Henry Kissinger — on the the Ukraine crisis

Public discussion on Ukraine is all about confrontation. But do we know where we are going? In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally. The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins.

Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.

Russia must accept that to try to force Ukraine into a satellite status, and thereby move Russia’s borders again, would doom Moscow to repeat its history of self-fulfilling cycles of reciprocal pressures with Europe and the United States.

The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709 , were fought on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea. Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and, indeed, of Russia.

The European Union must recognize that its bureaucratic dilatoriness and subordination of the strategic element to domestic politics in negotiating Ukraine’s relationship to Europe contributed to turning a negotiation into a crisis. Foreign policy is the art of establishing priorities.

The Ukrainians are the decisive element. They live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939 , when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. Crimea, 60 percent of whose population is Russian , became part of Ukraine only in 1954 , when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, awarded it as part of the 300th-year celebration of a Russian agreement with the Cossacks. The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or break up. To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system…

A wise U.S. policy toward Ukraine would seek a way for the two parts of the country to cooperate with each other. We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction…Russia and the West, and least of all the various factions in Ukraine, have not acted on this principle. Each has made the situation worse. Russia would not be able to impose a military solution without isolating itself at a time when many of its borders are already precarious. For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one

Leaders of all sides should return to examining outcomes, not compete in posturing. The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction. If some solution based on these or comparable elements is not achieved, the drift toward confrontation will accelerate. The time for that will come soon enough.

Of course, Kissinger may as well be describing Congress under the misleadership of what passes for a Republican Party, today. He speaks from memories of days when Republicans and Democrats had principled, educated, knowledgeable leaders. Days long gone.

Kissinger is not a diplomat I have a whole boatload of respect for. He rarely challenged the Cold War status quo in his years of service. What positive results attended his efforts resulted from a simple understanding that politics should trump war, trade brings more long-lasting change than imperial bullying.

Frankly, I doubt if anyone in the Confederate Club in Congress will even read his suggested principles. However, they are worth reading at least as a base for your understanding.

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46 thoughts on “Henry Kissinger — on the the Ukraine crisis

  1. Otrazhenie says:

    For the start, it would be more helpful to see Ukraine as one unified country, rather than position it as ‘Western Ukraine vs. Eastern Ukraine’. After all, when we are talking about Canada, we do not depict it as “Quebec vs. the rest of Canada”, when we are talking about Germany, we do not position its various lands against each other, when we are talking about New Zealand, we don’t depict it as ‘North Island vs. South Island’.

    • moss says:

      Unfortunately, inside Ukraine, east v west is exactly what is presumed by everyone other than old guard apparatchiks. Followed closely by Catholic v Orthodox.

      • Otrazhenie says:

        Not entirely true. Half of my family is Ukrainian – they are still living there. Most people in Ukraine never saw Ukraine as “East vs West” in the past. It is a very recent development, promoted a lot in recent weeks with a map of perceived ‘linguistic divide’ used by numerous media channels in the coverage of the situation in Ukraine. In reality, both Ukrainian and Russian languages were always taught at schools across the whole country, so people on all parts of Ukraine a fluent in both languages. See an interesting article on that at http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/02/28/dont_expect_ukraine_to_end_up_divided.html

        With regard to religion, all main religions, including Islam, were represented in the city I grew up in as well as represented in many other cities I lived in. Identity is a multidimensional construct and religious identity does not necessarily corresponds with the national identity. Check out a very interesting book on that called ‘Identity and Violence” – see overview of that book at http://www.journeywithjesus.net/BookNotes/Amartya_Sen_Identity_And_Violence.shtml

        • moss says:

          That’s the trouble with subjective memories. Eid and I both have friends in academia and public service in Ukraine and…[EDIT: Eideard comments for himself when he wishes to]

          Most of the Russian-speakers I know – who are mostly in Kiev or the east – have no problem with a unified country. Speaking as subjectively as you have, I have to say that’s not the case with those from the Catholic west.

          I think it likely the Crimean vote will easily go for secession. The US and EU will blame the military; but, Crimea tried to leave in 1992 – which is why Ukraine changed the constitution in 1994.

          • Otrazhenie says:

            I would not blame ‘subjective memories’. I think we are simply talking about different identities. I’m talking about national identity, while you are talking more about ethnical and religious identities, which are very different. As an example, Canadian is a national identity. At the same time Canadians can have different ethnical and religious identity (e.g. there are a lot of Canadians of French ethnicity in Quebec therefore in that part of Canada there are two official languages: French and English).

            People in all parts of Ukraine have a very strong national identity. They consider Ukraine as their homeland. They love Ukraine and are prepared to fight and die for it if any third party would try to invade their homeland. They care about the well-being of their native land. That strong national identity is the basis of Ukraine as a country and we should be focusing on that instead of trying to create ethnic, linguistic or other divides. There are ethnic, linguistic and other variations within lots of countries, e.g. USA, New Zealand, Australia, Germany etc.. However when we are talking about those countries, we see them as a unified whole rather than a combination of opposing parts. Why do we talk differently about Ukraine? That does not make much sense and brings more harm than good to Ukraine as a country.

            Crimea is a different story and should not be confused with East Ukraine.

          • moss says:

            You should talk to the leftovers from the US Confederacy. 🙂 Their refusal to accept a union of these United States predated the writing of the Constitution. That hasn’t changed. They’re ready and willing to vote most of the old Confederate states out of the union given half a chance.

            As noted in other posts, Scotland is ready to devolve from the UK. Maybe you know a fair number of mellow Quebecois. I do, as well. I also know that given a few small changes in circumstances separation from Canada is possible. The same is true of La Raza here in the American Southwest.

            Good sense, sure, means the political economy of Ukraine is best united. Means nothing to the Ukrainians I know whose soldiers joined with the Nazis because they hated Russians. And lied about it when they came to Canada and the US as DPs after the war.

            Please understand. I, too, hope the nation of Ukarine stays united. I think at least half that country wishes to do so. I don’t think kidding ourselves about the divisions that exist historically – and still do – can be resolved by uprisings that refute elections. As true of Ukraine as Thailand.

          • Otrazhenie says:

            I know what you mean. Like in any other country, there are all sorts of people there 😦 and of course like in other countries with ethnically-complex population, there are groups, that might want to separate.

            With regard to Ukrainians, my grandparents (on my father’s side) were born in Ukraine and lived there all their lives. Granddad was fighting Hitler in the Second World War as all his Ukrainian neighbours, relatives and friends. Let’s not forget that only some Ukrainians joined Hitler. Lots more Ukrainians were fighting against Nazis, together with Russians and lots of other ethnic groups.

            My mother’s side of the family, by the way, was Russian. 🙂

          • Footnote says:

            (NYT Feb 25, 2015) “MOSCOW — The Russian government laid plans to annex Crimea and invade southeastern Ukraine weeks before the government fell in Kiev, a Russian newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing a Kremlin memo.
            Russia has long contended that it acted without premeditation in Crimea, seeking to protect Russian speakers who were under threat of attack and to stave off what it suspected was an attempt by NATO to move its forces into the region.
            A report in Novaya Gazeta, one of the few independent voices still publishing in Russia, said that the Kremlin had concluded by Feb. 4, 2014, long before President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine resigned, that he would fall, and that Russia would have an opportunity to annex Crimea.”

    • Побачимо says:

      “Ukrainian Hackers Release Emails Tying Top Russian Official to Uprising” (NYT 10/27/16)
      “A group of Ukrainian hackers has released what it says are the emails of a senior Kremlin official that show a direct Russian role in creating and directing the rebel uprising in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
      The group claimed to have hacked the account of Vladislav Y. Surkov, for years President Vladimir V. Putin’s chief domestic political adviser and now the top official overseeing Russia’s Ukraine policy.
      The group released what it says are thousands of letters to and from Mr. Surkov’s office email account, adding a fat dossier to this year’s vast spill of emails around the world and showing high-level Kremlin meddling in Ukraine.
      While the authenticity of the documents has yet to be fully established, several of the people who corresponded with Mr. Surkov confirmed that the messages of theirs released by the hackers were the ones they sent.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/28/world/europe/ukraine-russia-emails.html

  2. List of X says:

    To Russia, Ukraine is not just not a foreign country. It was largely a part of the same Russian empire, then Soviet Union, for nearly 300 years straight – and parts of it, at certain periods, all the way back to year 800-900. Ukrainians don’t necessary want to go back to that arrangement, though. 🙂

  3. inavukic says:

    I like your commentary and to boot, it all seems as big egos locking horns – the newest stage for Western political leaders to play on while neglecting economic disasters at home

  4. Edvard says:

    The Crimean Parliament released the Ballot Questions for the 16 March referendum. The referendum questions are:

    (1) “Do you support joining Crimea with the Russian Federation as a subject of Russian Federation?”
    (2) “Do you support restoration of 1992 Crimean constitution and Crimea’s status as a part of Ukraine?”

    There is no option on the 16 March ballot to maintain the status quo. Ukrainian outlets considered the questions as equivalent to “join Russia immediately or declare independence and then join Russia.” The current Crimean constitution came into effect in 1999 and Article 135 of the Ukrainian constitution provides that the Crimean Constitution must be approved by the Ukrainian parliament.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimea#2014_Crimean_crisis_and_Russian_military_intervention
    See also NYT 3/14/14 “2 Choices in Crimea Referendum, but Neither Is ‘No’ ” @ http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/world/europe/crimea-vote-does-not-offer-choice-of-status-quo.html?_r=0

    • keaneo says:

      The question of the 1992 Constitution restores the option of a yes or no. The 1999 Constitution was promulgated in 1994 specifically to stop Crimeans from voting to return to Russia. A moot point because of yesterday’s vote – and if you read or watched news sources insulated from the US version of Cold War managed news, it was clear the overwhelming mass of the Crimean citizenry want that return.

      It’s Uncle Sugar still stuck into contradicting the decision we pressed for in the UN, NATO, elsewhere to recognize the same sort of decision re Kosovo.

    • moss says:

      I watched the celebrations live in Crimea on SKY-TV world service. Crowds were a lot larger than the tiny number of those who dissented or boycotted the referendum – and sought out for interviews by NBC, FOX, Voice of America.

      Right or wrong, it’s self-deluding to try to bullshit folks into thinking the Crimeans don’t want to return to being Russians.

  5. Realpolitik says:

    12/15/14: “Ukraine says Chevron plans to pull out of $10 bln shale gas deal” http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/12/15/ukraine-crisis-gas-idINL6N0TZ29A20141215 “Ukraine signed a shale gas production-sharing agreement with Chevron amid great fanfare in November 2013, just months before mass protests in Kiev ousted former president Viktor Yanukovich, plunging the country into a major crisis with Russia. …The deal to develop the Olesska field in western Ukraine followed a similar shale gas agreement with Royal Dutch Shell — both keystone projects for Ukraine’s bid to lessen its energy dependence on Russia with whom it is embroiled in a dispute over gas prices and unpaid debts. The Shell deal could also be under threat as the gas deposit intended for development is close to the eastern territories now controlled by pro-Russian separatists.”

  6. Stay Tuned says:

    (April 30th, 2015) Russia’s military may be taking advantage of a recent lull in fighting in eastern Ukraine to lay the groundwork for a new military offensive, NATO’s top commander told the U.S. Congress on Thursday.
    U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the NATO supreme allied commander, said Russian forces had been seeking to “reset and reposition” while protecting battlefield gains, despite a fragile ceasefire agreed in February.
    “Many of their actions are consistent with preparations for another offensive,” Breedlove said.
    Pressed during the hearing, Breedlove acknowledged he could not predict Moscow’s next move but characterized its ongoing actions as “preparing, training and equipping to have the capacity to again take an offensive.”
    “In the past they have not wasted their effort,” Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/30/us-usa-defense-europe-idUSKBN0NL2ED20150430

  7. Manchukuo says:

    (Sept 22, 2015) Reportedly “Ukrainians are furious after Putin was offered, and served, a 240-year-old bottle of wine while touring the Crimean peninsula’s Massandra winery this past weekend. Prior to Russia’s annexation of the area in March 2014, the winery was owned and operated by the Ukrainian government, and houses a number of rare, centuries-old bottles of wine and sherry.
    According to the Associated Press, winery director Yanina Pavlenko popped a bottle of wine for Putin and his friend—Italian media kingpin and politician Silvio Berlusconi—that was from 1775 and considered historically significant. Similar bottles were auctioned in London in 2001 for prices of up to £32,000 (US $49,700) each.
    “This is one of the five bottles that constitute not only Massandra’s or Crimea’s heritage, but the heritage of all Ukrainian people,” Nazar Kholodnytsky, first deputy prosecutor for Crimea argued to the Associated Press. “The funds went to the state coffers and supported the development of Massandra and wine-making in Crimea.”
    Ukrainian prosecutors plan to charge Pavlenko with embezzlement for the gesture. She is already wanted for treason after voting for Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year.” http://munchies.vice.com/articles/putin-drank-a-240-year-old-bottle-of-crimean-wine-and-ukrainians-are-pissed

  8. Cassandra says:

    “If confirmed, cyber-attack against Ukrainian power distribution would indicate increasing threat of Russia disabling critical infrastructure abroad” (Jane’s, Jan 7th) http://www.janes.com/article/57060/if-confirmed-cyber-attack-against-ukrainian-power-distribution-would-indicate-increasing-threat-of-russia-disabling-critical-infrastructure-abroad “BlackEnergy and the Ukrainian power outage: What we really know” (Jan 11th) Includes ink to “BlackEnergy by the SSHBearDoor: attacks against Ukrainian news media and electric industry” http://www.welivesecurity.com/2016/01/11/blackenergy-and-the-ukrainian-power-outage-what-we-really-know/ See also “‘Lights Out: A Cyberattack, a Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath” by Ted Koppel http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/books/review/lights-out-by-ted-koppel.html

  9. Samizdat says:

    “In any war, certain weapons come symbolize one side in the fighting, specific tactics or political factors. In that spirit, a specific tank has become the icon of Russia’s secret war in Ukraine.
    On June 3, 2016, Ukrainian blogger “sled_vzayt” posted a batch of evidence showing advanced T-72B3 tanks — as well as other armored vehicles and heavy weapons — and their Russian crews in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region and right across the border in Russia.
    While the post uses numerous photographs to identify specific tanks, the vehicles themselves offer some of the clearest proof that the Kremlin’s troops are actively supporting rebel forces in Ukraine. https://warisboring.com/this-tank-has-become-an-icon-of-russias-secret-war-in-ukraine-19711a6b7bae#.qfw20k18z Includes link to the May 2015 Atlantic Council report “Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin’s War in Ukraine” http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/reports/hiding-in-plain-sight-putin-s-war-in-ukraine-and-boris-nemtsov-s-putin-war

  10. Мобилизация says:

    “Russia announces war games after accusing Ukraine of terrorist plot” http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-russia-idUSKCN10M1LN “Ukraine has called the accusations false and says they look like a pretext for Russia to escalate hostilities. Such an escalation could be used by Putin to demand better terms in the Ukraine peace process, or to inflame nationalist passions at home ahead of Russian parliamentary elections next month. In an editorial, the Russian newspaper Vedomosti said escalation was a proven Kremlin tactic ahead of negotiations. Putin was trying either to alter or to tear up the Minsk peace process, named for the Belarus capital where truces were hammered out for the war in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region. https://www.vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2016/08/10/652548-novii-starii-vrag

  11. Update says:

    Welcome to Ukrainian-Americans, the Latest Constituency Alienated By Trump http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nikolas-kozloff/welcome-to-ukrainian-amer_b_11614454.html
    Feds investigate Manafort firm as part of Ukraine probe http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/19/politics/paul-manafort-donald-trump-ukraine/
    Putin Visits Crimea After Ukraine Warns of ‘Full-Scale Russian Invasion’ http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/08/19/putin-visits-crimea-as-ukraine-warns-of-full-scale-russian-invasion-kiev-caucasus-2016/
    Playing With Fire in Ukraine (NYT Editorial) http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/20/opinion/playing-with-fire-in-ukraine.html
    After Crimea ‘Incursions,’ Russia and Ukraine Step Back From All-Out War http://dailysignal.com/2016/08/17/after-crimea-incursions-russia-and-ukraine-step-back-from-all-out-war/

  12. Попался! says:

    “Leaked Memo Proves Soros Ruled Ukraine In 2014: Minutes From “Breakfast With US Ambassador Pyatt” http://theduran.com/leaked-memo-proves-george-soros-ruled-ukraine-in-2014-minutes-from-breakfast-with-us-ambassador-geoffrey-pyatt/ “…Plans to subvert and undermine Russian influence and cultural ties to Ukraine are a central focus of every conversation. US hard power, and EU soft power, is central towards bringing Ukraine into the neo-liberal model that Soros champions, while bringing Russia to its economic knees. Soros NGO, International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) plays a key role in the formation of the “New Ukraine”…the term Soros frequently uses when referring to his Ukraine project.”

  13. с новым годом says:

    “Agricultural land reform in Ukraine, if adopted, likely to cause legal disputes and large-scale protests by farmers” http://www.janes.com/article/66508/agricultural-land-reform-in-ukraine-if-adopted-likely-to-cause-legal-disputes-and-large-scale-protests-by-farmers
    “The Ukrainian government is obliged to push for agricultural land reform as part of the IMF-mandated structural reforms.
    The reform aims to lift the current moratorium on the sale of agricultural land and introduce market principles to the agricultural land market, with the aim of improving efficiency in the sector.
    The move is likely to decrease the vested interest of local officials and business groups benefiting from the current system, raising the possibility of a reduction in corruption in the agricultural sector. However, concerns over raiding and ‘landlordisation’ are likely to lead to protests by farmers across Ukraine.”

  14. HAR says:

    Donald J. Trump Verified account @realDonaldTrump
    Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?
    4:42 AM – 15 Feb 2017

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