Sunday, March 16, 2014

Fold and Fumble

A month ago, Barack Obama used an inderesting turn of phrase in a message to Moscow, when he said America wasn't playing on "some Cold War chessboard." Because Foggy Bottom was doing just that in Ukraine, trying to make into reality Zbigniew Brzezinski's 1997 book called - "The Grand Chessboard".

Thing is, Russians are much better at chess. As I noted on CrossTalk two weeks ago:
"Americans are playing the only games they know, which is poker and American football. So brute force and bluffing. But in this case, they’re the scrawny nerd that can’t run and can’t pass and can’t throw the ball and they’re holding a pair of sevens. I’m honestly not sure who they think they are fooling." 
To be fair, the credit for the observation about poker and football rightly belongs to my colleague, Belgrade scholar Vladimir Trapara, who brought it up in an interview with Al-Jazeera Balkans I happened to see the day before. I just expanded upon it. A Bloomberg staffer tasked with mocking RT's "propaganda" quoted that segment as an illustration. He apparently thought it was absurd and funny. But was it? You decide.

Earlier today, the usually well-informed Moon of Alabama blog noted this item, via Reuters (emphasis added by MoA):
(Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed on Sunday to seek a solution to crisis in Ukraine by pushing for constitutional reforms there, the Russian foreign ministry said.

It did not go into details on the kind of reforms needed except to say they should come "in a generally acceptable form and while taking into the account the interests of all regions of Ukraine".
"Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov and John Kerry agreed to continue work to find a resolution on Ukraine through a speedy launch of constitutional reform with the support of international community," the ministry said in a statement.
MoA proprietor notes that this is almost exactly what the Russians laid out in their recent "non-paper", and concludes:
Obama has given up. His empty threats had not worked and he now has largely accepted the Russian conditions for the way out of the crisis.

The U.S. plot to snatch the Ukraine from Russia and to integrate it into NATO and the EU seems to have failed. Russia taking Crimea and having 93% of the voters there agree to join Russia has made the main objective of the U.S. plans, to kick the Russians out of Sevastopol and thereby out of the Middle East, impossible.

The Russian (non public) threat to also immediately take the eastern and southern provinces from the Ukraine has pushed the U.S. into agreeing to the Russian conditions mentioned above. The only alternative to that would be a military confrontation which the U.S. and Europeans are not willing to risk. Despite the anti-Russian campaign in the media a majority of U.S. people as well as EU folks are against any such confrontation. In the end the U.S. never held the cards it needed to win this game.

Should all go well and a new Ukrainian constitution fit the Russian conditions the "west" may in the future well be allowed to pay for the monthly bills Gazprom will keep sending to Kiev.
So, then. Looks like Washington just folded - or fumbled. I'd like to ask the Bloomberg staffer whether he still thinks my (and Trapara's) observation was funny.

I won't lie, I am surprised at this development. It suggests a degree of common sense I wasn't prepared to credit Washington with. And the Empire doesn't exactly have a history of keeping its end of the bargain. Quite the contrary. But if they think they can use this as breathing room to create more "reality" on the ground, they are sorely mistaken. Russia's behavior in the past six months suggests they have taken the lessons of Serbia to heart (even if Serbia itself has not), and if Washington - or its Banderite clients on the ground - tries to twist this deal to their advantage, there are no doubt several contingency plans already in place.

And to be entirely fair, the Empire hasn't tried to weasel out of the arrangement it accepted last fall regarding Syria. Yet. So I am very cautiously optimistic about this. But let's see what happens.


Anonymous said...

@cubucoko I don't think the US want a political/military neutral and federalized Ukraine. They want all or part of Ukraine; the closer NATO gets to Russian borders, the better they will have nuclear first strike capabilities on Russia detrimental to the Mutual Assured Destruction they have had with Russia since the start of the cold war.

CubuCoko said...

Oh, certainly. But what they want, and what they can get, are two increasingly different things.