Western Standard

Ron Paul is wrong on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Ron Paul is wrong when it comes to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And it isn’t just Ron Paul, the entire realist spectrum of thought in the international relations sphere is misguided in their approach to Russia’s imperialist pursuit, and the appropriate response of NATO and its member states.

For those who don’t know, the “Realist school of thought in International Relations” is one headlined by scholars like John Mearsheimer and Robert Pape. Their views and scholarly work were brought to the forefront during the War on Terror, with their paraphrased view that American interventionism not only caused radical Islamic terrorism, but fueled it while the United States was engaged in the Middle East. Those views, while usually reserved for the pages of academic journals and faculty lounges, were popularized by presidential candidate Ron Paul when he ran in the Republican primaries in 2008.

When pressed with the question of opposing the war in Iraq, then-candidate Ron Paul barbed with Rudy Guiliani over the concept of “blowback,” the realist idea that interventionism fuelled the problem of Islamic terrorism, and that Iraq made the issue exponentially worse. Ron Paul was right when explaining the issues with America’s involvement in the Islamic world — and the world is a far worse place for failing to listen to him.

That said, the advocates of Ron Paul’s school of foreign policy thought are rapidly exposing their dogmatism when it comes to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In real-time we are seeing those who stood in opposition to American adventurism in the Middle East recycle their arguments for Ukraine, despite the obvious differences in the two situations.

First off, the War on Terror was a failure because it was a war on a concept, mostly fought against non-state actors who spread across several national borders. To anyone with two eyes and a brain, it’s pretty clear Russia’s intrusion into Ukraine is fundamentally different. Here we have a pariah kleptocracy invading a sovereign democracy. Juxtapose that against a group of non-state terrorist organizations spread across the globe and the difference couldn’t be more obvious.

Beyond that, where the realist crowd really stray far from reality is the grievances Russia uses for its justification to intervene in Ukraine. Those who hold the Ron Paul foreign policy view consistently parrot the line that “NATO created this problem with its expansion inching closer to Russia’s borders.” This is problematic for several reasons.

First, it completely ignores the fact that Russia’s neighbours, including Ukraine, sought NATO membership because they really feared what would happen if the Russian military acted on Putin’s nostalgic view of a post-USSR Russian empire. Was their concern overstated? If Ukraine has shown us anything, it’s that their fears were warranted.

Secondly, let’s evaluate that argument in the context of what happens if Russia is successful in toppling the government of Ukraine and absorbing it into Russia, which has long been a goal of Putin. If Putin is successful in actually taking, and holding Ukraine, they will have conquered the country to prevent NATO from being on their border, while at the same time rapidly expanding NATO’s presence on their border. A new Russian state with Ukraine in the fold would have Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland (all NATO members) bordering their new imperial state. Given that, how can anyone take seriously the argument that Putin’s invasion is a means to creating more space between Russia and NATO?

It becomes pretty clear that Russia’s expansionist view is based on a decade’s old view of Russian influence, and not one where NATO adventurism is to blame. Plus, if NATO was really the existential threat to Russia that Putin apologists would have us believe, why did NATO not take the intrusion into Georgia, or Putin’s theft of Crimea, as a means to militarily engage Russia in war? If NATO was the imperialist force that Putin would have you believe, the table was set long ago for conflict. And yet, NATO didn’t use those encroachments as a justification to engage Russia in military conflict.

The same goes for those who argue the US’s involvement in regime change in Ukraine in 2014 somehow justifies Putin’s invasion today. Those in the Ron Paul crowd, and strident socialists, regularly state the Obama administration spent $5 billion fueling unrest to overthrow the government in Ukraine. Even though that figure is demonstrably false, let’s assume it is true. Is US involvement in the civil unrest justification for Putin’s invasion nearly a decade later? It certainly isn’t. Not only that, this argument completely ignores the fact Ukraine has a new, incredibly heroic, democratically elected president with Volodymyr Zelensky. This falsehood, which is pumped out by those on both ends of the political spectrum, seems to completely forget that democracy is alive and well in Ukraine.

Simply put, the attempt to use blowback theory, which was certainly accurate and valid for the War on Terror, for Russia’s grievances is at best completely ignorant. At its worst, those in the Ron Paul crowd, whether willingly or not, have become “useful idiots” in Putin’s propaganda machine.

So what should we, as in NATO, do in regards to Putin’s continued push for a Russian-occupied Ukraine? What we’ve done so far is good, with targeted sanctions and restrictions on Russian bank’s access to SWIFT (the system which facilitates most international transactions). But is this good enough? Probably not.

A no-fly zone, properly enforced by NATO forces, would certainly be the next step. In fact, this is what many Ukrainians are asking for, stating that if NATO can secure the skies, they can “handle the rest.” And so far, they have valiantly defended their homeland against the madman dictator who wishes to put them under his thumb.

Critics will quickly point out this is “a clear escalation” and could lead to a hot war between NATO and Putin’s Russia. While that may be true, this misses the point that what is, and isn’t an escalation is solely determined by Putin. Putin could very well view economic sanctions, the seizure of property, being kicked out of SWIFT, NATO supplying Ukraine with weapons, the EU supplying fighter jets, funding, or any other measure as an escalation or an act of war. Those who support any of those measures are comfortable enacting them regardless of how Putin may view them. They’ve already committed to intervening, in some way, shape, or form. While those measures will make life in Russia difficult and may help the Ukrainians extend their resistance, they don’t protect the Ukrainians from the prospect of aerial bombardment. A no-fly zone does exactly that

And what if NATO does nothing? What would happen then? Well, first off, every dictator in the world would seek nuclear weapons. Doing so would ensure that they could act as they please, no matter how monstrous, without consequence. Even worse, failing to further engage threatens whatever hope we have at achieving a denuclearized world, or a world with fewer nuclear weapons. The US, UK, and USSR once convinced Ukraine to give up their nuclear weapons in exchange for protection if their sovereignty was later infringed upon. If “we”, the member states of NATO, can’t honour that agreement, what hope do we have of ever convincing any country in the world to scale back their nuclear arsenals?

The Ron Paul or Realist foreign policy advocates are trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole with their recycling of once accurate arguments. And while they hammer away, Russian armed forces hammer away on the people of Ukraine and their democratically elected government.

David Clement is a columnist for The Western Standard

Originally published at the Western Standard

Western Standard

Canada must step up as Hong Kong faces Communist takeover

Hong Kong is succumbing to the power and authority of the Communist Party of China. 

The CCP has passed a national security law that would ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” and would allow for mainland Chinese law enforcement agencies to enforce those laws in Hong Kong. This clearly violates the “one country, two systems” agreement that isn’t set to expire until 2047. In response, Hong Kongers did as Hong Kongers do, and protested by the thousands. Unfortunately, their efforts did not dissuade the totalitarian communist party, and it is likely that this could be the end of a free Hong Kong.

As a bastion of liberal democracy, it is important that Canada takes a stand against China’s encroachment and clear unwillingness to meet its international obligations. The big question remains, what exactly can Canada do? We don’t have the hard power to challenge China, but we may have some soft power plays that could clearly show Hong Kongers, and the world, that Canada remains steadfast in its defense of liberal values.

Some will suggest that Canada needs to engage in a trade war with China to push back against their violations in Hong Kong. While the response of sanctions and tariffs might hit an emotional chord, it would be terrible public policy. A trade war with China is something that neither side can “win” because trade is not a zero-sum game. Additional tariffs on Chinese goods would simply inflate prices for Canadian consumers, and punish ordinary Chinese people for the cruelty of their unelected authoritarian government. Being forced to live under CCP rule is punishment enough, we don’t need to make matters worse by shutting Chinese goods out of the global market. Any sanctions, or prohibitions, should be limited to high tech products with national security concerns, like Huawei’s inclusion in our 5G network.

Outside of avoiding a trade war – which would be more symbolism than serious public policy – Canada should immediately make an asylum declaration for those Hong Kongers wishing to flee the tightening grip of the CCP, similar to what the U.K. has done. Canada should welcome Hong Kongers who want to claim refugee status, and in fact, should encourage them to leave, bringing their capital (human and material) with them. A move like this wouldn’t be out of the ordinary, either. Throughout the ‘80s and ’90s, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers migrated to Canada, largely in fear of the incoming handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese Government in 1997. Those migrants brought $4.2 billion with them to Canada to start their new lives as Canadians. Hong Kongers should be able to flee their homeland before military tanks roll in to enforce totalitarian laws, and Canada should offer refuge.

Beyond what Canada can directly do for the people of Hong Kong, there are some foreign policy changes that could help further demonstrate Canada’s commitment to liberal values, and to help avoid future events like Hong Kong from happening. 

First, Canada should change how we officially treat Taiwan, for the purpose of ensuring that Hong Kong doesn’t become a blueprint for what the CCP can get away with.

Unfortunately, Canada does not officially recognize Taiwan because we still acknowledge the One China Policy. Canada should immediately disregard the One China Policy, establish official diplomatic relations with Taiwan as a sovereign state, and establish a formal embassy in Taipei. Doing this would show the world that Canada is in fact a world leader when it comes to our democratic values and that we are willing to make a bold stance where others aren’t. On top of that, such a move could encourage other O.E.C.D. countries to do the same. A strong, internationally connected and recognized Taiwan is the only way we can ensure that Taiwan and the Taiwanese people do not ultimately fall to the CCP 

With Taiwan identified and recognized, Canada should loudly recommit itself to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, add Taiwan to the agreement, and seek to bring our American allies back to the table. While not a perfect trade agreement, from the lens of a free trader, an adopted TPP with US support would significantly empower other countries in the region and would limit our reliance on China, which certainly seems to be in line with the goals of U.S. President Donald Trump. A renewed TPP, signed in Taipei, would demonstrate to the CCP that the west isn’t going to stand idle and let the CCP run roughshod over the region.

Hong Kong, as a beacon of freedom, may be thrown into the dustbin of history well before 2047. The CCP’s recent maneuvering in Hong Kong, along with the bookseller kidnapping scandal, and attempted extradition bill, shows their willingness to destroy almost everything Hong Kong has stood for. Providing refuge for those who want to flee, recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign state, and recommitting to international trade, would be the appropriate Canadian response.

Originally published here.