4 Concepts About the Ukraine Crisis That Shouldn't Be So Hard to Understand

And a special bonus extra concept, too


1. It is possible to believe that fascists and other creepy sorts played a notable role in the Maidan uprising and that the revolt was, on balance, a movement for greater freedom.

2. It is possible to believe that the Maidan revolt was a movement for greater freedom and that people elsewhere in Ukraine have legitimate reasons to be aggravated about the new government, and even about the fact that they're ruled from Kiev in the first place.

3. It is possible to believe that there are Ukrainian citizens with legitimate complaints about Kiev and that Russia should not be inserting its military, or indeed any of its influence, into the country.

4. It is possible to believe it's bad that Russia's sticking its snout into its neighbor's affairs and that it would be dumb for the U.S. to intervene to stop it.

Disagree with any of those combinations of views that you want. But don't act as though they're inconceivable. There have been a lot of logical leaps in the debates over the ongoing crisis, particularly—and most dangerously—from the folks who don't seem able to understand #4.

Bonus: It is possible to believe that the U.S. should stay out of the conflict and that it's a good idea to allow increased exports of natural gas, not because that will cut into Putin's power—though that could be a happy effect—but because it's something the government ought to be allowing anyway.

NEXT: One Reason the Ukrainian Revolution May Yet Succeed

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Excellent summary, Jesse.

  2. It is also possible that ethnic Russian areas of Ukraine would if given the chance rejoin Russia. No one ever seems to consider that. What is the Crimea wants to be part of Russia?

    1. We believe in self-determination but only among groups of people divided magical predetermined lines.

      1. Of course, or else we might start redrawing our magical lines and deprive the charlatans of their power.

      2. Somebody drew that line after the end of the Soviet Union, it must be right.

    2. It is also possible for those ethnic Russians and Russophones who long so much to live under Muscovy hegemony to move a little ways down the Dnieper, rather than importing it into their current nation of residence.

      1. So if you don’t like your government, you should abandon your home and life instead of seeking to change the government?

        1. If you’re Russian, yeah, pretty much. When the nation in question is the huge regional bully with a long-standing history of ethnic cleansing and arbitrary re-drawing of national boundaries, it tends to hurt the credibility of their plaintive cries of “self determination!”

          1. That sounds like a very uneven application of philosophy to me.

          2. So… You are proposing ethnic cleansing because everybody was doing it in the past?

            1. I never suggested forcibly removing anyone, and fuck you for the misrepresentation. There exists currently a large nation composed predominantly of ethnic Russians. If living in such a state is an important goal for Russian Crimeans, they have the option to relocate there.

              I reject the idea that a majority of 50%+1 ? in what I’m sure would be an exceptionally free and fair vote under armed Russian occupation ? validates ethno-nationalist irredentism. But I guess fuck those Tatars and Ukrainians in Crimea who wouldn’t want to be annexed by Russia. Members of those groups (actually ethnically cleansed by Russians in the past) can just move to the rump Ukraine….

              1. .. Or they have an option to vote on what country they want to belong to. Or go independent. Having Russian troops pull back and letting international monitors in to certify the vote would be a good idea though.

                Tatars can demand their own state if they want to as well.

                1. ” they have an option to vote on what country they want to belong to”

                  “I reject the idea that a majority of 50%+1 … validates ethno-nationalist irredentism.”

                2. Russia’s on the verge of deporting the Tatars again, just like Stalin did. What makes you think Putin would respect their demands for their own state?

        2. Abolish all governments. They are criminal enterprises.

      2. Russophones

        You mean the vast majority of Ukrainians?

        1. Most Ukranians speak Ukranian as their first language.

          1. It’s actually split sort of 50-50, at least by land mass (perhaps the east is more populated than the west).

            1. No, only 24% of Ukrainians are native Russian speakers.

        2. You mean the vast majority of Ukrainians?

          Less than a quarter of Ukrainians are native Russian speakers. (If you were trying to be pedantic, “Russophone” can be used for native speakers alone).

    3. I hear directly from civilian residents in Crimea, and I can tell you, there’s no propagandizing necessary there.

      It’s too much to ask, but I really wish this would end careers in both government and media. I wanted that after the Syria thing, too, but of course it didn’t happen.

    4. The polls cited in a previous article gave public support at 41% in that region, so by all means, do hold a referendum. I’m serious. That seems close enough to let everyone campaign and say their part and hold a vote.

      1. That is what I would have done if I were President. I would have demanded a referendum. If Putin refused, it would take away any pretense of it being anything but a land grab. If he said yes and lost, he would be humiliated. If he said yes and won, the US could gracefully back down.

        1. They are planning to hold a referendum.In 10 days.

          Problem is it will difficult to hold an unbiased vote with Russian troops patrolling the streets and no international monitors.

    5. AND that there would still eb plenty of ethnic Ukrainians in Crimea who don’t want to rejoin Russia.

      What complicates any moving of the boundaries is that is not 100% either way on whatever side of the border, only mixes. What if southern California wanted to rejoin Mexico? A majority may one day be in favor, but what of the Anglos living in LA who don’t want to be ruled from Mexico City? Are we going to resort to mass forced deportations, such as occurred after WWII, to get everyone on “their” side of the border?

    6. The election just confirmed that,but if the Ukes leave,they won’t have anyone to rule…or be able to cope with it.

  3. 4. It is possible to believe it’s bad that Russia’s sticking its snout into its neighbor’s affairs and that it would be dumb for the U.S. to intervene to stop it.

    Not if you see America as the World’s Policeman.

    1. But sarc why can’t you see that our freedom is entirely dependent upon dropping bombs on everyone that dares defy us!?


      1. Well it clearly can’t be, since both France and Congress remain unbombed.

        1. Well it clearly can’t be, since both France and Congress remain unbombed.

          Hah! That’s just evidence supporting my “argument!”

          1. You dropped character! Put the strawman suit back on.

    2. What the United States is in this context is Europe’s agent. Like a sports/entertainment agent.

      “Look, Russia, my client is a major star. Major. Popular across all demographics. You either pay through the nose to show your respect, or my client will take his services elsewhere. And he wants Brazilian/Japanese virgin whores and bourbon from the Himalayas in the green room.”

      1. “What the United States is in this context is Europe’s agent. Like a sports/entertainment agent.”

        Except we PAY for the privilege.

        1. When you’re dealing with A-listers like Europe, sometimes you’ve got to pay for the privilege. Europe is so hot right now.

          1. Not to me. Looks like a run-down hag left over from the ’50s.

            1. But it’s got name recognition!

            2. Europe is very in and has been featured in some huge films.

  4. Is Jesse’s list not common knowledge already? If not, is there really any good reason to elaborate anyways?

    1. Is Jesse’s list not common knowledge already?

      Not really. There’s a lot of guilt by association accusations being tossed around along with the imperialist “sphere of influence” arguments in order to justify Russian aggression. You might think Ukrainians were just born to lick boots.

      1. Yeah, number three seems to be getting the most flak.

  5. Point to Jesse.

    There is no sense in which expressing any of the above positions requires fidelity to some other position being staked out in this crisis — and no reason for non-interventionists to spew Russian apologia which they would find unsupportable as it applies to the US.

    1. Father in law and I had this discussion. It was pretty short: Basically, “Hey, see what happened in ukraine?” “Yeah, sucks for them but still none of our business.”

    2. That is just it IMT. Some of the people who don’t want the US to intervene in something do so because they don’t think it is in the US’s interests. But there are always other people who don’t want the US to intervene because they are on the other side.

      The first group often doesn’t understand that the second group even exists much less the need to distance themselves from it.

      1. Right, exactly — it amazed me that some Reason commenters thought basing rights in another sovereign country might be an appropriate rationale for invasion. Even most interventionists (myself included) are not so daring when it comes to justifying military occupation.

        1. The US would use that rationale at the drop of a hat.

          1. No, it wouldn’t. Turkey and plenty of other countries have denied us basing rights without an invasion on our part.

            I am not a superfan of post-Cold War US foreign policy, but that is just plain nonsense.

      2. “The first group often doesn’t understand that the second group even exists much less the need to distance themselves from it.”

        pretty easy to stay clear of it when you have the mandalay road guy staking out the tu quoque position.

        1. Thanks for the honorable mention. Have a nice day f— Wit.

      3. To your point = Richman seems to think that every US action since the fall of the Soviet Union was all so much ‘justification’ fodder for the current Russian military adventurism.

        You’d think he’d just try and stick with his ideological position that “non-intervention is best because of some inherent long term basis for international relations”… but instead he has to go full-retard into giving the Russkies a pass to do ‘whatever’ because, what? NATO didn’t *dissolve*? Because ‘free trade with former Soviet states?’

        I personally think that’s a pretty shitty sales-pitch for the whole Libertarian FP program.

  6. I second the Alt-text.

    What’s wrong with being a “The”? It implies pre-eminenece or uniqueness from where I sit.

    1. *narrows gaze*

      And I suppose you are one of those who say “THE Ohio State University”…

      1. I don’t recognize any entity called a “State University”

      2. The Palouse.

      3. There are seemingly unexplainable instances of this. In German, Switzerland is formally “Die Schweiz” Turkey is “Die Turkei” but France is only “Frankreich”, mysteriously bereft of a direct article as are most other countries.

    2. The Uganda


    1. But I thought you needed to keep Ukraine to get those extra armies at the beginning of your turn?!


  8. Anyone who sees shit like what’s happening in Ukraine as “our” business needs to shut the fuck up or start paying and physically intervening themselves.

    1. I really want to see some dumbass from congress go over there to physically intervene himself, only to be rolled over by a russian tank. That would really make my life.

      1. I think Leo Ryan’s death made Congresspeople nice and wary about physically intervening in anything, no matter how small. No, it’s better to send others to die in your place.

        1. The gunmen riddled Congressman Ryan’s body with bullets before shooting him in the face.

          I laughed. Such a fitting end for people that refuse to mind their own business.

          1. Ryan was trying to rescue people from Uim Jones. Jim Jones was a Communist fanatic who was in effect holding his “followers” prisoner – a fanatic who proved to be a *murderous* fanatic. The accounts I’ve read showed that Jones acted so leaving the compound wasn’t an option.

            Why not save your scorn for those politicians who *supported* Jones, not the heroic politician who tried to stand up to a Commie thug and lost his life in the attempt?

    2. To be fair, for some people it really is their business. As in their business involves trade with the Ukraine that must pass hrough the Black Sea.

      For instance, my company must import certain products that are Ukranian in origin. We need to get those products through customs. Life will be difficult if we’re at war with Russia, or if Russia invades Ukraine and destroys the factory that produces them.

      1. OK, then have your company hire a mercenary group to go protect the factory. Also, you use the word “must import”. I didn’t realize the import/export business worked on “must”, as opposed to “likes to” or “wants to”.

        Your company’s problem is your company’s problem, not mine or anyone else’s.

        1. Fair enough but there might be a lot of people who have similar interests in NOT having an expansionist Russia nibbling off bits of other countries and generally forcing everyone else to spend a lot more money on defense.

          Again, not that I think we should intervene militarily. I think that we need to make Russia pay for what it did so it’s not tempted to do it again, or to get hungrey for more.

          1. Or did you mean “get Hungary for more”?

          2. Fair enough but there might be a lot of people who have similar interests in NOT having an expansionist Russia nibbling off bits of other countries and generally forcing everyone else to spend a lot more money on defense.

            You’re just an anti-Transdnistrian bigot. Russia has nobly assumed the mantle to defend these proud persecuted people, and their nation is internationally recognized by upwards of one country.

  9. Putin is doing in Crimea what Hitler did in Poland and Czechoslovakia under the guise of saving the “volksdeutsch”. This is definitely not good for Ukraine, but what can America do other than arming Ukraine to the teeth? And arming Ukraine would piss off Russia the way the America was pissed off when the Soviets put missiles in Cuba.

    A direct military intervention with Russia is just out of the question, unless Congress (or Obama via Kinetic Military Action) really wants a fight to stop Russian expansionism.

    Ukraine is screwed either way.

    1. See above:
      I suggest the Euros figure out that they need a defense and a way to live without Russian gas and oil.
      And I suggest we re-enforce those notions by bringing our troops back from Europe right about now.

      1. I agree that this is definitely not America’s problem. What I’m saying is that even if America gets involved, there are no good choices. The real victim is Ukraine, but there is plenty of historical evidence of statistically superlative countries fucking over the smaller ones.

    2. but what can America do other than arming Ukraine to the teeth?

      There’s a whole array of sanctions that have been discussed.

      Plus, it seems inevitable that we will support the new Ukranian government, and will push to get them into the EU. So there is that.

      We could put them up for NATO membership too. To ensure that Russia wouldn’t dare go any further.

      1. Sanctions are immoral. They only hurt the weak and the powerless and never really hurt the people in charge of affairs in whatever country we decide to sanction.

        You wanna talk about shooting Putin, then I think we could have a rational conversation.

  10. I keep harping on this, but it really is true:

    Every time great powers broker a deal in exchange for a regional power abandoning its nukes and renege on it, it makes pursuing a nuclear program more worthwhile. Can’t say that’s inherently a bad thing, but it only takes one misunderstanding for MAD to break down — and every nuclear-armed participant makes the chance of a critical misunderstanding that much more likely.

    Interesting times…

  11. They signed exploration deals with Chevron and Shell. Do private Ukrainians not own the resource rights on their land?

    Gazprom charges them $250 per 1,000 cubic meters. Natural gas is about $5 per thousand cubic feet here. So… google google… 1 cubic meter equals 35.3 cubic feet… Ukrainians pay ~42% more for natural gas than we do.

    1. Mineral/resource rights are not necessarily tied to land ownership.

  12. I wonder how long it’ll take before a million-strong armed mob pulls an Il Duce on Putin.

    1. Unfortunately, I do not see this happening.

    2. It’s the Red Army that really has the power & any general could decide he doesn’t want to kill his own people.

  13. Oh yeah? Here’s a fifth concept. There are lots of politicians with throbbing war boners, lots of defense contractors who want to preserve big fat contracts, and lots of Americans who have an economic stake in keeping the defense pork barrel filled to the brim. Plus, HURR DURR RUSSIA COMMIES MUNICH APPEASEMENT PUTINHITLER.


      I though Hillary! was walking this back?

  14. I’d offer that these are not “4 concepts” at all but just 1 (#4)

    …. with the other 3 being so much window dressing/prevaricating about the reasons “WHY #4.”

    I’d also offer that a person might argue that NOTHING in 1-3 really even matters that much.

    What matters is simply #4, and making a reasoned argument *why* “it would be dumb to try and stop it”

    And the follow-up question from those given reasons would be = What then, is the ‘smart’ thing to do? And what does ‘smart’ even mean, since we’re using the term ‘dumb’ now?

    All we got so far from Sheldon ‘Stop Doing Things’ Richman is that results of inaction are meaningless = what is important is that results from actions have possible negative consequences, and are therefore bad.

    1. Precautionary principle writ large.

      1. The thing we will most certainly NOT hear from anyone – Walker, Richman, or anyone else with these *deep insights* into foreign affairs – is any definition of what “Dumb” or “Smart” actually means beyond ‘consistency (or not) with a default non-intervention position’…. regardless of whether this position can/should/would produce any desired results or outcomes.

        There probably IS a very good argument for ‘non-intervention’ in the current situation based on a realpolitik notion of what serves our interests best.

        No one will ever make that argument here. instead, we will repeatedly see any convenient details they can find draped on top of the foregone conclusion of ‘non-tervention’, all pretending that reality serves to reinforce the inherent wisdom of their premise. When necessary, they will alter reality somewhat to continue to maintain their position. if the protesters were not Nazi-ish-enough last week, they will certainly become so when the Russians start executing Ukrainian opposition leaders, and working toward a forced concession of Eastern Provinces on top of the recent annexation of the Crimea.

  15. It’s also possible to believe all of the above AND that if Russia doesn’t pay a price for intervening that it will embolden Russian revanchists and make the world a more dangerous place for everyone.

    1. “It’s also possible to believe all of the above AND that if Russia doesn’t pay a price for intervening that it will embolden Russian revanchists and make the world a more dangerous place for everyone.”

      And the Ukranians and the Euros should definitely take whatever action they see fit.

      1. There are things we can do to help them with that.

        1. We could send in advisors.

        2. Have at it, leave me out of it.
          Not my problem.

  16. This just in: Putin claims he doesn’t know how those troops got there. Claims they’re not his.

    Dude’s ballsy in a kind of evil genius way.

  17. Let’s stop putting pins in Rattlesnakes.

  18. His Obamaness just said: If Russia continues to violate international law, the US and its allies will remain firm.

    1. Ran that through the ol’ semantic analysis and came up with the empty set.

      1. ‘International law’ =

        “Whatever any group of nations agree it is and are willing to collectively use force to enforce it… and its only valid as long as they all agree about it, and agree to pay the costs of enforcement.

        Whenever they stop agreeing, they usually change the definitions for a period of time and look the other way.”

        Hasn’t someone been moaning about how the State of Israel isn’t like, LEGAL or something for the last 60+ years? International Law is mostly a crock of shit. Any good diplomat knows this. The rest work for the UN.

  19. What’s up with the Crimean parliament voting unanimously to join the Russian Federation?

    1. The situation is… fragile.

    2. The Southern states voted to rejoin the Union, too. A vote is not legitimate when there is an invading army outside the building.

    3. Parliament was inspired by the unmarked Russian infantry soldiers surrounding their building to determine that their nationalist sympathies were insufficient to guarantee their getting home at the end of the day.

      1. It was a nice touch to emphasize that the referendum has no bearing on Crimea joining Russia, but that it will merely confirm a decision that has already been made.

        “You can paint your room any color you want, so long as it’s blue.”

  20. The Ukraine? Oh, the Ukraine will be gone in just a few seconds.

    [Bugs stops suddenly with a shock and comes back to Putin, who is trying to light the fuse of the space modulator]
    Bugs: Eh, pardon me again, Vlad, but, uh, just what did you mean by that crack about the Ukraine being gone?
    Putin: Oh, I’m going to blow it up; it obstructs my view of the Crimea.

    1. I was expecting a Dnieper-shattering kaboom!?

  21. John Kerry: We cannot allow Russia or any country to defy international law with impunity.

    1. It’s not like he’s Obama, ignoring shit and doing whatever he feels.

    2. We’ll cut off their ketchup imports. That’ll fix’m.

  22. kaliningrad blockade!

  23. The Pentagon says six US F-15 jets and 60 US military personnel have now arrived in Lithuania to bolster air patrols over the Baltics, Associated Press reports. This adds to the four F-15s and 150 troops that are already patrolling in the area.

  24. Nothing going on in the Ukraine/Crimea changes the fact that the US is a broke-ass socialist failure of a government that can’t do jack shit about what other nations do anymore (a la the USSR circa 1978).

  25. We should stay far away from this fray. Putin may find Crimea hard to digest & isolating him even further is the best we can expect.

  26. I’m glad to see Walker’s not condoning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, unlike Ron Paul. However, many of these hypothetical possibilities are wildly contrary to the facts of reality. E.g., that most Crimeans would rather be part of Russia than Ukraine:…..t-adviser/

    Or that the Russian mafioso Putin just installed as his puppet in Crimea is somehow some sort of authentic expression of the Crimeans’ wish for “freedom.”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.