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October 21, 2010

Who Killed the Monroe Doctrine? America

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Investors Business Daily is outraged that Russia is helping Venezuela develop nuclear technology, demanding that someone remind Russia of the Monroe Doctrine.

Unfortunately, the U.S. doesn't have any leg to stand on with respect to the Monroe Doctrine given how it's become a bi-partisan staple of foreign policy establishment dogma that the U.S. does not recognize "spheres of influence." It would be self-evidently absurd for the U.S. to protest Russia's dalliances in Venezuela (a little under 2,000 miles from the U.S. border) when the U.S. is pushing to admit countries that border Russia into NATO.

That said, should we be dusting off the concept of 'spheres of influence' in an era of emerging great powers? Ted Galen Carpenter argues that we should:

Russia needs to find a graceful way out of its increasingly cozy relationship with Chavez, and the United States needs to stop talking about deploying missile defenses or expanding NATO eastward. Washington and Moscow must acknowledge that the concept of spheres of influence is alive and well, and that gratuitous violations of that concept will negate any prospect for a reset in relations.

U.S. leaders must also comprehend that cordial relations with China require a willingness to accept that East Asia’s rapidly rising great power will seek to establish a sphere of influence in its neighborhood. Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea and the recent spat with Japan over disputed islets in another body of water are signs of that process. China’s growing power and assertiveness means that the United States will need to tread softly regarding such territorial disputes, as well as the even more sensitive Taiwan issue, if Washington wants to avoid nasty confrontations with Beijing.

While I think avoiding nasty confrontations should be a key goal, I'm not sure how affording China a 'sphere of influence' would work in practice. China's prospective 'sphere' encompasses major economic powerhouses like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, and some weaker Southeast Asian states. Unlike, say, Russia, where the U.S. ties to countries like Georgia or even Ukraine were historically relatively weak and economically negligible, American ties to Japan and South Korea are anything but.

(AP Photo)

June 9, 2010

Poll: View of New Ukraine Government

Via Angus Reid:

One-in-four Ukrainians believe the country’s situation has improved under the new government, according to a poll by Research & Branding Group. 26 per cent of respondents think the socio-economic situation in Ukraine has become better, while 56 per cent say it has not changed substantially

March 30, 2010

Poll: Ukrainian Views on NATO

Earlier in the month, Ukraine's new governing coalition said it would pass a law forbidding the country from joining military alliances, including NATO. According to Pew Research, Ukrainians don't hold NATO in high regard:

A September 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, found that half of Ukrainians (51%) opposed their country's admission to NATO, while only 28% favored such a step. Moreover, given the opposition to membership, it is not surprising that about half of Ukrainians (51%) gave NATO an unfavorable rating.

Views of membership in NATO vary by ethnicity and region. Ethnic Russians (74%) were far more likely to oppose admission to NATO than ethnic Ukrainians (46%). In terms of regional groupings, respondents living in the East (72%) and South (60%) -- where the percentage of Russians tends to be higher than elsewhere in the country -- were more likely to oppose joining NATO than were those living in the Central region (51%). And in the West a majority (59%) favored their country becoming part of NATO.

February 12, 2010

Ukraine's Post-Election To-Do List

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By David J. Kramer

KYIV, Ukraine—Contrary to earlier polls, Ukraine’s presidential election turned out to be much closer than expected. After the run-off held on February 7, opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych claimed victory over Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko—at last count, he had a 3 percent lead—but Tymoshenko was not ready to concede. She is expected to file court challenges over claims of fraud in individual poll­ing stations, but international observers across the board, including the delegation I led for the International Republican Institute, deemed this election generally free and fair and any problems not to have been systemic in nature.

Tymoshenko, of course, has every right to pursue her legal options, but it would be unfortunate if her efforts led to weeks of squabbling and political paralysis. Ukrainians have had enough of that over the past few years, when they grew disillusioned with those associated with the 2004 Orange Revolution. Based on the preliminary assessment of foreign observers, neither problems that may have occurred on Election Day nor a controversial change made to the electoral law three days before the election had an appreciable impact on the election itself.

Barring the unexpected, Ukraine will see Yanukovych assume the reins as presi­dent. There are some in the West who will be unhappy with the election outcome. They will see Yanukovych’s victory as the final nail in the Orange Revolution’s coffin and will want to keep their distance from Ukraine. This would be exactly the wrong approach to take. Leaders in the West need to engage the new president and his team immediately after he as­sumes office. Here are some things they should do in the near term:

* Invite Yanukovych to the West. U.S. President Barack Obama will be hosting a nuclear security summit in April, and Yanukoych’s participation in that would be a good start. EU countries should also reach out to him out of recognition that Ukraine is a vital neighbor.

* Visit Kyiv. Western leaders should make Kyiv a key place to visit, not on the way to or from Moscow but on its own.

* Strengthen bilateral commissions on a level comparable to what Obama established with Russia last year. Dealing with Ukraine can be frustrating, but the alternative of keeping a distance is even worse, especially when Moscow will be reaching out aggressively to the new government in Kyiv.

* For the European Union, move forward on finalizing a free trade agreement with Ukraine and visa liberalization. It should stress that future membership in the European Union, while not in the offing in the near-term, is a possibility. The door to the European Union must remain open to Ukraine if it undertakes the necessary reforms over the next few years.

* Avoid pressing on membership in NATO, especially since the majority of Ukrainians do not support NATO membership at this time. Injecting this issue into the political debate in Ukraine now would be distracting and counterproductive, but NATO should keep its door open, too.

* Push for resumption of International Monetary Fund (IMF) lending if Ukraine’s parliament and leaders stop their inflationary and unaffordable budgetary and fiscal policies.

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