March 3, 2015 by AK
“Never has so much been written about a speech that hasn’t been given,” said Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu of his address to US Congress scheduled for today. True: it’s been on the front pages for weeks. Some argue that Netanyahu is out to destroy Obama’s yet undisclosed nuclear deal with Iran with a powerful appeal to Congress. Other claim Obama wants Netanyahu out of office so badly that he cannot tolerate the Israeli’s effort to speak directly to US lawmakers and, allegedly, to torpedo Obama’s supposedly all-solving non-proliferation plan. You would think a leader of a friendly nation would always be welcome at the Congressional podium so this situation is clearly out of the ordinary.
The US has to deal with at least three crises at once: Iran, ISIS, Ukraine. Some lobbyists and foreign policy experts are arguing for prioritizing one or another crisis; voices in support of Ukraine’s priority are getting drowned out. Obviously, Israel is a close and congenial ally, and the US owes a debt to the Kurds. But Ukraine is not peripheral to US interests either: some politicians may have forgotten the world before 1991, but the Kremlin has not, and Russia is a nuclear power with neo-Soviet ambitions. Suddenly, the 1994 Budapest memorandum, which made the US and the UK, along with Russia, the guarantors of Ukraine’s security in exchange for its abandonment of nuclear weapons, has become notionally relevant but practically useless, going the way of the Franco- and Anglo-Polish agreements of 1939.
I’m not even talking of Russian propaganda, more corrosive than anything coming out of Iran or China. I can understand punditry like this, “One thing at a time: give Ukraine to Putin for the meantime and focus on Iran, and Iran alone.” I just cannot agree with it.