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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Poll: 70% of Europeans, 68% of Americans Favor Providing Security Assistance to Ukraine, Georgia

That's what Transatlantic Trends says, a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States ( and the Compagnia di San Paolo ( with additional support from Fundação Luso-Americana (, Fundación BBVA (, and the Tipping Point Foundation.

In 2009, seven-in-ten Europeans (70%) favor the European Union providing security assistance for emerging democracies such as Ukraine and Georgia. And a majority of Americans (68%) back Washington taking similar action. Strong majorities of NATO members (62%) and Americans (66%) favor NATO providing such assistance.

As a Ukrainian, I'm flattered but not at all placated.

Whatever the accuracy of the poll data, I consider such assistance unrealistic and unreliable. I take my cues from Moscow-first policies pursued in Washington and Berlin.

In the real world, Ukraine has only itself to rely on. And there's only one way Ukraine can deter aggression: renuclearize.

Faced with superior conventional forces on its northeastern border, Ukraine should build survivable nuclear forces capable of inflicting unacceptable damage in retaliation. If Pakistan can do it, so can Ukraine.

This would cost a lot of money but would save a lot of lives, on both sides.



alan said...

I believe you are correct in this statement, but can Ukraine politic's pull together to agree about it? The differant factions their seem not to be able to agree on anything. I pray they do some day and make a great country, Ukraine.

Sublime Oblivion said...

I think trying to re-nuclearize is a stupid idea for the Ukrainian nationalist.

1) The US and Europe will definitively drift away due to the can of worms you open up for them (especially pertinent to the Iran issue).

2) Russia will easily be able to present Ukraine as a rogue state so hellbent in its Russophobia as to endanger world security. It might even carry out a pre-emptive strike on developing Ukrainian nuclear assets (and will be able to justify doing so if this is preceded by an Israeli or US strike on Iran, which is entirely realistic).

3) You say its costly. Indeed it is. Where will the money come from? Especially given a) the other spending needs Ukraine has, b) its near-insolvency and c) spending money on nukes leaves less on countering Russia's moves to acquire more influence in Ukraine.

4) So you have a few nukes after a few years and a tens of billions of dollars. What next? Then you need to somehow make the force sufficiently large and diverse as to be survivable from a Russian first strike (if Russia was going to invade Ukraine, it's nuclear forces would be first to be targeted). Now unless you want to return Ukraine to Soviet-era levels of spending on defense, I do not see how you could accomplish this.

5) I understand that you mean to have this nuclear force only as a deterrent. The problem is that it will not be credible.

Even if Russia wickedly invades Ukraine in a Sauron-like manner, what choices would a Ukrainian President have (assuming there was no Russian first strike, or that some Ukrainian nuclear forces survived it). a) launch a few nuke-tipped missiles, many of which will probably be destroyed by Russian AA's, and suffer massive retaliation and be forever condemned in history by Ukrainians and Russians alike, or b) realize that resistance is futile, get some cameras to videotape weeping grandmas in Lviv, fly off to a comfortable life in London with lots of cash and use it to buy PR companies to talk about how bad Russia is.

The flip side is, of course, that a Ukrainian re-nuclearization would, I hazard to guess, be greeted with joy by Russian nationalists.

Sublime Oblivion said...

PS. Re-Pakistan. India is currently developing ABM systems that will probably make Pakistan's rather primitive nuclear forces obsolete within the decade. Pakistan does not have the resources to keep up.

One could argue the situation would be rather similar if Ukraine decides to re-nuclearize, but if anything even more lop-sided.

Ropi said...

Well, I don't think that being in NATO is life insurance for Hungary. We have been betrayed by the Western countries. We have a radical right wing party which wants to confront EU if it is against Hungarian interests and want to build closer relations with former USSR countries but I wouldn't vote for them. However I wouldn't give nuclear weapons for my country leaders. :P

Pawlina said...

You're wise not to get your hopes up re western support. Ukraine has to become self-reliant and wield its own "big stick."

If any people can do it, tho, the Ukrainians can. Even under extremely adverse conditions over the centuries, the brilliance and ingenuity of Ukrainians has managed, somehow, to survive. Of course fending off attacks from all sides makes survival about all that's possible.

May I say that, although you can't count on western governments or even all diaspora establishments, there is a lot of support from individual diasporans. It may be time to dust off and polish up that old slogan "Razom nas bahato." :-)

elmer said...

Taras - as Yushchenko has pointed out, Ukraine has a very bad habit of losing its independence.

Why? Because Ukrainians can't seem to organize themselves. True, history has played a part in that - you know the history very well.

But there has always someone who is willing to sell out Ukraine for money or some other reason.

As this article in the Washington Post points out, I would be more afraid of Tymoshenko or Yanukovych selling out than of not having nukes.

Does Ukraine truly have a political party reflective of the people? Hell, no.

It's all oligarchs and political machines, and the people are stupid enough to vote for the same old crooked "Ivan Ivanovich," as Yatseniuk has pointed out.

Of course, it did not help that Yushchenko screwed the pooch on the Orange Revolution, and that Tymo and he decided to fling poo and pee all over each other.

Ukraine can have a nuclear meltdown all by itself - as has been the current situation - without nukes.

The Party of Regions has been blocking the rostrum in Parliament for 2 years now.

Courtesy of Lytvyn, they lose 1 day's pay. Oh, flog me with that spaghetti!

There is a physical, all-out war, going on now - for a take-over of a cognac factory!

This is not the only instance of brutal take-overs in Ukraine.

What does that tell you about Ukraine?

As noted in Yushchenko's interview in Der Speigel, the words "banana republic" come to mind.

Because all the selepky just shrug their shoulders, and fold their hands.

It shouldn't have to be like this.

No thanks to Akhmetov, or Yanukovych, or Kolomoisky, or Pinchuk, or Firtash, or Taruta, or Hajduk, or Mogilevych, etc., etc., etc.

Julia Mostovaya, deputy editor of Kiev’s most independent newspaper, Zerkalo Nedeli, said Yushchenko’s failure to pursue further democratic reforms after the Orange Revolution has left Ukraine vulnerable to Russian influence.

“It’s a very dangerous situation now,” she said. “We have two leading candidates without principles, and Russia has leverage to influence both.”

Taras said...


Thank you! Unity is indeed in short supply in Ukraine.

Sublime Oblivion,

A bear may crush a porcupine, but it will never swallow it, right?

That's the deterrence model Ukraine can and should have — a highly credible one.

Unlike India or Pakistan, Ukraine doesn't have to start from scratch. Ukraine has rich uranium deposits, three operational nuclear power plants and a factory that built the deadliest Soviet ICBMs.

As of today, Russia's most reliable land-based ICBM, guaranteed to penetrate U.S. missile defense, is the SS-18 “Satan.” That missile was designed and manufactured in Ukraine (and is serviced by Ukraine, too).

So, 100 Ukrainian nukes — placed on mobile launchers — and the Kremlin will think twice. Our oligarchs can move to Moscow or New York and take Yanukovych and Tymoshenko with them. Most Ukrainians would approve.

If I were president of Ukraine, I'd take my chances. I’d tell Washington, Brussels and Moscow to mind their own business. You defend your country as you see fit. I defend my country as I see fit.

If Russia attacks Ukraine tomorrow, don’t expect me in London or Los Angeles. I’ll be one of the guys making sure the weeping goes 50/50. I’m not happy about this possibility. Are you?


NATO is a good insurance policy, as long as you have an independent Ukraine watching your back:)


The West, in general, doesn’t care — unless it’s something that can get the West in trouble. A Russian war against Ukraine can. Therefore, the West should know the stakes.

Indeed, Ukraine would benefit from closer relations with its diaspora, the way China benefits from strong relations with its diaspora. I’m with you on that one! Схід і Захід разом!:)

Lingüista said...

There are lots of Ukrainians in my native Brazil (some of which, I've been told, speak Ukrainian but not Russian -- curious situation).

All in all, I think I now agree with you, Taras; Ukraine might be safer if it renuclearized. I get the point that it would cost a lot less than Sublime Oblivion said (since Ukraine doesn't need more research; it already has the know-how and the resources). But there is the danger of being painted as a 'rogue state', some sort of European Iran, which is of course what Russia would try to do as soon as it got word of any Ukrainian nukes in preparation. (Oh, let's say this is 'further evidence of Nazi tendencies in Ukraine' or something like that.) Considering non-proliferation treaties and pretty much everybody's aversion at the thought of there being more nukes anywhere, I think there would be quite a lot of negative reactions, even from neutral observers. This has got to hurt in the long run.

So I guess the big question is: how likely do you think it is that there will actually be a "Russian threat" (say, invasion) if there are no deterrent nukes? Do you think the risk is sufficiently high to justify the criticism that Ukraine would probably get from even neutral observers? Wouldn't that harm future NATO/EU admission, for instance?

Sublime Oblivion said...

1. I'm aware Ukraine's nuclear infrastructure is far more advanced than a nation starting from scratch, but this does not change the fact that carrying through a program of this time would nonetheless be extremely expensive (especially relative to Ukraine's fiscal means). To make this politically realistic I suspect you either have to a) get a stable, rapidly growing market economy, or b) return to Soviet-style physical management where you can just "order" people to build guns. I don't see either happening soon.

2. The SS-18 is a silo-based missile featuring a single massive warhead designed to destroy the missile silos of North Dakota (I don't see how this toy would be of much use in helping Ukraine achieve its strategic objectives). The SS-18 is not designed to penetrate ABM as far as I know, that would be the Topol-M which is now being introduced and built at exclusively Russian facilities (at an unacceptably slow rate, one might add).

3. I support kicking the oligarchs out too. How would you propose doing that, however, given that Ukraine's government is run by and for oligarchs?

5. Your last paragraph makes you seem excessively Romantic or foolish. Many Ukrainians don't share you enthusiasm. While you heroically go to the front, there'll be plenty of compatriots stabbing you in the back, either for Russia's money or because they are more loyal to Russia than Ukraine. It is for this reason that I suspect any Russian-Ukrainian armed clash would resemble the war with Georgia, because what Kiev has in more weapons it lacks in morale and national unity.

I'm not happy about the possibility either. I would very much prefer Russian-Ukrainian integration to proceed in a peaceful and agreeable manner. However, there are some thresholds so endangering Russia's national security - e.g. joining NATO, acquiring nukes - that Russia should not accept them at any cost.

owen said...

Survivable? What do you think Russia and Ukraine will look like when you emerge from your concrete bunker?

Taras said...


Ukrainian Brazilians don't speak Russian because they escaped Russification.

Unlike Russia or Iran, Ukraine has never used the threat of force against any country. Ukraine gave up the world's third-largest nuclear arsenal and got insecurity in return. The EU and NATO will not protect Ukraine. Therefore, it's Ukraine's job to protect itself.

National security outweighs any sanctions that the international community, secure in its double standard, may impose on Ukraine.

Sublime Oblivion,

If you prefer Ukraine-Russia integration, why did you leave us? One is thing is clear to me: You can integrate Ukraine into Russia over my dead body.

As of January 2009, Russia had 68 SS-18s. Compared to the mobile SS-27, the SS-18 carries more warheads, decoys and penetration aides. We stop servicing the SS-18, and you have a big hole in your triad.

You're right about Ukraine's financial and unity problems. But doesn’t Russia have similar problems too? If you think that all it takes to solve Russia's problems is just a little air assault on Ukraine, or a softer version of it, you're dead wrong.

By the time Russia moves into eastern Ukraine — recruiting Pavlik Morozovs at the Donbas Arena — it will be bleeding militarily, financially and internationally. Why? Because the Kremlin didn’t have enough territory?

Demoralized societies tend to unite under the threat of aggression. Remember Operation Barbarossa? Powerful empires tend to disintegrate as a result of protracted unsuccessful military campaigns abroad. Remember the Soviet war in Afghanistan?

So here’s my advice to you: Love Russia. Leave Ukraine alone.


Survivable yes, winnable no.

In the language of deterrence, survivable simply means capable of retaliation. Of course, life would be scarce in Ukraine. Russia would probably be missing a few cities and its oil infrastructure.

That's the whole point. Nobody wins.

Sublime Oblivion said...

"In the language of deterrence, survivable simply means capable of retaliation. Of course, life would be scarce in Ukraine. Russia would probably be missing a few cities and its oil infrastructure."

And this is perhaps the best reason to make sure Ukraine never, ever, acquires nukes, should it decide to go down this avenue.

"If you prefer Ukraine-Russia integration, why did you leave us?"

Russia's didn't leave Ukraine any more than the Ukraine left Russia. A band of traitors and criminals surreptitiously agreed to dissolve the Union to unseat Gorbachev, in contravention of the wishes of the majority of Soviet people outside the Baltics, which were the sole exceptions.

"Demoralized societies tend to unite under the threat of aggression. Remember Operation Barbarossa?"

Some Soviet citizens welcomed the Germans with open arms until they realized they were far worse than Stalin. Would this apply to Ukraine? Just who would they consider the occupation regime? - NATO-supporting Yushenko with his 3% approval rating, or pro-Slavic, pro-Orthodox civilization Putin with his (60%?) approval rating in Ukraine?

owen said...

The strategy works up to the point where it doesn't work. And the problem is no-one knows when that may just happen. Ukrainian roulette? I certainly sympathise with Ukraine's situation but nuclear deterrence is a risky game - MAD as it used to be known in the Cold War days.

Taras said...

Sublime Oblivion,

Renuclearization would be the best reason why Russia should never ever mess with Ukraine.

By “why did you leave us,” I meant you personally. You're Russian and you live in America, right? Why in the world would you want Ukraine integrated into Russia? Would America be a safer place?

The Baltics weren't the sole exceptions. On December 1, 1991, 90.32% of Ukrainians who came to the polls said yes to Ukraine's independence.

Demoralized is the word that best describes Stalin and the pre-war impact of his regime.

At the outbreak of Operation Barbarossa, Stalin secluded himself for days. He then addressed the nation as “brothers and sisters” and courted the oppressed Orthodox Church in a bid to lift people's spirits. Meanwhile, willing to concede Ukraine, Belarus and parts of Russia, Stalin tried to approach Hitler through the Bulgarian ambassador in Moscow.

Since you mentioned Western Ukraine, let me remind you that it had not been part of the Soviet Union until 1939. It doesn't surprise me that after getting the full taste of Stalin's repressions many people there came to view Hitler as the lesser of two evils.

Besides, there's nothing unique about some Ukrainians fighting oh Hitler's side. France had the Vichy Regime, Norway had Quisling and so on.

Specifically, Russia had:

The Russian Liberation Army
The XVth Cossack Cavalry Corps (1st Cossack Cavalry Division+2nd Cossack Cavalry Division)
The 29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS RONA (1st Russian)
The 30th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Russian).


In Russia v. Ukraine, it would be Mutual Asymmetric Destruction: Russia suffers a major blow at home and wins nothing but scorched earth in Ukraine.

The same thing would probably happen in nuclear duels such as Russia v. France, Russia v. the UK, and Russia v. Israel. None of these three minor nuclear powers intends to denuclearize, unlike Ukraine, a major nuclear power forced into denuclearization in the 90s.

Deterrence is the reason why the Cold War never became a hot one.

Had the USSR not closed the window of Soviet vulnerability/US nuclear opportunity fast enough, Uncle Sam would have probably fried us.

Likewise, had Uncle Joe obtained the bomb first, he would have certainly canceled the baby boom.