Opposing Viewpoints: Ukraine, edited by Michael Ruth
In reading this book I became quickly aware of how biased I was as a reader. To be sure, the fact that I have a marked pro-Ukrainian bias as opposed to a pro-Russian one ought not to surprise anyone who has pondered what I have to say about imperialism in general. This book did a good job, I think, of balancing out various opinions between those who supported Russian territorial integrity and those who supported Russia’s intervention into Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The only problem is that the pro-Russian opinions just were not very convincing, as most of them seemed to imply that it was acceptable to have one kind of standard when it dealt with Ukrainian areas with different populations that did not seem to apply to Russian territories with ethnic minorities that might desire to be free of Russia just as much as the Crimea might be sensitive to Russian behavior. It seems baffling to suggest that Russian domination of Ukraine is natural while Ukraine’s possible preference for being a part of NATO and having free trade opportunities with Europe and the United States is somehow aggressive and provocative. One almost thinks that pro-Russian people think that the “Near Abroad” somehow still belongs to Russia after all.
This book is a short one at less than 200 pages and is divided into four chapters with quite a few essays and articles inside that split on for or against various options relating to Ukraine and what if anything the United States should do about it. The first chapter asks how the United States should manage the conflict in Ukraine, whether arming them or staying out of the conflict or intervening on the side of Ukraine. The second chapter contains five statements about whether the West should or should not intervene in Ukraine, including integration into NATO and the EU. The next part of the book examines the place that Russia has in Ukraine, about which my own opinions are strong and fierce. After that the book ends with six statements on how Ukraine should plan its future, whether to hold on to its contested regions or give them up or prosecute those committing war crimes on both sides or whether it should join NATO or take IMF money. The book ends with some sources, suggestions for further discussion, organizations to conduct, a bibliography of books, and an index.
In reading this book I was intrigued by the fact that the quality of what passes for international studies does not far exceed the ponderings of a reasonably serious blogger. There are only a few grounds that one can consider when one looks at the situation Ukraine finds itself in. Does Russia have any legitimate claim or influence on its neighbors or not? I think not. Does Ukraine have the same sort of right to rule over areas like Crimea which are part of its territory even if those populations have a majority Russian population? Does Russia have the right to rule over ethnic minorities like the Kalmyks, Karelians, and Chechnyans? I can understand there being prudential reasons why one would not want to offend Russia, but I can see no moral reasons why Russia would deserve to have some sort of control over who Ukraine would want to trade with and whether or not the Ukrainian people would rather be considered part of Western Europe or Eastern Europe or somewhere in between. Russia only has the right to the influence that Ukraine lets it have. Whether or not that is a lot or a little, is up to the people and government of Ukraine itself.