Galbraith and Graham Urge Restraint in Ukraine
April 29, 2014 • 10:26AM

Peter W. Galbraith gave a good interview on America's Democrats April 27, regarding Ukraine/Russia. Introduced as an "expert on the Balkans," and Eastern European affairs, this former ambassador to Croatia (under Clinton) urged caution in Ukraine, dispelling many of the media's lies.

First, "Putin sees himself reversing a historic wrong," Galbraith said, "in which Crimea was assigned to Ukraine, rather than Russia." In addition, the Black Sea fleet is based there; and Putin wants to be player on international stage. In regard to the U.S. response, he said, the real world question is what is the alternative? "There is no possibility of using military force against Russia." Ratcheting up the sanctions has consequences, and we need Russia's support in much of the world: in Iran, Syria, even Afghanistan, both for supply and potential evacuation. The solution is not to pressure Russia.

There is no obligation on the part of the West to put up its own weapons to protect Ukraine. "We do not have a security relationship with Ukraine, it is not part of NATO." The U.S. should not be in the business of providing security guarantees or redrawing borders of former nations of the Soviet Union. The real question about action (in the world) is not "Do we feel better because we've done something?" But, "Will it be effective?"

Russia Expert Thomas Graham is against Sanctions; Calls for Cooperation with Russia

In an op-ed in yesterday's Financial Times, Thomas Graham, a director of Kissinger Associates and formerly George W. Bush's top National Security Council staffer for Russia, calls for cooperation with Russia over the Ukraine. Entitled, "Punishing an Aggressive Russia Is a Fool's Errand," Graham argues against sanctions, confrontation or containment against Russia, writing that neither the Europeans nor the American people has the stomach for it, "More importantly, containment will not serve America's interests."

He calls for approaching Russia with a mixture of "focused resistance" which is the strengthening of NATO commitment to eastern members, and "calculated accommodation." Russia's cooperation is necessary to rescue the Ukrainian economy and state, both of which are in collapse, a collapse that started before this crisis.

Graham writes, "This task cannot be accomplished without Moscow's co-operation. Russia supplies the bulk of Ukraine's oil and gas, it accounts for a third of Ukraine's trade, and unlike Europe provides a market for its manufactured goods. Historic ties, personal networks and ethnic identity give Russia considerable leverage over Ukraine's internal politics. Moreover, Moscow is prepared to spend vastly more than the U.S. and Europe to advance its goals in Ukraine because — unlike Western powers — it believes the country is vital to its security. For Ukraine to have a future, Russia's interests will have to be accommodated to some degree."

Graham calls for beginning negotiations with Russia for a solution based on "non-bloc status for Ukraine; decentralization of the country's political institutions; some kind of official status for the Russian language; and an economic package drawing on U.S., European and Russian resources."

In conclusion he writes, "The Ukraine that emerges will not be the Western-oriented one that Washington wants. Moscow will have significant influence. The struggle over Ukraine's geopolitical orientation will not end but it will take a back seat to political competition in Ukraine. That would not be a bad outcome."

Graham, a Russia expert, was senior director for Russia on the U.S. National Security Council staff from 2004-07.