Thursday, February 19, 2015

How Should Libertarians Stand On Ukraine?

By Robert Wenzel

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?

Kirchick writes:
“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.”

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.
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.

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 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


  1. Is Kirchick in the Ukraine right now fighting against the Russians or is he just another big-mouth chicken.

  2. It is quite preposterous that Kirchick, whose salary comes from a neoconservative think tank founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan -- -- should presume to have any standing whatsoever to opine about what is or is not libertarian.

  3. Fuck Kirchick. He is a class A asshole. And that's I think the first time I've used an obscenity on this blog.

    1. Capn Mike, I'm sure you've used a far worse obscenity, the s-word (State) on occasion. Forgiven.

  4. My libertarian position on the Ukraine: None of my business. Not my problem.


  5. Justin Raimondo had retweeted a comment from someone else (can't remember who) that this was supposed to be a set up when Ron Paul was speaking at the SFL conference. The idea was probably that half the audience would boo the elder Paul and jeer as Ukraine propagandists peppered him with questions about "the newsletters" and being pro-Putin. If that was the plan, it didn't work. Ron was treated like a rock star and the anti-RP questioners got booed. I'm sure the asswipe Jamie Kirkchick was planning to write a follow up piece about how unfriendly the audience was towards Ron, but never got the chance. Kirkchick is a former state department shill who probably had to blow a few people at Bohemian Grove to advance his career. He certainly hasn't gotten where he is based on talent.

  6. Remember that James "Jamie" Kirchik is the one who, writing for the New Republic (interesting how one can move effortlessly from a liberal rag to a neoconservative rag) waited until just days before the New Hampshire primary in the 08 election cycle to run a hit piece on Ron Paul regarding the newsletters.

    Kirchik despises Ron Paul specifically and libertarians (small l) in general. Any piece written by him should be viewed in such a light.

  7. Should anyone not be familiar with the extraordinary Kosciuszko -- There is a statue of him but 10 minute walk from my office in downtown Philly.

  8. I don't really understand it. If any group of individuals wants to throw off the rule of any group for any reason, whoever takes their side supports libertarianism. So we should sheer for Putin because he helps a group of individuals somewhere near the Russian-Ukrainian border to separate themselves from the Kiev government. But we should not sheer for the American government because they helped a group of individuals to throw off the unwanted government of Yanukovych. This logic is double-standard.

    1. Let me help you understand the difference. A separation from a government versus just replacing the rulers within a government is a big difference. If I want to remove myself from a ruling government it is very different from your view that I must submit to a government just becasue it changes the ruler at the head of such a government.

      Thus, as RW points out, the government of the US is supporting a government that refuses to allow the eastern Ukrainians to leave its rule. From a libertarian perspective thus is a horrific move.

  9. Stanley, thank you. Look, libertarianism as it's used by you and RW doesn't shed any light on the war in Ukraine. If we are taking about Eastern Ukrainians (btw, meaningless concept), some of them want to be ruled by the Ukrainian government (What's the Kiev government?). They elected it. Some other Eastern Ukrainians don't want to be ruled by the Ukrainian government. They want to be ruled by the Moscow government. The annexation by Russia was the original idea behind the separation of Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic from the Ukrainian government. So the Ukrainian government has to protect its people from the Russian separatism because the separatists don't want to separate only themselves and their private property from Ukraine. And then let anarcho-capitalism figure out the rest. They want to take control of at least two provinces of Ukraine, including lives and assets of millions of other Eastern Ukrainians. And Putin is helping them. Should we still cheer for Putin? One cheer for Crimea. Two cheers for Donetsk and Luhanks.