Home Community Government OP-ED About WG Letters Back Issues WG Contact




US and Ukraine


It is irritating in the extreme to hear from highly informed US sources that Ukraine has no useful alternatives in their struggle with Russia.  And in fact, the situation there has changed dramatically day by day.  As a result it is difficult to be relevant in a weekly publication.  Still, consideration of some important points here may be pertinent.

Although deception is the name of the game, Mr. Putin has not always hidden his basic objective.  To some degree, as in Stalin’s day, Russia is still big geographically and economically powerful. So it might understandably seek expansion, especially to conquer and absorb neighbors who have valuable national resources and can provide access to markets for Russian energy and other products.  In addition to Ukraine, as well as a good many adjacent nations were part of the Soviet Union until it agreed to release them, legally and formally, a couple of decades ago. Those events were generated under the amazing open era days in the second half of the 1980’s by former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s demeanor of Glasnost and Perestroika. Glasnost was a policy that called for increased openness and transparency in government institutions and activities in the Soviet Union. Peretroika referred to restructuring.
Putin, of course, is an entirely different personality.  As might be expected, this former leader of the enormously powerful Soviet Union’s secret police remembers the old days of the Soviet Union, and struggles to rebuild it, by whatever means necessary, legally or illegally, violating the norms of international law and the most basic peaceful principals of the United Nations.

In the sometimes balmy years and decades of Soviet control, at least in the eastern portion of Ukraine many grew up as Russian speakers and tend to think of themselves substantially as Russian.  Many others came to see the values of representative democracy, hardly available in Russia, and value European association and economic development connections.

A cab driver in Ukraine recently told a western visitor that he had the common dream of moving to the US, as unlikely a possibility as that seemed to be.  The visitor tried to be helpful and suggested that it might be far easier to emigrate to Canada.  The cab driver indignantly responded that he would be interested only in becoming a part of a world super-power, either the US… or Russia. 

As we have seen, Putin has been rather successful in his efforts to move on old Soviet Georgia, and the old Soviet Crimea.  The Baltic states may be likely next targets. Other Eastern European states are no doubt concerned. The various Islamic “stans” to Putin’s south-east probably have less interest and advantages, particularly after the ill-fated Russian adventure to take and hold Afghanistan, perhaps due partly to US military equipment assistance. And a Polish friend tells me of great anxiety there about Russian threats to Poland.   
It would seem clear that Russian actions in Georgia, Crimea and the obvious Russian aggressive involvement in Eastern Ukraine are war crimes, even if subterfuge is involved.  No such nation would be a legitimate new member of the United Nations.  Of course, Russia is an original member of the UN Security Council, and could hardly be removed.  It is even hard to imagine an effective trial of Putin or other perpetrators as War Criminals in the World Criminal Court, even if appropriate. 

After the recent refusal of the US to grant a visa for admission of the newly named Iranian Ambassador to the UN, after his important involvement in the take-over / kidnapping at the US Embassy in Iran years ago, it is hard to imagine refusing visas to Russian Delegates, or even Putin, to the US and the UN, even if similarly appropriate

In any event, it would be most unfortunate if the US and other nations cannot enact substantial and more effective further sanctions on Russia.  We are not Ukraine, in the immediate shadow of the Russian Bear.  Of course, even Ukraine had more theoretical bargaining power back before they returned Soviet nuclear weapons once installed there.

Sanctions should publicly be conditioned on removal of large Russian border military forces, ending the very large bribes to Ukrainians to support the evolving illegal rebellion in Eastern Ukraine, the return of Ukrainian ships captured in the Crimean takeover, the removal of Russian military and other related personnel from Crimea, negotiation or even purchase of that peninsula by Russia after its illegal acquisition, and even restoration of earlier illegally controlled portions of Georgia. Some financial provision for economic and other damages to Ukraine and Georgia should be calculated and provided now. 

As for Ukraine action now, it seems appropriate that some actions might be effective.  It is certainly understood that Ukraine cannot wage war on Russia, despite enormous provocation.  Under the circumstances it seems reasonable that a formal act of Marshal Law be adopted and proclaimed.  Avoidance of bloodshed surely should be avoided. But careful Marshal Law enforcement might involve quarantining any buildings illegally occupied by the Russian troops and / or local citizens. 

As many as possible of the ten town official structures occupied should be surrounded and any local citizens or Russians interfering should be arrested and transported to secure facilities in other potions of Ukraine.  Any one leaving such controlled sites should also be arrested.  Most fortunately, at the date of this writing violence has been substantially avoided.  Adequate video coverage should be provided to record any initiation of violence, perhaps with international or even UN staff. 

Where possible, no electricity, fuel, food, water, or sewerage should continue to be available.  Conventional equipment should be made available to prevent tunneling. 

As a matter of free speech principles and technological control limits, the provocative and otherwise erroneous electronic communications from Russia will continue.  Staff and facilities should be provided to record, monitor and respond with any needed corrections. 

The international community around the world has a historic obligation, direct need, and requires assurance that all related destructive and illegal current actions will cease and be avoided in the future.

Bob Bogen served as comprehensive long-range facilities planning director for the New York Metropolitan Regional Planning Commission; as planning director for the New England Regional Commission; as a major United Nations official in Pakistan; Board Chairman of the Communications Coordinating Committee for the United Nations; and Principal Representative of Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility to the United Nations.






hudson valley