November 30, 2004

Who Lost Ukraine?

Dan Drezner counter-castigates my castigating the Bush administration for not preparing for the current Ukraine mess. As he puts it, "From what I've read, this is a case where all the planning in the world wasn't going to change what happened."

That certainly makes sense (I don't know one way or the other). The point I was trying to drive at in my original post, though, had more to do with Putin and Russia's hegemonic ambitions in general, rather than the Ukraine specifically. It may be hindsight to say so, but over the past four years the White House never really stopped to wonder why Putin might fear the EU encroaching on his doorstep, or why he might try to exert such heavy-handed influence over its former Soviet Republics. When the two biggest forces in Europe are visibly wrestling for control over a series of central European states, doesn't it seem natural to try to resolve that, given, oh I don't know, everything that's happened on the continent over the past century? Shouldn't they have seen this coming?

Now maybe the EU-Russia rivalry is a conflict that can't be resolved easily or cleanly. Maybe Bush's pro-Putin agenda and democracy agenda were bound to collide eventually, and that's just because foreign policy is complex and that's that. Perhaps I'm being naïve to think these things are forseeable, let alone fixable.

The relevant point, though, is that any democracy-promotion agenda worth its salt will have to involve some negotiation of the larger geopolitics involved. You can't, of course, expect the "right kind" of Ukrainian democracy when the country next door is given ex ante license to interfere at will. Unfortunately we've seen this sort of obliviousness everywhere -- in Iraq, for example, where our lazy refusal to understand or deal with Turkey and Iran's regional interests has helped upset the dynamics of democracy within Iraq. And not, I think, in a good way.
-- Brad Plumer 11:41 PM || ||