That phrase comes from Washington’ s Farewell Address, wherein he famously admonishes the young nation to avoid the political entanglements of Europe. At that time, the key players in rivalries and wars were England, France, and Spain. His words were a guiding maxim in American diplomacy until 1917, when America entered the Great War on the side of Great Britain, France, Italy and, for a while, Russia.
The experience of the war reaffirmed the wisdom of Washington’s advice. A period of isolationism followed, exacerbating the ascent of Fascist and Communist states. Another world war would make America and Soviet Russia the world’s so-called superpowers, with nuclear bombs and missiles in their respective arsenals. The world teetered on the brink of nuclear Holocaust until The Soviet Union collapsed, ending The Cold War. The United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union fought proxy wars in Asia, (Korea, Malaya, and Vietnam), Africa, ( The Congo, Angola, Southern Rhodesia, and Mozambique), and Central America (Guatemala, Nicaragua).
The collapse of the Soviet Union and its client states in Eastern Europe redrew the map of Europe. One of the new nations to emerge was Ukraine, long a part of Czarist Russia, then the Soviet Union. Ukraine had nationalist aspirations that sparked a brief war in the Bolshevik Civil War era.
Independence sentiment in Ukraine caused Stalin to use famine to kill off millions of Kulaks, Ukrainian small farmers, who resisted collectivisation in the 1930’s. Many Ukrainians sided with the Germans during WW Two and participated in the Nazi genocide against Ukrainian Jewry. Calling Ukrainian/ Russian rivalry a long, tragic and brutal history scarcely scratches the surface of their past.
So we come to the present. Both nations are beset by corrupt oligarchs Both sides have a habit of jailing or murdering domestic opposition figures. What we do not have is a White Hat vs. Black Hat, Wild West melodrama. Of course, Ukraine has a right to its sovereignty and independence, but how much American blood need be spilled in an ultimately futile effort?
What is incumbent on the United States and NATO is avoiding entanglement in what is arguably a civil war, given the centuries old bond between the two nations. A century ago, we barely noticed the war between the respective nations or regions. Satellite technology and the so-called “news cycle” make remote feuds immediate problems to us.
Consider this. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, large numbers of Poles, Jews. Ukrainians, Hungarians, Lithuanians, and other groups emigrated to the United States to escape the long standing persecutions of the old regimes and empires of Central and Eastern Europe. Old animosities die hard.
This is the classic foreign entanglement Washington warned us about It will not turn out well for the U.S of A, NATO or the two belligerent powers. Sadly we have become too conditioned to bloody and pointless wars, where tenuous claims of US national interest and a threat to “freedom” are made to perpetuate the folly of the bipartisan War State, festering in Washington. We should know better, by now.