On November 118, the Kyiv Post described the results of a new poll showing just how deeply unpopular Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is in his country. “Nearly 50 percent of Ukrainians won’t vote for Poroshenko under any circumstances [in upcoming 2019 elections], according to the poll,” the newspaper reported. “That gives Poroshenko the highest ‘anti-ranking’ of any candidate.”
A few days and one border incident involving three seized ships later and Poroshenko was to be seen fanning the flames of conflict with Russia while calling on the United States to honor its pledge to defend Ukraine if war breaks out. Though there is not one single argument to be made for hostile U.S. engagement in the region, the usual interventionist voices are recklessly encouraging the politically embattled Ukrainian leader.
Dragging US In
Poroshenko announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has assured him of America’s “full support, full assistance, including military assistance, full coordination, what we [need] to do to protect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The Ukrainian president also called on NATO to deploy ships to the Sea of Azov in what would be a highly provocative move against Russia.
All this because three Ukrainian ships were seized by Russia in the Black Sea near the disputed Crimean region. From an American perspective, the incident is nothing more than another example of the regional tensions that have plagued the two eastern European nations since the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
The Russians, for their part, see the Ukrainian overreaction as mere posturing by a president facing almost-certain political doom when national elections are held on March 31. “We’ve lived like this with Ukraine for years now and now all of a sudden, just a couple of months before elections, this has happened,” a skeptical Andrey Kostin, president and chairman of Russia’s VTB Bank, told CNBC in an interview.
Calling the affair an “artificial conflict,” Kostin succinctly observed, “I think you should look for somebody that benefits from this and actually it’s Mr. Poroshenko, the president of Ukraine, definitely.”
Ukrainians themselves appear to agree, noting that Poroshenko’s attempted declaration of 60 days of martial law following the sea incident was more likely to threaten the scheduled Ukrainian elections than deter a Russian invasion.
“Martial law cannot make us stronger against Russia,” said Serhiy Fursa of Dragon Capital, Ukraine’s top investment bank, according to a column by Leonid Bershidsky. “It’s not helping Ukraine. It’s just helping people in power to keep their power.”
The Ukrainian parliament refused to go along with 60 days of martial law during an election season, and Poroshenko was forced to step back and settle for 30 days.
The consequences for Ukrainians of a saber-rattling president trying to rescue his dwindling political future by picking a fight with a Goliath on his front porch are best left for Ukrainians to ponder. But that a political opportunist in a small nation halfway around the world can toss the specter of American military might into his electioneering games, should be sobering to all of us here at home.
Treating Russia like an avowed enemy nearly 30 years after the Cold War ended and pushing to expand NATO deep into the Russian region of interest (at U.S. taxpayer expense, of course) does nothing to benefit the American people. This latest war scare in Ukraine is further evidence that the pure fiction of the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian election tampering bolsters attempts by neocon interventionists to villainize Russia in a way that harms U.S. national security concerns.
If we do not rein in the anti-Russian rhetoric coming from biased political figures here at home, we are going to increasingly put ourselves at the mercy of cheap foreign politicians who will be able to use our contrived hysteria to entangle us in conflicts of no interest to our country.