March 6, 2014

Obama is right, mostly

From the NYT:
Obama Says Referendum in Crimea Would Violate Law 
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and ALAN COWELL   MARCH 6, 2014

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — The pro-Russian authorities in Crimea pressed ahead on Thursday with measures to break away from Ukraine and become part of Russia, ignoring new steps toward Western sanctions and a warning by President Obama that their plans for a referendum would “violate the Ukrainian Constitution and violate international law.” 
Sending a further message, Russia’s military began what it described as regularly scheduled air-defense drills on Thursday at its testing range of Kapustin Yar in the Western Military District, less than 300 miles from the eastern border of Ukraine, Russia news services reported. The drills, to last for a month, were described by a military spokesman, Col. Oleg Kochetkov, as the largest ever in that part of Russia, the Ria Novosti news agency said. 
The developments came as the United States and the European Union moved to provide new support for the national government in Kiev and sought ways to press President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine. The United States announced a framework for imposing new sanctions, while the European Union suspended talks with Russia on a variety of issues including visa liberalization. 
Mr. Obama said in Washington: “Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine. We are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratically elected leaders.”

He could have left off the "democratically elected" hypocrisy. "Democratically elected" is increasingly a synonym for "on our side." The change in government in Kiev two weeks ago didn't involve an election. It was more like how the Communist secret policeman taunts the dissident Prague actors he's arresting in Tom Stoppard's Cahoot's Macbeth:
You get your lads together and we get our lads together and when it's all over, one of us is in power and you're in gaol.

Except the freelancers drove out the salaried goon squad.

If I rewrite Obama's statement less tendentiously:
"We are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of internationally recognized governments."

That's not bad.

The world has gotten more peaceful under the post-WWII system that is:

- Mildly averse to redrawing borders (e.g., African countries complain about their legacy borders, but African rulers are very reluctant to allow them to be redrawn: splitting Sudan along sensible racial lines took decades)

- Highly averse to right of conquest (which is why Israel has to engage in all sorts of legal subterfuges to settle the West Bank, rather than just annex it)

- Highly averse to big countries getting bigger (The postwar world is particularly averse to Sudetenland-style annexations where the annexing country grows in military potential. There are exceptions, of course: China absorbing, although not wholly until 2046, Hong Kong, but the Chinese see that as part of the decolonization process, like India annexing Goa in 1962.)

Russian annexation of Crimea following military operations, even if by referendum (but only in Crimea, not in Ukraine) violates all three.

Of course, in Russian eyes, the huge exception to the last point about the big not getting bigger is West Germany absorbing East Germany, and then NATO proceeding to ignore oral promises made by Kohl and Baker to Gorbachev to not extend NATO eastward in return for the Soviet Union withdrawing 380,000 troops from East Germany.

(German re-unification was not wholly noncontroversial in the West, either. A decade afterwards, I watched from four feet away as Mrs. Thatcher and General Odom argue intensely for ten minutes like an umpire and a baseball manager over Thatcher's opposition to German re-unification in 1989-90.)

If Russia wants to annex Crimea, it should offer to buy it from Ukraine (like the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia), with the deal needing to be ratified by a majority of voters in both Ukraine (minus Crimea) and Crimea.
   

51 comments:

Whiskey said...

Steve, you are missing the obvious. The "international standards" are not just some zeitgeist of fashion that comes out of some fabulously gay designers being popular. Insistence upon big countries not gobbling up small ones has rested on ...

US MILITARY DOMINANCE.

The US after WWII found it as a status quo power to be more peaceful to keep big nations from gobbling up little ones. Providing hegemony, US dominance of the West in exchange for protection against the Soviets and other enemies, provided peace. In somewhat the same manner that the Roman Republic and Empire provided to conquered peoples: they kept their customs, language, religion, and even sometimes puppet kings, in return for taxes and obedience to Rome and protection from enemies.

The system of protecting the small from the large rested completely on US dominance.

And Putin exposed that dominance is gone. Dead Jim. The US military is a shell, suited now only to chasing insurgents across lawless areas.

Nick Lloyd in "Hundred Days," the story of the Allied Victory in the final months of WWI, notes the Allies were so bad early on because they had tiny armies suited only to chasing Indians, Moros, or Africans in colonial areas. Zeroing guns so they could fire on targets behind the lines took years to develop. As did Artillery, Air, and tank cooperation with the infantry. [The Germans overestimated the human endurance and logistical abilities of their troops and the Allies were on the defensive able to scrabble defense in depth against German offenses poorly logistically supported -- unlike the Allies the Germans were chronically short of food.]

Everyone is panicked because the fundamental basis for little nations not being gobbled up by big ones is the now gone, dead, American military dominance replaced by a Black President with a really cool set of rap friends.

Maybe Jay Z can drop a rap album to save Estonia.

Anonymous said...

Crimea for the Tatars!

Anonymous said...

Since when does Obama care about law?

Illegally entering the US is a violation of US law. Does he care?

Anonymous said...

OT, Bankers troll disparate impact statistics against government:

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-03-06/how-to-troll-your-regulator

Anonymous said...

"The world has gotten more peaceful under the post-WWII system that is:"

Nope. The world got more peaceful because of nuclear weapons. The "system" Steve outlines had nothing to do with it. It's not any more sensible than the systems that preceded it.

"with the deal needing to be ratified by a majority of voters in both Ukraine (minus Crimea) and Crimea."

Who's going to tell Russia to seek that? America? The US never ratified its acquisitions of parts of Mexico with referendums in the rest of Mexico. Washington, Jefferson, etc. did not obtain an approval of their split from Britain through a referendum or even a parliamentary vote in Britain itself.

Anonymous said...

Steve, why have you not picked up on that taped call between the Estonian FM and the EU official suggesting the snipers may have been on the rebel side? If true, that seems huge to say the least.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Insistence upon big countries not gobbling up small ones has rested on ...

US MILITARY DOMINANCE.


I agree with this. A LOT of things are resting on continued US military dominance. Except we're like the old lion running himself into the ground trying to patrol the pride's territory. Just a matter of time before somebody else comes along. We're broke and increasingly sick of each other. That's enough to do us in right there, to say nothing of all the liberal poison we're gulping down.

I wish our Big Strategists would devote some brainpower to scenarioes where we can engineer a soft landing for the US as a peer among like-minded peers instead of this clay-footed giant blundering around, trying to keep everything looking like it did in 1946. Of course, they won't.

Hunsdon said...

Facts on the ground have a quality that even the most skilled rhetoricians have trouble with.

We weren't willing to get into a fight when the Soviets rolled into Budapest in '56 or Prague in '68, and it's hard to argue with a straight face that those situations are comparable to today's.

Hunsdon said...

Whiskey said: The US military is a shell, suited now only to chasing insurgents across lawless areas.

Hunsdon said: And if my memory is right, you've been cheering on every pointless intervention, and hoping for more.

Hubbub said...

So, now, Obama is concerned that Ukraine and Russia adhere to Constitutional norms? Would that he felt the same about following the Constitution of the United States in his dealings with the American people.

Steve Sailer said...

"Steve, why have you not picked up on that taped call between the Estonian FM and the EU official suggesting the snipers may have been on the rebel side? If true,"

But is it?

There's a huge amount of cellphone video online of the fighting. Somebody should be able to put together something persuasive from all the data, rather than just tell us that officials discussed a rumor.

There's a long history of complicated theorizing about shootings in crowded situations: e.g., Dealey Plaza, 11/22/63. A bunch of people immediately pointed at the 14th floor of the Texas Book Depository. But others thought they heard shots coming from the grassy knoll.

So if anybody wants to push this theory of opposition agent provocateurs gunning down dozens of their colleagues, well, there is a lot of video out there.

Anonymous said...

I haven't studied the issue and don't know what really happened with those snipers, but there's an obvious HBD angle here:

As I understand it, the Estonian FM told Ms. Ashton that he believed that all of the victims were shot by snipers hired by the anti-Yanukovich, anti-Russian opposition.

Estonia is vehemently anti-Russian itself. Yet this guy went with a pro-Russian interpretation of events simply because he thought it was objectively true. That is SO white. And Estonians (close relatives of the Finns) are some of the whitest people on earth.

It's important to note that this bit of shockingly literal, inhumanly objective thinking came from a CAREER DIPLOMAT. Diplomacy is basically polite lying and endless intrigue. But not in Estonia apparently. I'm in awe.

Anonymous said...

But is it?

There's a huge amount of cellphone video online of the fighting. Somebody should be able to put together something persuasive from all the data, rather than just tell us that officials discussed a rumor.


That's a good point about the video. But if the snipers were pros you wouldn't see them in the first place. They have a tendency to be very well hidden. They would even try to position themselves in such a manner as to prevent their muzzle flashes from being seen. They would go to lengths to make sure dust and debris was not stirred up by the muzzle exhaust. So it might not be that easy to pinpoint them on camera.

As for the rumor, I don't think it can be easily dismissed. For such high level officials to even discuss it amazes me. These officials were obviously cheerleaders for the anti-government forces, and for them to actually discuss the possibility of the rebels doing such a thing means that deep down, they know something is rotten.

Do you think for one iota that US officials in discussing 9-11 would even entertain the thought that it was an inside job? Of course not. So for these officials to even entertain this notion says a lot.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Annexing Crimea is against International Law, if such a thing exits. So why not have Crimea be a new nation like Bosnia or South Sudan?

Superman said...

The main reason Israel won't annex the West Bank is because that would turn all those Palestinians into Israeli citizens. Israel is playing a game where they call Israeli Arabs "citizens" and let them vote, but only because they know their numbers are small enough that the Parliamentary system will render their vote meaningless. If the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians get to vote in Israeli elections, they would exert a huge influence on the government and could begin dismantling the complex system of Apartheid within Israel.

Anonymous said...

Clearly the Russians should do what the US does - invade Ukraine and establish their own pro-Russian puppet government which in turn will ratify Crimea going back to Russia. Simple!

Anonymous said...

If Russia wants to annex Crimea, it should offer to buy it from Ukraine (like the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia)

Why should Crimeans have to pay Ukrainians for Crimea?

Did Czechs have to pay Slovaks for the Czech Republic? Did Kosovars have to pay Serbs for Kosovo? Did Irish pay the English for Ireland?

Anonymous said...

If Russia wants to annex Crimea, it should offer to buy it from Ukraine (like the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia).

And then require New Ukraine (or the EU) to buy New Ukraine from Crimea.

You are overlooking the right to self determination Steve.

Anonymous said...

"Crimea votes to join Russia. And that…is that. Because as Mohamed Morsi and Viktor Yanukovych would fulsomely agree: Once a people have democratically spoken, America accepts their decision with stoic composure.

"And though I am hopeless in naivety and gulled by even the shoddiest flimflam men, I must ask: Wouldn’t the portions of Ukraine that are overwhelmingly Russian be best situated in…Russia?

"I support the Ukrainian nationalists wholly, up to the point they aren’t being used as Kosher cat’s paws. But this Tsekov’s point is obvious. Russians want to be ruled by Russians. Man would choose to live under a like tyrant than a benevolent alien. This isn’t human nature; it’s nature."

Full comment here.

Anonymous said...

The main reason Israel won't annex the West Bank is because that would turn all those Palestinians into Israeli citizens.

Israel has already annexed the West Bank.

Israel is playing a game where they call Israeli Arabs "citizens" and let them vote, but only because they know their numbers are small enough that the Parliamentary system will render their vote meaningless. If the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians get to vote in Israeli elections,

Residents of the West Bank and Gaza already have a right to vote in Israeli elections--but only if they are non-Gentiles.

Nothing about annexation prevents Israel from continuing to deny Gentiles the vote.

David said...

Obama stands ready to defend the Constitution.

Of Ukraine.

Don't laugh. It's progress.

Art Deco said...

Israel has already annexed the West Bank.

What is it about people on this board that they fancy they have the ontological clout to make things so by declaring them so?

Art Deco said...

Clearly the Russians should do what the US does - invade Ukraine and establish their own pro-Russian puppet government which in turn will ratify Crimea going back to Russia. Simple!

Where do you fancy we did that? Western Germany?

Art Deco said...

Israel is playing a game where they call Israeli Arabs "citizens" and let them vote, but only because they know their numbers are small enough that the Parliamentary system will render their vote meaningless.

Um, no. The Arabs who remained in Israel after 1949 and their descendants are citizens and they have the privileges and immunities of citizens bar one: only Druzes among the Arab population are subject to conscription.

Anonymous said...

Israel has already annexed the West Bank.

What is it about people on this board that they fancy they have the ontological clout to make things so by declaring them so?

We are not completely blinded by Zionist propaganda and we try to look through the labels our rulers give things to the substance of things. One need only observe the facts on the ground to see that Israel has annexed the West Bank.

And what, may we ask, gives you the "ontological clout" to declare that Israel has not annexed the West Bank?

Anonymous said...

Has Mrs. Nuland transferred the agreed-upon shekels into your account, Mr. Sailer?

Art Deco said...

A bunch of people immediately pointed at the 14th floor of the Texas Book Depository. But others thought they heard shots coming from the grassy knoll.

One of the Secret Service agents traveling with the President who was put to work investigating the assassination had a book out a few years ago. In an interview he had promoting his book he said that hardly anyone they interviewed in the days after the assassination identified any point of origin other than the School Book Depository. These alternative tales emerged later.

Art Deco said...

Except we're like the old lion running himself into the ground trying to patrol the pride's territory. Just a matter of time before somebody else comes along. We're broke and increasingly sick of each other.

Just to point out that the ratio of military expenditure to domestic product was lower during the period running from 1993 to 2007, but not during any other time over the last 70 years.

Anonymous said...

"Nick Lloyd in "Hundred Days," the story of the Allied Victory in the final months of WWI, notes the Allies were so bad early on because they had tiny armies suited only to chasing Indians, Moros, or Africans in colonial areas. Zeroing guns so they could fire on targets behind the lines took years to develop"

I'm sure the addition of 2 million troops from the US In those final months had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Anonymous said...

About the Chinese seeing the absorption of Hong Kong as part of the decolonization process: They do see it that way, but the process was considerably different from India's annexation of Goa. In Goa, India launched a military invasion, in violation of international law, to seize it from Portugal, which was the lawful sovereign. In Hong Kong, Britain had a 99-year lease on the New Territories, which expired, causing them to revert legally to China. The rest of Hong Kong was owned by the British in perpetuity but could not as a practical matter be separated from the New Territories, leading the British and Chinese to negotiate a peaceful turnover of the whole, in accordance with international law.

Anonymous said...

Um, no. The Arabs who remained in Israel after 1949 and their descendants are citizens and they have the privileges and immunities of citizens bar one: only Druzes among the Arab population are subject to conscription.

Wrong again. Gentiles in Judea and Sumaria are denied full citizenship. Only Jews in Judea and Samaria have the privileges and immunities of citizens.

Anonymous said...

The Arabs who remained in Israel after 1949 and their descendants are citizens and they have the privileges and immunities of citizens

Except for the Gentiles made refugees by Israel's 1967 and 1973 wars of conquest. You also conveniently fail to mention the Gentiles who were transferred out of Israel/Palestine by Jews prior to 1949.

Mr. Anon said...

"Whiskey said...

The US military is a shell, suited now only to chasing insurgents across lawless areas."

Perhaps that is the result of years of the US chasing insurgents across lawless areas - as neocons have advocated for years - as you have advocated here for years.

Mr. Anon said...

"Hunsdon said...

""Whiskey said: The US military is a shell, suited now only to chasing insurgents across lawless areas.""

Hunsdon said: And if my memory is right, you've been cheering on every pointless intervention, and hoping for more."

Being a neocon is much like being in love: it means never having to say you're sorry.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Just to point out that the ratio of military expenditure to domestic product was lower during the period running from 1993 to 2007, but not during any other time over the last 70 years.

Fascinating. But we're still broke and can only buy our own debt and keep crucial military assets in hostile territory overseas for so long. Thanks for the great answer to the question nobody asked.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention Goa. I was there recently, and the place has pretty much been annexed by Russia...

Ehud Barak Obama said...

I'm not particularly sympathetic to the Russians in this current stand-off, but the stench of hypocrisy with regard to the possible secession of Crimea is now overpowering. It was OK for Kosovo to secede from Serbia. It's not OK for North Kosovo to secede from Kosovo, or Crimea from Ukraine. Why these cases are so different, though, is never explained.

Anonymous said...

Didn't China annex Tibet?

Bert said...

Art Deco said
"Druzes"

A swing.

And a miss.

Hunsdon said...

Mr. Anon addressed Whiskers: Perhaps that is the result of years of the US chasing insurgents across lawless areas - as neocons have advocated for years - as you have advocated here for years.

Hunsdon said: Exactly. You build a force to fight tank battles in the Fulda Gap, you end up with a force to fight tank battles in the Fulda Gap.

You build a force to fight sandal wearing insurgents . . . .

Chubby Ape said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Art Deco said...

Except for the Gentiles made refugees by Israel's 1967 and 1973 wars of conquest. You also conveniently fail to mention the Gentiles who were transferred out of Israel/Palestine by Jews prior to 1949.

There was no 1973 'war of conquest', and there were no refugees either, bar perhaps a tiny population that had been living near the armistice lines. Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur. Israel counter-attacked. The amount of territory exchanged was small and sparsely populated and it was all put in buffer zones after the armistice.

There was no 1967 war of conquest either. Egypt, Syria, and Jordan elected to play chicken with Israel, ejected the extant UNEF forces manning buffer zones, and made like they were going to attack. Israel attacked first and took some territory. The only refugees were voluntary departures. The vast bulk of Arabs resident on the West Bank and Gaza remained there.

When the Arabs were willing to bargain for it, they got territory back. The Sinai peninsula was returned to Egypt in 1982. Jordan has since 1987 abjured any interest in the West Bank. Syria has never been willing to bargain. The PLO makes various feints but is not willing to bargain.

You're remarkably opinionated for someone who knows nothing.

Art Deco said...

Wrong again. Gentiles in Judea and Sumaria are denied full citizenship. Only Jews in Judea and Samaria have the privileges and immunities of citizens.

Nor should they receive these privileges. These are territories whose future status is undetermined and the Arab population is abidingly hostile.

Art Deco said...

And what, may we ask, gives you the "ontological clout" to declare that Israel has not annexed the West Bank?

None whatsoever. Israel has not annexed the West Bank and has been willing to negotiate over future status without interruption these last 20 years.

Advocates of the Arab cause divide into four neat groups: the mendacious, the ignorant, the malicious, and the wildly impractical. There may be a fifth group, but you very seldom encounter them.

You seldom see group four on this board. You have to go to the peace churches for that. The rest are well represented here.

neil craig said...

The option of buying it is a good one. There is even the fact that when countries think it was a fair purchase they are less likely to go to war to avenge the insult in the next generation.

Scotland got the Orkney and Shetland islands originally as surety for the eventual payment of the dowry for the Danish king's daughter. A couple of generations later the Danes said they wanted to pay up but the Scots said to late.

This is relevant because the Russians had offered a $15bn "loan" to keep them from bankruptcy and before the present unpleasantness had paid over $3 bn. Crimea as surety would not absolutely offend against the principle of Ukrainian sovereignty.

Or the western powers could offer a quid pro quo - stand by Yugoslavia's legal sovereignty of Kosovo (which NATO guaranteed to respect when they took temporary occupation) in return for Russia being equally lawful. Thought not.

Anonymous said...

"Just to point out that the ratio of military expenditure to domestic product was lower during the period running from 1993 to 2007, but not during any other time over the last 70 years."

But the ratio of combined welfare/warfare spending to the non off-shored economy is much higher - and that's the root of the problem.

.

"There's a huge amount of cellphone video online of the fighting. Somebody should be able to put together something persuasive from all the data, rather than just tell us that officials discussed a rumor."

The rumor stemmed from a doctor who had pulled slugs out of multiple bodies saying they were from the same weapons.

If the weapons were local issue this wouldn't prove anything as both sides may have had access to the same hardware.

So it all depends on the slugs: whether they were locally available weapons and/or were slugs from the same weapon found in both police and protester bodies.

.

"It's important to note that this bit of shockingly literal, inhumanly objective thinking came from a CAREER DIPLOMAT. Diplomacy is basically polite lying and endless intrigue. But not in Estonia apparently. I'm in awe."

Yes, very good point.

.

Kissinger's point makes no sense if US policy has two separate branches: official and oligarch. If the state department policy was reasonable but the oligarchs were still waging their stealth war then Russia still has to react based on the oligarch policy.

Art Deco said...

The rumor stemmed from a doctor who had pulled slugs out of multiple bodies saying they were from the same weapons.

I tend to doubt ballistics is within the skill set of most surgeons.

Art Deco said...

But the ratio of combined welfare/warfare spending to the non off-shored economy is much higher - and that's the root of the problem.

There was a secular increase in the ratio of public purchases of goods and services to domestic product running from 1929 to about 1974, with the balance between military and non-military spending varying a great deal. It was then stable for 33 years until the Democratic Party regained control of Congress. I am not sure there has been much increase in the ratio of transfer payments to domestic product since around about 1980, just some flux within a certain band.

Chubby Ape said...

Steve Sailer said...

There's a huge amount of cellphone video online of the fighting. Somebody should be able to put together something persuasive from all the data, rather than just tell us that officials discussed a rumor.


There is this investigative video posted a couple of days ago:
Maidan. Inconvenient truth : shooting in the back: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=5dc_1393953567

Anonymous said...

"I tend to doubt ballistics is within the skill set of most surgeons."

Depends if they had military or police forensics experience.

.

"I am not sure there has been much increase in the ratio of transfer payments to domestic product since around about 1980, just some flux within a certain band."

Bluff rating: 2/10

The US banking mafia off-shored the US economy. That's why the US increasingly can't afford to be a global superpower any more - only a regional one.

reiner Tor said...

@Art Deco

The only refugees were voluntary departures.

Did Israel let them back after cessation of hostilities? If not, then they are not voluntary departures. If you travel on vacation to Thailand, and the government of the USA doesn't let you back, then you are not a voluntary departure, even though you went to Thailand on your own accord.

Israel has not annexed the West Bank and has been willing to negotiate over future status

Netanyahu has made it clear that there are now new "facts on the ground" that make giving all of the territories back impossible. In other words, the official Israeli opinion is that at least some of those territories belongs to Israel for ever. It's moot to debate whether that's annexation or not.