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Sweet Nothings
Obama's Smart Diplomacy

The Associated Press reports that Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin held a 90-minute phone conversation yesterday. President Obama apparently tried to corner Putin by evoking various provisions of international law:

President Barack Obama on Saturday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine by pulling his forces back to bases in the country’s Crimean region and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine. […]

“President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said late Saturday in a statement, calling Russia’s actions a breach of international law, including Russia’s obligations under the U.N. Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine.

Here’s the Kremlin’s summary of the call. In a nutshell: a) The U.S. wanted the call so Putin took it. b) Nothing Obama said to Putin was particularly worth noting. c) Putin explicitly told Obama he reserves the right to move further into Ukraine.

Smart diplomacy at work. Putin is surely quaking in his boots.

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  • S.C. Schwarz

    Sad. When I talk to my liberal friends (I live in NYC: All my friends are liberal Obama voters.) their response is, essentially, do you want to start WWIII? But Russia is not the old USSR. This Russia is a weak, poor state. We have plenty of levers to pull if only there was the political will.

    The eastern Europeans will pay the price. Again.

    • vepxistqaosani

      Is it not interesting that — at a time when the US is very nearly as militarily dominant as it has ever been and the USSR (urp, Russia) is as militarily weak as it has been since the commencement of Operation Barbarossa — it is Russia which is the dominant power in worldwide diplomacy?

      • Corlyss

        Yep, esp. for what it says about the other nations, less what it says about Russia. Sort of looks like 1937-8. As John Lewis Gaddis says, “History rarely repeats itself, but sometimes it comes damn close.”

      • Jim__L

        The leaks mean they have our measure. Putin doesn’t need to “look into Obama’s eyes”, or even listen to Obama’s critics to tell that Obama is an inert weakling with no interest in anything but spending hundreds of billions on domestic affairs — Putin has our inner policy workings laid out for him.

        B-52s have only one gun on them — at the back end — and that gun only has ammunition for 10 bursts. But it’s enough to give fighters sneaking up behind it second thoughts, even if “in all that confusion” they can’t remember if it’s fired 10 shots, or just 9.

        Putin doesn’t have to feel lucky. He knows he’s lucky. Obama is the punk.

    • Boritz

      “do you want to start WWIII?”

      And they would say the same thing if it was the U.S. on the verge of being invaded.

  • Jojo Jobxyzone

    If Russia invades the Russian speaking parts of Ukraine, the west will do nothing. Russia knows it. Western leaders know it. Ukraine knows it. Its a safe bet that Russia will take over those parts of Ukraine.
    The real dilemmas will happen if Russia takes over all of Ukraine. What will Obama do? My personal guess? – same as in the previous paragraph.

    • lhfry

      Kind of like Czechoslovaia after Munich.

  • rheddles

    Wow, a double oxymoronic title.

    • B-Sabre

      I can actually sense the digital bits rebelling at having to form that title.

    • Boritz

      You can say that again.

  • John Stephens

    The United States has two brigades of troops in Europe: one of light cavalry (Stryker) in Germany, and one of airborne infantry in Italy. We have NO tanks on that side of the Atlantic, and the Russians know it. Obama missed a good opportunity to keep his mouth shut, and avoid further humiliation.

    Punks get punked.

    • B-Sabre

      The (western) Ukrainians have tanks.
      The Poles have tanks.
      The Germans have tanks.
      The Brits (also a signatory to the 1994 treaty) have tanks.
      The French have tanks.

      What they don’t have on that side (or this side, for that matter) of the Atlantic is leadership. All the tanks in the world don’t matter if nobody is willing to say “Follow me.” Moving the Styker, 17th Airborne and possibly the ready brigade of the 82nd to Poland would have sent an immediate signal to the Russians. Back that up with the Air Forces’ expeditionary air wings and you might give Putin a reason to say “Hmmmmm….”

      A demonstrable willingness to use force often pre-empts the necessity of using force.

      • Corlyss

        Well, you can forget the Germans, Brits, and French. You know how the Germans and French fought the war in Afghanistan? Drinking beer and wine and watching tv. Besides lack of foreign policy savvy outside the EU (which makes them even more dependent on us to tell them what’s a threat, and since we’re not doing that leadership thing anymore . . . ), their welfare state ministers will never allow them to spend the money on defense.

  • Lyle7

    Christiane Amanpour said live on CNN yesterday that Russian Crimeans had no right to ask for Russia’s help because of international law. This well traveled and smart woman actually thinks this. Lord have mercy.

    • Fat_Man

      The earlier post: “Putin Smashes Washington’s Cocoon”

      explains the mentality.

      The real question is why are you wasting your time listening to her, she is clearly clueless. I recall quite distinctly that she promised the incipient demise of the Iranian Theocracy in the 1990s. She hasn’t been right about anything since then.

      • Corlyss

        Yeah. Her and Peter Arnett. Remember him? Walter Duranty stuff.

      • Lyle7

        If one turns in to CNN, one often sees Christiane Amanpour. If I actually “listened” to her, wouldn’t you think I would agree with her?

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Obama is so weak none of America’s enemies have any fear of him at all. He is far weaker than Jimmy Carter ever was, and this is likely to lead to a world wide war in the future as our enemies eventually overreach. I really thought Ukraine would fight, maybe they still will.

    • Corlyss

      But you have to give it Duffus: he does scare the crap out of some folks, i.e., our allies.

  • Corlyss

    Absolutely pathetic.

  • Corlyss

    K.T. McFarland was on Fox Report last night. She was asst. SecDef under Reagan. Harris Faulkner talked with her about Ukraine and Putin and Obama’s response to the situation. They got into WWRD – what would Reagan do. Here were McFarland’s comments:

    1) Reagan attacked Russia economically

    2) Russia needs high oil prices to operate. Without them “those guys are on the street with a tin cup.”

    3) What Reagan would have done:

    *Go to Poland and Czech Rep. and tell ’em “We’re going to rebuild that missile shield that made the Russians so nervous.
    *Then he’d go to the Germans & other European states and tell them, “We now have a nat gas export capability. You don’t need to buy from Russia.”
    *Then he would go to Putin & say, “Look, if oil goes below $100/brl, you guys don’t make payroll. Guess what! We’re gonna start fracking, and we’re gonna drive the price of oil down 20%, and you guys are going to be in real trouble.”

    4) Reagan understood what their one vulnerability was, the economy and he attacked it. Obama just makes speeches.

    5) Russia is just going to skive off the ethnic Russian populations in Ukraine and stitch ’em into the New Russian Empire, just like they did to half of Georgia.

    6) Putin looked at Russia 25 years ago and wrote in a doctoral dissertation that Russia was on its knees because of oil and energy. In that dissertation he wrote “We’re going to 1) use nat gas exports to get Europe dependent on us and use that as political leverage; then we’re going to export our oil and use the proceeds to rebuild our military.” And that’s exactly what he’s done.

  • Jim__L

    “Why do you quote laws at us? We have swords.”

    – Pompey Magnus

  • qet

    Well, there is the matter of deployment of the US/NATO missile defense systems in Eastern Europe that Putin has been (I think) quite adamantly opposed to. Now would be a good time to accelerate that deployment, would it not? Probably also a good time to start breaching the INF treaty as well, just as Russia has (allegedly) done. But these would be provocative actions and nothing about this Administration so far suggests they will rise to the occasion.
    Probably also a good time to announce another 600 ships for the Navy. Yeah, we can’t afford it, but we couldn’t afford it then, either.

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