Guest Post: Ukraine Is The Wrong Fight To Pick With Russia

Submitted by L Todd Wood via,

The United States’ rapport with the Russian Federation is one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships.  Russia maintains a large nuclear arsenal and is a resurgent player in world affairs.  One only has to look at Russia’s recent role in the Syrian civil war and the Iranian nuclear problem to see Putin’s desire for ensuring Russia remains a powerful player on the global chessboard.  Bashar al-Assad staying in power after murdering thousands of civilians with weapons of mass destruction, and the possibility of the Iranian Islamic state acquiring nuclear weapons have very real consequences to American security.  Americans would be wise to understand the rich history of the Ukrainian region before interfering in its internal affairs and angering Moscow when there are more important issues with which to take a stand.

Ukraine was the heartland of the old kingdom of Kievan Rus.  At one point the most powerful kingdom in all of Europe, the state included modern day Ukraine as well as Belarus (White Russia) and parts of modern day Russia.  In the thirteen century, Ukraine was overrun by the Mongol Invasion and many of the Slavic peoples moved to the northern cities of Moscow and surrounding areas.  Northern Slavic power developed into the Russian Federation we know today.  For the last eight centuries, Ukraine has been ruled by many outside entities including Lithuania, Poland, and the Soviet Union.  Ukraine finally became independent in 1991. 

Russia has considered Ukraine to be a vassal for the last five hundred years.  Russian President Putin has routinely referred to Ukraine as a Russian state rather than a free and independent country.  Putin has whipped up anti-American sentiment in order to keep the threat of American trickery on the top of the ordinary Russian’s mind.   The bottom line is that Russia considers the Ukraine to be in its sphere of influence and theoretically a part of Russia. 

The result of all this history is that I believe it’s impossible for the West to unilaterally pull Ukraine away from Russian control.  Actually it may be dangerous to attempt to do so and that effort my carry long term global consequences.  Ukraine should be left to sort out its own problems.  This view may be harsh but it is also realpolitik.  The United States should stay out of this possible brewing civil war.  The visit from John McCain and American State Department officials carried a very high media profile and needlessly inflamed U.S.-Russian relations.  These types of efforts only serve to give the Russian government ammunition to excite anti-American sentiment within Russia and foster coercive measures by the Ukrainian government against the opposition and for Putin do to the same against the opposition in Moscow.  Fifty-four percent of recently polled Russians consider America to be the number one threat to world peace compared to twenty-four percent of the rest of the world.  The Kremlin’s propaganda has worked well.  Sending American officials to Kiev only fosters this view.

Iran obtaining nuclear weapons however, is a different story all-together.  Here we have a state that has actively called repeatedly for the destruction of the state of Israel.  Iran has recently used weapons of mass destruction via its vassal in Damascus against the Syrian opposition.  We are on the brink of a major arms race and nuclear escalation in the Middle East.  Saudi Arabia is rumored to be acquiring a nuclear capability to oppose the Iranian threat.  This region of the globe has been a flash-point for the world throughout history.  In my humble opinion, this would be an area to take a stand.  This would be an issue on which to confront Putin and anger the Russia bear.  The consequences of not doing so are horrific. 

How would the United States react if Moscow was able to exert influence over Mexico and install a pro-Russian government?  What if Mexico was to consider joining the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia?  What if Mexico openly talked of joining a Russian military alliance against the United States?  One only needs to look to the Cuban Missile Crisis to discover the American reaction. 

America needs to take off her rose colored glasses and look at the world with a Machiavellian view.  We should decide to intervene in centuries old conflicts only when there are clear American security interests involved.  Unfortunately for the idealistic leaders of American foreign policy, Ukraine does not meet this test.  The Ukrainian people have shown an ability over the two decades to have a natural ability to take matters into their own hands and are quite capable of deciding this issue among themselves.  


L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and bond trader.  His first of many thriller novels, Currency was published in 2012.  He is a contributor to The Moscow Times and splits his time between NYC and Moscow.