Putin’s troops occupying all of Ukraine (which, as explained earlier, will not happen unless Putin is suicidally stupid). There is no compelling “national security” rationale of any sort for military or even extensive policy intervention in an area of the world separated from the United States by an ocean and most of the European continent!

The United States government is drowning in runaway debt, and the country is only beginning to recover from disastrous decade-long occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of American troops have been killed in the prior interventions of this millennium; tens of thousands more have come home physically and mentally scarred forever.  And the hawks want them to fight in yet another part of the world which most Americans understand nothing about, for no tangible gain, in the name of the geopolitical posturing of regimes whose leaders care not at all about them and will not bear a single physical cost of the massive killings, tortures, property destruction, and other atrocities that war inevitably brings with it? War is always fought at the behest of and for the benefit of corrupt, power-hungry leaders, and all the costs are always borne by innocent civilians and by very young armed men who know not what they fight for and who kill one another senselessly, even though they could have been good friends in other circumstances.

As the Wikileaks revelations about the conduct of some American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan showed the world, the US military is not uniquely righteous or humanitarian; torture, sadism, and perversity in the conduct of war marred the US military record, too.

The description of the horrors of war and the immense beneficence and moral imperative of peace by the great Renaissance humanist thinker Desiderius Erasmus is just as true today as it was in the early 16th century when these words were written:

Peace is at once the mother and the nurse of all that is good for man; war, on a sudden and at one stroke, overwhelms, extinguishes, abolishes, whatever is cheerful, whatever is happy and beautiful, and pours a foul torrent of disasters on the life of mortals. Peace shines upon human affairs like the vernal sun. The fields are cultivated, the gardens bloom, the cattle are fed upon a thousand hills, new buildings arise, riches flow, pleasures smile, humanity and charity increase, arts and manufactures feel the genial warmth of encouragement, and the gains of the poor are more plentiful.

But no sooner does the storm of war begin to lower, than what a deluge of miseries and misfortune seizes, inundates, and overwhelms all things within the sphere of its action! The flocks are scattered, the harvest trampled, the husbandman butchered, villas and villages burnt, cities and states that have been ages rising to their flourishing state subverted by the fury of one tempest, the storm of war. So much easier is the task of doing harm than of doing good — of destroying than of building up!

As with the remarkable surge of grassroots opposition that prevented US intervention in Syria in 2013, it is time for the American public to vociferously denounce any military intervention in Ukraine. It is not surprising, as a recent Washington Post article highlighted, that “The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want to intervene”! Education of Americans, not the inflammation of their zeal, should be the priority. The conflict in Ukraine today is a clash between two extremely ugly nationalisms – and ignorant neoconservative jingoists would add their own third flavor of nationalism to the mix. It is time for civilized individuals everywhere to reject all nationalism and all war. All of us humans – in Ukraine, Russia, the West, and everywhere else – face a choice for the next several decades. If we pursue the path of peace and non-intervention, we can become a spacefaring, cosmopolitan civilization. We are on the verge of major breakthroughs in life extension, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanoscale manufacturing, and ubiquitous, affordable energy. If we pursue the path of war, then humankind will instead become suffocated in the muck of jingoistic tribalism, with a promising future washed away by rivers of blood and consumed by an inferno of bombs.  The next few weeks will indicate which of these futures we face.

8 thoughts on “War is the Worst Choice for Ukraine and the World – Article by G. Stolyarov II

  1. I’m surprised and alarmed at your position here. I cover this issue carefully on my blog, and provide extensive sources there to back up what I say here.

    Putin is neither suicidal nor insane, but there’s extremely good evidence (including his own words, e.g. in his Crimean speech) that he intends to invade much of Ukraine.

    Attempts to draw a moral equivalence between Putin and the West make no sense. Putin himself tries this, claiming Kosovo and Iraq as justifications for his invasion of Ukraine. He’s counting on Western doublethink, since he has also systematically argued that those interventions were strictly illegal (and he may well be right on that, although clearly they are not equivalent).

    Your characterization of everyone (including me) who wants a strong response to Putin as “hawks” and neocons” is unfair. I favor a strong non-military response because it is extremely important that Putin not be allowed to rebuild the Soviet/Russian empire, a goal he’s spoken of openly. He’s also spoken of another important goal: cracking down on the “Fifth Columnists” within, that is, those who favor (real) liberalism and have friendly ties with the West.

    I have not heard a single leader of any sort in the West call for military action against Russia (not even John McCain!) General Breedlove has not engaged in any sort of war mongering; to the contrary, he has simply given fact-based assessments of the situation. He hasn’t proposed policies, either. As commander of NATO he’s been given the task, by NATO members,of proposing measures to strengthen NATO defenses in member countries that border Russia. Don’t you understand the difference?

    Your claim that “military action of any sort by NATO or the United States would be an absolute calamity for human civilization” doesn’t make sense. First, “of any sort” is so vague as to be meaningless. Second, strengthening NATO forces in the Baltics and Poland — which is what is actually proposed — is not a provocation or escalation. Putin has moved troops to the Estonian, Latvian, and Polish borders while publicly stating he’s concerned about ethnic Russians in Estonia and declaring a right to intervene anywhere he thinks “Russians” are threatened (however he happens to define “Russian” at the moment — you meet several of his definitions, BTW). Are you suggesting that anyone who takes Putin at his word and is prepared to defend themselves is a warmonger?

    Your logic becomes even more shaky with statements like this: “If they are indeed Russian provocateurs, then Turchynov and Yatseniuk have effectively initiated hostilities against Russian forces.” You must be joking. The invaders include Russian spetsnaz and FSB personnel. And if Ukrainian authorities respond against an enemy armed invasion of Ukraine, you say they are initiating hostilities? I don’t know what how to respond to such topsy-turvy logic.

    Finally, raising the crimes perpetrated by the U.S. government in Iraq to imply that therefore the U.S. cannot legitimately object when Russia instigates similar crimes defies all sense. Putin gets a free hand because others have misbehaved earlier? By that logic, the United States will never again be able to speak out in favor of liberty — “you were wrong once (or many times) so now shut up, even though you’re right for a change” is logic I can’t fathom.

    You need to rethink your position. One can favor a strong response to Putin’s aggression without being a warmonger. And the more Putin is allowed to get away with, the more violent and dangerous the world will become.

  2. Dr. Steele,

    I have been following this situation closely and have read the links you provided, as well as your analyses. There are elements I agree with, but also much I do not. Most essential is the need to avoid any further escalation of what could, at present, remain a local crisis in Eastern Ukraine only.

    I am not accusing you of favoring a military solution, and I did not encompass you within my characterization of neoconservatives and war hawks. In terms of non-military solutions, my view depends on the nature of the solution being proposed. I have no problem with personal sanctions against Putin or his cronies; they deserve their lives to be made inconvenient. I also have no problem with excluding Russia from international forums such as the G8, and with vocal condemnation of Putin’s actions by Western governments. I also have no problem with diplomatic negotiations, which I think would require concessions on all sides. Putin would need to recognize the Ukrainian government as legitimate, pull back troops, cease his economic blackmail, and recognize that Ukraine should not be restrained from economic ties with the West. In return, the West and Ukraine should concede Crimea to Russia and allow the Russian language equivalent official status to Ukrainian, which would neutralize Putin’s grievances by giving him his two stated objectives and allowing him to claim victory and save face in front of his own subjects. Russian leaders have a history of getting overthrown after failed military adventures, so Putin needs to be able to spin this as a victory, while the West and Ukraine need simply to contain him.

    What NATO does with troops within the borders of NATO countries does not really concern me, unless it is a prelude to further escalation – but I think, in that case, an equivalent statement needs to be made regarding what Putin does with troops within the borders of Russia, as long as his troops do not cross those borders. That said, Putin would not dare invade Estonia or any other NATO country. To do so would be complete suicide and an invitation for World War III. We both agree he is not insane, so he knows this. At most, he is aiming for Eastern Ukraine – and even that he would not be able to hold via direct occupation, so he is mostly vying for influence through destabilization.

    However, economic sanctions would cross the line for me, because they would not damage Putin’s regime so much as they would harm ordinary Russians and only rally them around Putin (as he would be able to claim that their difficulties arise from malicious Western imperialism, rather than Putin’s own misrule). Also, as Bastiat put it, “When goods don’t cross borders, armies will.” Economic sanctions always set up the scene for war, because they break the ties of commerce that enable peaceful cooperation, mutual understanding, and cosmopolitanism. Anyone well-versed in classical liberalism should understand this extremely well, which is why I was extremely surprised to see you favorably mention Anders Åslund’s call for harsh economic sanctions, deliberately aimed at harming ordinary Russian people. Åslund’s rhetoric is the opposite of free markets and free trade; it is a call for economic warfare against the general population, who suffer just as much from Putin’s regime as those who are threatened by it in Ukraine – and who would suffer even more as a result of the sanctions. Russian civilians will starve and die if economic sanctions are imposed. How can a classical liberal call for that? (Note, I am accusing Åslund, not you, of illiberalism.)

    Essentially, much of what the West has officially done thus far is unobjectionable in my view, but I worry about an escalated Western response precipitating a “hot war” and, even barring that, massive human suffering in both Russia and Ukraine, as well as anti-Slavic xenophobia in the West (because many Americans would not be able to tell Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, or even Poles and Czechs apart – given that most cannot even locate Ukraine on the map (!), and given that there really is a lot more intermingling of these ethnicities than cut-and-dried narratives in the West have presented, with myself as an excellent example). I would certainly not appreciate being subjected to extra TSA or NSA scrutiny, just because my name ends with “ov” – but this has been the pattern of virtually all historical American foreign-policy interventions, where a broad ethnic group has had the misfortune of being crudely labeled “the other”.

    As to the incentives involved, I agree that there is enough evidence Russian special forces are most likely involved in Eastern Ukraine. There seems to be a mix of Russian agents and local pro-Russian activists, but the masked hooligans do not look like local protesters. That being said, Putin is most likely trying to bait the Ukrainian government into a crackdown, which would then be used as pretext for invasion. The Ukrainian government, if it wants to survive, must not give in to this provocation. Instead, its best chances consist of simply trying to survive until the May 25 elections, when an indisputably legitimate government could emerge if the elections are conducted in a manner universally agreed to be fair. Turchynov has also agreed to consider a referendum on federalization. This is a good de-escalation tactic, if he follows through and conducts the referendum in a way all sides can recognize to be fair. The best strategy for the Ukrainian government would be to act completely unfazed by the uprisings in the Donetsk region and let them peter out for lack of popular support (if this is indeed the case). Let the separatists occupy government buildings for a while, while life as usual goes on around them, and the people of Eastern Ukraine demonstrate that they do not need Putin or annexation by Russia. It could also be a great test case for the persistence of the relationships of society in times when the government’s hold on power or provision of services are precarious.

    At present, it seems that the Ukrainian “anti-terror” campaign has been restrained, which is good. I really hope this restraint is maintained. Turchynov has stated that he understands that a lot of innocent civilians are bystanders to this entire episode, and he does not wish them harmed. I do not think the separatists are “terrorists” – again, because that would devalue the meaning of “terrorism” to simply mean “insurgent” or “whoever one sees as a political danger”. But they are unpleasant hooligans and should be dealt with through civilian means (police and prosecutions). Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure can handle them, though, and the West should not intervene.

    On the US versus Putin in terms of moral standing, I am not saying that Putin should not be condemned (I do condemn him in this very article, in fact). I am saying that the US has no unique, morally privileged role in fixing problems abroad; in fact, it has a rather terrible track record. If US troops were ever deployed in Ukraine (a horrific prospect), then Ukrainian civilians would bear the brunt of similar human-rights violations. Americans can and should criticize Putin all they want, but Americans are also horrible imperialists, and – just as the wrongs of the US occupation in Iraq do not justify Putin’s actions, nor do Putin’s actions justify a US military escalation of any nature.

    Gennady Stolyarov II

  3. A clarification: When I say that “Americans are horrible imperialists”, I mean that they are horrible *at* imperialism when they attempt it. Americans are, on the other hand, extremely good at commerce and peaceful relations when they attempt those. Hence the US should follow Jefferson’s advice of peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.

  4. Here is a good commentary from the UK Telegraph about why Putin does not need to directly occupy Eastern Ukraine in order to achieve his goal of destabilizing it.


    In the process, Putin is trying to provoke the Ukrainian government into a heavy armed response. Turchynov should not take the bait.

  5. Ludwig von Mises is also in agreement with my general position here. I have republished a compilation of his statements on war.

    Here is a thought of his that is essential to keep in mind today: “If men do not now succeed in abolishing war, civilization and mankind are doomed.”

    Incidentally, Mises was born in Lemberg, now Lviv, and, were he alive today, he would certainly be saddened to see the threat of war looming over his birthplace.

  6. I agree that Putin needs to be contained, not attacked militarily. I strongly disagree on sanctions. The argument for free trade does not preclude retaliatory measures designed to stop an enemy, and Aslund (whome I’ve known longer than I’ve known you, and yes, he’s a consistent advocate of free markets and free trade) is correct that this would be far better than allowing Putin to succeed in his conquest.

    Putin has already been operating in the Baltics and has referred to Russian populations there. Why shouldn’t he invade part of Estonia, say, if he feels so disposed? Who would respond militarily? Obama? Note that NATO membership does not obligate members to actually do anything if a fellow member is attacked, nor does the attacked member have any recourse if no one helps.

    Why do you ask that Russian language be given official status in Ukraine? It already has such status! It’s Russian media that reports the lie to the contrary. On the other hand, Ukrainian speakers and Tatar speakers in Crimea now have been attacked for not speaking “the official language.” The tsars and the Soviets outlawed and persecuted Ukrainian speakers, even as late as the Gorbachev regime.

    This is an extremely dangerous situation. Putin is a KGB man who used to run espionage and subversion operations in West Germany. He has repeatedly said that the breakup of the USSR was both tragic and illegal. He’s now doing something about it. He’s a tyrant and criminal. He should be stopped while it’s possible to do it without war.

  7. Dr. Steele,

    I will respond to your points on both this thread and my thread on the multilateral Geneva Statement.

    1.While Putin’s propaganda clearly exaggerates the extent of persecution of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, and most of the anti-Yanukovych movement was neither fascist nor anti-Semitic, it is still true that both Svoboda and Right Sector clearly are dangerous nationalist bigots. They cannot be ignored, especially as Svoboda forms a non-negligible component of the new government, and Right Sector thugs have become such a problem that the new government itself has had to deal with them through force (see this BBC story about the justified killing of the infamous ultra-nationalist thug and sadist Oleksandr Muzychko, who previously butchered and mutilated Russian civilians in Chechnya, at the hands of Ukrainian police). This is why the Geneva Statement was correct to condemn bigotry on all sides. Svoboda is perhaps even more troubling because it has a political presence, and even its representatives in the Rada have personally engaged in violence and intimidation. See this New York Daily News article and video of Svoboda Rada members beating up the head of Ukrainian television and forcing him to sign a resignation statement – simply for disagreeing with the ultra-nationalist line. Also see this Huffington Post article and video of the brutal beating of Oleh Tsarev, a legitimate Ukrainian Presidential candidate who supports economic association with Russia but is opposed to Ukraine’s breakup or to Russian occupation. The mobs do not care about nuances such as those, and the thugs that comprise Right Sector and are goaded on by Svoboda have no respect for freedom of speech or civil disagreement. They need to be sidelined and penalized in much the same way as the violent separatists and provocateurs on the pro-Putin side do. The key to understanding this situation is that any attempt to cast it as black versus white, unblemished good versus rampant evil completely misses the complexities and strains of ugly, historically rooted hatreds present within each side. That said, I think that Turchynov and Yatseniuk can be reasoned with and are an improvement over Yanukovych. They should be recognized by Russia as legitimate, but they also need to crack down on Svoboda and Right Sector and adhere to a course of tolerance and accommodation for the liberties of all of Ukraine’s peaceful citizens. This internal housecleaning in Ukrainian politics would be a key component to de-escalation and to the maintenance of Ukraine’s territorial integrity (as it would give people in the East less of a reason to call for secession).

    As always in such situations, the truth is somewhere in between what both sides’ propaganda machines would lead us to believe.

    2. While I acknowledge that Russian military personnel were involved in Crimea, and most likely in Eastern Ukraine, it seems that their involvement in the latter case is much less all-encompassing than you seem to suggest. If Putin had completely controlled the insurgency, then, after the signing of the Geneva Statement, he could have simply said, “Insurgents, back down,” and the People’s Republic of Donetsk would have been no more. Now, though, Denis Pushilin, the head of the Donetsk protesters, is saying that “Lavrov did not sign for us” – meaning that he is really acting on his own at this point. I think now is the time for Putin to make a decisive statement urging the protesters to vacate all occupied buildings, but it may not have any result if the protesters are mostly upset locals. Russian special forces may have given them organizational and logistical assistance, but that does not necessarily mean that Russian special forces could convince them to leave and disarm even if Putin wanted them to. Besides, Putin cannot directly force protesters to leave if he does not control them already. For him to do so would mean taking the exact action we want him to refrain from: sending more Russian military forces to East Ukraine.

    One other point: I would not be surprised if CIA agents are also active in Ukraine, especially given John Brennan’s recent “secret” visit. Both major powers are using their covert influence in any way they can: the Russian operations are simply more obvious and crude, and the propaganda has been blunter and less refined (very typical of the contrast between Russian and US foreign-policy propaganda).

    3. While I have no doubt that Putin wishes the USSR had remained intact and would like to see a resurgence of Russia’s control over Ukraine (and anywhere else he can get it safely), his pragmatism would outweigh that ideological desire. His rhetoric is mostly aimed domestically, to score points with elderly Russians who bemoan the loss of the “glory days” of the USSR. Putin is mostly a calculating opportunist, and he will get away with any extension of influence that he would consider safe, but he has already nearly exhausted his ability to do this. He will not risk his political security and war with NATO just to grab a bit more land. At most, he will continue to instigate local disturbances which, while tragic and threatening to the people involved, need not escalate into a global conflict unless the West reciprocates with its own belligerence. Putin may be evil, but he is not stupid. He is running out of steam and becoming more cautious by the day; he is mostly looking to save face and present any outcome as a victory to his own people – or else he risks losing his hold on power.

    On Russian language: While it is recognized in Ukraine’s constitution currently, it does not have equivalent official status. This does not really matter for day-to-day purposes, but it would be an easy symbolic victory to give Putin in exchange for substantive concessions (pulling back troops, recognizing the new Ukrainian government as legitimate, supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine minus Crimea). No harm can come from this gesture.

    On sanctions: The free-market arguments includes the recognition that sanctions almost never harm the regime in power; they always harm ordinary civilians and rally them around the hostile regime. As Mises put it, “Wars, foreign and domestic (revolutions, civil wars), are more likely to be avoided the closer the division of labor binds men.” Mises also said that military conflicts “are an outgrowth of the various governments’ interference with business, of trade and migration barriers and discrimination against foreign labor, foreign products, and foreign capital.” To the extent that Åslund departs from this understanding, he is sacrificing free-market principles to his desire to undermine Putin and Russia.

    Severing the international division of labor only makes it easier for the targeted regime to rally its people around it against the “external aggressor”. This has been a common tactic of Soviet regimes throughout the history of the USSR. Sanctions would only enable this tactic to be used once again and would fortify Putin’s hold on power. (Of course, neoconservative hawks in the US would relish this situation as well, as their own hold on power and influence here depends on continuing to manufacture an external enemy to keep the US populace focused outward rather than on reforming the bloated, unsustainable federal budget and curtailing the influence of politically connected military contractors and “security” agencies that are really meant to intimidate Americans.) In short, sanctions would mean Putin wins, neoconservative rent-seekers in the US win, and civilians in Russia, Ukraine, and the US lose. Moreover, how do you imagine sanctions against Russia would affect civil liberties in the United States? Do you really think that ordinary Americans would be left unscathed and unmolested amid the next wave of fear of “the other” and the heightened ludicrous security theater that would almost immediately arise? Boston had been turned into a war zone a year ago, just because of paranoia over what two violent but utterly incompetent Chechen nationalist fools might do next. I only shudder to think of the turnkey totalitarianism that would be imposed in the US in the event of any serious escalation of the standoff with Russia.

    This is why every effort from the West right now must be aimed at defusing tensions in every way possible. Give Putin a way to save face, implement measures needed for Ukraine to remain intact (minus Crimea, which is a lost cause and would have been a thorn in Ukraine’s side anyway), marginalize the militants, and allow saner, more civilized parties on all sides to gain the upper hand.

    Gennady Stolyarov II

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