America's Ukraine-Policy Disaster

"We are the keepers and guardians of our own national security and, yes, our own sphere of influence—but Ukraine never was, and never will be, a part of that."

In the face of Russian opposition and the likelihood of exacerbating the burgeoning civil war in the eastern half of his country, newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed the EU-Ukrainian Association Agreement in Brussels last Friday. At the signing, Poroshenko, giving the lie to the claim that the agreement is simply a free-trade agreement, noted that “…the external aggression faced by Ukraine is another strong reason for this crucial step.”

Indeed, Russia’s primary objection to the agreement from the onset of the Ukraine crisis in November 2013, was that it was far more than a simple free-trade agreement and that because it required Ukraine to adopt a large number of the EU’s acquis communautaire, the agreement was not only economically exclusionary towards Russia, the agreement’s Foreign Policy and Security Protocols amounted to a security challenge within Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. It is appropriate to note here that unlike the EU Agreement, the much derided Eurasian Union, which the Yale-historian-turned-pro-Maidan mouthpiece Timothy Snyder has likened to some sinister ideological plot hatched by Vladimir Putin and a virulent Russian nationalist by the name of Alexander Dugin, has no protocols requiring either a coordinated foreign policy, or a common passport.

American policy makers should (though, of course, they will not) take both the signing of the Agreement, as well as the gathering this weekend of thousands of pro-Western protesters on the Maidan, calling for an end to the ceasefire in the east as their cue to step aside and tell Ukraine (with which they have no cultural, historical, demographic, economic, religious, or national-security interests) and Europe (with which they have many similarities) that they can go ahead with their merger—but they’ll have to do so without our help, rhetorical or otherwise. As should be clear by now, our resolutely pro-Maidan posture has culminated in two interconnected strategic setbacks for the United States.

The first has to do with the future of the European Union. The EU is a project we Americans should welcome. The integration of the European superstate, with China on the rise and the possibility of the emergence of an unstable Russia, is in the long-term interest of the United States. An economically vital, common European space, whose half a billion people currently comprise the world’s largest market for goods and services, which has close ties to the United States is surely something we should welcome. Bringing in Ukraine (or, for that matter, any of the other five states—Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan—which make up the EU’s Eastern Partnership project), right on the heels of the Euro Crisis, portrays a Union intent on expanding at the expense of their economic dynamism and cultural cohesion.

I have no doubt that Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski’s recent lament that the alliance with the United States is “worthless” is driven by his despondency that the United States is not sending greater quantities of men and materiel to further his pet project, the aforementioned Eastern Partnership. Sikorski has many admirable qualities, not least his willingness to act as the EU’s principal booster, as he did in his Blenheim Palace Speech in September 2012. But his perhaps entirely understandable Russophobia has caused him to act in ways that are contrary to the Union’s well-being, to say nothing of its longevity.

According to the Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum, European and Ukrainian “leaders hope to follow the model of Poland and the Baltic nations, former Eastern bloc states that are now EU members and whose economies have grown significantly in the 23 years since the breakup of the Soviet Union.” Perhaps these leaders might have done well to heed AE Housman’s immortal warning that “hope lies to mortals and most believe her, but man’s deceiver was never mine,” for their hopes are utterly unrealistic.