Levant

Moving out, moving in: As the U.S. leaves Europe, Middle East and Asia, guess who’s taking its place

By Ezra Levant, QMI Agency

Thousands of demonstrators march in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on December 2, 2013.  AFP PHOTO / YURIY DYACHYSHYN

Thousands of demonstrators march in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on December 2, 2013. AFP PHOTO / YURIY DYACHYSHYN

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are protesting a decision by their president, Viktor Yanukovych, to cancel a treaty that would give Ukraine closer ties to Europe.

It’s not that these protesters are fervent free traders. It’s that by cancelling agreements with Europe, Yanukovych is tilting Ukraine east — back towards Russia and former Soviet KGB agent Vladimir Putin, who has long eyed Ukraine as a key to rebuilding the Russian Empire.

Perhaps Yanukovych just doesn’t want to be given the full Soviet treatment. Back in 2004, when Ukraine’s leading politician, Viktor Yushchenko, wasn’t sufficiently obedient, he was poisoned, KGB-style, with dioxin. It didn’t kill him. But it made him very ill and turned his Hollywood good looks into a pock-marked old man. Apparently that’s what happens when you cross the Kremlin.

But Putin’s war against Ukraine isn’t just covert. It couldn’t be more overt.

Ukraine is in the difficult position of having to import vast amounts of natural gas from Russia — specifically from Russia’s state-controlled mega-company, Gazprom. Putin uses Gazprom as a strategic political weapon. Two times in recent years, when Ukraine didn’t do what Russia wanted it to do, the Kremlin simply ordered Gazprom to turn off the gas pipes — in the cold of winter.

That’s what this is about: Will Ukraine be part of the free west, or part of Putin’s rebuilt Greater Russia?

The west used to have an automatic answer to that. The founding mission of NATO was to keep Europe free — or, as its first secretary general, Lord Ismay said, to “keep the Americans in, the Germans down and the Russians out.” Well, the Russians are coming back in, precisely because the Americans are pulling out.

Again and again, Barack Obama has told the world it is no longer American foreign policy to pursue U.S. interests abroad. It was at a NATO meeting where he announced he no longer believes America is exceptional — at least any more than any other country believes it’s exceptional.

So why should America put its national interest in Ukraine over Russia’s national interests? It’s not so much that Obama is anti-Ukraine. He’s just absent.

Nature abhors a vacuum, Aristotle wrote. And so does geopolitics. As America moves out — of Europe, of the Middle East, of Asia — others are jumping in. Russia, of course. China. Iran.

Before the 2012 election, Obama was having a bilateral meeting with Dmitry Medvedev, then Russia’s president, but actually Putin’s junior. The press were invited in for a photo-op and Obama forgot that his microphone was still on.

“On all these issues, but particularly missile defence, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space,” Obama said. “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”

And he has kept his word.

Obama’s new flexibility — as in, Americans can’t fire him now — is evident around the world. Obama called off his attack on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, at the demand of Putin. Obama signed a one-sided appeasement deal with Iran another Syrian ally, to whom Putin is chief arms dealer. And Obama is happy to have Putin take back Ukraine.

Perhaps Poland will be next — Obama abruptly abandoned America’s ballistic missile defence bases that were planned there too.

This, even more than a broken health-care system, will be Obama’s legacy. A more dangerous world, a less free world, a world where America’s enemies no longer fear it, and America’s friends no longer trust it.

 



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