By Amitabh Pal on August 07, 2014

Tensions remain high in the Ukraine region, with the possibility of the situation getting much worse. But the United States can avoid disaster by toning down the rhetoric on Russia.

John Feffer, the director of Foreign Policy in Focus, says that even if President Putin fulfills some observers’ worst fears, he is not interested in global domination.

“It's a common misunderstanding of both U.S. journalists and policymakers to mistake rather ordinary nationalism for greater ideological ambitions,” he tells The Progressive. “Putin doesn't harbor grand superpower plans. He just sees himself as the leader of all Russians, wherever they happen to be. He doesn't aspire to rule over territory devoid of Russian speakers. This is still problematic. But it's no reason to trot out George Kennan and the containment policy.”

The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel and Russia expert Professor Stephen Cohen blame a simplistic narrative for a misunderstanding of the genesis of the crisis, saying that Putin’s role has “been mostly reactive.”

“In November 2013, the European Union, with White House support, triggered the crisis by rejecting Putin’s offer of an EU-Moscow-U.S. financial plan and confronting Ukraine’s elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, with an unnecessary choice between ‘partnership’ with Europe or with Russia,” they write in the August 18-25 issue of The Nation. “The proposal was laden with harsh financial conditions as well as ‘military and security’ obligations. Not surprisingly, Yanukovych opted for a considerably more favorable financial offer from Putin.”

Regardless of the apportionment of culpability, Feffer sees a lot of damage being done to U.S.-Russian relations.

“There are many losses: arms-control treaties, scientific cooperation, joint diplomatic efforts to resolve international crises,” he says. “There will be also the spillover effect on arms spending, both for Russia and the United States.”

Feffer recommends a calmer course of action.

“The United States should be very clear about supporting Ukrainian sovereignty as long as the government strictly adheres to the protection of minority rights,” he says. “It should press for an impartial investigation of the airline disaster. And it should avoid escalating tensions in the region by military means.”

There are faint signals that the United States and Russia may be inching away from a confrontation.

“Mr. Obama has signaled his interest in a political solution,” the New York Times reports. “In a call [August 1] to Mr. Putin, Mr. Obama ‘reinforced his preference for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine’ and agreed to keep open ‘the channels of communication,’ the White House said in a statement.”

Feffer urges them to move further along this course.

“During the detente years, Washington and Moscow were able to negotiate agreements in various fields even though they were fighting proxy wars around the world,” he concludes. “There's no reason why even a continued disagreement over Ukraine should prevent the two countries from identifying common interests and pursuing them.”

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BREAKING NEWS: Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson of Bhopal infamy died a fugitive from justice. The Progressive got...

This Halloween movie will scare anyone who cares about news.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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