Ukraine and the Abyss

A lot of the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons were stored in Ukraine. Thus when the USSR broke up, an independent Ukraine found itself with the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal. In the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine agreed to denuclearize — in return for a guarantee that its borders would be inviolate. This agreement was signed by the U.S. and Russia.

Russia now says, “That was then” — agreed by a different government — so no longer binding. That’s not how international agreements work. But even if there were no Budapest Memorandum, international law as commonly understood would still bar the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty committed by Russia.


That already happened in 2014 when Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine by military force, as well as instigating two regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, separating themselves from Ukraine. Later that year in the Minsk Accords, which Russia signed, it was agreed that those two regions would be accorded “special status” within Ukraine, though the nature of that status was left undefined.

Today Putin made a big ceremonial show of recognizing the two regions as independent states. This violates the Minsk Accords — as well as, of course, the Budapest Memorandum (again). And the Russian puppet regimes in those two “states” have asked Russia to send troops to defend them against Ukrainian attack. Which is absolutely not in contemplation (it would be insane for Ukraine). All of this stage managed by Putin to provide a pretext for Russian forces to cross the border — a “peacekeeping mission!” — obviously the thin edge of the wedge, the first step toward a full-scale invasion aimed at annexing Ukraine.


Further provocations for it will also be fictitiously cooked up. (Why even bother? Everybody knows the reality.) This will be a criminal war upon the Ukrainian people. Reliable intelligence sources reportedly indicate that extensive murderous repression is already planned.

Ukraine itself should recognize the independence of the two breakaway regions, renouncing all claim to them. Tell them: “You love Russia so much? Fine. Go be Russian. We wash our hands of you.” Ukraine would actually be better off without them.

And this would spike Russia’s guns, denying Putin even his thoroughly phony pretext for invading the rest of Ukraine. Though even that might not actually prevent the horror upon which Putin seems so malignantly and crazily determined. (And might be political suicide for Ukrainian President Zelensky, who’d be called a sellout traitor.)


But there is actually precedent for what I suggest. In the 1967 war, Israel seized the West Bank, a big chunk of what had been part of Jordan. Its inhabitants were mostly Palestinians which Jordan’s King Hussain saw as more of a problem than a boon for his country. He didn’t fancy fighting Israel for control of the West Bank. So he washed his hands of it; renounced Jordan’s claim to the territory. I thought that move (so rare in world annals) was breathtakingly sensible.

I wonder how many Ukrainians today think giving up nuclear weapons in 1994 was a terrible mistake. Invading a nuclear-armed Ukraine would presumably be unthinkable.

America and our allies are backing Ukraine by vowing to punish Russia with sanctions. Putin is not deterred. Had we sent some U.S. troops into Ukraine, that might well have deterred him; he’s up for taking on Ukraine militarily, but probably not America. But we’ve forsworn a military role. Clearly today’s Americans have no appetite for such a real war.


Over decades, we’ve spent untold trillions building the world’s greatest military machine ever. One must ask: what, after all, is it for, if not this? This is not just some little peripheral conflict of no vital concern to us. To the contrary, Russia conquering Ukraine would change the world, restoring it to the ancient rule of the jungle, of might makes right, the strong free to prey upon the weak. America become, for all its vast military power, an impotent giant. Overthrowing the global order we had built over the past seven decades, that kept peace among major powers and facilitated the commerce that made the whole world so much more prosperous — gigantically benefiting America.

If that’s not worth a fight, what ever could be?

13 Responses to “Ukraine and the Abyss”

  1. Mark V Says:

    It goes without saying, and has already been said by others, that North Korea and Iran are finding the consequences of relinquishing nuclear weapons instructive. Just in case the example of Gadaffi was not sufficient.

    As for the insatiable hunger for weapons of greater capability, there’s a Civil War token that sums it up nicely: “Millions for contractors, not one cent for the widows.” (Fuld 97/389a) For the resultant suffering of ordinary Americans, I suggest Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech of 4/4/67.

  2. Don Bronkema Says:

    Putin’s kleptocratic regime will be subject to severe punition, short of blocking the Swift Exchange. Even his cleverest manoeuvres, tho, will be rendered nugatory by Sino mid-century occupation of Siberia.

  3. didiusjulianus Says:

    What are your thoughts on NATO expanding eastward over the last 30 years and positioning weapons near Russia when the U.S. said it would not do that back then? How is that similar to or different from the USSR’s expanding into “our hemisphere” which lead to theCuban missile crisis?

  4. Doug Weston-Kolarik Says:

    You are clearly a HAWK, and you make me sick!! As a Vietnam Vet I have seen this crap unfold to the point of costing thousands of American lives too many times. You idiot! Invading the Ukraine will NOT change the world! People like you need to suit up and join the Armed Forces or have your children in the military. Our military strength is for protection of our shores not for constantly policing the world. Easy for you to say in your warm, comfy desk chair to send our troops to war…you Fuck!!! Go to Hell!

    Doug Weston-Kolarik LISW, PhD

    CC President Biden

    On Mon, Feb 21, 2022 at 6:37 PM The Rational Optimist wrote:

    > rationaloptimist posted: ” A lot of the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons > were stored in Ukraine. Thus when the USSR broke up, an independent Ukraine > found itself with the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal. In the 1994 > Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine agreed to denuclearize — in retu” >

  5. Don Bronkema Says:

    Instead, dismantle ICBMs. New calc demos exchange of mere 12 -15 twixt India & Pakistan could trigger nuclear winter. Loss of one year’s harvest would starve 4 BN.

  6. David Lettau Says:

    Did anyone else notice the ghastly similarity between Putin’s deranged, revanchist speech last night and Hitler’s Sudetenland speech of Sept.1938? Putin has told so many lies for so long that he now is paying the penalty of all such liars- he now believes his own lies and is divorced from reality.And I am becoming weary of hearing that this is all about Russia being threatened by NATO expansion. Putin wants Ukraine. He has been saying that for years. I wish people in the west would stop parroting Russian propaganda and red herrings

  7. Don Bronkema Says:

    Having eschewed Socratic ‘gnoti sauton’, dictators become masters of self-delusion.

  8. rationaloptimist Says:

    Thank you, David, for your as-usual clear-sighted comment. I’m sorry to say that President Biden’s speech this afternoon seemed a damp squib. Sanctions against TWO Russian finance outfits? Are you kidding me? The whole tenor of his speech totally failed to reflect the momentous seriousness of what’s happening. The world order is under assault, and Americans are worrying about what it will mean for gas prices. Biden failed to explain the true stakes.

  9. Lee Says:

    Lost in the press coverage that I have seen is that there is already an ongoing war in Donetsk Oblast and Luhansk Oblast. The Ukrainians have been fighting the Russian-backed separatists there since 2014.

  10. rationaloptimist Says:

    No. I would put it the other way: the Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainians. Ukraine might have made military efforts to subdue these rebellious provinces, but has refrained from doing so. All the military aggression has come from the Russian stooges.

  11. David Lettau Says:

    Some men grow in the office of the presidency ( Lincoln) Biden is shrinking.A tragedy for not only the USA but the world.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    As respondent appealed to the 5th-grade boys beating him in September, 1941, “Gentlemen, let us resolve our differences in a spirit of comity & accommodation” [purloined from Brit movie]. A bloody nose for any cause hurts just as bad [Bard]. The Ukraine is a victim, but NATO should not have hastened east in 1991. Putin is desperate as the Russian cohort plunges toward demographic oblivion. China will inherit Siberia pursuant to 125F wetbulb ecollapse. The Russ remnant will join EU. Earth will cool gradually into a seamless, hyperveilled quant blockchain [viz. previous 158,410 pp]. Our 22 y/o dochka, steeped in the moils & toils of philosophy, asks “what can one do on a roller-coaster but get a grip & enjoy the ride?” H. unsapiens will perish w/o meaning in the depths of interstellar space. Past, present & future are simultaneous: the future has already happened & the past is yet to be. The kosmos is quasi-emergent, per Deutsch. Mentation & volition are 20-khz sweeper-wave consensae, per Libet. Personage is a phantom declaring, “nos morituri te salutate”.

  13. Don Bronkema Says:

    Anon = Don Bronkema

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