How Americans Can Help Ukrainians

by Sheldon Richman

How Americans Can Help Ukrainians

It can’t be easy living in Russia’s shadow, and I envy no one in that position. Given its long history and, consequently, the temperament of its leaders (and a good part of its population), Russia for the foreseeable future will be a regional power with an attitude. Thus it will ever be concerned with what happens on its borders. Like it or not, that’s how it is. America can’t change this situation, though it surely can exacerbate it.

And it has — by pushing NATO, the Cold War anti-Soviet alliance, up to Russia’s borders; by talking about putting interceptor missiles in former Soviet-allied nations in central Europe; by dangling NATO membership before former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia; and by cutting deals with other former Soviet republics in central Asia.

Yet the fact of Western contributory provocation is probably of little comfort to the innocent people of Ukraine.

So, what to do? Ukrainian military resistance would bring disaster. So would U.S. and NATO intervention. Destroying a village in order to save it is too reminiscent of America’s losing strategy in Vietnam. Perhaps some understanding between Ukraine and Russia along the lines of Finland’s would be possible; this would entail, in the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski, “mutually respectful neighbours, wide-ranging economic relations both with Russia and the EU, but no participation in any military alliance viewed by Moscow as directed at itself.”

That is for the people of Ukraine — not someone sitting safely in the United States — to decide. Ukrainian individuals and voluntary organizations should call the shots. I can see no good reason the central government in Kiev should determine for everyone in the country whether Ukrainians will trade with Europe or with Russia. The binary choice is a false alternative, and the two contending power groups should not demand that sort of choice. Free trade is about the liberty of individuals, not the power of governments, which would be well-advised to keep hands off.

None of this means that Americans can’t help individual Ukrainians. There is one important way to help without expanding Washington’s power, which achieved alarming proportions many generations ago.

I’m talking about opening America’s borders — scrapping immigration controls. Ukrainians who want to get out of their dicey neighborhood, whether permanently or temporarily, should be free to move to the United States. Look at it this way: How dare we Americans confine Ukrainians to a condition they might desperately wish to escape? How can we imagine ourselves to be a humane people while engaged in a policy with such odious consequences and implications for liberty?

Opening the borders, of course, is not offered here as a comprehensive answer to the conflict between Russia and the Ukrainians who want to be free of Russian influence, but it may be an answer for some Ukrainians. How many, no one can know. But it makes little difference. Let them in! There are about a million Ukrainians in the United States (2006 census figures), second only to Canada outside of Ukraine itself, with the largest centers in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. The newcomers need not be strangers in a strange land, though they should be welcome throughout the country.

Respecting the freedom to move would not only help the individuals who choose to exercise it; it might also have benefits in Ukraine itself. The kleptocrats of all parties, who have used Ukraine like their personal milch cow, might finally realize their folly if they witnessed an exodus of their most enterprising and ambitious residents.

But let’s not stop there. Why should Ukrainians get special treatment? There are oppressed and impoverished people everywhere, and it is no more humane for Americans to condemnthem to bad conditions than it is to condemn the Ukrainians. Respecting the freedom to move is a matter of justice.

Unsurprisingly, justice would have good consequences. “Immigration restrictions trap many millions in Third World misery. Economists’ consensus estimate is that open borders would roughly double world GDP, enough to virtually eliminate global poverty,” George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan writes (PDF).

So forget guaranteeing loans to corrupt government officials. Forget facing down the Russians over Crimea. Open the borders!

7 responses to “How Americans Can Help Ukrainians

  1. If Mr Richman is against “expanding NATO to the borders of Russia” he is against Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Poland and…..So the post is not really about the Ukraine – which is not a NATO member. It is a post opposing any containment of Mr Putin at all (I am going to leave the ignorant comment about Vietnam aside). Mr Obama from the start in 2009, decided on a policy of appeasement of Mr Putin (for example cancelling the missile interceptor system without even consulting Poland and other allies), this appeasement policy has not worked out very well.

    A few minutes watching “Russia Today” (Mr Putin’s television station) would show anyone that the Putin regime remained fanatically hostile to the West regardless of how much appeasement was tried (of course I have my own view about why Mr Obama did not really care about this).

    As for “open the borders” (as if the post 1965 system was not a open mess already), this is irrelevant to containing Mr Putin – the “answer” has got nothing to do with the question.

  2. It should also be remembered that the world is round.

    If Russia (meaning Mr Putin) has a legitimate “sphere of control” over the countries on its borders – this would include the United States (via Alaska).

  3. Julie near Chicago

    I see. So the U.S. is the entity morally responsible for the plight of third-worlders and the oppressed world-wide, because we don’t want to run our country as if it were a flophouse open to all and no questions asked.

    Others have made the point before, but it remains as sharp and fundamental as ever. If such are Mr. Richman’s sentiments, then I do assume that, being the sort of fellow who practices what he preaches, his own home is open to anyone who chooses to enter, no questions asked, and no doors locked.

  4. Julie near Chicago

    ‘If Russia (meaning Mr Putin) has a legitimate “sphere of control” over the countries on its borders – this would include the United States (via Alaska).’

    Well, of course he does! Just like the guy who says, “I’m not greedy–I just want the land that borders mine.”

    Similarly, we have a legitimate sphere of control over Canada, Mexico, and even–arguably–Cuba. Oh, and RUSSIA, which is also on our border, now isn’t it.

  5. Julie there is a sensible case to be made here – although Mr Richman does not make it.

    The Ukraine is not a NATO member (therefore should not be treated as if it was), and one never goes into someone SECOND (one DETERS an attack – one does not try and counter it, with inferior forces, after it has already been made).

    That is the case that could be made.

    As for the borders – one could send a marching band over the American border (unnoticed) indeed I have seen it being done.

    One must assume that the Islamists have already entered the United States.


  6. Julie near Chicago

    Paul, if you mean to argue against American-led intervention in the Ukraine, then I will say that I am agin’ it. … Doug Bandow in Forbes has a piece entitled, “Europeans Watch Ukraine And Fear Russia: They Should Take Over NATO And Europe’s Defense.” I haven’t read it, however.

    But Richman…! Look at this:

    “America can’t change this situation, though it surely can exacerbate it.

    “And it has — by pushing NATO, the Cold War anti-Soviet alliance, up to Russia’s borders; by talking about putting interceptor missiles in former Soviet-allied nations in central Europe [like Poland? — I thought the Poles and the Czechs, at least, were pretty sure they wanted our missiles as part of their own protection from the ravaging Bear. –J]; by dangling NATO membership before former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia; and by cutting deals with other former Soviet republics in central Asia.”

    He then refers to this stuff as “provocation.”

    Maybe I should be more generous and take it as a disapproval of Obama, rather than of the U.S. … but unfortunately I haven’t seen anything that would incline me to that view. :>(

    Anyway, consider this from HuffPo (a source I almost never visit, but it came up in search results) — not “blockquoted,” as all those italics are just Too Much for me.
    . . .

    “PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is withdrawing from U.S. missile defense plans out of frustration at its diminished role, the Czech defense minister told The Associated Press Wednesday.

    “The Bush administration first proposed stationing 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic, saying the system was aimed at blunting future missile threats from Iran. But Russia angrily objected and warned that it would station its own missiles close to Poland if the plan went through.

    “In September 2009, the Obama administration shelved that plan and offered a new, reconfigured phased program with an undefined role for the Czechs. In November 2009, the Czech Republic was offered the possibility of hosting a separate early warning system that would gather and analyze information from satellites to detect missiles aimed at NATO territory.

    “Defense Minister Alexander Vondra told the AP that the Czech Republic wanted to participate but ‘definitely not in this way.’

    [ … ]

    “[Vondra told reporters that] the official reason for the Czech withdrawal was that the center was no longer needed…

    “Our ideas about the future cooperation are more colorful than just a room or two with some screens there,” Vondra said.

    “Now even this has been withdrawn for the simple reason that Washington has decided to place it on the level of NATO, rather than on the basis of bilateral agreements, such as those with Poland and the Czech Republic,” Boston University international relations professor Igor Lukes said.

    “The [Obama] administration’s plan calls for placing land- and sea-based radars and interceptors in several European locations, including Romania and Poland, over the next decade and upgrading them over time. As the first part of the plan, the United States in March deployed to the Mediterranean the USS Monterey, a ship equipped to detect and shoot down missiles.

    ‘”I’m not surprised by the decision,” said Jan Vidim, a lawmaker in the lower house of the Czech Parliament. “The United States has been and will be our crucial strategic partner but the current administration doesn’t take the Czech Republic seriously.’

    “Vidim’s remarks reflected concern by many in Central and Eastern Europe that the U.S. interest in resetting ties with Moscow could come at their expense.

    [ … ]

    “‘It definitely won’t improve the Czech-U.S. relations but it will hardly harm them seriously,’ Karasek said. ‘It was the decision not to build the radar here that had a very negative impact on the relations.'”
    . . .

    RT has a little different stress, strange to say. Also from 6/15/2011:

    “Russia wants more control over the antimissile shield, which would ensure that the shield will not harm its nuclear deterrence. It offers contribution into creating and maintaining it. The suggestion has been under consideration for several years, with little noticeable progress.

    “The stated goal for creating the system is to prevent states like Iran and North Korea from attacking European countries with their missiles.

    “Czech activist Jan Tamas, who is against Prague’s involvement in the missile-defence shield believes the project will only fuel international tension, unless it involves key powers like Russia and China.

    ‘I believe that there is a better way for true security not only for Europe but for the entire world, and that is building on the international institutions that we have in place… I do not believe that it [the missile-defence shield] is going to make the world safer. On the contrary, it is going to increase tensions with China. It has already made a mess of relations with Russia,’ Tamas said. ‘There is really going to be a lot of tension on the global scale. We should be wise and just start thinking about security mechanisms and structures that will include all big super powers – not just some,’

    he added.”

    . . .

    Also, didn’t I somewhere along the way hear of somebody who wanted to offer Russia membership in NATO? Or am I making that up? — No, at a minimum an Andrew Meier urged the idea in the L.A. Tunes in 2008. If anybody cares,,0,5433273.story

  7. I agree with you Julie – on both parts of what you say here.

    However, remember that Mr Richman is a Rothbardian – which means his knowledge of economics (and his economic intentions) will be GOOD. We are not dealing with a Kevin here.

    It is just the history and politics that will be all wrong with a Rothbardian. For example the First World War (and even the Second World War) will be presented as the work of evil Anglo American bankers and arms manufacturers – little innocent Germany (like innocent “Slave Holding States of North America” from 1861 to 1865, or even little innocent international Marxism after World War II).

    As you know Julie what Rothbardians do is to take propaganda that was originally created by SOCIALISTS and try and give it a libertarian spin (and they are quite sincere about the libertarian spin). For example a socialist (say G. Kolko) will say that T Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were tools of Big Business – and then the Rothbardian (say Mr Richman) will come along and say “and that is why big government is a bad thing! we should have a real free market!”.

    This approach, of taking socialist stuff and trying to give it a libertarian twist, is a bad idea. It is a bad idea because it is NOT TRUE (T. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were not tools of Big Business – and the other claims are false also), and it is also a bad idea because it ends up helping up the socialist cause (not the libertarian one). This has been known since the farce (and it was a farce) of Rothbard’s “left and right join hands” campaign of the 1960s. The idea was that libertarians would convert socialists to libertarianism – the reality was (of course) that many young libertarians were drawn it into the socialist horror show of envy and class war.

    By the way…..

    The collectivists (the Kevins and co) have started to return the favour – if collectivist writers (such as Kolko) can be cited to help libertarianism (although in the end citing them proved to be a massive “own goal” for libertarians) then can not Hayek, Mises and other free market writers be cited (twisted) to help collectivism? To help envy and class war?

    This plan would have failed (it really would) had the collectivists not found libertarians who defended them, who pretended that collectivists (socialists, communal “anarchists”, “mutualists” or whatever the “anti rich” “anti capitalists” chose to call themselves) were “really libertarians”.

    It is all a very depressing chapter in intellectual history – which has had (I believe) very depressing consequences in wider history.