Where a Libertarian Should Stand on Crimea

John Glaser, March 26, 2014

In opposing and challenging U.S. foreign policy, there is a tendency among some in the libertarian movement to excuse the crimes and misdeeds of foreign regimes that Washington sees as antagonistic. Fundamentally, I believe this represents a grave bias that has no place in the liberty movement.

Recent statements by Ron Paul have been interpreted by some as being too hesitant to call out Putin for his interventionism in Ukraine. Paul is correct, in my opinion, to place criticism of U.S. foreign policy as a priority over that of other governments (as Americans, that is our responsibility). And we always need to be skeptical of the rhetoric coming out of Washington directed towards America’s ostensible enemies.

But I don’t think it is very libertarian to carry water for Russian policies of military interventionism. This line of thinking was picked up by Alexander McCobin of Students for Liberty. He wrote a perfectly respectful piece disagreeing with Paul on the substance of whether Russia’s incursions and the Crimean referendum were legitimate. In response, Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace wrote a scathing polemic attacking McCobin and pretending like Russian foreign policy is benevolent.

Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com’s Editorial Director, also made this the subject of his column today. I fundamentally disagree with it on many counts.

There are two issues to be addressed here. One is the appropriateness of libertarians condemning governments other than their own. The other is whether or not Russia’s interventionism and Crimea’s referendum were legitimate.

On the latter issue, McAdams and Raimondo argue Russian troops were already in Crimea by mutual agreement. But to say the troops were already there by mutual agreement is to push Putin’s propaganda. Of course, there were thousands (nobody knows exactly how many because they disguised themselves) of extra Russian troops that moved into Crimea that went beyond the mutual agreement. And the mutual agreement was about basing rights in Sevastopol. I don’t believe it granted these Russian troops the right to seize police and military bases, as they did. Some Crimean minorities boycotted the vote, which is their right, but others wanted to vote and couldn’t because they were not sent the vouchers.

Crimeans do have a right to self-determination. And they very well may have voted to rejoin Russia even without Moscow’s meddling and military incursions. But it is just a fantasy to believe this is anything other than an interventionist power grab by Russia. Obviously, this doesn’t mean one ought to support U.S. intervention of any kind. But I think it does mean libertarians, when asked directly, should not defend Putin’s regime.

On the former issue, I believe it is incumbent upon us as Americans to criticize our own government, especially in the realm of foreign policy, before we go off criticizing foreign governments. And while much of the rhetoric coming out of Washington regarding Russia, Iran, China, and other bogeymen is structured to justify more U.S. interventionism, that doesn’t mean the criticisms of those governments are always and everywhere without merit. Just admitting that Russia’s actions are deplorable doesn’t make one an agent of the State Department or in bed with the neocons.

I’m an anti-war libertarian to the bone. But I’m also consistent. There is a lot to criticize about the approach of the U.S. government towards Ukraine. But if the U.S. government conducted the kind of foreign policy Russia has in Ukraine, I would stand in strong opposition to it, as any consistent libertarian should.

Reason’s Jesse Walker posted a rather prescient blog about this earlier this month. It is worth re-reading.

1. It is possible to believe that fascists and other creepy sorts played a notable role in the Maidan uprising and that the revolt was, on balance, a movement for greater freedom.

2. It is possible to believe that the Maidan revolt was a movement for greater freedomand that people elsewhere in Ukraine have legitimate reasons to be aggravated about the new government, and even about the fact that they’re ruled from Kiev in the first place.

3. It is possible to believe that there are Ukrainian citizens with legitimate complaints about Kievand that Russia should not be inserting its military, or indeed any of its influence, into the country.

4. It is possible to believe it’s bad that Russia’s sticking its snout into its neighbor’s affairs andthat it would be dumb for the U.S. to intervene to stop it.

Disagree with any of those combinations of views that you want. But don’t act as though they’re inconceivable. There have been a lot of logical leaps in the debates over the ongoing crisis, particularly—and most dangerously—from the folks who don’t seem able to understand #4.

Bonus: It is possible to believe that the U.S. should stay out of the conflict and that it’s a good idea to allow increased exports of natural gas, not because that will cut into Putin’s power—though that could be a happy effect—but because it’s something the government ought to be allowing anyway.




42 Responses to “Where a Libertarian Should Stand on Crimea”

  1. Glaser ignores the campaign by US government agencies to overthrow the elected government of Ukraine — the kind of huge oversight that underscores his nationalistic bias.

  2. The legally elected President Yanuchovic (however corrupt) after being deposed via coup that was orchestrated from Washington, gave Putin the permission to move Russian troops ANYWHERE in the Ukraine. Denying the legality of Putin's maneuvers is de facto legitimizing the illegal putsch government.

  3. Justin, you know this isn't true, given that I have written about and harshly criticized the US's meddling in Ukraine for weeks now. This post wasn't about that.

  4. However if you are in the business of helping to prop up a fascist coup regime and oligarchs that are in the process of selling the future of the Ukrainian people to the IMF and Western Multi-Nationals, than all the power to you!

  5. The main problem with this analysis is that the writer needs to be careful not to broad-brush libertarians who know full well that NO STATE ever comes to these issues with a clean hand.

    However, smart libertarians also know that the MOST DANGEROUS STATE ON THE PLANET, HANDS-DOWN, is our very own US national security state. I may not LIKE the other countervailing powers in this world that can work to restrain the US national security state, but THANK GOD THEY EXIST.

    Russia did 80% of the heavy lifting it took to eliminate one of the very worst regimes that has ever cursed our planet, Nazi Germany. Now it is one of the few counterweights to another dangerous, lawless regime, armed to the teeth, and convinced it is God himself. If we fail to condemn Russia too much, it is perhaps because we appreciate its value so much.

  6. I am skeptcial that the Crimean issue was ever resolved from the breakup of the Soviet Union to the present day — and even before that. Kruschev's edict was never intended to make Crimea part of a different country.

    And Crimea has consistently voted for autonomy for the past 20 years — despite Soviet style tactics from the Ukranian government in reaction to such votes.

    It is very difficult for me to be up in arms over what has happened so far.

  7. I agree with John Glaser, in principle, Justin Raimondo in practice, on this.

    Short of throwing your hands in the air and withdrawing from the world, it's impossible to be perfectly libertarian in a world where you are in practice forced to take sides between profoundly unlibertarian forces (states). Particularly when the arguments are over legality, when the laws in question are based on profoundly unlibertarian principles and judged by profoundly corrupt and unlibertarian institutions.

    As general principles, focussing on your own government's faults first, and looking for the aggressor in any conflict, seem good.

    On that basis, it seems clear that the EU and NATO are the aggressors and Russia merely responsive, in Crimea. Defending the Russians needs to be done, then, as far as possible, if it can be done without straining reality too far. It also should be born in mind that we do not work in a fair environment – immense resources are poured into propaganda for the US and EU, and interventionist, side. Lesser resources(at least in the context of the western mainstream media) are available to the other point of view. Seeking some degree of balance seems sensible.

    Randal

  8. […] Glaser’s blog post on Crimea is typically American – i.e. it is bathed in unconscious albeit ferocious […]

  9. […] is hard to maintain the right level of nuance and principle. I think John Glaser and the Jesse Walker blog entry he links to are good models of principled libertarian commentary. […]

  10. John Glaser,
    Sorry, sounding like Dr. William Miguelito Quixote Loveless Kristol and his cousins the Kagans gets you nowhere fast pal. This post is complete idiocy. What Putin does, short of direct attack on Amerika, is for Russians to deal with, not Amerikans. Short of direct attack on Amerika, what Putin does is not your business or anyone else with an Amerikan passport, (lest they be dual nationals). This is part and parcel of why Amerika is so hated around the world. In addition to being the busy body sticking its nose everywhere, suckers like you then want to make moral equivalency arguments to justify Amerikan foreign policy which has killed an ungodly number of people, destroyed countless countries, and made the image of amerika one of a world bully that at some point, will have to be challenged. Were Amerika more like Finland, then neocons like you would not have to post dribble like this……………….

  11. I'm surprised you're unaware L/libertarians are leading events in Crimea. They don't care about the Pauls or SFL. This action in Ukraine/Crimea has been discussed for some time and there's even a statement at the LIO Friends world activist group.

    For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues worldwide, please see the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization @ http://www.Libertarian-International.org

  12. This is the first article I have read on this site, so without that info included it totally seemed to me that you were ignoring that little factoid….

  13. Then why did you deliberatively avoid discussing these highly pertinent actions taken by Washington in a post devoted to where libertarians should stand on this issue? It's a very important part of how we reach our conclusions on this matter.

    If the coup was to some extent funded and organized by Washington, which with evidence from a taped recording and speeches by Victoria Nuland we certainly know it was, then this is a provocation and intervention on Russia's doorstep (combined with previous encircling with Nato bases). Making these points does not make someone a "defender" of Putin and his regime. That's a typical neocon tactic, even though I know you're not a neocon John (I enjoy your work). It just further shows the hollowness of your argument.

    I agree with points raised by both you and Anthony Gregory (surprised he got this wrong), but it appears that you are the ones who are not being "nuanced" enough on this immensely important issue.

  14. […] John Glaser says not so fast. […]

  15. Also John:

    Certainly Washington, the National Security State and it's media cheerleaders are hypocrites in their condemnation of Russia, but they also threw the little tidbit about Washington's role in financially supporting and organizing the coup in Kiev down the Orwellian memory hole. Withholding that crucial info from most (almost all) MSM discussions does make Russia and Putin look very bad in the American public's eyes and sets the stage for what the warmongers want which is more interventions and war, hot or cold. Let's not help them out by ignoring prescient facts in our analyses and getting this issue wrong.

  16. […] John Glaser says not so fast. […]

  17. Calling the ouster of Yanukovich a "US-sponsored Fascist coup" is analogous to blaming the American Revolution on France. For something other than the Kremlin disinformation line on Ukraine, try reading a real historian of the area:
    http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/mar/01/

  18. The Crimea is not my problem nor America's problem. Its the problem of the Crimean and Russian people.

  19. […] Glaser’s blog post on Crimea is typically American – i.e. it is bathed in unconscious albeit ferocious […]

  20. Your comment ignores the millions of Ukrainians who voluntarily participated in the overthrow of their corrupt undemocratic economically bankrupt puppet government. Overthrowing elected governments who abuse their power is everybody's responsibility. Election does not guarantee democracy. Once you get elected, you have a responsibility to actually be de facto democratic, not just de jure elected.
    It's that kind of huge oversight that underscores your lack of understanding of the situation in Ukraine.

  21. How do you know it was "orchestrated from Washington"? Did Putin's personal TV channel Russia Today tell you that?

  22. because Ukrainian people don't exist?

  23. Perhaps the problems starts with Glaser's almost religious belief in libertarianism. I read these pages daily and appreciate the opportunity to write, especially the up or down thumbs. I hope I never get banned. But I've never been convinced. Libertarianism arises when people have nothing in common, as in the huge, violent, multicultural US, where it becomes logical to always look out for number one. I doubt if the same strain exists much in small, homogenous societies where most realize that they are all in this together. When any economic theory becomes theology look out. To me, libertarianism has always seemed kind of naïve and sophomoric. It results in a totally materialistic dog-eat-dog society which I reject. I know I've strayed afield somewhat, but Glaser does seem to be imprisoned by his libertarian philosophy when he thinks that Russia's takeover of Crimea is not legitimate.

  24. Exactly. It's not that I like Putin's State so much as I fear and worry about the American State. Whatever one believes of the Russians, they've never dared to go nuclear (in a brazen show of force, no less) and are not the main threat to life and liberty on this planet. They do not claim the right to summarily execute people nor do they believe themselves the sole arbiter of international law.

    Having a counter-balance to Washington means there are lines the warmongers there will not cross lightly. I call that a good thing in my book.

  25. "Your comment ignores the millions of Ukrainians who voluntarily participated in the overthrow of their corrupt undemocratic economically bankrupt puppet government. Overthrowing elected governments who abuse their power is everybody's responsibility."

    So a democratically elected (U.S. and EU sanctioned the elections), which is an "undemocratic economically bankrupt puppet government" according to you gets overthrown by a U.S. backed "bankrupt puppet government". But somehow this is democratic and somehow marks progress for the Ukrainian people? This is a semantic revolution of Orwellian proportions.

    It's amazing how Yanukovych was elected in 2010 and elections were set for the beginning of 2015, but once he rejected the deal with the EU (which had NATO military clauses) the violent uprising emerged and eventually toppled his corrupt (most are) regime.

    Kiev can have it's putsch regime, but when they illegally overthrew the government and tore up their constitution it heralded the end of it's legitimacy in the eyes of Crimeans. Western Ukraine can have it's Western backed-bankster puppet government, but the Crimeans had the right to secede from it as well.

  26. I think you might be on to something here. Although I would agree with you that in many circles, libertarianism does arise from those who have nothing in common with their fellow man, I also think that the opposite is true as well. It's that libertarians do not wish to be coerced into doing thing that they don't want to do and by a government which has no hesitation or remorse about the use of force, even deadly force, to get those who would otherwise reject said collective policies, to comply. If VOLUNTEERISM were the mode of governing, then I think more would apply to be part of that society.

  27. […] fighting has spread to Antiwar.com. God help us […]

  28. Because they don't live in the US.

  29. Not being an idiotic doctrinaire "libertarian" (small or big L), but rather an anarchist and radical Transhumanist, I view this article as next to ridiculous.

    OF COURSE Russia is not some "benevolent state" – there is no such thing. I haven't seen ANYONE saying that ex-KGB officer Putin is some kind of "nice guy". What everyone has said – correctly – is that given international power politics AS IT IS, Putin was "correct" (Note: Not "right" – there is no "right") to act as he did to protect Russia's borders against NATO encroachment. Anyone who thinks the goal of the Ukraine coup was "democracy" and not expanding NATO at Russia's expense is a complete idiot.

    Since this effort to expand US imperialism worldwide is something US citizens should discourage for their own personal interests in terms of blowback and tax expenditures, clearly everyone should be criticizing the US involvement in this.

    It is quite clear from the various analyses that have been published in the alternative press that the US was directly involved in this coup and what the motivations were for its involvement. To try to blur those facts by declaring everyone is equally guilty of this crisis is the same as Obama declaring that the Crimea crisis is "worse than Iraq". In doing so, Obama jumps the line from being an a-hole to being obscene – and so does anyone who wants to "even-hand" the Ukraine issue.

    Glaser wants to declare Putin an interventionist because he moved Russian troops into Crimea, allegedly in violation of the treaty – despite the fact that the treaty allows up to 30,000 Russian troops in Crimea at any time. But as George Gallaway points out, there is no Ukrainian Constitution because the coup abrogated it – and thus the treaty.

    This "pie-in-the-sky" piece is why "libertarians" (small or big L) aren't taken seriously by anyone and never have been and never will be, despite fantasies of Rand Paul seriously running for President. Good luck with that…

  30. […] is hard to maintain the right level of nuance and principle. I think John Glaser and the Jesse Walker blog entry he links to are good models of principled libertarian commentary. […]

  31. The title alone "Where Libertarian Should Stand on Crimea" is enough to call Mr. Glaser's article into disrepute. The insufferable arrogance of someone TELLING me where I should stand on an issue. How dare he! Mr. Glaser sets himself as the judge of who and who is not libertarian?

    Go to hell, Mr. Glaser.

  32. There has been a whiff of something wrong with Glaser from day one.
    Here he stinks to high heavens.
    Glaser is very much like the MSM in that he "forgets" the historical context of NATO expansion and the threat it poses to Russia, the role that U.S. dollars had in the overthrow of the elected government, etc. (You can bet in the elections that the fascist-backed interim govt calls, the Party of Regions which was Yanukovich's will be outlawed or otherwise disabled – just as with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Surprise!)
    And the guy writes even more poorly than he "thinks." Justin is quite kind in simply putting it all down to a "mistake."
    Why Antiwar.com publishes Glaser's drivel is beyond me. It belongs in some neocon rag, a low quality one.

  33. […] response by Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace. Subsequently Justin Raimondo and John Glaser of antiwar.com and Anthony Gregory of the Independent Institute all weighted in on the […]

  34. Did Putin's personal TV channel Russia Today tell you that?

  35. […] Raimondo of Anti-War seemed to make a similar claim and offered this insanely aggressive polemic, against Alexander McCobin of Students for Liberty who […]

  36. […] Raimondo of Anti-War seemed to make a similar claim and offered this insanely aggressive polemic, against Alexander McCobin of Students for Liberty who […]

  37. The United States has decided to resume delivery of Apache helicopters to Egypt, the Pentagon announced late Tuesday, backtracking on a decision officials made last summer following the country’s military coup and its violent aftermath.

  38. The United States has decided to resume delivery of Apache helicopters to Egypt, the Pentagon announced late Tuesday, backtracking on a decision officials made last summer following the countrya??s military coup and its violent aftermath.

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