WASHINGTON, April 3, 2014 — Rush Limbaugh needs a new research staff. His understanding of the situation in Crimea and Ukraine, and of Russian history in general, are extremely poor.
As perspicacious and spot on as he can be on certain domestic issues like Obamacare, the IRS scandal, and the nature of the Obama presidency, Rush is ignorant about the situation in Eastern Europe. He doesn’t have the background to comment intelligently on the situation in that part of the world.
Rush began his talk program on March 18 with gratuitous shots at Vladimir Putin, whom he calls a “KGB thug.” He constantly asserts the claim that the Russian president wants to “reassemble the Soviet Union.” If his research staff had done more thorough investigation, they would have discovered that Putin at various times has strongly condemned the old Soviet system. In 1991, when he was deputy mayor of Leningrad, he openly opposed an attempted KGB coup, organizing pro-democratic, anti-KGB troops to protect the city and risking his own life. The episode is described by Prof. Allen Lynch in his book, Vladimir Putin and Russian Statecraft.
It was Putin who went to Poland and fully acknowledged Soviet responsibility for the infamous Katyn massacre in the early days of World War II. It was Putin who ran the Yeltsin-era oligarchs — who were supported by American neoconservatives — out of Russia. Putin was praised by Alexander Solzhenitsyn shortly before his death in 2008 for restoring Russian traditions and Christianity; indeed, Solzhenitsyn is now required reading in Russian schools. It was Putin who supported some of the world’s strongest anti-abortion laws and new legislation prohibiting homosexual propaganda being spread to Russian youth.
What Putin has actually said about the Soviet Union is at odds with Rush’s characterization. If Rush’s researchers had dug deeper, they might have discovered this, but perhaps the information wouldn’t have fit his narrative. They might have discovered that Putin lamented the collapse of the old Soviet Russian federation not because it was Communist, but because of the economic, cultural, and social dislocations and problems the separation of the fifteen constituent republics occasioned.
Byelorussia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and other former Soviet republics had been part of the old Russian empire, in some cases for hundreds of years. Economically, linguistically, culturally, and socially these areas had long overlapped. Just as in the case of the old Austro-Hungarian empire after World War II, the forcible dislocation of those areas created serious economic and cultural problems, some perhaps insoluble. The case of Ukraine and Crimea serves as an excellent example.
This, then, was what Putin was saying.
Of course, Rush’s major anger was directed at Obama: “Obama is seen as weak, a joke, by leaders in the rest of the world.” Like the other neoconservative talking heads on Fox and on talk radio, Rush is livid that Obama isn’t taking a much harder line against Russia. For Rush, Putin has shown Obama up in this game of international chess, and in so doing, he has punched the United States in the nose.
The frustration is palpable; the anger Rush manifests is the kind that a bully exhibits when he knows he can’t land a punch on a faraway target. Obama’s actions are too weak, and the Russians aren’t going to suffer. And so Rush — like Charles Krauthammer, Steve Hayes, Bill Kristol, and Jonah Goldberg — is all atwitter, mad, with only his radio audience as the receptor of his bile.
On some point, Rush may be right: Obama’s reaction may well be seen as weak, although a better analysis would be that the actions he has taken are “measured.” In fact, there is very little that the United States and the European Union could actually do in this situation. Indeed, Europe gets far more via trade and commerce from Russia, than Russia gets from Europe.
And trade with the United States is miniscule.
Much of the rest of the world will simply ignore whatever sanctions the Obama administration imposes, as the president of Argentina recently said, and, in reality, Obama and his minions know this. Unfortunately, to listen to Rush, he seems not to realize this geopolitical fact.
But this really isn’t the point. In the Crimean situation, Russia’s case is the correct and legal one. Russia, and the people of Crimea, have followed international law. The population of Crimea is overwhelmingly Russian. Under its 1992 constitution, which Ukraine abolished a few years later, Crimea reserved the right to withdraw, democratically, from Ukraine. It was only in 1954 that Khrushchev and the Soviets arbitrarily placed Crimea under Ukrainian administration; it had never been a part of Ukraine before that.
None of the American news networks are giving balanced coverage of this affair, most notably the Russophobic Fox News and the Murdoch media empire. Otherwise, awkward questions about the secession from Serbia of Kosovo, an Islamic state in the heart of Europe which was supported by American arms and Air Force to prevent the Serbs from reacting, would arise.
Secession is only wrong, you see — only against “international law” — when it does not favor the economic and geopolitical interests of the United States State Department and Wall Street business interests who seek to control the world’s resources. The opportunity to pry Ukraine away from its longstanding association with Russia, which happened suddenly in late February, was simply too good to pass up.
The real problem has been the “keystone cops” action of the United States. Our government paid for the demonstrators in Maidan Square in Kiev. Our government pre-selected a new, hand-picked pro-European Union prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, weeks before he became “interim” prime minister of a new Ukrainian regime, and only a week after the U.S. and the E.U. had formally endorsed a coalition government with the then duly-elected, constitutional president Yanukovych.
No problem; our government condemns military coups d’etat, that is, unless a coup brings to power a toadie government that we like and will follow our lead and accept the economic and political tutelage of our internationalist statist managers. Democracy is democracy only when we say it is democracy.
If Rush really wants to be taken seriously on foreign policy, he needs to hire some better researchers. He needs to stop listening to the neoconservatives, whose basic philosophy is verifiably on the internationalist left. For them, the solution for Ukraine and Crimea is association with the statist, socialist, and managerial European Union. Is that what Rush wants? To listen to his rants on this subject, you would surely think so.