Win-win isn’t always on the menu, Walter Russell Mead reminds us:
What Obama’s belief in the possibility of deals with countries like Russia and Iran leaves out is that some countries around the world may count the reduction of American power and prestige among their vital interests. They may not be hampering and thwarting us because we are unnecessarily and arbitrarily blocking their path toward a reasonable goal; they may be hampering and frustrating us because curbing our power is one of their central objectives. This is not necessarily irrational behavior from their point of view; American power is not a good thing if you hate the post-Cold War status quo, and it can make sense to sacrifice the advantages of a particular compromise with the United States if as a result you can reduce America’s ability to interfere with your broader goals.
The same short essay makes two additional points of special note. Firstly, the Ukraine events compound the international lesson of Libya:
If … Ukraine ends up losing chunks of territory to Russia, it is pretty much the end of a rational case for non-proliferation in many countries around the world. If Ukraine still had its nukes, it would probably still have Crimea. It gave up its nukes, got worthless paper guarantees, and also got an invasion from a more powerful and nuclear neighbor.
Secondly, a three-year window for expanding world chaos has blown wide open:
The Obama administration is now being challenged, and not only in Crimea. Both friends and foes around the world (and in the United States) increasingly see a Georgia peanut farmer when they look towards the Oval Office. If President Obama allows that impression to become irremovably fixed, he and the nation he leads have some ugly times ahead.
There can be no doubt we’re living in interesting times: “… events in Ukraine show us world history being made. Unfortunately, world history isn’t always very nice.”