Category Archives: appeasement

EDITORIAL: Appeasement and Shame in Yaroslavl

EDITORIAL

Appeasement and Shame in Yaroslavl

Sergei Mitrokhin. Leonid Gozman. Do you know those names?

Mitrokhin is the obscure leader of the obscure Yabloko party established by Gigori Yavlinsky, and Gozman is the even more obscure leader of the even more obscure Right Cause party, successor to the Union of Right Forces established by Boris Nemtsov.

Neither gentleman plays any significant role in the current Russian opposition movement led by Boris Nemtsov and Garry Kasparov. Neither party holds as much as a single seat in the Russian legislature.  So naturally, both were invited to the Kremlin’s sham “modernization” conference in Yaroslavl last week (200 miles north of — that is, very far from — Moscow) so the Kremlin could prove how liberal and open and democratic it is.   Neither offered any serious direct criticism of Putin or challenged his authority in any way.

Neither Kasparov nor Nemtsov nor any other serious opposition figure, of course, was on the guest list.  And, of course, the Americans on hand did not say a single word about their absence.

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EDITORIAL: William Burns, Craven Braying Jackass

EDITORIAL

William Burns, Craven Braying Jackass

William Burns, braying jackass

When we read a statement from Oleg Orlov last week indicating after a meeting with top American diplomat William Burns that the undersecretary intended to offer “public criticism” of the Putin regime’s abysmal human rights record, we were heartened. Maybe at last, we hoped, the craven Obama regime has got the message that it can’t simply ignore the appalling neo-Soviet crackdown underway in Putin’s Russia.

But then we read how Burns chose to respond to the fact that Lev Ponomarev had been absent from the meeting because he’d ben arrested for daring to assemble in public to discuss Putin’s atrocities without first getting Putin’s written permission.  To say we were disappointed is putting it mildly.

Burns stated:  “I should note that it is regrettable that Lev Ponomarev, who was supposed to be at the meeting, was not able to attend.  The freedom of assembly is very important to the United States and very important for any democratic society.”

That’s pretty lame all by itself, but then it got much worse.   Burns went on to meet with Kremlin officals and all that could be reported afterwards was: “The arrest was also discussed at the U.S. officials’ meetings with their Russian counterparts.”

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EDITORIAL: An Open Letter to Gordon Brown

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EDITORIAL

An Open Letter to Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown
Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
10 Downing Street
London, England

Dear Prime Minister Brown,

If you don’t mind our asking, Sir, just what the !#@*&? do you think you are doing?

Are you, perhaps, trying to cement your status as this century’s Neville Chamberlain and the worst ruler of Britain in half a century?  Do you actually want to encourage more murders by Russian special forces on British soil like the killing of Alexander Litvinenko by making the Russians think England is their supplicant?   If so, we sincerely hope the good people of Great Britain will have the wisdom to put you in prison at their earliest opportunity.

Let us explain.

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Irony of Ironies: Now, Germany is on the Other end of Appeasement

Streetwise Professor reports:

Churchill once said “The Germans are either at your throat or at your feet.” (He actually said “The Hun is either at your throat or at your feet,” but (a) some folks might not know “Hun” was a common epithet for “German”, and (b) no need to use old insults, even though this post will hardly be kind to the current German leadership.) At present, Germany is firmly planted at Russia’s feet, doing its bidding at the NATO meetings by opposing Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Membership Action Plans (MAPs). The German arguments are disingenuous at best. Moreover, as this article by Klaus-Helge Donath (translated on Robert Amsterdam’s blog) says, Gemany’s prokynesis will earn it nothing but scorn from the Kremlin:

Behind the Kremlin walls officials are smirking over German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s appeasement. That’s why Moscow also does not take the European Union and Berlin seriously. The way Russians understand things making concessions, approaching the rival is a sign of weakness and European softness. . . Even if Russia talks about a “multi-polar world order and “respect” in the international arena that applies exclusively to the respect of others for Russia, not the other way around.

Why does Germany grovel? Gas, gas, and gas. Did I mention gas? But is appeasement on NATO enlargement an effective way of obtaining future Russian forebearance on gas pricing, access, or shutoffs? Will its carrying Putin’s water ensure Russia’s future goodwill and the steady, reliable flow of gas at reasonably competitive prices? Not bloody likely. Russia will take Germany’s gift today, and do exactly what is in its economic and political interest tomorrow. So Germany has sold out NATO, stiffed Ukraine and Georgia, and handed Russia a victory, and will be lucky to get a mess of pottage–or borscht–in return. And the Kremlin will figure it rolled Germany once, so it might as well try it again. And again. And again.

Donath also makes a point I’ve emphasized at SWP; Russia’s fears about NATO’s military threat are fantastical. (Stephen Blank has made a similar point.) (One can debate whether they are the result of paranoid delusions, or whether the expressed fears are merely intended to manipulate Russian public opinion.) So why does Russia protest so much?

If NATO expansion does not threaten Russian territory in the slightest, it does sharply constrain Russian freedom of action in Ukraine and Georgia. That is, Russia does not oppose NATO expansion because it legitimately fears that this would threaten the territorial integrity or political independence of Russia; instead it fears NATO expansion because that jeopardizes Russia’s ability to threaten the territorial integrity and political independence of the countries in the near abroad, Ukraine prominent among them.

Russia portrays NATO as aggressively absorbing new states. Its characterization of NATO is analogous to Sparta’s description of the Athenian empire. But NATO does not collect tribute from its members under the threat of force. Georgia, and to a lesser degree Ukraine want to join. Earlier joiners from the old East Bloc–such as the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Romania–also wanted to join. They volunteered–and in some cases clamored–to join NATO. NATO did not force them to join.

This should raise the question in Russian minds: why are our former satellites so eager to join what we consider an aggressive alliance? Perhaps the answer lay in centuries of history and very long memories of suffering–and at times, suffering quite cruelly–under Russian domination.

The irony of the situation is that current Russian behavior only reinforces the desire of Eastern European states to deepen their NATO ties, and for Ukraine and Georgia to enter the alliance. The Russians have apparently not learned that (as my grandfather used to say) you catch more flies with sugar than gall. Blustering, bullying, manipulating, supporting breakway provinces, using gas as a political weapon, poisoning presidential candidates etc., is no way to win friends and influence people. But that’s the kind of things the Russians have done consistently in the near abroad, and continue to do today. Like an abusive husband driven to rage by his wife’s attempt to leave home, the chekists’ thuggery only further alienates those it wants to control.

This reflects an attitude that noted American scholar of Russia, James Billington, describes in his book Russia in Search of Itself:

Seeking to preserve unity and maintain control over a vast and exposed territory, the Russian empire was frequently at war with its neighbors. The Russian’s basic understanding of all this recurrent conflict has been diametrically opposite to that of their principal neighbors. Russians have generally seen themselves as perpetual victims of foreign predators, building on the fact that rival empires have invaded their lands from the Mongols and Teutonic Knights to Napoleon and Hitler. Most of Russia’s immediate neighbors however have seen themselves as victims threatened with conquest by the relentless expansion of a much larger power armed with unlimited ideological justification for extending its empire.

The eagerness of former satellites to join NATO provides ample evidence that Russia is still perceived as an aggressive power. Russia’s actions only justify this perception.

To turn around Putin’s insult of the US, the Russian wolf is just doing what wolves do. Its behavior is of a piece with its actions over centuries. The sad thing is that Germany enables this behavior, and like most codependents, will gain nothing for its current humiliation but more humiliation in the future.

Craven LA Times Urges Yalta II, Condi’s DOS Will have None of It

Here’s a February 12 editorial from the craven folks at the Los Angeles Times, recommending that the West offer Eastern Europe to Russia as a sacrifice just the way it was previously offered to Hitler:

LAST WEEKEND’S Cold War revival at a security conference in Munich, Germany, featured a cynical Vladimir V. Putin against a reasonable Robert M. Gates, but the Russian president still scored points with his pointed anti-American speech. Putin complained that U.S. unilateralism and disregard for international law were making the world a more dangerous place, fueling insecure nations’ appetite for sophisticated weaponry, especially nukes. What made the speech so cynical was Putin’s built-in rationale for Russian arms sales to unsavory clients, including Iran, because he doesn’t want that nation to “feel cornered.”

Gates replied to Putin’s confrontational address a day later with disarming remarks about the bluntness of former spies, nostalgia for the simplicity of the Cold War and even acknowledgment that some of Washington’s recent missteps (mainly in the treatment of detainees) have eroded our credibility abroad. He also raised legitimate concerns, ever so tactfully, about the Kremlin’s increasingly autocratic drift.

Yet Putin’s tough talk undoubtedly played well, not only among those in the West and elsewhere who oppose the Iraq war, but among his domestic constituents who have deep-seated reasons for rejecting Gates’ assertion that the U.S. is a “force of good around the world.” These reasons have less to do with Iraq than with U.S. moves in the last decade to expand NATO to the east, in violation of what Russians felt was an implicit, if not explicit, deal: That in the twilight of the Soviet era, Moscow would allow for German reunification and pull its forces out of Eastern Europe as long as Washington didn’t stab the Kremlin in the back by enlarging NATO to Russia’s borders.

That is precisely what followed. A typical NATO communique in the aftermath of the unexpectedly peaceful conclusion of the Cold War stated: “Consistent with the purely defensive nature of our alliance, we will neither seek unilateral advantage from the changed situation in Europe nor threaten the legitimate interests of any state.” But within a few years, the U.S. turned vindictive victor in the eyes of Russia, allowing former Warsaw Pact members into NATO, including the formerly Soviet Baltic republics. The humiliation, and seeming encirclement, of Russia continues relentlessly to this day, with talk of someday bringing Georgia and Ukraine into the club.

NATO enlargement a decade ago was largely shrugged off in this country (though it was rightly opposed by this page), but Americans need to start realizing the extent to which this historical blunder drives how Russians interpret U.S. actions around the world. It helps explain why a hard-line nationalist such as Putin, despite his anti-democratic tendencies, remains hugely popular at home. The only surprise about his angry speech is that it took him this long to deliver it.

Here’s the U.S. State Department’s response in the form of a letter to the editor published by the Times:

Re “Putin’s NATO beef,” editorial, Feb. 13

One of the low points of the 20th century came at Yalta, when the Allies acquiesced to a Soviet sphere of influence over the eastern half of Europe.

By contrast, one of the 20th century’s happiest moments came late, when Josef Stalin’s line was erased in favor of a Europe whole, free and at peace. Europeans fought for and found freedom. To our credit, the United States and Western Europe helped. And this liberation, we pledged, would be complete, not sacrificed. We promised Europe’s new sovereign democracies that they would decide their own fate. So when they asked to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — and proved able to shoulder the responsibilities of membership — they were welcomed.

With this history, I was surprised by The Times editorial siding with President Vladimir V. Putin, who argued, in effect, that Russia deserved to recoup the former Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. This view is baffling. Nothing in today’s NATO or EU threatens or damages Russia. Strong democracies make good neighbors. We hope Russia will come to agree. But in no event will we cut a deal with Russia at the expense of free people in Europe. One Yalta was enough.

DANIEL FRIED
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
Washington

The U.S. government’s policy is not to “surround” or “humliate” Russia; such an impression can only be derived by Russians by relying on paranoia and/or their monstrous egos. The government’s policy is simply that it isn’t going to sell its allies down the river (again) in order to placate Russian feelings (would Russia even consider doing so if the roles were reversed? — if so, more’s the pity). One can readily see how bizarrely irrational Russian attitudes are by comparing them to those of Ukrainians, who see no danger in the protection of Eastern Europeans despite speaking a language very close to Russian and having been part of the Soviet Union and who don’t espouse the paranoid, rabid anti-Americanism (indeed, anti-Westernism) that is to be found in Russia.

Craven LA Times Urges Yalta II, Condi’s DOS Will have None of It

Here’s a February 12 editorial from the craven folks at the Los Angeles Times, recommending that the West offer Eastern Europe to Russia as a sacrifice just the way it was previously offered to Hitler:

LAST WEEKEND’S Cold War revival at a security conference in Munich, Germany, featured a cynical Vladimir V. Putin against a reasonable Robert M. Gates, but the Russian president still scored points with his pointed anti-American speech. Putin complained that U.S. unilateralism and disregard for international law were making the world a more dangerous place, fueling insecure nations’ appetite for sophisticated weaponry, especially nukes. What made the speech so cynical was Putin’s built-in rationale for Russian arms sales to unsavory clients, including Iran, because he doesn’t want that nation to “feel cornered.”

Gates replied to Putin’s confrontational address a day later with disarming remarks about the bluntness of former spies, nostalgia for the simplicity of the Cold War and even acknowledgment that some of Washington’s recent missteps (mainly in the treatment of detainees) have eroded our credibility abroad. He also raised legitimate concerns, ever so tactfully, about the Kremlin’s increasingly autocratic drift.

Yet Putin’s tough talk undoubtedly played well, not only among those in the West and elsewhere who oppose the Iraq war, but among his domestic constituents who have deep-seated reasons for rejecting Gates’ assertion that the U.S. is a “force of good around the world.” These reasons have less to do with Iraq than with U.S. moves in the last decade to expand NATO to the east, in violation of what Russians felt was an implicit, if not explicit, deal: That in the twilight of the Soviet era, Moscow would allow for German reunification and pull its forces out of Eastern Europe as long as Washington didn’t stab the Kremlin in the back by enlarging NATO to Russia’s borders.

That is precisely what followed. A typical NATO communique in the aftermath of the unexpectedly peaceful conclusion of the Cold War stated: “Consistent with the purely defensive nature of our alliance, we will neither seek unilateral advantage from the changed situation in Europe nor threaten the legitimate interests of any state.” But within a few years, the U.S. turned vindictive victor in the eyes of Russia, allowing former Warsaw Pact members into NATO, including the formerly Soviet Baltic republics. The humiliation, and seeming encirclement, of Russia continues relentlessly to this day, with talk of someday bringing Georgia and Ukraine into the club.

NATO enlargement a decade ago was largely shrugged off in this country (though it was rightly opposed by this page), but Americans need to start realizing the extent to which this historical blunder drives how Russians interpret U.S. actions around the world. It helps explain why a hard-line nationalist such as Putin, despite his anti-democratic tendencies, remains hugely popular at home. The only surprise about his angry speech is that it took him this long to deliver it.

Here’s the U.S. State Department’s response in the form of a letter to the editor published by the Times:

Re “Putin’s NATO beef,” editorial, Feb. 13

One of the low points of the 20th century came at Yalta, when the Allies acquiesced to a Soviet sphere of influence over the eastern half of Europe.

By contrast, one of the 20th century’s happiest moments came late, when Josef Stalin’s line was erased in favor of a Europe whole, free and at peace. Europeans fought for and found freedom. To our credit, the United States and Western Europe helped. And this liberation, we pledged, would be complete, not sacrificed. We promised Europe’s new sovereign democracies that they would decide their own fate. So when they asked to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — and proved able to shoulder the responsibilities of membership — they were welcomed.

With this history, I was surprised by The Times editorial siding with President Vladimir V. Putin, who argued, in effect, that Russia deserved to recoup the former Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. This view is baffling. Nothing in today’s NATO or EU threatens or damages Russia. Strong democracies make good neighbors. We hope Russia will come to agree. But in no event will we cut a deal with Russia at the expense of free people in Europe. One Yalta was enough.

DANIEL FRIED
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
Washington

The U.S. government’s policy is not to “surround” or “humliate” Russia; such an impression can only be derived by Russians by relying on paranoia and/or their monstrous egos. The government’s policy is simply that it isn’t going to sell its allies down the river (again) in order to placate Russian feelings (would Russia even consider doing so if the roles were reversed? — if so, more’s the pity). One can readily see how bizarrely irrational Russian attitudes are by comparing them to those of Ukrainians, who see no danger in the protection of Eastern Europeans despite speaking a language very close to Russian and having been part of the Soviet Union and who don’t espouse the paranoid, rabid anti-Americanism (indeed, anti-Westernism) that is to be found in Russia.

Craven LA Times Urges Yalta II, Condi’s DOS Will have None of It

Here’s a February 12 editorial from the craven folks at the Los Angeles Times, recommending that the West offer Eastern Europe to Russia as a sacrifice just the way it was previously offered to Hitler:

LAST WEEKEND’S Cold War revival at a security conference in Munich, Germany, featured a cynical Vladimir V. Putin against a reasonable Robert M. Gates, but the Russian president still scored points with his pointed anti-American speech. Putin complained that U.S. unilateralism and disregard for international law were making the world a more dangerous place, fueling insecure nations’ appetite for sophisticated weaponry, especially nukes. What made the speech so cynical was Putin’s built-in rationale for Russian arms sales to unsavory clients, including Iran, because he doesn’t want that nation to “feel cornered.”

Gates replied to Putin’s confrontational address a day later with disarming remarks about the bluntness of former spies, nostalgia for the simplicity of the Cold War and even acknowledgment that some of Washington’s recent missteps (mainly in the treatment of detainees) have eroded our credibility abroad. He also raised legitimate concerns, ever so tactfully, about the Kremlin’s increasingly autocratic drift.

Yet Putin’s tough talk undoubtedly played well, not only among those in the West and elsewhere who oppose the Iraq war, but among his domestic constituents who have deep-seated reasons for rejecting Gates’ assertion that the U.S. is a “force of good around the world.” These reasons have less to do with Iraq than with U.S. moves in the last decade to expand NATO to the east, in violation of what Russians felt was an implicit, if not explicit, deal: That in the twilight of the Soviet era, Moscow would allow for German reunification and pull its forces out of Eastern Europe as long as Washington didn’t stab the Kremlin in the back by enlarging NATO to Russia’s borders.

That is precisely what followed. A typical NATO communique in the aftermath of the unexpectedly peaceful conclusion of the Cold War stated: “Consistent with the purely defensive nature of our alliance, we will neither seek unilateral advantage from the changed situation in Europe nor threaten the legitimate interests of any state.” But within a few years, the U.S. turned vindictive victor in the eyes of Russia, allowing former Warsaw Pact members into NATO, including the formerly Soviet Baltic republics. The humiliation, and seeming encirclement, of Russia continues relentlessly to this day, with talk of someday bringing Georgia and Ukraine into the club.

NATO enlargement a decade ago was largely shrugged off in this country (though it was rightly opposed by this page), but Americans need to start realizing the extent to which this historical blunder drives how Russians interpret U.S. actions around the world. It helps explain why a hard-line nationalist such as Putin, despite his anti-democratic tendencies, remains hugely popular at home. The only surprise about his angry speech is that it took him this long to deliver it.

Here’s the U.S. State Department’s response in the form of a letter to the editor published by the Times:

Re “Putin’s NATO beef,” editorial, Feb. 13

One of the low points of the 20th century came at Yalta, when the Allies acquiesced to a Soviet sphere of influence over the eastern half of Europe.

By contrast, one of the 20th century’s happiest moments came late, when Josef Stalin’s line was erased in favor of a Europe whole, free and at peace. Europeans fought for and found freedom. To our credit, the United States and Western Europe helped. And this liberation, we pledged, would be complete, not sacrificed. We promised Europe’s new sovereign democracies that they would decide their own fate. So when they asked to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — and proved able to shoulder the responsibilities of membership — they were welcomed.

With this history, I was surprised by The Times editorial siding with President Vladimir V. Putin, who argued, in effect, that Russia deserved to recoup the former Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. This view is baffling. Nothing in today’s NATO or EU threatens or damages Russia. Strong democracies make good neighbors. We hope Russia will come to agree. But in no event will we cut a deal with Russia at the expense of free people in Europe. One Yalta was enough.

DANIEL FRIED
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
Washington

The U.S. government’s policy is not to “surround” or “humliate” Russia; such an impression can only be derived by Russians by relying on paranoia and/or their monstrous egos. The government’s policy is simply that it isn’t going to sell its allies down the river (again) in order to placate Russian feelings (would Russia even consider doing so if the roles were reversed? — if so, more’s the pity). One can readily see how bizarrely irrational Russian attitudes are by comparing them to those of Ukrainians, who see no danger in the protection of Eastern Europeans despite speaking a language very close to Russian and having been part of the Soviet Union and who don’t espouse the paranoid, rabid anti-Americanism (indeed, anti-Westernism) that is to be found in Russia.