What Would Kennan Say?

No doubt he would be both annoyed and amused to see his name invoked as an authority by warmongers.

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Walter Russell Mead does a good job of making Russia hawks look ridiculous:

As the Ukrainian crisis deepens, there is only one option that would stop a Russian invasion – and that is the one that all the serious players in Washington say is off the table: dispatching an American and coalition force to defend Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is not ready for war with the U.S.; informing his gamble is a well-grounded conviction that America is not committed enough to Ukraine to defend it by force.

History may look back on this as a failure of nerve equal to the appeasement of the 1930s.

There is good reason why America is “not committed enough to Ukraine” to go to war for it. The US has nothing at stake there that could possibly justify taking the enormous risks that a war with Russia involves. Even the most aggressive hawks tacitly admit as much when they claim that the current crisis is just a prelude to worse things later. Mead makes the usual references to the 1930s because he can’t make a straightforward argument that Ukraine is important enough on its own that the US has to defend it. Russia hawks know they can’t sell a war for Ukraine, so they have to make it into a war for NATO or world order or something big enough to make their insane proposal seem at least slightly defensible. Their own alarmism confirms that they know the US has no vital interests here.

Mead asserts that putting Western troops in Ukraine to defend it is the “only” option that can stop an invasion. This conveniently ignores the obvious compromise that is much more likely to achieve the goal, and it fails to anticipate how Russia would react to the insertion of more Western forces into Ukraine. The current crisis has been driven in large part by Russian opposition to any Western military presence in Ukraine. Sending a large deployment of troops would be extremely provocative. Something like that could be the match that sets off the explosion.

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

One thought on “What Would Kennan Say?”

  1. “Sending a large deployment of troops would be extremely provocative.
    Something like that could be the match that sets off the explosion.”

    Which is precisely why I’m concerned about the nine NATO military exercises scheduled for this year, many starting in February – which is precisely the time everyone expects a conflict to kick off. These exercises are considerably more extensive than in previous years, totaling 64,000 foreign troops, and hundreds of planes and ships. They could be a significant cover for a new Ukraine attack on Donbass and might even be persuaded to assist in that attack when Russia responds.

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