• The British Empire, the Eagle and the Bear: Non-Options for Crimea and Ukraine

    March 5, 2014

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iraq, Libya

    “You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests,” John Kerry said on Meet the Press. “This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century.”

    Following Kerry’s comment, laughter could be heard from Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, Libya, many undisclosed parts of Africa, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and across the Middle East. Faint chortles echoed out of Grenada, Bosnia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Snickers in Panama, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and El Salvador.

    The Triumph of Syria

    Kerry of course had previously brought the joy of laughter to the world in the midst of the last Syrian “crisis.” Kerry clumsily tried to soften resistance to the Obama administration’s urge to launch strikes against al-Assad’s regime with the bizarre claim that such an attack would be “unbelievably small.”

    But like any good comedian, Kerry saved the big joke for last, when, in London enflight to the new, bestest war ever, Kerry famously and offhandedly said conflict could be avoided if the Syrians turned in their chemical weapons. In practically the same heartbeat, the Russians stepped into the diplomatic breach, with Vladimir Putin as an unlikely peacemaker. The U.S. did not attack Syria and the show ended with a good belly laugh for all.

    Onward to the Ukraine

    With Kerry once again taking the show on the road by flying to the Ukraine, all of cable TV has arisen as one demanding options, demanding cards to be played, demanding a catalog of “what the U.S. can do.” As a public service, here is that catalog of U.S. options for the Crimean Crisis:

    –Seal Team 6 will infiltrate Russia, ring Putin’s doorbell late at night and run away in Operation DING&DITCH. Ashton Kutcher will lead the Team.

    — A senior U.S. Embassy official in Moscow will cluck his tongue and roll his eyes disapprovingly.

    — State Department social media rangers will send out Tweets calling Putin a “poopy head.” The Russian translation by State will actually come across as “A green dog’s sandwich” but sure, they’ll get we’re mad.

    — The NSA will hack Putin’s web cam sessions, showing him shirtless. Putin himself will turn around and post the video online.

    — The NSA will also break into Putin’s NetFlix queue and change everything to romantic comedies and Jack Black movies.

    — The U.S. will recruit remaining allies Lichtenstein, Monaco, East Timor and Freedonia to enforce sanctions against Russia.

    — The State Department will direct Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Victoria Nuland to say “F*ck the E.U.,” in a recorded conversation with the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.

    — Obama will unfriend Putin on Facebook.

    Flashman at the Charge

    As is obvious, there is little the U.S. can, should or will do. The more the U.S. swaggers hollowly about the Crimea, the sadder it all sounds.

    John Kerry, in what he thought was a stinging remark, labeled Russia’s invasion of the Crimean “19th century behavior in the 21st century.” As usual, Kerry was close to being right without actually realizing what he said.

    The 19th century player in this Great Gameis actually the U.S. itself. After following the footsteps of the British Empire into Iraq, after plunging deep into the graveyard of the British Empire in Afghanistan, after fumbling in the British swamp of Pakistan, the U.S. now returns to the land of the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Crimea. Like the Victorian British, the U.S. imagines the world as a chessboard where it can move pieces around with predictable results, shaping world affairs to its own advantage while placing opponents in check. If that was ever true, the events of the last decade demonstrate it is not true anymore.

    As with everyone else who failed to learn the lessons of history and thus will be doomed to repeat them, inevitably next, the U.S. will slip beneath the waves as did the British Empire, over-extended, bankrupt and endlessly tied to foreign policy adventures that mean nothing while the world changes around it. It’s been a good run though, right?

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  • Recent Comments

    • pitchfork said...


      “With Kerry once again taking the show on the road by flying to the Ukraine…”

      “On with the show! The show must go on! Call in the clowns! We’re going on the road! We’ll take the show across the world! At least..the clown part.”

      Says John Kerry, social media spokesperson and Clown training camp leader for Ripley’s Greatest Show on Earth. Having just received world wide rave revues for his recent center ring performances across the planet, the former member of the US Congress of Clowns, says ..”It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century”, which is exactly why Clowns are still welcomed everywhere. After all..laughter is still the best medicine your tax money can buy.

      03/5/14 1:49 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      03/5/14 2:08 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      CIA director John Brennan told a senior lawmaker Monday that a 1997 treaty between Russia and Ukraine allows up to 25,000 Russia troops in the vital Crimea region, so Russia may not consider its recent troop movements to be an invasion, U.S. officials said. The number of Russian troops that have surged into Ukraine in recent days remains well below that threshold, Brennan said.

      I don’t remember the US having any similar treaty with Iraq or Afghanistan or….

      03/5/14 2:12 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      03/5/14 2:45 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      Anybody know who is replacing her?

      03/5/14 2:48 PM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...


      Gryphons, and Hildebeest and Bears, O My (Gawd)!

      03/5/14 4:33 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      If Obama has to place one of his clueless campaign fund bundlers, look for someone who can’t find the State Department on a map.

      03/5/14 6:18 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      PVB’s Ode to America:


      “Not a word was spoken – the church bells all were broken

      And, the three men I admire most: the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, they…

      Caught the last train for the coast the day the music died.” – DON MCLEAN

      03/5/14 6:41 PM | Comment Link

    • Bakelight said...


      Ellen DeGeneres for first consular AssSec? She’s very entertaining and well versed on global trivia, like the State people. No?

      03/5/14 10:40 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      If she is two-faced, she’s hired.

      03/6/14 12:21 AM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      Another possible option: Let’s make a deal?? Offer to “send” Ukraine $1 billion USD loan guarantee, but really it masks payment to Gazprom to buy a gas consortium arrangement?

      A Russian or Ukrainian commenter on Ukraine-related UK Guardian article commented the $1 billion USD Loan guarantee was not going to go to ‘buffeting” Ukrainian households as a NY Times article also vaguely commented yesterday, but rather would go to Gazprom.

      That was a striking idea, then —

      Today’s NY Times has an article — US gas companies looking to get in on the pipelines in Ukraine:


      It would be a good ‘bargain’ for US companies, but what a cost in terms of lives. Secretary Kerry arrived poste haste in Ukraine and will be interesting to see what dealing results

      Google maps has images of oil and gas pipelines transversing Central Asia, to Ukraine and if you search “Central Asia Ukraine gas pipeline” (or oil) or “Central Asia Crimea gas pipeline” you can see how Crimea is perched near one of the gas pipelines, South stream, that is routed from points East to Novosibirsk to eastern Europe.

      This other internet site had interesting maps on gas and oil pipelines of the world. Disclaimer: no idea who operates this site:


      University of Texas has an online collection of related maps:


      03/6/14 12:46 AM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      Theme song for Kerry’s flight to Kiev, “Don’t Send In The Clowns”:


      03/6/14 1:07 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Bakelight: Ellen’s opening comments suggested she knew the results for Best Picture because if 12 Years a Slave hand’t won the implication would have been that the academy was racist. She couldn’t have spun that in a comical manner.
      Regarding the current Ukrainian crisis. Putin and his plutocratic buddies have floated their dirty money throughout Europe and have insured that they won’t be “boycotted”.

      03/6/14 3:26 AM | Comment Link

    • sci said...


      First: There is a good article on nakedcapitalism.com about Ukraine. Cogent. Serious. And in no way diminished by quoting Jim Kunstler’s description of Kerry as “the haircut in search of a brain”.

      Re: Kerry’s “You don’t just invade other countries to assert your interests.”

      I think this is an example of “unconscious exceptionalism”: “YOU (any country that is not the U.S.) don’t just invade other countries to assert YOUR (as in not-U.S.) interests.”

      Its not uncommon. A couple of recent examples –

      Wasn’t it Ukraine that Obama scolded a few weeks ago for police crack-downs on peaceful protesters? (Zuccati Park, anyone?) Of course, considering the fact that the administration had its hand up the back of its Ukrainian protest-puppet, it could have been meant as part of the show. But I just can’t give these guys that much credit.

      If memory serves, the year was 2006. I forget the circumstances, but never the chutzpah, of Dick Cheney complaining angrily about the presence of “foreigners” in Iraq. Unbelievable!

      “unconscious exceptionalism” comes from the same family as the belief that if “we” do it, it’s okay. If “they” do it, its bad. I think its “unconscious” because none of these men are the type to want to be unintentionally funny.

      Maybe its because no one ever calls them out when they do this?

      03/6/14 7:09 AM | Comment Link

    • Andrei said...


      Kyzl Orda, please keep in mind that Ukraine needs $15 billion simply to keep its economy from disintegrating this year. Well, they got $3 billion from our Vlad, so it’s more like $12 billion now. Still, so far this US offer looks ‘too little, too late’.

      03/6/14 9:20 AM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      Hm, aside from the coincidence of a dispute over Crimea – which, unlike Britain in the 1850s, America is not realistically able to invade – there are almost no parallels to the 19th century.

      Actually what struck me as most stupid about Kerry’s remark was that aside from the British misadventure in Crimea, after 1815 the 19th century was one of almost uninterrupted peace among European powers, unbroken by any major wars until 1914. (I said major, not including the Franco-Prussian war or other marginal little ones.)

      But perhaps the main difference between the 19th century and today, is that at least within and among European nations they were all scrupulous about abstaining from covertly intervening in each others’ internal affairs. Maybe what Kerry resents about Russia’s reclamation of Crimea is that it wasn’t devious enough?

      03/6/14 11:30 AM | Comment Link

    • Patricia Lawler said...


      “Freedonia” – hilarious! Thank you!


      03/6/14 12:25 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      @ Patricia Lawler,

      (Sigh), thanks for that nostalgic reminder of when Americans were truly intelligent! (Which is NOT the same thing as intellectual!)

      Here’s another one by Groucho Marx, intelligent but not intellectual, and all the smarter for that! (An anthem for We Meant Well, perhaps? ;-):


      03/6/14 12:44 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      More seriously now, Obama has lost his f-cking mind:

      “American President Barack Obama has signed an executive order authorizing sanctions against “individuals and entities responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine.””

      Since half the words in that Executive Order are essentially contestable concepts – “responsible for”, “activities”, “undermining”, “democratic processes” – it’s just a blank check for sanctions against anyone who has anything remotely to do with Ukraine, including any Americans or nationals of ANY country who disagree with the White House on Ukraine.

      It’s the White House’s equivalent of a Stalinist order to condemn “counter-revolutionaries” in all countries.

      03/6/14 1:26 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      The USA promises to freeze the assets of all (except for one) those who agitate for revolution in Ukraine. Those assets are being transferred to Nuland’s offshore accounts.

      03/6/14 1:39 PM | Comment Link

    • Not Janus said...


      (From Wikileaks, an email from what is apparently an American spook operating through Ukraine):


      My username is Janus.

      I am having trouble logging on (I type in my login and password, and the
      page returns to a log in, not showing my as having entered), and also when
      going through the forgot password page, I keep receiving a message that
      the security message I am typing is incorrect.

      Please advise.

      David Greer
      USAID Contractor
      Chief of Party
      USAID Commercial Law Center Project,
      Implemented by Emerging Markets Group, Ltd.
      vul. Kruhlouniversytetska, 13
      Kyiv, Ukraine 01024
      Tel.: (+380.44) 490.6575
      fax.: (+380.44) 490.6574

      e-mail: davidgreer@clc.com.ua


      03/6/14 3:11 PM | Comment Link

    • Not Janus said...


      And personally to David Greer, about my above comment, I know Dave Greer will understand the irony! Because HEY, after all, Dave Greer, you’re a man of INTELLIGENCE, aren’t you!

      Or to paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, “Don’t talk about what it means to be a spook, BE ONE!” ;-):


      03/6/14 3:40 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      “Not Janus said…”

      ummmm, WTF was that?

      Either this place has gone batshit crazy or I’m hallucinating.

      03/6/14 6:24 PM | Comment Link

    • Bakelight said...


      So someone please explain… Obama, the anti-Bush, who now maintains the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz legacy, accused by many as being a communist, is acting like a Stalinist though Stalin was pretty much excised from the Soviet legacy by his political descendants… Putin, the veritable inheritor of Stalin’s legacy, is being assailed by the Stalinist Obama for acting like a Hitler, the National Socialist. Obama has of course been charged with rampant socialism as well… Kerry chides Putin, attacking the Russian prime minister/socialist/KGB colonel/communist-cum-kleptocrat for acting like a 19th century plutocrat, Kerry is of course, a haircut searching for a brain (Thank you Sci!), as he, State and the USG go merrily along doing just that to all the little countries we can (Staying clear of N. Korea, its WMD’s and its Chinese patron) and then someone on here sent me a link purporting it’s all because of the Jews (I just knew it! Those goddamn Jews, at it again). Lord have mercy… this is getting complicated.
      Much sarcasm implied.
      Great discussion all.

      03/6/14 11:07 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      ok..I’ve decided..in reflection of the last 8 comments or so..indeed..this place has gone batshit crazy…and is in need of an attitude adjustment

      hey, it’s ok…so be it. If paraphrasing Marcus Aurelius is in the ballpark.. so is kingfish.


      03/6/14 11:51 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      “please keep in mind that Ukraine needs $15 billion simply to keep its economy from disintegrating this year. Well, they got $3 billion from our Vlad, so it’s more like $12 billion now. Still, so far this US offer looks ‘too little, too late’. ”

      Andrei, it will be very interesting to see what happens next.

      If the referendum in Crimea proceeds March 16th and Crimea ‘votes’ to join Russia and Ukraine is split up — what is the likelihood Gazprom or someone will then shut off the pipelines that run through western Ukraine but keep the ones transversing Crimea open?

      03/6/14 11:54 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      “Bakelight said…

      So someone please explain…”

      Explain? okay. Research the meaning of Legal Imperialism.

      03/6/14 11:59 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      ps..and then read this in it’s entirety ..


      The Big Club..and we ain’t in it pal.


      try a small garden first.

      03/7/14 12:16 AM | Comment Link

    • Bakelight said...


      Pitch.. Got into it and will dig some more. That’s more time than I have at the moment. “Legal Imperialism” seems to hit the nail on the head. I was thinking “Ethnocentrism” as I got into it. Cambridge U. Press referred to it as an exercise of “Eurocentrism,” relevant, it would seem, to the 19th c. players of the time.
      Kyzl O’s comments and this update on “Legal Imperialism” are giving me flashbacks to the chemistry of the pre-WWI European political environment.
      I understand Putin’s actions to the end that I do not blame him for trying to insulate/retain Russian territory and/or rebuild some of his lost empire. If he doesn’t he and his country will be bound to a Pax Imperia Americana and I don’t blame any country for wanting to avoid that.
      I sympathize with the Ukrainian people who would seem to like a western alignment, break with the past, and freedom from the anachronism that is Putin’s Russia.
      I reject the American hubris and ignorance that seems to have informed and reinforced American policy, we could argue this and I’m not in a position to, but certainly since the Dulles era. It has been in overdrive.
      Regardless of this opinion, if European strategic interests are threatened, and they would be if the gas gets shut off, we’re going to be involved.
      What concerns me, as an armchair commentator, is keeping it from going hot. The creepy thing about this event is we’re not dealing with the usually 3rd world country we can easily kick to the curb. Russian ambitions and American incompetence have global repercussions that could be pretty immediate. I’m not saying our kicking around third world countries doesn’t have repercussions, they just take longer to manifest and are often more nuanced in their manifestations. Sometimes.
      By the way, awesome photo as lead-in to this blog. A picture is worth a thousand words. Looking forward to getting into “Tom Joad”.

      03/7/14 1:14 AM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      Bakelite, the term Legal Imperialism isn’t mine. But from what I’ve garnered lately, it’s definition is simple. From time immortal, the most powerful sovereigns sought to legalize in their own minds that which is inherently immoral. From the first dynasties on the planet to the ruling class of the US. Because no one can force them to do anything, they can simply make “laws” that allow them to inflict their will on whoever they deem.

      “Legal Imperialism” and International Law: Legal Foundations for War Crimes, Debt Collection and Colonization”



      Hence the torture memos, the kill lists, murder by drone, the NSA… on and on. However, the most striking example I can think of is when Senator Helms introduced the American Service-Members’ Protection Act, which in effect, raised the USG middle finger to the planet saying..”we’ll do any goddamned thing we want and if the international community tries to stop us..we’ll apply what ever military strength we have to in order to keep you from prosecuting us.”

      quote”ASPA authorizes the President to use “all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any US or allied personnel being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the International Criminal Court”. This authorization has led the act to be nicknamed The Hague Invasion Act,[3][4] because the freeing of U.S. citizens by force might be possible only through an invasion of The Hague, Netherlands, the seat of several international criminal courts and of the Dutch government.

      The Act prohibits federal, state and local governments and agencies (including courts and law enforcement agencies) from assisting the Court. For example, it prohibits the extradition of any person from the United States to the Court; it prohibits the transfer of classified national security information and law enforcement information to the Court; and it prohibits agents of the Court from conducting investigations in the United States.” unquote

      The old..”do as we say, not as we do”..routine.
      To me..this defines Legal Imperialism

      03/7/14 11:06 AM | Comment Link

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