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Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Quiz for President Obama: What Did Ukraine Contribute to U.S. Security?

That last aspect of Paul's character — a sense of empathy — is one that I find myself appreciating more and more as I get older. It is at the heart of my moral code, and it is how I understand the Golden Rule — not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.
—Barack Obama The Audacity of Hope

After watching President Obama’s “Chicken Kiev 2” speech, I wonder how much he knows about my country and its contribution to U.S. security.
Does he remember his visit to Ukraine in 2005?

So I decided to put together a short quiz.

1. How many warheads and delivery vehicles did Ukraine give up when disarmed by Washington in the mid ‘90s?

Ukraine? Oh, you mean the Ukraine?

B. The Ukraine, uh, sorry, Ukraine, had nukes? Are you serious?
Come on! Ukraine had simply inherited those nukes from the Soviet Union!

Ukraine sacrificed the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal (176+24 MIRVed ICBMs+600 ALCMs+≈3,000 tactical nukes≈5,000 warheads), much of it produced by Ukraine’s industry, labor and environment.

2. What did Ukraine get in return?

Ukraine is as prosperous and secure as its neighbors Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (NATO and EU members).

The Kuchma family made an overnight billion-dollar fortune and donated $5M to the Clinton Foundation.

Ukraine is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with a GDP per capita of $6K (PPP).

Sweet harvest”+“change we can believe in.

E. Both B, C and D are correct.

3. What did Ukraine get in exchange for walking out on a $50M deal for the supply of nuclear power plant turbines to the Iranian reactor in Bushehr in 1998?

A. In Bush what?
Don’t push it!

How can you be so ungrateful after all the aid we’ve provided you with? We hired our best consultants and paid them our best rates!

Nothing. Losers like you deserve nothing.

4. How much aid did Ukraine receive from the U.S. to process 5,000 tons of highly toxic rocket fuel from its scrapped nuclear arsenal?

Some personnel training+$30M+some “open burning” and “detonation” advice from Thiokol Corporation.

Once you scrapped those missiles and stopped being a threat to us, it’s your problem.

C. Don’t ever mention it again!
D. OK, we’ll probably give you some more money, but only if you beg.
E. Both A, B, and C are correct.

5. How many troops did Ukraine contribute to the coalition forces in Iraq and how many of them died?

Let’s change the subject.

1,650 at peak (deployed 08/03, withdrawn 12/08), 28 dead.

Russia contributed more.

The war in Iraq was the wrong thing to do in the first place, so STFU!

6. How many times did the U.S. Air Force use Ukrainian airspace during 10/9/01-03/24/03 alone?



Russia will allow us 4,000 overflights per year (savings of $133M) and will have the right to inspect them.

You’re a neocon puppet!

E. Both A and C are correct.

7. Mr. President, can you reciprocate Ukraine by treating our security on its own merits, not on the merits of your relations with Russia?

Yes, I can.

No, I can’t.

C. I don’t know.
Putin knows best.

Thank you!


elmer said...

One more question:

Putin currently holds what title and office in Russia:

A. President
B. Prime Minister
C. Eternal Dictator
D. All of the above
E. None of the above

(Note and hint: Obama recently called Putin the "president" of Russia)

Oh, one more:

How much has Russia contributed to the security of the US?

A. Russia gave up all of its nuclear weapons
B. Russia sells nuclear materials around the world, including sales to Iran
C. Russia tried to get a US military base kicked out of one of those "stan" countries, and the US wound up paying 3 times more in rent
D. Oh, come on, Pepsi sells lots of stuff in Russia
E. None of the above
F. Some of the above
G. All of the above

Anonymous said...

Ukraine was disarmed by Washington? I think that many Americans believe both sides agreed to reduce their stockpiles, and the US helped pay for the cleanup in the former Soviet Union (the former Soviet Union didn't help pay for the cleanup in the USA). Both sides benefited by having a more secure world. Resources previously used to maintain unproductive warheads, etc, could be diverted into productive parts of the economy of both nations. Research into computer hardware and software for example. You're looking at it.

If I'm not mistaken, you were 10-12 years old in 1991? Winston Churchill said that history is the long shadow of one man. Philosophers mostly agree that the past cannot be known.

'Presentism is a mode of historical analysis in which present-day ideas and perspectives are anachronistically introduced into depictions or interpretations of the past. Some modern historians seek to avoid presentism in their work because they believe it creates a distorted understanding of their subject matter.'

DLW said...

preach it Brother!

I think the EU's gonna be doing more for Ukraine than the US in the near-run, geopolitically-speaking, but improved US-Russia relations, are probably a net positive for Ukraine/Georgia, as Russia cannot heave-ho against Ukraine as it did in 2004 and expect it not to hurt things or not to evoke a more Iranian-like response...


DLW said...

There's nothing presentist to look at the facts from a Ukrainian perspective. Taras and Elmer have the right to be upset about Obama kowtowing to Russia at the expense of expediting reforms in Ukraine.

It's really a damn shame, although I think it's for the best so long as more Ukrainians find some more fire in their belly( from something besides vodka...).


Taras said...


Thank you for the bonus questions! I hope some curious souls from the Obama administration will sneak a peek at our quiz.


Yes, Ukraine was disarmed by Washington, and not the other way around. Under this arrangement, the U.S. gained both economically and militarily while Ukraine lost on both counts.

Unlike the U.S. and Russia, Ukraine lost its nuclear deterrent entirely. Unlike the U.S., Ukraine gained neither the peace dividend nor any security dividends.

I don’t think many Americans can locate Ukraine on the map, much less relate to what Ukraine went through in the ‘90s. Only those Americans who had gone through the Great Depression can relate to our roaring ‘90s.

I was 11 when President George H.W. Bush came to Kyiv in August 1991 to deliver his “Chicken Kiev” speech. Three weeks later, Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

I was 15 when President Clinton came to Kyiv in May 1995 to cheerleader for our President Kuchma. Clinton told us that, “‘The toil is bitter but the harvest is sweet,’ as the old proverb says.” “In the pursuit of peace and prosperity, you have been well-served by President Kuchma and his government’s bold and farsighted leadership,” he added.

For Kuchma, who kowtowed to Clinton, scrapped the nukes, armed himself with IMF loans and then pillaged Ukraine, the harvest was indeed sweet. But not for me. Not for millions of my fellow Ukrainians who work for subsistence wages and can’t buy their own homes.

You’re right: The ifs of the past cannot be known. It is the whys of the present that can and should be known. And speaking of the present, we Ukrainians have neither the “harvest” nor the nukes. We’re disarmed and disowned. Why?

Now imagine an America without a nuclear deterrent and with a per capita GDP of $6K. If that’s something America — or any other Western country, for that matter — wants to gain, be my guest.


You’re being too optimistic about the EU. Unless it’s gas, the EU, in general, couldn't care less.

Germany and France, the Russian lobby, carry more weight in the EU than friends of Ukraine, such as Poland, Sweden and the Baltics. That said, Sweden’s presidency of the EU during the next six months may bring about some positive changes.

Improvements in US-Russia relations would be positive for Ukraine if they improved our security. Lip service aside, no such improvements appear to be likely.

The only thing that’s left is the Golden Rule.

DLW said...

I'd say I'd hope for connections w european groups to support reforms in Ukraine.

As for the US and Russia, I think the impact of the crisis on Russia's oil/gas revenue is significant. This makes them a little less cocky.

I also think that the Obama effect will be apparent in Russia, inasmuch as the mere fact of Obama being able to get elected Prez of the US manifests the power of a real democracy, one capable of countering the all too human tendency to slide into kleptocracy.

And will there be an Iran effect? Those in power need to be more cautious in how they manage elections, no doubt, and there'll hopefully be more support from the over-developed world for elections monitoring in the under-developed world.

Taras said...

As long as people like Bernie Madoff get 150 years, your slide into kleptocracy will be far from certain.

DLW said...

If the whole controversy over the gay congressman from florida's affair with an intern hadn't broken in 2006 right before the elections then it wd have been harder for the Dems to retake the House of Reps. To say nothing of the lucky breaks they got when Bush spent too much of his windfall political capital in 2005 on dead-ender activism issues, while news on how they had $pun away the ugly truth on Iraq started to leak out.

The US got lucky, to tell you the truth. If they hadn't used proportional election rules for the Dem primaries or if Hillary Clinton's team had figured out what that entails then Obama wd never have become president. (Never mind that Obama's success in the primary for becoming senator was in part also due to the campaign finance reform championed by McCain. A well-heeled opponent got disqualified by the CFR laws.)

IDK how much of a diff that's making relative to the counterfactual, but I'm 100% the slide to kleptocracy could have easily continued, but for the grace of God. So I'm hoping some of that spills over into Ukraine...
And that Ukraine (and the rest of the world) experiences the sort of grace that gets'em out of their rut and on track to dealing w the many serious issues facing our world today.

Lingüista said...

Taras, I've just read Richard Pipes' op-ed article at the Moscow Times about "Russian Culture" where, among other things, he argues that Russian sensitivities concerning the post-Soviet space, though wrong, are there (let's say as a part of Russian culture), and must not be ignored lest we may cause an unwanted reaction (he fears that the Kremlin might be instigated as far as military intervention if Ukraine ever joins NATO). I wondered what you'd think about his article.

elmer said...

Amid this flurry of activity, the EU is taking its ability to influence events in Eastern Europe for granted. That's a mistake. The EU expansions in 2004 and 2007 have actually managed to push the farther Eastern region further away. On a practical level, for instance, visas are now needed to travel from the region to new EU members like Poland or Hungary.

EU expansion has also created less tangible problems for the EU. People in corrupt and divided Ukraine, which sees the offer of EU membership recede over the horizon, ask how their country is so different from corrupt and divided Romania, which has been welcomed into the EU fold. Recent polls in Ukraine, the "linchpin" state in the region, show 42% of the population in favor of integration with Russia, as opposed to 34% with the EU. The local states are weak and are either unable or unwilling to adopt the EU's massive rule-book, which is necessary even to be considered for EU membership. Only in tiny Moldova is opinion solidly in favor of the EU.

The picture is not all bad. The practical benefits of the common market are pulling new member states closer to the West economically. As for the nonmembers in the region, five of the six -- Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan -- now trade more with the EU than they do with Russia; Belarus, the sixth, is the exception.

Taras said...


Having read the article, I can describe Richard Pipes as an anti-Brzezinski:) It’s interesting to read an appeasement article from a renowned Polish-born Sovietologist who draws the line (or should we call it the Putin Curtain) on Poland’s eastern border.

Apparently, this view runs counter to Lech Walesa’s.

For the record, Russia did not intervene militarily in any of the Baltic states when they joined NATO in 2004.

That’s despite Latvia and Estonia having a higher proportion of ethnic Russians and being much easier to annex (compared to Ukraine).


Where did they get their poll numbers from?

According to this January 2008 poll, 64% of Ukrainian respondents supported joining the EU.

Conversely, according to that January 2007 poll, 55% of EU respondents supported accepting Ukraine into the EU.

Lingüista said...

Taras, I suppose they'll always want to draw a line somewhere... since the two-spheres-of-influence world needs it :-).

But leaving jokes aside, I wonder. The appeasement argument here would be: well, Russia hasn't done anything yet about countries that entered NATO, but that doesn't mean it won't in the future. Russia can take only so many blows. Yes, there may be proportionally more Russians in Latvia than in Ukraine, but in absolute numbers Ukraine has more Russians, from the populous Donetsk Oblast (where Ukrainian-speaking schools can't be opened anymore, I've been told) to "Khrushchev's present" Crimea. Also, the "historical links" between Russia and Ukraine are older and deeper than those between Russia and Latvia -- no "East Slavic Unity" ideology could encompass the non-Slavic Latvians.

So: would Russia really react if Ukraine were ever to become part of NATO? My guess: she would spend all the money she could to make sure there would be popular anti-NATO movements in the country, perhaps also, say, to try to get at least Crimea and Donetsk Oblast to secede. To create internal turmoil and confusion in Ukraine. And she might succeed. (Unless, of course, Russia has to face serious internal problems of her own -- which might happen.)

Would it be worth it? Are the more patriotic Ukrainians willing to fight this fight? Especially in these days of economic crisis? Maybe.

All in all, I end up agreeing that it will be better for Ukraine to belong to NATO. But man, if you ever get there, what a ride it will be!...

Taras said...

To assume that nobody would fight Russian irredentism in eastern Ukraine is a recipe for a bloodbath.

The Ukrainian military is not staffed on a regional basis. It would be insanely naïve to rely on ethnic Russians and Russified Ukrainians as the fifth column that would help “get the job done” without resistance.

Besides, I proceed from the notion that Ukraine’s accession into NATO cannot be a legal basis for any preventive action unless Ukraine threatens Russia’s security by

(1) deploying offensive weapons and/or by
(2) offering its territory for aggression against Russia.

Kyiv has repeatedly stated that Ukraine’s accession into NATO — if approved by NATO and in a nationwide Ukrainian referendum — contains no such designs. Kyiv has never sought NATO membership to create a military buildup and to set up NATO military bases on Ukrainian territory.

To date, the only foreign military base on Ukrainian territory is that of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. The RBSF routinely violates Ukrainian laws, buoyed by Moscow’s unwillingness to withdraw from Sevastopol once the lease agreement expires in 2017.

All of which suggests that to deter aggression, Ukraine has two options:

(1) join NATO or
(2) renuclearize.

The second option, while extremely costly and ironic, appears to be the more reliable one — and the more popular one, too.