James Kirchick writes that there is a "libertarian civil war" over Ukraine. That a battle is occurring, there is no doubt, but should there be one? Is the libertarian position with regard to Ukraine so murky that libertarians can truly be on opposite sides of the issue?
“Unfortunately, Ron Paul is someone very respected in the West, but if you look very broadly when it comes to Ukraine and Eastern Europe, his rhetoric is pretty insulting to me as an Eastern European,” says Eglė Markevičiūtė, an international board member of SFL and former Chairwoman of the Lithuanian Liberal Youth. In response to SFL’s decision to host Paul this weekend, she started an initiative with two other young libertarians—Alexandra Ivanov, a student at Stockholm University whose father is Russian, and Irena Schneider, a Russian-American—entitled, “I am a classical liberal and I don’t support Ron Paul.”Has Ron Paul really become a useful dupe of the Russians? Let us consider the facts. To be a libertarian is to recognize and champion the non-aggression principle. This means either being in favor of an extremely limited government or no government at all.
Citing their experience “marching for liberty” in demonstrations against the reign of President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the young women fault Paul—whom they call “an advocate of Russian aggression”—and his eponymous think tank for “regurgitating [Russian] propaganda” alleging that Ukraine’s Maidan revolution was a “fascist coup,” that the annexation of Crimea was legal, and that there are no Russian forces operating in Ukraine.
The conflict between Paul and SFL dates back to March, shortly after the Russians annexed Crimea. Paul began giving a spate of interviews on RT, the Kremlin-funded disinformation network, justifying the blatantly illegal land-grab.
To be sure, there are no players involved in Ukraine that come close to honoring NAP. Not EU governments, not the U.S. government, not the Ukrainian government, not the Russian government. All the governments here are serious violators of NAP in many ways. Thus, an evaluation of the doings of the Russian government versus the U.S. government must recognize that we are not dealing with saints on any side of this question. From the mingling in foreign affairs to the use of citizen money to do this mingling, just for starters, we face problems from the libertarian perspective.
Thus, to simply champion any of these governments as an ideal government would be an error for a libertarian. A libertarian must look deeper and understand the dynamics at a much more local level.
Let's begin the digging deeper with this fact: In early 2014, the democratically elected government of Ukraine was overthrown, with instigation from the U.S. This is a fact. The U.S. plotters were caught on tape. See: An Important Second Listen to the "F--k the EU" Ukraine Recording. The "libertarian" supporters of the current Ukrainian government never address this fact. Can they please tell us why it is legitimate for the U.S. government to be involved in the overthrow ? The U.S. government continues to support the Kiev government.
While this can simply, at one level, be classified as governmental intrigue that is of little concern to libertarians, this overthrow and continued Kiev support has had an important impact at a local level and on individuals. The new government in Kiev appears to be quite hostile to the predominantly ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. Whether this hostility is real or imagined by Russian ethnics, and, as I say, it appears real, how can a libertarian object to the desire of these eastern Ukrainians for a separate federation or complete separation from the government of Kiev, for whatever reason?
It is a fundamental principle of libertarianism that any individual, or group of individuals, should be free to throw off the rule of any group for any reason. This should be the only concern of libertarians in the Ukraine conflict, that is, the question should be: By whom do the people of a region want to be ruled if, indeed, they want to be ruled by anyone at all? It is clear that the people of eastern Ukraine do not want to be ruled by the Kiev leadership and thus a libertarian must object to U.S. support for a Kiev government that wants to battle and halt the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine. To the degree that Russia is acting to support the separatists that should be cheered. Not becasue of any wonderful libertarian views that the Russian leadership holds but because when viewed from the Ukrainian chess board, in this instance, it is the Russians who are supporting a stance that should be held by libertarians everywhere, that is, a separatist stance.
It is not much different from the help provided to American Revolutionists by such foreigners as Marquis de Lafayette and Tadeusz Kościuszko. We have statues in America that feature these men who helped America gain its freedom from the British!
The Ukraine conflict has nothing to do with the domestic situation in Russia. To repeat, there are no supporters of NAP among any of the key players. The only question that needs to be asked is which people are trying to escape what they see as a dangerous government and who is helping them in the attempt to escape.? The people who are trying to escape a government are the people of eastern Ukraine and it is Russia that is trying to help them. Thus, in this particular act, the Putin's actions should cheered. It is dangerous to confuse this one act of Putin's which does support separation, with any acts that Putin launches within Russia, We shouldn't be talking about Russian domestic acts. when discussing Russia's role in Ukraine any more than we should be discussing the Kafkaesque-type trial U.S, trial of Ross Ulbricht, when considering the U.S. role in Ukraine.
When it comes down to Ukraine, we must only look at who is helping separation from unwanted governments and who is not. In the case of Ukraine, the U.S. is supporting the regime that wants to prevent separation and Russia is supporting the separatists, Thus, the only possible stand for a libertarian in this conflict is to cheer on Putin's Russia in aiding the separatists.
Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher at EconomicPolicyJournal.com and at Target Liberty. He is also author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics