Friday, February 13, 2015

Russia: Friend or Foe

Flaming Sword Insignia
U.S. Army Europe
In an interview in last Saturday's Wall Street Journal General Frederick B. Hodges, commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, made the case for military aid to the Ukraine and for an increased NATO involvement. Nevertheless, the General made some admissions that make one wonder if there might be another alternative.

The General argued that Russia is preparing for war some five or six years in the future with some unspecified enemy. He believed that the Russians regard China as their greatest threat but that at the same time noted that they were conducting simulations of a nuclear attack on the United States. He did not mention that they might be concerned with the threat of Islamic fundamentalism all along their southern borderlands.

To counter the Russian threat the General pointed out that our own resources are stretched thin. Nine out of ten of our divisions are currently engaged in missions all over the world. The General insisted that we cannot act on our own anymore and must rely increasingly on our allies. However, our NATO allies have not and will not live up to their treaty commitments. Only four of them dedicate more than the required 2% of GDP to defense spending.

Finally, the General admitted that we need a strategy and that military aid to the Ukraine or any other country does not by itself constitute a strategy. He asks that we consider the outcome we want to achieve in the Ukraine.  Do we really want the Ukraine to become a battlefield where millions might die? Do we want a city like Mariupol on the Black Sea to become a desert like Mosul?

Why can't we consider Russia as an ally and not an enemy? Instead of confronting Russia with NATO, why not guarantee that an independent Ukraine will never be part of NATO. The Ukraine provides Russia with millions of customers for its vast energy reserves. After all, both the US and Russia will more and more have to deal with the growing power of China, as well as with radical Islam.

The Journal has launched a barrage of editorial comment against Russia in the past week. One op-ed suggested that a military buildup is not necessary because we could crush the Russians economically with increased sanctions and low oil and gas prices. This is another dangerous suggestion since if we drive the Russians to the wall, they might become desperate. Why isn't a strong Russia to our advantage? If we think economic sanctions hurt the Russian oligarchs, what do we think they will do to the ordinary Russian citizen.

Journal columnist Bret Stephens, a longtime proponent of arming the Ukrainians, even quoted and praised a practically insane statement by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham who claimed that he did not know what the outcome of military intervention would be, and did not care how many Ukrainians or Russians might die, or even if we lost. All that mattered was that the US not back down and appease Putin.

It would be so much less costly in terms of men and money to bring the Russians into NATO than to confront them with a flaming sword on their historical Western front. It would be better to have a strong, economically viable Russia as an ally rather than an enemy in the ongoing war against radical Islam.


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