Well, the situation in the Ukraine war is still volatile and a lot of right-wing media in America keep selling the idea that NATO is somehow responsible for “poking the bear” and absolving Putin of blame for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Other former Soviet countries that sit on Russia’s border became NATO members and Russia didn’t invade them or launch a full-scale invasion into them and somehow the same Americans who spout this “poking the bear” idea that Russia sells, don’t mention that.
Of course, the Obama administration meddled in Ukraine extensively and clumsily interfered in internal Ukrainian politics. I disagreed, in principle with most, and in execution of all of the Obama foreign policy efforts in Ukraine. However, it wasn’t only the West that was on the move in Ukraine. Russia was aggressively on the move and all of Russia’s actions weren’t just because the US was “poking the bear.” Russia has continually interfered in internal Ukraine politics too. Several former Eastern bloc countries wanted to become members of NATO, fearing Russian aggression, and many of them have a history of Soviet Russia rolling over their countries and forcing them under Soviet control. Russia doesn’t have any inherent right to rebuild the Soviet Union or to seize parts of neighboring countries.
Why so many Americans buy into this overly simplistic Russian apologist “poking the bear” point of view in regards to Ukraine, I think is mainly because it became a right-wing media talking point to criticize the Obama administration’s foreign policy. How right-wing America became Putin apologists due to the American spin war still amazes me at times.
Putin has had aspirations of rebuilding some of the former Soviet Union and returning Russia to being a world superpower. Ukraine is economically and strategically vital to Russia, with a massive gas pipeline system, but Russia also depends on the naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea for its only warm water port, with access to the Black Sea. Russia and Ukraine both depend on those economic ties and Russia won’t willingly give up access to that strategically vital port. Things in Ukraine-Russia relations are a bit more complicated than just trying to blame the US for Putin deciding to launch a full-scale invasion.
It’s a bit disconcerting to watch the American right become Putin apologists and to act like Russia is a victim all the time. A full-scale invasion of a country, that was intended to quickly decapitate the Ukrainian government in Kiev, before the West could organize and muster a response, wasn’t a “poor Russia was defending its interests” move – it was a bold, act of aggression intended to take over Ukraine.
Buying into these simplistic talking points like “the US was poking the bear,” to excuse Putin’s naked aggression, completely ignores Putin’s repeated opining about the collapse of the Soviet Union being the greatest geopolitical catastrophe and his desire to regain both Soviet glory and territory and to reestablish Russia’s world superpower position in the world.
One other point, I’d like to make is that if the US and Western European countries had not been exerting western influence in Ukraine, just like other parts of the former Soviet bloc, that doesn’t mean Putin wouldn’t have acted aggressively and it’s a ludicrous position based on Russian history and Putin’s stated objectives. If the US and West hadn’t been “poking the bear,” Putin would have acted more aggressively sooner in Ukraine. Russia was interfering in internal Ukrainian affairs too and wanted a puppet government in Kiev, willing to take direction from the Kremlin. Appeasement of Russia for fear of “poking the bear would have led Russia to feel more emboldened. Putin saw the Biden Afghanistan withdrawal debacle and American civil divides and didn’t expect America and Europe to unite quickly and respond in Ukraine.
If the US and West had failed to unify and aid Ukraine the world situation would likely be even worse, not all rainbows and unicorns. Russia and China were plotting an aggressive economic war against the US and West before Russia invaded Ukraine. I feel certain that if Russia had met little resistance in Ukraine, China would have read that as a green light to make bold military moves already.
We might be heading into a larger, serious global conflict, but to assume it’s all the US’s fault for “poking the bear” is ludicrous. Russia and China want to dominate the world economy and diminish (demolish) the US’s predominant role in the world. If America just retreats, that won’t leave us or the world safer and it certainly won’t stop Russian and Chinese aggression, let alone impede other bad actors in the world.
Weakness is provocative.
Update: For all the Americans who want to buy into the US is the aggressor against poor Putin by meddling in Ukraine, I want to point out both Russia and China are aggressively at work trying to foment chaos in our hemisphere too and would that not be “poking the US?”. Russia and China have been expanding their economic and military reach in our backyard since post-WWII. They’re very active militarily and economically in South America, Central America, in the Caribbean and even exerting influence in Mexico. I am sick to death with how idiotic and historically clueless the right-wing pundit class has become and sadly millions of right-wing Americans buy into all of this crapola every single day. They hate Biden so much, that they’ll make excuses for Putin and buy into acting like Putin is a victim.
What on earth happened to the party of Ronald Reagan?