The American Left has absolutely and utterly failed to reach correct conclusions or make correct decisions in Ukraine. The result is that John McCain, who never met an ‘enemy of my enemy’ he couldn’t get behind, no matter how horrific, looks almost (almost) sane by comparison. Where a few weeks or months ago there could be legitimate debates, smart money was never on the side of the contrarian Left, and events have shown this to be true in at least two major ways.
1. The government currently in Ukraine is not a threat to Russians living in Ukraine. Quite the opposite – Russians in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are actively undermining the government of Ukraine (No, the status of Russian as an official regional language, by the way, has not changed. Russia Today reported that it had, and to my knowledge has failed to note that the president of Ukraine never signed into law that act).
2. The government is not dominated by neo-fascists, at least, not yet. Svoboda and Pravy Sektor are both still extreme minority parties, and the armed right wing is under heavy police pressure by the Ukrainian government. Indeed, the only party that has anything to gain from the radical right gaining power, and the only party acting to make that more likely, is Russia. Both Svoboda and Pravy Sektor have loudly opposed admission to the EU or the involvement of the IMF in Ukraine (interestingly, the exact same position toward Ukraine advocated by our local ‘progressive’ blogs), making it seem highly unlikely that they will continue to have Euro-American backing. Hard core nationalism in a multi-ethnic state like Ukraine can only lead to instability, the exact outcome Russia desires, and it can only be strengthened by the constant threat (and fact) of Russian intervention.
The Left continues to breezily describe Yanukovych as the ‘democratic’ leader of Ukraine, ignoring the fact that since his election, Ukraine has markedly regressed in terms of fair and transparent elections. History is full of ‘democratic’ leaders who ended democracy once it was done serving their purposes. Some even act as though the Crimean referendum, which was conducted under military occupation without any outside observers and didn’t even present the status quo as an option on the ballot, has some kind of validity. Perhaps the biggest failing of Leftist analysis, though, is the consistent belief that somehow this is related to NATO’s eastward expansion, or that a reasonable solution can include preventing Ukraine from ever joining NATO. If one knows the history, this is absolute hogwash. Note that Russian intervention in neighboring countries has been a constant fact since the Napoleonic wars – and NATO membership has shown to be the strongest preventive measure of that outcome. Georgia has been invaded; Turkey has not. Ukraine has been invaded; Estonia, almost incalculably weaker, has not.
I realize that calling for further expansion of NATO means I’m at odds with most Leftist foreign policy practitioners in the US, but for me, personal experience, the testimony of my friends and acquaintances, the demographic and statistical evidence, and the historical record all indicate that on this point, the Left has gotten it wrong.