A fun leftover from yesterday and our latest entry in the Someone Left The Irony On Department. With brinksmanship escalating between the US, the European Union, and Ukraine, CNN’s John Berman asks a solid question: why should Americans care about the fate of this country on the eastern edge of Europe? Jonathan Finer, deputy national security adviser to Joe Biden, says we should be all about enforcing border security and recognizing national sovereignty.
Er .. who wants to tell him? Via Twitchy:
Biden’s Deputy National Security Adviser says Americans should care about Ukraine because “borders should be inviolate…sovereignty should be respected.” pic.twitter.com/oRC6ymfLSz
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) January 25, 2022
There’s more to this answer than what’s shown in this clip, but not much more:
BERMAN: Why should Americans care about what’s happening in Ukraine?
FINER: Because it goes to a very fundamental principle of all nations, which is that our borders should be inviolate, that our sovereignty should be respected. If the international system is to mean anything, it means no country can change another country’s borders or affect another country’s government by force. But Russia, by amassing all these troops on Ukraine’s border is calling into question those very basic principles.
They’re also, from the perspective of the United States and our allies, unsettling our allies, Ukraine is on the border of several NATO allies, as is Belarus where Russia is flowing troops. And our alliance commitments are sacred. The president has made that clear. And so we will be also posturing ourselves to reassure those allies should Russia choose to test that.
To put it mildly, neither of these are satisfactory answers, and the first is flat-out laughable. This administration refuses to address our own border crisis that Biden and Kamala Harris touched off with their campaign rhetoric and bungled policy reversals. They won’t even talk about it now, trying their best to distract from the tsunami of migration that is still overwhelming our border security apparatus.
This context of border security is different, of course, but Joe Biden and his allies have argued against the very concept Finer cites in handling America’s borders. Democrats have argued that borders aren’t terribly significant in North America and some insist that the southern border represents a kind of systemic white supremacy given the history of the border states. Remember “Aztlán“? Good times, good times. If that’s the case, though, then the same principle applies in Donbas, at least, where the population is much more Russian and where the history of its inclusion in Ukraine is far shorter than the 1848 settlement of the Mexican-American War.
That’s not to argue Russia’s case, though, but just to point out the hypocrisy. Borders do matter, and whether or not Donbas was part of Russia until 1954, it’s part of Ukraine now — and had been recognized as such by Russia until Putin violated that agreement for the first time in 2014. Russia has no significant argument for protecting ethnic Russians in other parts of Ukraine either. Furthermore, whether we like it now or not, we agreed to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity in a 1994 pact, along with Russia, to get Ukraine to denuclearize after the Soviet era. We aren’t required to go to war to meet those obligations, but our credibility for future such deals requires us to at least force Russia to pay penalties of some sort for violating Ukraine’s borders.
That’s the main interest we have in this crisis, but we’re playing a losing hand. That brings us to Finer’s other argument, which is that Putin’s aggression threatens our NATO allies. Oddly, our NATO allies seem at least a little less threatened by this than we do. And if they did feel threatened, they certainly have resources available to protect themselves from a Putin-led “minor incursion” elsewhere. If these are the only arguments that Biden’s nat-sec apparatus can make for American engagement in Ukraine, he needs a new set of advisers … and perhaps more focus on our border than Ukraine’s.