America’s apprehension over Europe and Ukraine

America’s apprehension over Europe and Ukraine

It is unclear why American policy-makers are so concerned about Europe but there are some pointers, writes Professor Dr Amatzia Baram from the University of Haifa, Israel.

Maybe this is because in the American institutional memory the Europeans started two world wars both of which sucked in America. This is a thing of the past but maybe still a cause for the American concern.

Be it as it may, the US is very reluctant to raise tensions with Russia over a major strategic issue like the Ukraine, while it has already established fairly comfortable arrangements with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin over the Middle East.

There is a lack of enthusiasm in Washington to support the anti-Russian protests in Ukraine. This can be explained by America’s wish to resolve the difficulties in Syria by having all Sunni foreign fighters withdrawn under Saudi and Emirates pressure while all Shi’i foreign fighters - Iranians, Iraqis and Lebanon’s Hezbollah - are withdrawn under Russian pressure.

All this requires fairly close cooperation and coordination between the US and Russia.

There is also another reason for America’s hesitation in supporting the ‘Ukraine Spring’ - the US is fully aware that the Black Sea is a Red Line for Russia. Russia’s main naval base in Sevastopol is home to the newly- created Russian Mediterranean Fleet. Tartus in Syria is its Mediterranean secure port of call, hence a direct connection between the crises in Syria and Ukraine.

The two super-powers also signed a security agreement in Budapest in 1994 guaranteeing Ukrainian sovereignty - no intervention in its internal affairs - in exchange for a Ukrainian commitment to dismantle all remaining nuclear weapons on their soil.

That could be why the Americans are unwilling to risk a confrontation with the Russians over Ukraine. They are trying to square the circle there but they do not trust the European Union to play it safe. Washington sees that the US may be sucked into such a confrontation through Nato. This may explain, in part, US Assistant Secretary of StateVictoria Nulands undiplomatic remark on the phone to the United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt.

Ms Nuland, the top US diplomat for Europe, said, ‘Fxxx the EU’ when suggesting the United Nations as the best option as a mediator in Ukraine during a private phone call on January 28, 2014.

The pessimists in Washington may recall that the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia took place following the Olympic Games and may be concerned that a repeat might take place in Ukraine following Sochi. It is more likely however that Mr Putin will not risk his relations with the West to such an extent. He must be aware that Georgia is not Ukraine.

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