« WSAU Opinion Blog

OPINION - Ukraine and the West

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  Let's consider what's happening in Ukraine. Some people there speak Russian and have ancestral ties to Russia. They think of Ukraine as it once was -- a province of the former Soviet Union. There are others who see Ukraine as distinctly unique, with its own culture and a western/European orientation. It's not all that different from the relationship that French-speaking Quebec will have with the rest of Canada, or, potentially, the ties that the large Hispanic swath of the Southwest will have with the United States. 

These are issues for Ukraine to figure out on its own. Of course, Russia outside agitator that wants to tilt the balance. It's widely believed that Russian agents poisoned Alexander Litvinenko after he received asylum in the UK. Ukraine's president Viktor Yanukovych was openly considered Moscow's man in Kiev. (Vladimir Putin was frustrated that he didn't crack down on demonstrators sooner.)

None of this has anything to do Barack Obama's poor and muddled foreign policy. Russia knows that we are not going to war over Ukraine. Nor should we. Only a fool would suggest that American blood should be shed over whether Kiev has ties the EU or to Mother Russia. This is more important to the Russians than it is to us. And, in most things, the side that wants it more has the best chance of coming out on top.

David Ignatius, the best foreign affairs writer on the Washington Post's staff, argues that Russia is on a fool's errand . Vladimir Putin will never be able to rebuild Russia into the 1991 empire at the breakup of the Soviet Union. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are already part of the EU. They are thriving democracies. East Germany is gone. So are the Baltic states. They've all transitioned to free market economies. Why would they ever have an interest in returning to the Russian oligarchy with its open corruption and noticeably lower standard of living?

That's the best argument why diplomacy and economic incentives is the right foreign policy tool here. The advantages of being a European people is overwhelming. There will always be a critical mass of people in Ukraine who will push for stronger EU ties. The future is in the west. Recreating Russia's cold war empire is the past.

Chris Conley

Image: Reuters: A woman speaks to riot policemen standing guard in front of the parliament's building in Kiev on January 14, 2014 via wsau.com