A view from across the pond

Many thanks to David Duff for allowing me to repost his latest blog post.  He chronicles failed western foreign policy in Ukraine and Russia quite succinctly and with a bracing dose of honesty.  For more of David’s wit, military history writing and piercing foreign policy analysis, please stop by his blog, Duff and Nonsense.

Pity the poor statesman!

by David Duff

Oh, go on, give it a try because sometimes, just sometimes, you have to feel sorry for them.  Take the Ukrainian imbroglio for starters.  No-one can be certain until the history books are written – and by then will I give a toss? – but in my uninformed opinion it has been foolish western, and mostly European, over-reach which has provoked the current belligerent response from Russia. Instead of gradually edging ever closer to Russia’s exceedingly sensitive borders, western leaders should have leap-frogged over the old Warsaw pact nations decades ago and made every effort to entice Russia itself to become part of Europe.  Instead, by our gradual advances we have stoked their fears and resentments and driven them into the arms of the Chinese as well as providing their ‘gangsta‘ government with yet more excuses to harden their grip on the populace.

Well, we are where we are and now our ‘statesmen’ – who giggled? – need to decide how to proceed in the face of increased militarism from ‘Vlad the Impaler’ in eastern Ukraine.  I have just read two articles on the subject, one from The Streetwise Professor and another from Max Boot at the Commentary site.  Both are gung-ho to send in serious military aid to the Ukrainian government particularly in regard to sophisticated anti-tank missiles.  Their deployment and use would not only inflict serious material losses but would also cost the Russian suppliers a small fortune which, happily at the moment, they do not have!  Alas, shipping them, setting them up and training the Ukrainian army in their sophisticated use would take a considerable time and that may be one commodity we do not have because ‘Vlad’ seems determined to seize and hold the eastern Ukraine.

Let us suppose he succeeds, what then?  Possession is, famously, nine tenths of the law, so will we encourage the Ukrainians to beef up their army and counter-attack in order to take back what is rightfully theirs?  Well, if ‘Vlad’ is feeling down the back of his sofa to find the odd rouble to finance his war-games then the Ukrainians do not even have a sofa – they burned it to stay warm through this winter!  There-in, perhaps, is our way out.  The Ukrainian government is dead broke and will require enormous financial assistance from the West just to get its economy on the move.  We might be able to help a bit with that but re-arming and re-training its army would be prohibitively expensive.  Certainly there would be some complaints in Britain whose political class is determined to slash our own armed forces to a sort of ‘Dad’s Army‘ level.

The critical question is simple but deadly – are we prepared to fight for eastern Ukraine?  If the answer is ‘no’ then we should stop bluffing.  Then the next question rears up.  Are we prepared to fight for western Ukraine should ‘Vlad’s desperate need to distract his impoverished people from realising they have a kleptocratic loony in charge drive him to ‘go, west, young man, go west’?  In my view the answer is still ‘no’.  But then ‘Vlad’s ambitions will have been well and truly whetted and he will begin to flex his pecs in the direction of the Baltic states, all of whom contain large Russian populations eager to suckle Mother Russia’s teats again.  Do we fight for them?

Yes, I think on the whole being a blogger with absolutely no responsibility is infinitely preferable to being a prime minister or a president.


Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, History, Military, Politics

10 responses to “A view from across the pond

  1. Thank you for your kind words, Ma’am.

  2. Minta Marie Morze

    Thanks for the Post, Liberty!

    Duff, boy, have you laid it out. (By the way, I loved your “giggles” interpolation! I laughed out loud.) I thank God I don’t have to make these decisions. Your links and thoughts about them are spot on. I am sick at heart about the Baltic countries. Heck, I’m sick at heart nowadays about most things.

    Eastern Europe needed our help with a missile defense BEFORE Putin made his moves—but of course N-o-o-o-o-o, not with this Administration.

    I think Putin might be satisfied with what he has now in Ukraine, and turn his despicable grab toward the Baltics sooner than later, because what he needed most in Ukraine was the land-access corridor to Crimea afforded by the territory in the eastern Ukraine that he has seized. There will be more saber-rattling about this whole area, but I hope that Putin decides that the western Ukraine, filled with people who will fight harder and harder if he continues to squeeze them, might wait while his attention goes Baltic. But who knows?

    I do absolutely believe what I wrote as a comment a long time ago: Putin needs a land route to Crimea, and, once taken, Russia will not part with it.

    Meanwhile, we are busy tearing down our military, equipment (and ammunition), and fighting morale, and I think we will need our weapons ourselves soon. Of course, that may be one reason for the President to send arms and training manpower to Ukraine after all. The whole situation is rotten to the core, especially since everything in Reality takes time, from re-equipping our needs to re-establishing adequately trained and experienced manpower, especially officers (those who can successfully lead men), and every one of the elements stripped from our military leaves a hard-to-fill hole in time, money, and experience.

    Duff, I am a life-long devoted Anglophile, so you can imagine how I feel about the modern deliberate Left-led deterioration in most of the worldwide Anglosphere.

    • ‘M3’, you are entirely correct in emphasising the importance to the Kremlin of a land route to the Crimea which is another economic disaster area that will cost them a fortune to revitalise – and a triple fortune to do it via a couple of clapped-out old ferries.

      Whilst I am always happy to see strong American armed services I would suggest that the best thing Obama could do now is to grant permission for the Keystone oil pipeline and offer financial aid to your fracking industry to support and defend them whilst the Saudis pump out cut-price oil in a deliberate attempt to drive them all out of business. Cheap oil is killing Russia!

      Also it is absolutely crucial to maintain a detached view of what is really and truly in your national interest and what is, albeit with some heartache, surplus to it! As Bismarck – a dreadful old Prussian bully but a brilliant statesman – once said: “The whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.” Is the Ukraine and/or the Baltic states worth the blood of a single US marine?

  3. Minta Marie Morze

    Liberty, I think my comment above needs a final carriage return. * sigh *

    Duff, as you clearly know, the list of what needs to be done by an American President—and won’t be, by the current one—would fill a book. Since our President hates America, he won’t do anything that will help, but only those things that will harm it.

    The economic infrastructure of the world is primarily based on corruption, theft, borrow-and-spend, and ignorance. This will not end well, and that means that we need a strong military. When something can’t go on, it won’t.

    However, it will go on for a while, and we should be preparing. When everything hits the fan, it’s going to be beyond anything the world has seen heretofore—not because evil hasn’t been unspeakably evil before this, but rather that the battlefield for extreme evil will be universal. There will be no noncombatants.

    Right now, my heart and mind are on your side regarding the detached view, especially when it’s not in our personal capability right now to do anything more than spread the word. Bismarck was right, of course. As far as it goes. Life is filled with moments when you grit your teeth and stand down. And we all recognize it. And that’s that. If we don’t stay detached, we’re lost.

    But then, the serious question, “Is the Ukraine and/or the Baltic states worth the blood of a single US marine?” made me sit still for a moment. What is life worth? What an unspeakably difficult question. Because, you see, two of my brothers were US Marines. They fought in Viet Nam 1967-1969, during the Tet Offensive and the Siege of Hue, in what was surely a detour through pure Hell. The American military won the war, and for a moment in time the people of Viet Nam stood on the road to become a South Korea. Then, the Progressives, including many of those still in operation, like Kerry, deliberately betrayed them, and in that betrayal also destroyed much of Cambodia and Laos. And now, the same Progressives that threw away the victory then have thrown away the victories in the Middle East. Too often, the Collectivists act, and the Jaws of Hell gape wide. Damn, damn, damn!

    What price freedom? By what span shall we take the measure of the transcendent?

    So, in a quiet, personal moment of insanity, I stepped back and looked over the entire sweep of Western Civilization, and I keep feeling this sense that, like those hearts and minds that first created and gambled everything on establishing The American Experiment, like my brothers fighting in a war across the world from our home in Southern California, sometimes we need to laugh grimly at ourselves, turn our personal little aircraft carrier into the fierce, bitter wind, and launch our rattletrap silly biplane into the air to join the battle. And I have the feeling that both Liberty and Duff will be up there with me when everything hits the fan.

    Henry Amiel wrote: “Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be outraged by silence.” You guys, LibertyBelle Diaries and Duff and Nonsense, are fighting the Good Fight. May God bless you both.

  4. Interesting comments Minta and David, but you raise that tricky humanitarianism quest Minta and I’m going to take a stab at speaking to that. Foreign policy experts abound in America, fielding international relations expert credentials from an array of higher-learning establishments like Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown, etc. Theories and catchphrases abound, but truly the 20th century marked an unprecedented and incredible spread of technological advances fueled almost exclusively by a highly successful Western civilization coupled with equally incredible retrograding momentum for Western civilization’s values. The world still clings to the Westphalian system as a model for world order, but the system suffers from far too many failed and at risk of collapsing “states”, sucking the lifeblood from the myriad international bodies, in place to keep the system alive. Along with these fragile states, the 20th century saw a rise in extremist political ideologies, at complete odds with the ones bolstering the Westphalian system, Yet these ideologies flourished and still hold sway over large swaths of the world. Unfortunately, some of these political ideologies find their most ardent support from within the halls of our own top international relations schools.

    Ukraine stands as a prime example of a “state” where it’s easy to reenact the larger ideological Cold War struggle, “oh the evil Russian bear is encroaching on the West again” sort of script, but the fact is Ukraine is one of those vampire failing states – corrupt to the core, trying to play the East against the West to entangle us into a power struggle against Russia and the whole time wanting more pints of our blood. The US State Department’s blundering in trying to woo Ukraine to the West and cloddish interference in internal Ukrainian politics precipitated this crisis. Savvy diplomacy could have avoided escalation.

    Russia stands out as the shining example of a missed opportunity for US foreign policy. We need Russian cooperation on a larger civilizational clash, the imploding Islamic power structure fueled by Islamic imperialism, so no I don’t see the sense in escalating the fighting in Ukraine or for the US to pour in more arms. To put the situation in cold relief, the staggering numbers of displaced people in the imploding states in the Near East, the wildfires of Islamic extremism burning, unchecked, across large swaths of Africa, and an impotent Western response sets the stage for catastrophe on a global scale.

    Jumping into the middle of these Islamic fires without even organizing a bucket brigade first seems to be our approach. We did not “win” in Iraq – we had made some progress, but had no plan for a long range solution and we were stoking the flames that burst into the Islamic State by propping up al-Maliki, with his Iranian leanings. We are in the process of walking away from Afghanistan, but the truth is we had no long range plan or even coherent objective, beyond utopian dreams of democratizing people steeped in tribal politics and an economy based on narcotics trafficking – the modern Silk Road top commodity and “we can not leave safe havens for terrorists”…. Yep, that’s the sum total of our foreign policy plan to deal with a civilizational crisis that seems poised to destabilize the entire world order.

    Trying to run into other folks burning houses to save the children, while a noble gesture, usually proves futile and suicidal without proper training, proper equipment, and a well-honed team – they plan and practice responding to different scenarios. While the phrase “we aren’t the world’s policeman” gets repeated often, what humanitarian policies like R2P really want is for the US military to be the world’s fire department. We don’t have a team or a plan to keep jumping into these burning houses around the globe and while our firefighters are still the most highly trained, often when they arrive, the house is already consumed by flames and beyond saving. Just more smoldering ashes….

  5. “And I have the feeling that both Liberty and Duff will be up there with me when everything hits the fan.” Possibly, ‘M3’, but the chances are that I will be hiding behind ‘Liberty’!

    And I think, ‘Hollyasbury’, that the one-eyed fanatics who run the EU must take a god deal of the blame for interfering in Ukrainian affairs in their mad pursuit of a single European nation from the Atlantic to the Urals. The possibility, now a near certainty, that even the western end of their ridiculous ’empire’ is about to crumble with the demise of the euro currency seems never to have occurred to them. As one of our shrewder politicians said decades ago, the whole EU edifice is a German racket! So I say let the Germans sort out the Ukrainian problem but without dragging us into it.

  6. JK


    “[T]he list of what needs to be done by an American President—and won’t be —would fill a book. Since our President hates America, he won’t do anything that will help … And now, the same Progressives that threw away the victory then have thrown away the victories in the Middle East. “

    From Wiki but, as my Friend Duff is English and was Para (equivalent, pretty much, … SAS Minta you might’ve heard pre-dated “our” guys (not I’m saying Duff was qualified to dig those fellow’s slit-trenches) but you might recall from the Suez Crisis;


    1956: November 5, Britain and France landed paratroopers along the Suez Canal. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had strongly warned Britain not to invade; he now threatened serious damage to the British financial system. After the fighting had started, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Nations forced the three invaders to withdraw.

    1957: Not Wiki rather, the Eisenhower State Department The State Department’s Office of Near Eastern Affairs provided a response that, read fifty years later, seems unexpectedly mature in its candor. The letter begins by explaining that the “United States maintains friendly relations with many countries with political systems and philosophies which do correspond to our own.” In particular, King Saud “[rules] an important state in the Near East, an area of concern to the United States” and moreover “he has…carried out a policy of cooperation with the United States.”

    Aside from a line about the communist menace, the letter’s rationale for our alliance with the House of Saud seems anachronistic only in admitting pragmatic motives behind U.S. policy that would now be left unsaid.

    LibertyBelle, in my opinion, has a damned good grip on “what price freedom”?

    Simply put – National Interests.

    And as we’ve witnessed since, oh arbitrarily, 1948 or so – US National Interests are not, “etched in stone.”

  7. Lest I stand accused with that MSNBC reporter who, shall we say, exaggerated his experiences in Iraq (‘whodathunkit’?) let me quickly correct my old e-pal, JK. Yes, I was in the Paras but no they are not the equivalent of the SAS who are, in old English, a very different cup of tea! However, for those interested in the ancient arcana of British military history it was my battalion, 3 Para – but without me! – which executed the last, large-scale airborne operation by our airborne forces when they dropped into Egypt in1956. The Egyptians proved to be no problem at all but, alas, our American allies were! Looking back, I think they were more right than wrong even if their reasons were doubtful.

  8. JK

    You’d be David “correcting me” as I plainly and very exactingly stated “Duff was not qualified to dig a slit trench”?

    *Dump [heh] fuel and burn contents exactly qualified* I was sure to [as the friend I obviously am} not mention but I recall your Archives very distinctly.

    However, I’d admit while *wanting to* make the “the same Progressives that threw away the victory then” point that it wasn’t always so, I could very simply “purpose an Historical fact” Obviously Inaccurately utilizing someone I was certain wouldn’t repeat the “Father I cannot tell a lie, I cut down the cherry tree” horseshit that is nowadays our US Media … MSNBC & FOX … Commercial Truth.

    So what David if you weren’t properly speaking, SAS. Did you not dump barrels of diesel into SAS shit-filled trenches then, set them alight?

    Here’s your opportunity – 1) Did you light off SAS shit or 2) Did you light off plain Para shit?

    Come clean.

  9. JK, my dear old thing, you really mustn’t use such crude language before a member, well, ex-member, of Her Maj’s Right Royal Parachute Regiment, we’re a very well brought up lot and bad language was never permitted to pass our lips apart from, say, when the RAF dropped us into mud flats or marshland we might, as we splattered into the water, utter the words “bother” or “blow” but never anything stronger, I promise. Her Majesty ‘would not have been amused’!

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