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February 26, 2014

Rand Paul: Don't Rub Putin's Nose in Ukraine Failure

Eh, sound enough advice, as a general matter, but people will disagree sharply on what constitutes "tweaking" or "rubbing a face-culture leader's nose" in a failure.

Foreign policy is always discussed in these broad principles that barely anyone disagrees with.

On one hand: "We must not be the world's policeman." Applause applause.

On the other hand: "We must take a leadership role on peace and freedom and human dignity, and we must intervene by military force when it is in America's strong national interests to do so." Applause applause.

Mostly everyone agrees with these two propositions, and yet will disagree sharply how either or both apply to a particular set of facts.

Paul's statement -- to not overly rouse the ire of the Russian bear, which, being a frankly more primitive political culture, will meet humiliation with military force and slaughter -- is wise enough. Diplomatic.

On the other hand, there is the Reaganite core principle that we must not shy away from calling evil "evil." Even if we don't intervene militarily (and despite the absurd characterization of Reagan as some kind of warmonger, his military interventions were rare and brief), it's important to at least speak up for freedom and human rights.

You really can only glean a sense of where a politician falls on this spectrum. Rand Paul, by saying this, puts himself on the dove-ish side of things, not only opposed to military action as a general matter, but also more willing to mute criticism (or express it diplomatically) of global bad actors.

John McCain, meanwhile, is much more confrontational.

Of course we already knew all that.

In the case of Ukraine, I have no idea which policy will "work." My idea of "working" is that the Ukraine is ultimately set free, even if Russia does work to grab back the Crimea.

I don't want to set it up as a "failure" for Putin if he fails to hold all of Ukraine, because I know what a face-culture leader will do if he sees the world calling him a failure. He'll resort to the primitive assertion of strength -- enslaving a people to show just how tough he is.

I do think it's important to establish a face-saving path for Putin, because, at the end of the day, I think it's more important that Ukraine be liberated (or at least, most of it) than that we deliver an immediate humiliation to Putin.

Meanwhile, documents show just how far the Ukrainian government was willing to go to crush the Maidan opposition.

This blog links a Financial Times article, which it says discloses these facts, but the FT is behind a paywall.

The Yanukovich regime had drawn up plans for a massive crackdown on protesters in Kiev using thousands of police and troops and the chief of Ukraine's armed forces on Thursday last week ordered 2,500 army troops into the capital for an "antiterrorist" operation. . . .

The documents, which a senior official confirmed were genuine to the Financial Times late on Tuesday, were among large numbers of government papers beginning to emerge in the wake of president Viktor Yanukovich's dramatic ousting on Saturday. . . .

But the most chilling were military and security papers. One set revealed that snipers who killed dozens of protesters on Kiev's central square last Thursday came from Ukraine's "Omega" special forces.


A cable signed by Yuri Ilyin, chief of staff, on Thursday last week ordered three army units from southern and southeastern Ukraine to move into Kiev...

The pretext for the use of the army to kill protesters was alleged "intelligence" suggesting that the protesters were really (wait for it...!) "terrorists."

What? Flatbush Joe quotes this tweet:

The Interpreter ‏@Interpreter_Mag Ukraine Liveblog: Russian govt-linked news channel LifeNews is reporting Yanukovych is in Russia. http://bit.ly/1pty04r

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posted by Ace at 12:28 PM

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