Russia looks like it is about to finish off Ukrainian resistance to Russian dominance. Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe but historically it is debatable how much of a country Ukraine really is. after the Mongols were sent packing in the 13th Century, it-- or parts of it-- was part of Poland, part of the Ottoman Empire, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, most of all, part of the Russian Empire. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Ukraine became an independent country.
In a post last week, Noah Smith pointed out that Ukraine has been an economic basket case ever since, more so that any other European nation that came into existence after the collapse of the Soviet Union-- about 20% poorer now than it was in 1990, with a per capita income about the same as Paraguay and Libya ($13,000 a year), far less than Poland, Romania, Belarus or Russia, all of which have seen their economies grow since 1990 while Ukraine's has-- at best-- stagnated. Smith: "Even if it had only managed to match Belarus’ performance, it would be half again as rich as it is now. As things stand, Ukraine’s economic failure has left it less capable of defending itself. It also might have made Russia’s public more likely to support intervention in Ukraine, as Putin’s portrayal of Ukraine as a basket case has been a key part of his justification for aggression."
Ukraine, which has an exceedingly ugly history of fascism, right up to the present, is also one of Europe's most egregiously corrupt countries. Smith: "Ukraine’s economy, like Russia’s, is particularly dominated by rich oligarchs. This creates several problems. First... it makes it hard to raise tax revenue, which forces tax rates to be higher, which forces much of the economy off the books. In 2014, Ukraine’s shadow economy was estimated to comprise a whopping 50% of the total. That in turn encourages a pervasive culture of bribe-taking and extralegal means of property protection and contract enforcement (i.e. organized crime), which exacts its own toll on the economy in myriad ways. Oligarchs’ political power can also prevent good industrial policy... What’s good for enriching the country is not always the same as what’s good for enriching oligarchs. Official corruption also inhibits good governance. The Yanukovych administration is thought to have been especially corrupt, with tens of billions vanishing from government coffers during his rule. Those kinds of 'rents' reduce the leadership’s incentive to invest in public goods; why build roads and schools and export industries to make your country rich, when you can just raid its treasury to enrich your own family."
So now NATO is flailing-- mostly because of Germany's reluctance to fall in line behind British-America saber-rattling-- in a search for a unified front against the impending Russian invasion. The American get tough approach has Germany at odds with the rest of the alliance.
The United States and its NATO allies are moving to bulk up their military commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe as the standoff with Russia over Ukraine deepens.
Denmark is sending fighter jets to Lithuania and a frigate to the Baltic Sea. France has offered to send troops to Romania. Spain is sending a frigate to the Black Sea. President Biden has put thousands of U.S. troops on “high alert.”
And then there is Germany. In recent days Germany-- Europe’s largest and richest democracy, strategically situated at the crossroads between East and West-- has stood out more for what it will not do than for what it is doing.
No European country matters more to European unity and the Western alliance. But as Germany struggles to overcome its post-World War II reluctance to lead on security matters in Europe and set aside its instinct to accommodate rather than confront Russia, Europe’s most pivotal country has waffled in the first crucial test for the new government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Germany’s evident hesitation to take forceful measures has fueled doubts about its reliability as an ally-- reversing the dynamic with the United States in recent years-- and added to concerns that Moscow could use German wavering as a wedge to divide a united European response to any Russian aggression.
Most congressional Democrats have no such qualms. They're working with the Republicans to cluelessly rush through an increase in the already bloated Pentagon budget, specifically aimed at flooding Ukraine with advanced weaponry, moron Greg Meeks' Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022. According to The Intercept, Pelosi told House Democrats on a call yesterday that she’s looking to skip marking up the half billion dollar bill and move it straight to the House floor, setting up the possibility of a vote as soon as early next week. "This is how the space for nonmilitary options gets slowly closed off in Washington, without any real debate."
The Senate version of the bill-- by reliable Military Industrial Complex shill, one of the most blatantly corrupt members of Congress, Bob Menendez (D-NJ)-- has 41 Democratic co-sponsors. The only Senate Democrats not co-sponsoring it are Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, Kyrsten Sinema (apparently waiting for McConnell to give her the green light), Jon Ossoff, Sherrod Brown, Pat Leahy, Catherine Cortez Masto, and Maria Cantwell.
This morning Washington state progressive House candidate Jason Call, told his supporters that it scars him "that we have leaders worldwide who not only refuse to deal with the escalating climate crisis, but constantly engage in this aggressive brinksmanship that can assuredly have no positive outcomes. We need leaders who prioritize peace, who are willing to sit at the table and discuss options diplomatically. Instead we have House Democrats seeking to fast track $500 million in military assistance to Ukraine, which some analysts warn will hasten 'a much more aggressive posture' and diminish possibilities for diplomacy." Call continued:
While President Biden said yesterday that there would be no US troops on the ground in Ukraine, we still have the looming possibility-- however small it might be-- of nuclear conflict should that decision be reversed. Many people don’t know that while Russia has taken a position of not using first strike nuclear weapons unless invaded or attacked, the United States has much looser language that would allow a nuclear first strike, “in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies, and partners.”
Despite the urging of many in Congress and former members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the United States has still refused to adopt a “No First Use” nuclear weapons policy, which makes comments like the ones from Sen. Wicker all the more reckless.
I want to be clear about this: I’m not saying nothing should be done, and that Putin should be allowed a free hand in his dealings with his neighbors.
Putin is absolutely in the wrong to have amassed 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. But we cannot take a position that will lead to a global nuclear crisis. We have to exhaust every avenue of diplomacy and cooperation before military action is considered, and even then, such action must be through an Act of Congress, and it must have full international support.
I want to make a further point that we wouldn’t take this posture at all if not for Ukraine’s rich oil and gas resources.
...This isn’t about the self-determination of the Ukrainian people, this is about strategic control of fossil fuel resources. Yet another reason to get off fossil fuels immediately.