In the midst of negotiations to avoid another government shutdown, Congress rammed through new sanctions against Russia as part of the misnamed “Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014.”
Congress appears determined to turn an adversary into an enemy and encourage retaliation against more significant American interests. Observed my colleague Emma Ashford: “the provisions in this bill will make it all the more difficult to find a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine crisis, or to find a way to salvage any form of productive U.S.-Russia relationship.”
Last year, the corrupt but elected Viktor Yanukovich was ousted by protests backed by rabid and sometimes violent nationalists. The United States and Europe flaunted their support for the opposition. Indeed, American officials openly discussed who should take power after his ouster.
Russian President Vladimir Putin still was not justified in dismembering Ukraine, but America would have reacted badly had Moscow helped overthrow a Washington-friendly government in Mexico.
Ukraine’s fate is not a serious security interest for the United States. The conflict raises humanitarian concerns, but no different than those elsewhere around the globe.
Kiev’s status matters more to Europe, largely for economic reasons. If the European Union and its members want to confront Russia over Ukraine, they should do so—without Washington’s involvement.