Πέμπτη 21 Αυγούστου 2014

Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin

According to the prevailing wisdom in the West, the Ukraine crisis can be blamed almost entirely on Russian aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the argument goes, annexed Crimea out of a long-standing desire to resuscitate the Soviet empire, and he may eventually go after the rest of Ukraine, as well as other countries in eastern Europe. In this view, the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 merely provided a pretext for Putin’s decision to order Russian forces to seize part of Ukraine.
But this account is wrong: the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West. At the same time, the EU’s expansion eastward and the West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine -- beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004 -- were critical elements, too. Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion. For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president -- which he rightly labeled a “coup” -- was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West. 
Putin’s pushback should have come as no surprise. After all, the West had been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests, a point Putin made emphatically and repeatedly. Elites in the United States and Europe have been blindsided by events only because they subscribe to a flawed view of international politics. They tend to believe that the logic of realism holds little relevance in the twenty-first century and that Europe can be kept whole and free on the basis of such liberal principles as the rule of law, economic interdependence, and democracy.
But this grand scheme went awry in Ukraine. The crisis there shows that realpolitik remains relevant -- and states that ignore it do so at their own peril. U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border. Now that the consequences have been laid bare, it would be an even greater mistake to continue this misbegotten policy.
U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border.
As the Cold War came to a close, Soviet leaders preferred that U.S. forces remain in Europe and NATO stay intact, an arrangement they thought would keep a reunified Germany pacified. But they and their Russian successors did not want NATO to grow any larger and assumed that Western diplomats understood their concerns. The Clinton administration evidently thought otherwise, and in the mid-1990s, it began pushing for NATO to expand.
The first round of enlargement took place in 1999 and brought in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. The second occurred in 2004; it included Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Moscow complained bitterly from the start. During NATO’s 1995 bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serbs, for example, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said, “This is the first sign of what could happen when NATO comes right up to the Russian Federation’s borders. ... The flame of war could burst out across the whole of Europe.” But the Russians were too weak at the time to derail NATO’s eastward movement -- which, at any rate, did not look so threatening, since none of the new members shared a border with Russia, save for the tiny Baltic countries.
Then NATO began looking further east. At its April 2008 summit in Bucharest, the alliance considered admitting Georgia and Ukraine. The George W. Bush administration supported doing so, but France and Germany opposed the move for fear that it would unduly antagonize Russia. In the end, NATO’s members reached a compromise: the alliance did not begin the formal process leading to membership, but it issued a statement endorsing the aspirations of Georgia and Ukraine and boldly declaring, “These countries will become members of NATO.” 
Moscow, however, did not see the outcome as much of a compromise. Alexander Grushko, then Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said, “Georgia’s and Ukraine’s membership in the alliance is a huge strategic mistake which would have most serious consequences for pan-European security.” Putin maintained that admitting those two countries to NATO would represent a “direct threat” to Russia. One Russian newspaper reported that Putin, while speaking with Bush, “very transparently hinted that if Ukraine was accepted into NATO, it would cease to exist.”
Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August 2008 should have dispelled any remaining doubts about Putin’s determination to prevent Georgia and Ukraine from joining NATO. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was deeply committed to bringing his country into NATO, had decided in the summer of 2008 to reincorporate two separatist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But Putin sought to keep Georgia weak and divided -- and out of NATO. After fighting broke out between the Georgian government and South Ossetian separatists, Russian forces took control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Moscow had made its point. Yet despite this clear warning, NATO never publicly abandoned its goal of bringing Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance. And NATO expansion continued marching forward, with Albania and Croatia becoming members in 2009.
The EU, too, has been marching eastward. In May 2008, it unveiled its Eastern Partnership initiative, a program to foster prosperity in such countries as Ukraine and integrate them into the EU economy. Not surprisingly, Russian leaders view the plan as hostile to their country’s interests. This past February, before Yanukovych was forced from office, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the EU of trying to create a “sphere of influence” in eastern Europe. In the eyes of Russian leaders, EU expansion is a stalking horse for NATO expansion. 
The West’s final tool for peeling Kiev away from Moscow has been its efforts to spread Western values and promote democracy in Ukraine and other post-Soviet states, a plan that often entails funding pro-Western individuals and organizations. Victoria Nuland, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, estimated in December 2013 that the United States had invested more than $5 billion since 1991 to help Ukraine achieve “the future it deserves.” As part of that effort, the U.S. government has bankrolled the National Endowment for Democracy. The nonprofit foundation has funded more than 60 projects aimed at promoting civil society in Ukraine, and the NED’s president, Carl Gershman, has called that country “the biggest prize.” After Yanukovych won Ukraine’s presidential election in February 2010, the NED decided he was undermining its goals, and so it stepped up its efforts to support the opposition and strengthen the country’s democratic institutions.
When Russian leaders look at Western social engineering in Ukraine, they worry that their country might be next. And such fears are hardly groundless. In September 2013, Gershman wrote in The Washington Post, “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents.” He added: “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
Imagine the American outrage if China built an impressive military alliance and tried to include Canada and Mexico.
The West’s triple package of policies -- NATO enlargement, EU expansion, and democracy promotion -- added fuel to a fire waiting to ignite. The spark came in November 2013, when Yanukovych rejected a major economic deal he had been negotiating with the EU and decided to accept a $15 billion Russian counteroffer instead. That decision gave rise to antigovernment demonstrations that escalated over the following three months and that by mid-February had led to the deaths of some one hundred protesters. Western emissaries hurriedly flew to Kiev to resolve the crisis. On February 21, the government and the opposition struck a deal that allowed Yanukovych to stay in power until new elections were held. But it immediately fell apart, and Yanukovych fled to Russia the next day. The new government in Kiev was pro-Western and anti-Russian to the core, and it contained four high-ranking members who could legitimately be labeled neofascists. 
Although the full extent of U.S. involvement has not yet come to light, it is clear that Washington backed the coup. Nuland and Republican Senator John McCain participated in antigovernment demonstrations, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, proclaimed after Yanukovych’s toppling that it was “a day for the history books.” As a leaked telephone recording revealed, Nuland had advocated regime change and wanted the Ukrainian politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk to become prime minister in the new government, which he did. No wonder Russians of all persuasions think the West played a role in Yanukovych’s ouster.
For Putin, the time to act against Ukraine and the West had arrived. Shortly after February 22, he ordered Russian forces to take Crimea from Ukraine, and soon after that, he incorporated it into Russia. The task proved relatively easy, thanks to the thousands of Russian troops already stationed at a naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Crimea also made for an easy target since ethnic Russians compose roughly 60 percent of its population. Most of them wanted out of Ukraine. 
Next, Putin put massive pressure on the new government in Kiev to discourage it from siding with the West against Moscow, making it clear that he would wreck Ukraine as a functioning state before he would allow it to become a Western stronghold on Russia’s doorstep. Toward that end, he has provided advisers, arms, and diplomatic support to the Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, who are pushing the country toward civil war. He has massed a large army on the Ukrainian border, threatening to invade if the government cracks down on the rebels. And he has sharply raised the price of the natural gas Russia sells to Ukraine and demanded payment for past exports. Putin is playing hardball.
Putin’s actions should be easy to comprehend. A huge expanse of flat land that Napoleonic France, imperial Germany, and Nazi Germany all crossed to strike at Russia itself, Ukraine serves as a buffer state of enormous strategic importance to Russia. No Russian leader would tolerate a military alliance that was Moscow’s mortal enemy until recently moving into Ukraine. Nor would any Russian leader stand idly by while the West helped install a government there that was determined to integrate Ukraine into the West. 
Washington may not like Moscow’s position, but it should understand the logic behind it. This is Geopolitics 101: great powers are always sensitive to potential threats near their home territory. After all, the United States does not tolerate distant great powers deploying military forces anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, much less on its borders. Imagine the outrage in Washington if China built an impressive military alliance and tried to include Canada and Mexico in it. Logic aside, Russian leaders have told their Western counterparts on many occasions that they consider NATO expansion into Georgia and Ukraine unacceptable, along with any effort to turn those countries against Russia -- a message that the 2008 Russian-Georgian war also made crystal clear.
Officials from the United States and its European allies contend that they tried hard to assuage Russian fears and that Moscow should understand that NATO has no designs on Russia. In addition to continually denying that its expansion was aimed at containing Russia, the alliance has never permanently deployed military forces in its new member states. In 2002, it even created a body called the NATO-Russia Council in an effort to foster cooperation. To further mollify Russia, the United States announced in 2009 that it would deploy its new missile defense system on warships in European waters, at least initially, rather than on Czech or Polish territory. But none of these measures worked; the Russians remained steadfastly opposed to NATO enlargement, especially into Georgia and Ukraine. And it is the Russians, not the West, who ultimately get to decide what counts as a threat to them.
To understand why the West, especially the United States, failed to understand that its Ukraine policy was laying the groundwork for a major clash with Russia, one must go back to the mid-1990s, when the Clinton administration began advocating NATO expansion. Pundits advanced a variety of arguments for and against enlargement, but there was no consensus on what to do. Most eastern European émigrés in the United States and their relatives, for example, strongly supported expansion, because they wanted NATO to protect such countries as Hungary and Poland. A few realists also favored the policy because they thought Russia still needed to be contained. 
But most realists opposed expansion, in the belief that a declining great power with an aging population and a one-dimensional economy did not in fact need to be contained. And they feared that enlargement would only give Moscow an incentive to cause trouble in eastern Europe. The U.S. diplomat George Kennan articulated this perspective in a 1998 interview, shortly after the U.S. Senate approved the first round of NATO expansion. “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies,” he said. “I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anyone else.”
The United States and its allies should abandon their plan to westernize Ukraine and instead aim to make it a neutral buffer.
Most liberals, on the other hand, favored enlargement, including many key members of the Clinton administration. They believed that the end of the Cold War had fundamentally transformed international politics and that a new, postnational order had replaced the realist logic that used to govern Europe. The United States was not only the “indispensable nation,” as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright put it; it was also a benign hegemon and thus unlikely to be viewed as a threat in Moscow. The aim, in essence, was to make the entire continent look like western Europe.
And so the United States and its allies sought to promote democracy in the countries of eastern Europe, increase economic interdependence among them, and embed them in international institutions. Having won the debate in the United States, liberals had little difficulty convincing their European allies to support NATO enlargement. After all, given the EU’s past achievements, Europeans were even more wedded than Americans to the idea that geopolitics no longer mattered and that an all-inclusive liberal order could maintain peace in Europe. 
So thoroughly did liberals come to dominate the discourse about European security during the first decade of this century that even as the alliance adopted an open-door policy of growth, NATO expansion faced little realist opposition. The liberal worldview is now accepted dogma among U.S. officials. In March, for example, President Barack Obama delivered a speech about Ukraine in which he talked repeatedly about “the ideals” that motivate Western policy and how those ideals “have often been threatened by an older, more traditional view of power.” Secretary of State John Kerry’s response to the Crimea crisis reflected this same perspective: “You just don’t in the twenty-first century behave in nineteenth-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.”
In essence, the two sides have been operating with different playbooks: Putin and his compatriots have been thinking and acting according to realist dictates, whereas their Western counterparts have been adhering to liberal ideas about international politics. The result is that the United States and its allies unknowingly provoked a major crisis over Ukraine. 
In that same 1998 interview, Kennan predicted that NATO expansion would provoke a crisis, after which the proponents of expansion would “say that we always told you that is how the Russians are.” As if on cue, most Western officials have portrayed Putin as the real culprit in the Ukraine predicament. In March, according to The New York Times, German Chancellor Angela Merkel implied that Putin was irrational, telling Obama that he was “in another world.” Although Putin no doubt has autocratic tendencies, no evidence supports the charge that he is mentally unbalanced. On the contrary: he is a first-class strategist who should be feared and respected by anyone challenging him on foreign policy. 
Other analysts allege, more plausibly, that Putin regrets the demise of the Soviet Union and is determined to reverse it by expanding Russia’s borders. According to this interpretation, Putin, having taken Crimea, is now testing the waters to see if the time is right to conquer Ukraine, or at least its eastern part, and he will eventually behave aggressively toward other countries in Russia’s neighborhood. For some in this camp, Putin represents a modern-day Adolf Hitler, and striking any kind of deal with him would repeat the mistake of Munich. Thus, NATO must admit Georgia and Ukraine to contain Russia before it dominates its neighbors and threatens western Europe. 
This argument falls apart on close inspection. If Putin were committed to creating a greater Russia, signs of his intentions would almost certainly have arisen before February 22. But there is virtually no evidence that he was bent on taking Crimea, much less any other territory in Ukraine, before that date. Even Western leaders who supported NATO expansion were not doing so out of a fear that Russia was about to use military force. Putin’s actions in Crimea took them by complete surprise and appear to have been a spontaneous reaction to Yanukovych’s ouster. Right afterward, even Putin said he opposed Crimean secession, before quickly changing his mind. 
Besides, even if it wanted to, Russia lacks the capability to easily conquer and annex eastern Ukraine, much less the entire country. Roughly 15 million people -- one-third of Ukraine’s population -- live between the Dnieper River, which bisects the country, and the Russian border. An overwhelming majority of those people want to remain part of Ukraine and would surely resist a Russian occupation. Furthermore, Russia’s mediocre army, which shows few signs of turning into a modern Wehrmacht, would have little chance of pacifying all of Ukraine. Moscow is also poorly positioned to pay for a costly occupation; its weak economy would suffer even more in the face of the resulting sanctions.
But even if Russia did boast a powerful military machine and an impressive economy, it would still probably prove unable to successfully occupy Ukraine. One need only consider the Soviet and U.S. experiences in Afghanistan, the U.S. experiences in Vietnam and Iraq, and the Russian experience in Chechnya to be reminded that military occupations usually end badly. Putin surely understands that trying to subdue Ukraine would be like swallowing a porcupine. His response to events there has been defensive, not offensive.
Given that most Western leaders continue to deny that Putin’s behavior might be motivated by legitimate security concerns, it is unsurprising that they have tried to modify it by doubling down on their existing policies and have punished Russia to deter further aggression. Although Kerry has maintained that “all options are on the table,” neither the United States nor its NATO allies are prepared to use force to defend Ukraine. The West is relying instead on economic sanctions to coerce Russia into ending its support for the insurrection in eastern Ukraine. In July, the United States and the EU put in place their third round of limited sanctions, targeting mainly high-level individuals closely tied to the Russian government and some high-profile banks, energy companies, and defense firms. They also threatened to unleash another, tougher round of sanctions, aimed at whole sectors of the Russian economy. 
Such measures will have little effect. Harsh sanctions are likely off the table anyway; western European countries, especially Germany, have resisted imposing them for fear that Russia might retaliate and cause serious economic damage within the EU. But even if the United States could convince its allies to enact tough measures, Putin would probably not alter his decision-making. History shows that countries will absorb enormous amounts of punishment in order to protect their core strategic interests. There is no reason to think Russia represents an exception to this rule.
Western leaders have also clung to the provocative policies that precipitated the crisis in the first place. In April, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden met with Ukrainian legislators and told them, “This is a second opportunity to make good on the original promise made by the Orange Revolution.” John Brennan, the director of the CIA, did not help things when, that same month, he visited Kiev on a trip the White House said was aimed at improving security cooperation with the Ukrainian government.
The EU, meanwhile, has continued to push its Eastern Partnership. In March, José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, summarized EU thinking on Ukraine, saying, “We have a debt, a duty of solidarity with that country, and we will work to have them as close as possible to us.” And sure enough, on June 27, the EU and Ukraine signed the economic agreement that Yanukovych had fatefully rejected seven months earlier. Also in June, at a meeting of NATO members’ foreign ministers, it was agreed that the alliance would remain open to new members, although the foreign ministers refrained from mentioning Ukraine by name. “No third country has a veto over NATO enlargement,” announced Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s secretary-general. The foreign ministers also agreed to support various measures to improve Ukraine’s military capabilities in such areas as command and control, logistics, and cyberdefense. Russian leaders have naturally recoiled at these actions; the West’s response to the crisis will only make a bad situation worse. 
There is a solution to the crisis in Ukraine, however -- although it would require the West to think about the country in a fundamentally new way. The United States and its allies should abandon their plan to westernize Ukraine and instead aim to make it a neutral buffer between NATO and Russia, akin to Austria’s position during the Cold War. Western leaders should acknowledge that Ukraine matters so much to Putin that they cannot support an anti-Russian regime there. This would not mean that a future Ukrainian government would have to be pro-Russian or anti-NATO. On the contrary, the goal should be a sovereign Ukraine that falls in neither the Russian nor the Western camp.
To achieve this end, the United States and its allies should publicly rule out NATO’s expansion into both Georgia and Ukraine. The West should also help fashion an economic rescue plan for Ukraine funded jointly by the EU, the International Monetary Fund, Russia, and the United States -- a proposal that Moscow should welcome, given its interest in having a prosperous and stable Ukraine on its western flank. And the West should considerably limit its social-engineering efforts inside Ukraine. It is time to put an end to Western support for another Orange Revolution. Nevertheless, U.S. and European leaders should encourage Ukraine to respect minority rights, especially the language rights of its Russian speakers. 
Some may argue that changing policy toward Ukraine at this late date would seriously damage U.S. credibility around the world. There would undoubtedly be certain costs, but the costs of continuing a misguided strategy would be much greater. Furthermore, other countries are likely to respect a state that learns from its mistakes and ultimately devises a policy that deals effectively with the problem at hand. That option is clearly open to the United States.
One also hears the claim that Ukraine has the right to determine whom it wants to ally with and the Russians have no right to prevent Kiev from joining the West. This is a dangerous way for Ukraine to think about its foreign policy choices. The sad truth is that might often makes right when great-power politics are at play. Abstract rights such as self-determination are largely meaningless when powerful states get into brawls with weaker states. Did Cuba have the right to form a military alliance with the Soviet Union during the Cold War? The United States certainly did not think so, and the Russians think the same way about Ukraine joining the West. It is in Ukraine’s interest to understand these facts of life and tread carefully when dealing with its more powerful neighbor.
Even if one rejects this analysis, however, and believes that Ukraine has the right to petition to join the EU and NATO, the fact remains that the United States and its European allies have the right to reject these requests. There is no reason that the West has to accommodate Ukraine if it is bent on pursuing a wrong-headed foreign policy, especially if its defense is not a vital interest. Indulging the dreams of some Ukrainians is not worth the animosity and strife it will cause, especially for the Ukrainian people. 
Of course, some analysts might concede that NATO handled relations with Ukraine poorly and yet still maintain that Russia constitutes an enemy that will only grow more formidable over time -- and that the West therefore has no choice but to continue its present policy. But this viewpoint is badly mistaken. Russia is a declining power, and it will only get weaker with time. Even if Russia were a rising power, moreover, it would still make no sense to incorporate Ukraine into NATO. The reason is simple: the United States and its European allies do not consider Ukraine to be a core strategic interest, as their unwillingness to use military force to come to its aid has proved. It would therefore be the height of folly to create a new NATO member that the other members have no intention of defending. NATO has expanded in the past because liberals assumed the alliance would never have to honor its new security guarantees, but Russia’s recent power play shows that granting Ukraine NATO membership could put Russia and the West on a collision course.
Sticking with the current policy would also complicate Western relations with Moscow on other issues. The United States needs Russia’s assistance to withdraw U.S. equipment from Afghanistan through Russian territory, reach a nuclear agreement with Iran, and stabilize the situation in Syria. In fact, Moscow has helped Washington on all three of these issues in the past; in the summer of 2013, it was Putin who pulled Obama’s chestnuts out of the fire by forging the deal under which Syria agreed to relinquish its chemical weapons, thereby avoiding the U.S. military strike that Obama had threatened. The United States will also someday need Russia’s help containing a rising China. Current U.S. policy, however, is only driving Moscow and Beijing closer together. 
The United States and its European allies now face a choice on Ukraine. They can continue their current policy, which will exacerbate hostilities with Russia and devastate Ukraine in the process -- a scenario in which everyone would come out a loser. Or they can switch gears and work to create a prosperous but neutral Ukraine, one that does not threaten Russia and allows the West to repair its relations with Moscow. With that approach, all sides would win.

 JOHN J. MEARSHEIMER is R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.

Παρασκευή 8 Αυγούστου 2014

An old fashioned or a new World disorder?

by Nicholas A. Biniaris
The late P. Kondylis, a Hellenic philosopher, had remarked about Gorbachev after 1989 that he was either naïve or an idiot to acquiesce to the dissolution of the Soviet Union without a comprehensive Treaty with NATO and the USA about East Europe and Russian national interests. He would have gotten it and the world would have been a safer place.
Instead, today we are in a situation among three protagonists in a drama which has all the qualities of the absurd: the EU, the USA and Russia. But these are just the protagonists. China, India, and Islam are watching closely and getting the vital message of this conundrum: the West has gone bonkers. Newsweek and Time  amply and gruesomely expressed the beliefs and perceptions about Putin and his actions in Ukraine. On the other hand the Guardian shows that these kinds of perceptions about Russia have an opposite effect on Russians who were not Putin’s supporters but now are forced to side with him. The branding of Russians as murderers and Putin as the cause of Ukraine’s civil war and the shooting down of MH17 has developed into a hysteria which is driving the two sides apart fast and inexorably to a protracted conflict.
But no serious historian and IR professional will be satisfied until some questions are answered in a meaningful way.  Why the EU did initiate a policy for a treaty with Ukraine, a take-it-or-leave-it one without engaging Ukraine’s biggest economic partner, Russia in these negotiations? Why Angela Merkel, David Cameron and President Hollande did give the go ahead in this major political mistep by the EU?  Did they believe that this move was an innocuous economic treaty about which Russia would acquiesce without protesting? Were Russia’s interests, commercial, financial, and strategic safeguarded by that treaty?
As events proved this wasn’t the case at all. So the question about provocation and the culprit of criminal acts, war and destruction of the Ukrainian state is not answered by a propaganda machine which any rational analyst would consider totally irrelevant to the facts of history and the acts of the EU and the USA. If Putin is old fashioned and even mad to adhere to such nonsense as spheres of influence and geostrategic considerations he should have been at least consulted about the economic and commercial consequences of this treaty over Russian respective interests. 
It was argued that Putin is working to build a new empire. The EU move tried to thwart his outdated plans. If this was the real reason behind the EU move, then the perpetrators of this policy should have been ready to face some serious reactions and even war. None behaved in such a manner but the issue was decided upon a “democratic revolution” of the people against Russia and in favor of the EU. This scenario of a new world order: commercial interests, “democracy” as defined by the Western social construct and an inconspicuous economic warfare: like printing 4.5 trillion dollars to keep America afloat, didn’t have, at least publically a premise about sanctions, civil war and a reeling Europe.   
On May 28th 2014 President Obama, in his speech at West Point, made explicit the doctrine that there are American interests worldwide and military power could be applied , if necessary to secure them.  So the argument goes that there American interests but not Russian, Chinese or Indian. Perhaps, the new world order implies that the interests of these states and many more should coincide with those of the USA and its allies. This notion of an overall categorical imperative: “should” is the core problem of this perception of the world which may present Russia or China or for that matter, Iran, Kenya or Nigeria as misfits and enemies.  This is the hidden-not as a political agenda- but as ideology behind a totally paranoiac reading of the world. Fukuyama believes that the enemy of the West is Russia and China and not a sectarian war in the Middle East. The Wolfowitz Doctrine in 1992 and Kagan’s arguments against an American decline plus Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard where Ukraine figured prominently as a pivot for the domination of Eurasia, give us an insight about the ideology behind the policies and acts of flagrant interference against the interests and aspirations of other states.
What all these point to in nothing but a perpetual and unhindered conflict with no end in sight. The reason for this is that all these views, messianic and millennial in the core of their philosophy go against the grain of history and conflict theory. It is impossible to thwart or hold back huge parts of the world as the Moslems, the Chinese, the Indians by proclaiming your worldwide interests or attempting to stop them participating in the world as equal partners and with legitimate demands and even spheres of influence and projection of power. The famous theory of “soft power” stands upon a hidden premise: hard power as the West rightfully projects overtly or covertly anytime it wants to safeguard its interests.  
After the fall of the Soviet Union it seemed fairly easy to pretend that the USA was the sole super-power. The majority of nations and societies were persuaded even by rumor or awe that the USA was the one and only superpower. Twenty five years later this is just a myth debunked by facts of history. This isn’t a consequence of the decline of the USA but a matter of rising of others. What globalization brought about was an incredible intertwined nexus of commercial and economic interests which definitely shaped a different world order. That though wasn’t enough to establish a volunteered admission by all that the USA can decide and act upon any matter on earth. Far from it, the practices of the USA were in direct conflict with other societies and civilizational paradigms which didn’t have any intention to follow American decisions and practices. Identity politics, a dominant theme for Western social agenda, is not and cannot be part of the priorities of other civilizational paradigms.
The new world order which in some way the world had implicitly accepted up to 9/11 ended up with a bang. Since then this new world order isn’t just more difficult but impossible to maintain.  What has happened and happening in the Middle East and in Ukraine as well as in the China Sea are too conspicuous to be covered or misinterpreted. The ideology and policy expressed and defended by pundits and Presidents alike is simply drowned in the historical process which confronts bypasses or mocks the established world order as it is conceived in a static and emotionally presumptuous way.
The new world order is  no more and no less the old world disorder and it won’t take long to evolve to a probability of a general conflagration if we do not attempt to have a new Congress of Vienna, not of the European Powers, but of the World. This Congress should not be just about establishing a world balance of power but about saving the world from environmental collapse and from a nuclear war.
The West has a window of opportunity to come to grips with the Ukrainian mega-crisis by the end of August. The Ukrainian “government” resigned on July 24th and a new ball game started in that tormented country. Western media covered the resignation with elliptical and outright propagandistic analyses without offering to their readers the true causes of the resignation: the economic doldrums of Ukraine. The Udar and Svoboda parties denied their vote for new economic measures to adhere to IMF’s demands for structural reforms. They did what most governments in the EU did after the austerity programs were implemented by Germany. They want to contest an election upon lies, promises and bravado. They also want to exclude the Communist Party from the coming elections and intimidate their opponents making a mockery of democracy.The stark reality of Ukraine is that the country is bankrupt and the hard question is: who is going to pick up the tab, most certainly the EU. General winter is coming and gas prices are up 57%. The most probable scenario is that individual EU countries will contribute security forces and it is even possible tor NATO to reach an agreement to support the government against the Russian “aggression”. The crisis promulgated and advanced by incompetent bureaucrats in Brussels is attaining its own dynamic and the horrendous Malaysian Airlines incident has exacerbated perceptions and interventionist policies. These are correspondingly perceived by the Russian government as aggressive and naked threats against Russia.
The pressure may have two consequences: the fall of Putin or a Cuba crisis. The first case is possible in the long run. However the heirs of Putin will be most probably not utopian Russian loves of the West but this time around some somber generals.  This will lead to a Cuban crisis. If on the other hand Putin stays in power, the policy planners of the West are betting upon Putin’s rationality to avert a real hot Cuban crisis where threats of a nuclear war will no doubt smear Russia as a threat to world peace and human survival. At the same time though such a crisis will ruin the Wests’ reputation as a responsible power which actually underpins and guarantees world peace.
In either case the outlook is grim and involves a probability of a Cuban crisis or even a limited use of tactical nuclear weapons. The gambit in Ukraine is still under control but inimical perceptions are hardening from both sides. The Mass Media of the West are doing an excellent job in portraying an economic debacle to an existential threat against liberal democracy and its values.
The Middle East
The efforts to sway Iran to a nuclear deal are a real achievement of the Obama administration. However, technically the deal is not very probable due to the advanced stage of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran is willing to sign a compromise but the requirements are too demanding. At the same time the terrain is rapidly changing and Iran is facing more threats than it initially calculated. The ISIS question is posing a serious dilemma to the Ayatollahs; they either have to fight them at some point or they have to side with the West to avert a war of all against all. The Regime in Teheran isn’t working upon a short term plan. They cannot gamble their existence upon an onslaught of the Sunnis while they aren’t ready for it. Actually they are the only reliable regime in the area which can behave in a more or less rational way. Even if their agenda is anti-Western and theocratic their ultimate purpose is survival and this can be accomplished only with the tolerance of the West or if they acquire a nuclear arsenal
The Sunni front is collapsing and at the same time it is restructuring itself. The old order is no more. The only serious players in the area are Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The first supports the second because this is the only way the Saudi Kingdom can survive. The other way is to surrender to the Turks, their old satraps. Egypt on the other hand is a state under economic collapse. It tries to stave off a Muslim Brotherhood resistance and a jihadist activity in the Sinai. President Sisi is playing the role of all the previous military rulers professing to be both secular and an Islamist. This ploy cannot last for too long because radical are closing in from all sides, Sinai, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Iraq. The balance in the area is hanging by a thread and depends upon the advances of the IS and its capacity to organize a rudimentary administration in the territories it holds. Presently all seem to avoid attacking the “Caliphate”. Perhaps its rapid advance was a real shock to all. It is not easy to stop a victorious army where there is no army in the area which has a clear and worthwhile reason to fight.
Israel on the other hand is experiencing a turning point in its existence as a state. After the last ruinous war with Hezbollah in Lebanon the Israelis are fighting a war with a desperate Hamas. The fight is as usual lopsided but Israeli losses are heavy. Hamas is resisting in ways that may inspire Arab masses which up to now are either indifferent or have problems of their own. However, the unpredictability of history may work here in ways which will press both Saudi’s and Egypt’s antipathy for Hamas to the point of an internal explosion. The longer the Israeli incursion is Gaza lasts the probability of an explosion gets higher. There are some signs that point to this. Both a Pakistani and a Saudi journalist are bringing the point of apathy and failure of the Arabs and the Moslems to the open and forcefully suggest that if the Palestinians decide to fight to the death the outcome of their struggle most probably won’t be the same as in previous occasions.  
The routine military preponderance of Israel is still there. However the weak or failed states in the area aren’t a sign of its strength but or its weakness. Any state can be an enemy but also a part of a deal. Barbaric chaos is actually the end of the area. Who can trust a long term investment in an area where people blow themselves up and behead their enemies? To be an oasis in the desert doesn’t cancel out the effect of the desert; it rather makes it starker and more ominous. Israel cannot survive among ruins and desolation. And the same holds for Turkey. A permanent state of war and insurgency will sap the social and political fabric of these societies turning them to failed states themselves. No man is an island but no state is an island either in this globalized world. Geography is history and destiny.
The world is in its usual disorder. There is no new world order around. What are more and obviously demanding are the depth and the scope of this disorder. Was it a  a creation of a historical evolution or a premeditated intervention for some grandiose aggressive plans for world domination or perhaps defensive ones hiding economic and social dysfunctions which need “enemies” to become scapegoats for eventualities yet unknown to the indifferent and malleable public opinion of the USA and Europe? There is even another rather humiliating and unworthy reason for this new world disorder: the  effort of boosting the legacy of an American President who was elected with rising expectations and is departing with the horrendous failures of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Ukraine.
Nicholas A. Biniaris Hellas July 30 2014