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I read several articles on why Russia is interested in Ukraine. But not much found on why USA is going after it. Appreciate if someone can explain this to me.

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    I have only an opinion, so I post it as a comment: US does support anti-russian actions only to show US is still the strongest country, and when they say stop, everybody will obey. This is "war for prestige". The only trap in the situation is that both US and Russia has a lot to lose in this situation. US would lose a huge influence if she cannot solve the situation. Russia would lose Ukraine in case of win, but on lost it will be clear that Russia is just a shadow of the old USSR. Don't forget, China supports Russia. – CsBalazsHungary Mar 4 '14 at 21:09
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    I think it is a wrong question. This is not a situation US vs Russia. There are more interested parties in this situation. US got dragged in because of its NATO allies. And speaking on behalf of one of its allies I am pretty glad for that. – mpiktas Mar 6 '14 at 19:12
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    @CsBalazsHungary does China really support Russia? – o0'. Mar 9 '14 at 18:58
  • From China here. No, it does not. China only wants monies from Russia. Most Chinese people hate Russia, and the Chinese government issued a statement supporting "territorial integrity of Ukraine", i.e. veiled denouncement of Russia. – ithisa Mar 10 '14 at 19:18
  • @user54609 - China doesn't support "territorial integrity of Ukraine" out of ANY (good or bad) feelings for Russia. It supports that idea of territorial integrity as a theoretical concept, because if it's eroded, China's own geopolitical position is threatened as it currently occupies (or wants to) several areas that would like to cecede from China proper (Taiwan, Tibet, Uighur areas, eventually possibly Hong Kong, disputed areas between China and Vietnam and China and Japan). – user4012 Jul 28 '14 at 16:55
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The US's only interest in Ukraine is to keep Russia out of Ukraine. The US maintains a containment strategy on Russia, meaning that it tries to keep Russia from expanding and becoming a powerful empire and military adversary. It does not want Russia to expand into its former USSR territories. NATO exists for this express purpose to defend nations against the aggressions of Russia.

The US's allies are interested in Ukraine because the gas pipeline goes through it and Russia can turn off the gas to Europe and increase prices. The US cares for its allies as well and doesn't want this to happen either, of course. The US along with its allies are trying many ways to try to wrestle monopolistic control away from Russia over Europe's gas prices and Russia is trying to further monopolize fuel internationally through the pipeline. The US gets it fuel from other sources, but it is still involved in this international manuveuring.

For the second paragraph, see:

  • Do you have any references for further reading? – jorel Mar 4 '14 at 16:58
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    The US's allies are interested in Ukraine because the gas pipeline goes through it and Russia can turn off the gas to Europe and increase prices What? So until conquering Ukraine Russia cannot turn the gas off? – Cthulhu Mar 5 '14 at 13:10
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    I think the US not only want to contain Russia, they also want to demonstrate their support to all the eastern Europe countries, show them that they can rely on the NATO to defend them. Besides the US see in the Russian intervention an opportunity to outline the Russian "double-speak" about non-intervening in a sovereign country. – Julien Ch. Mar 5 '14 at 15:21
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    The answer basically states that you can become powerful empire and adversary only by expanding. Russia is the largest country in the world, remind me why does it need to expand? I would also add that some of the US allies are in the former USSR territory and they are not keen to become a part of Russia any time soon. For them gas is a secondary issue. – mpiktas Mar 6 '14 at 19:15
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    Seems like a good answer, but I'm too puzzled by the assumption that Russia cannot turn the gas off unless it controls Ukraine... doesn't make any sense. – o0'. Mar 9 '14 at 19:00
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Several reasons:

  1. There are several US/NATO allies which border Ukraine - To maintain credibility in the organization the US has to do more than simply show concern that Russia is attempting to coerce a sovereign nation into acquiescing to its territorial demands.
  2. The US was instrumental in Ukraine relinquishing its nuclear weapons (which were left on its soil after the collapse of the Soviet Union) by ensuring that the country became part of its "Partnership for Peace." A strong case can be made that Russia would not have invaded the Crimea had these weapons remained in Ukrainian control.
  3. Western Europe is essentially militarily defenseless against Russia - When NATO was in force, the threat of military action was enough to deter Russia from expanding into Western Europe. With most US troops now at home and NATO essentially a political and not a military organization, it is incumbent upon the US to maintain the integrity of Western Europe.
  4. Several NATO members directly border Russia - If Russia is allowed to succeed in Ukraine, then later issues against NATO members may be attempted by the country if the US is not seen as responding forcefully enough. After all, an attack against a NATO member is an attack against the collective group.

References:

http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gdJhpWptEECQ_6Zz7BbgoH59xpOA?docId=bdf4f885-115b-4ef6-ab4f-8c638d79b51b&hl=en

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partnership_for_Peace

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    Do you mean Western Europe here or Eastern Europe? As Somebody living in the UK I'm quite surprised by the suggestion that we are militarily defenceless, especially considering russia would have to probably take over the entirety of europe to get to western europe... I'd believe Eastern Europe much more here but I may just be naive about the situation... – Chris Mar 5 '14 at 12:20
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    As @Chris said, I must think that there is a typo here in relation to Western Europe being essentially militarily defenceless against Russia. In terms of military expenditure, Eastern Europe is very low - surprisingly so - but Western European countries maintain large, well-funded and trained, forces. There also seems, in this thread generally, not just here, to be an ignorance of the EU's military capabilities. NATO is devolving just as the EU is evolving into the same role. In combination, the EU is more than capable of resisting Russian expansion - and Ukraine is trying to join. – Eamonn Mar 5 '14 at 12:30
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    You should really elaborate on "Western Europe is essentially militarily defenseless against Russia". Both France and UK have nuclear weapons. UK has strong flote and is actively taking part in many military operations (like Iraq). Sheer numbers of Russian troops are not making it invincible, which was many times showed in history. – Danubian Sailor Mar 5 '14 at 13:24
  • Anyway, +1 for pointing out the security of NATO members in Eastern Europe. Failing to protect them would render NATO useless, which would be a great impact for US. – Danubian Sailor Mar 5 '14 at 13:26
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    Western Europe has more than double the military budget as Russia the idea that it would be defenseless without US help in 2014 is ridiculous. France and Great Britain also have nuclear weapons. – Christian Mar 7 '14 at 20:50
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The dual geopolitical events of 1991, the Persian Gulf War, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, established the United States as the world's sole, unchallenged superpower.

The United States would like to see a strong and independent Ukraine, preferably allied to NATO to prevent a resurgence of Soviet power. The Russians see a friendly Ukraine as an armored belt against western aggression. And China wants to see a strong Russia, hence a subservient Ukraine as an embarrassment to the United States. That is, until Russia starts interfering with China's interests at some point.

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    Can you elaborate on the China position regarding Ukraine/Russia? Actions of China IMHO don't really indicate that it would want a strong Russia per se; It could be just as well for China to prefer, for example, a prolonged conflict in Ukraine as a distraction for both Russia and NATO instead of a subservient Ukraine. – Peteris Mar 6 '14 at 1:59
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Beside of all aspects listed in existing answers, I would like to draw your attention to yet another two reasons, what's the United State's interest in Ukraine, which seem to be missing in other answers.

U.S.' interest in Ukraine rather has indirect nature, but it is caused by a very powerful factor, striving to keep post-Yalta security order. Shortly,

Reason 1.

  1. Post-Yalta world introduced a "bi-polar world", U.S. was one of the poles;
  2. Post-Yalta world has also assumed no further annexations in Europe;
  3. USSR collapsed, and it is "biggest disaster" for today's Russia;
  4. Russia wants to revive the USSR;
  5. By their own will, no nation would want to be in the newly-created USSR;
  6. So Russia wants to review the post-Yalta security order and by using military forces, make other states into the newly-created USSR;
  7. Which is unacceptable for U.S. Here's the interest.

Reason 2.

  1. Ukraine has surrendered its nuclear arsenal (3rd in the world by size);
  2. In exchange, other states, including U.S. have promised to respect Ukraine's independence and sovereignty within its existing borders; it was not stated directly, but assumed that nuclear countries will defend Ukraine in case of external aggression;
  3. Other countries today have built nuclear weapons (or are close to) — consider Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Egypt, Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea;
  4. U.S. consistently provide with measures of nuclear containment, they are negotiating with these countries to surrender those weapons, in exchange or respecting their borders and helping in case of external invasion;
  5. If U.S. does not keep their word given to Ukraine, all further negotiations on nuclear containment make no sense. Countries will need to re-start their nuclear programs.
  6. Which is unacceptable for U.S.

Long answer on Reason 1

After WWII, "post-Yalta world" has been established, including all created after 1945 mechanisms of mutual containment, security, negotiation, and international law. In fact, it became a bi-polar world.
U.S. was one of the poles. The other pole was USSR that collapsed by results of Cold War.

Note, "post-Yalta" world assumed that there will be no annexations in Europe anymore. This agreement was kept:

  • After collapse of Soviet Union, the newly formed states were created within borders of ex-Soviet republics;
  • Even in Kosovo, Albania has never attempted to annex it, although large part of Kosovo population are native Albanians;

There were only two times after WWII when one country has attempted to annex a part of another:

  • 1990, Iraq's invasion on Kuwait;
  • 1992, Serb's invasion on Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina;

We all know what the international reaction was. U.S. played the key part in both cases.

Back in 2005:

President Vladimir Putin of Russia has described the break-up of the Soviet Union as the "greatest geopolitical disaster of the last century".

Logically, he sets his primary goal revival of the Soviet Union:

"President Putin has a dream to restore the Soviet Union and every day he goes further and further and God knows where is the final destination,"Ukraine PM.
"Putin’s attempt to recreate the Soviet empire is futile"Financial Times

Such revival, in theory, can be done in a peaceful manner. If Russia was a powerful state with good economy basis, human freedoms, etc., probably, other nations would like to join such a prosperous state (or unions with this state). But with current pitiable status of Russia it's simply impossible. For instance, according polls, that even the poorest territories in Ukraine (ironically, they are most pro-Russian) did not show sufficient loyalty to Russia.

Polls in Ukraine
(image courtesy of Washington Post)

Hence, the only way how Russia can take other nations to join the newly-created Soviet Union is by force. And the only way to force Ukraine to do that in annexation of Crimea, Easter Ukrainian districts, and so on.

This is unacceptable for the United States.

Nuland: Elections in Ukraine a matter of national security for United States


Long answer on Reason 2

Budapest Memorandum states the following:

  • Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders.
  • Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.
  • Refrain from using economic pressure on Ukraine in order to influence its politics.
  • Seek United Nations Security Council action if nuclear weapons are used against Ukraine.
  • Refrain from the use of nuclear arms against Ukraine.
  • Consult with one another if questions arise regarding these commitments

The United States was one of the guarantors.

Russia broke their word, but (personal opinion) nobody in Ukraine has actually believed the words of Russia.

However, if U.S. breaks its word, all further agreements with countries who have developed nuclear weapons or who are close to it, would be useless. Everyone will suddenly realize that only possession of nuclear weapons can really defend them.


Summarizing all above.
United States are interested in keeping existing security order in Europe. Since Russia is trying to ruin this model in Ukraine, U.S. are trying to resist that.

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    @Anixx It's a serious accusation, so you may consider writing your own answer, citing any credible evidences which are supposed to aid answering the original question. – bytebuster May 15 '14 at 22:24
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    @bytebuster you should read real docs, not only write lengthy propaganda. nuland confirmed us spending 5B to 'build democratic skills and institutions': state.gov/p/eur/rls/rm/2013/dec/218804.htm – lowtech Aug 6 '14 at 21:25
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    @lowtech I can't see how the link you provided denies anything of my answer. – bytebuster Aug 7 '14 at 8:40
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    @lowtech "President Putin has a dream to restore the Soviet Union and every day he goes further and further and God knows where is the final destination,"Ukraine PM. "Putin’s attempt to recreate the Soviet empire is futile"Financial times – bytebuster Aug 7 '14 at 13:45
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    @bytebuster could you present government document or public speech of Russia's government official setting the goal of restoration of former USSR by Russia? – lowtech Aug 7 '14 at 14:36

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