The American Interest
Essays & Longer Thoughts
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Published on March 6, 2014
The Battle for Ukraine Russia Blows Past Obama’s “Off Ramp”

Yet another western plan for Ukraine ended in failure today. Will this hurt Obama’s standing in the Middle East?

Yet another western plan for Ukraine went down in flames today as the Russians blew past the ‘off-ramp’ Washington and its allies had prepared as a way to defuse the crisis. It’s the third western plan to flame out since November.

First came plan A: Get Yanukovych, a leader based in the east, to sign an EU trade agreement that would set a united Ukraine on a westward path. Putin disrupted that plan by getting Yanukovych to switch and go east.

Then came Plan B: When unrest swept Kiev and Yanukovych’s government reacted with blind and brutal thuggishness, western diplomats decided to help the protestors replace the Yanukovych regime with a new government that could unite the country and bring it toward the West. That plan failed when Russia took advantage of the chaos in Ukraine to occupy Crimea and demonstrate its ability to threaten the east.

Plan C, which Putin shot down in the last 24 hours, was apparently based on the hope among some policy makers that a confused and misguided President Putin had made a dreadful blunder in Crimea. The plan was to offer the poor, trapped Russians a graceful way out of their predicament that would ultimately restore Ukrainian unity as the country moved West. The plan collapsed when Lavrov blew off the West and refused to even meet with Ukraine’s foreign minister and now the Russians are kicking the fragments to bits as the Crimean regional authorities announce plans for a referendum on annexation by Russia.

Far from thinking that its incursion was a foolish blunder, Russia appears to be acting in the belief that it has inflicted a humiliation on the West and made solid gains on the ground in Ukraine. It is doubling down on the policy, and as far as one can read the mixed signals from the Kremlin, appears to be saying that the West must swallow the annexation of Crimea or watch as Russia further destabilizes eastern Ukraine.

Putin cares much less than many westerners seem to think about any sanctions that the West is likely to impose. Russia isn’t part of the West and things work differently there. Western commentators pointed breathlessly to large declines in Russian stock markets after the invasion, for example, to show how Putin must be feeling the errors of his ways.

Not really; Putin does not worry nearly as much about the Russian stock market as western leaders worry about financial markets in their own countries. Putin broke the oligarchs as a political force years ago; in Russia, corporations exist to serve the state and not the other way round. He is not worried that business leaders will lose confidence in him; in Putin’s Russia, it is business leaders who worry about losing the trust of the country’s political master.

As for banking crackdowns and visa limits, it will help Putin, not hurt him, if powerful Russians are unable to leave the country or move their money around in the West. One of his worries is that various oligarchs and power brokers can put enough money in the west to be able to get out from under his thumb. He would like all of his backers to be dependent on him for continued enjoyment of wealth and property. If the West wants to fence his backers in, so be it. (If the west goes after Putin’s own golden horde of ill-gotten simoleons, estimated by many to be north of $50 billion, the calculation might change.)

As for the value of the ruble, Putin probably thinks of this as a problem for the technocrats to solve. In any case, global political instability, in which there is a bull market these days, tends to drive up the price of Russia’s gas and oil exports, and this is the bottom line the Russian president probably watches most closely. Trouble in Europe and trouble in the Middle East brings more money into Russia’s coffers, not less.

Putin cares about the economy, and Russia’s economic weakness is one of the permanent disadvantages that hobbles Russia at every turn—but the effect of any of the likely western sanctions on Russia is probably less serious than many of his opponents would wish.

As for other trade sanctions, the disunity and economic selfishness of the western response has made the West look ridiculous. France will deliver warships, Germany will buy gas, and Britain’s banks are open for Russian business. Putin must be quaking in his boots at this awesome display of resolve.

Far from agreeing with the line that he’s fallen into a clever western trap, Putin probably thinks that he’s still got a shaky US administration pretty much where he wants it. Wrecking three western plans for Ukraine in a row has left him with what he probably sees as a stronger position than he had three months ago. He’s blocked his worst case outcome—a united Ukraine moving to the West with the eastern political leadership backing the move. The West is largely stuck with the financial support for Ukraine (meaning that US and EU taxpayers will be paying Ukraine’s back bills to Gazprom and other Russian entities), and now that he has Crimea in hand, the divisions between east and west can be exploited by Russia down the road.

Looking at the bigger picture, Putin probably also thinks the United States needs him more than he needs us at the moment. The Obama administration, he likely believes, is desperate to avoid further trouble in the Middle East. In Syria, in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and in the Iranian negotiations, it is out on a limb, engaged in very high stakes diplomacy where the odds don’t favor it. Russia can’t do a lot about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but it can probably spoil the Iran negotiations and make Syria an even more horrible diplomatic and political problem for the Obama administration than it already is. Indeed, Samantha Power is now stating that Syria is dragging its feet in negotiations over the destruction of chemical weapons facilities. The U.S. should not expect any help from Russia as it searches for progress in Syria.

Putin can therefore inflict a great deal of pain on President Obama and American diplomacy if he chooses, and one suspects that he likes that. It’s possible that in happier times there were people in the Obama administration who believed that Putin would help them out diplomatically either because Russia and the US have common interests win Syria or over the Iranian issue or because he would prefer to help liberal, presumably more dovish Democrats consolidate power in Washington rather than making them look bad and easing the path for Republicans back into the White House.

Putin, however, doesn’t look at things that way. He appears to believe that under its dovish rhetoric the Obama administration was trying to detach Ukraine from Russia—a mortal threat to Russia’s vital interests as the Kremlin sees them. The Obama administration’s human rights rhetoric and its habit of making irritating though not genuinely wounding gestures (like sending gay delegates to the Sochi Olympics) angered the Russians without weakening them, and we can be sure that Putin believes in his gut that if some kind of Kiev style protest movement rose up in Moscow to drive him from office, that the United States would give it as much help as we dared.

From a Russian point of view, there already was a cold war between Moscow and Washington, and the West’s effort to snatch Ukraine last fall was a unilateral escalation of that conflict and an existential threat to the foundations of both the Putin government and the Russian national project. Putin believes he is fighting back and it looks as if his interest in punishing Obama over Ukraine is greater than his (limited and conditional) desire to keep working with Obama on issues like arms control.

From Putin’s point of view, there is much less difference between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans than narcissistic westerners might think. He sees the whole United States as his geopolitical arch-rival and sees differences between liberals and conservatives as arguments about the best sauce to cook Russia with. Reagan brought the Soviets down and George H. W. Bush reunified Germany and anchored it in NATO, but the Clinton administration rammed NATO expansion down a weak Yeltsin’s throat and Obama was ready to scoop Ukraine into the western swag bag if Russia hadn’t stopped him.

Just as Jimmy Carter did not understand that his human rights advocacy ruined his hopes for a new era of detente and arms negotiations with the Soviet Union, the Obama administration’s policy makers don’t seem seem to understand that their Ukraine policy (which they don’t ever seem to have thought much about one way or the other) contradicted their reset policy in a way that would alienate and enrage the Russians. Now, from the Kremlin’s point of view, it may be the Obama administration that has fallen into a trap. Domestic political pressures are meshing with the President’s own sense of legality and morality in international affairs to push the United States towards trying to make it look as if our sanctions and other responses are imposing. In fact, they will and must be fairly ineffective, and Russia can use its influence over events in Syria and Iran to cause more pain to Obama and more damage to America’s international standing.

Russian diplomats expect to be getting urgent calls for help from desperate American diplomats trying to get Iran to an acceptable agreement and perhaps also to keep the Syrians within some kind of bounds. They are probably also expecting some interesting calls from Saudis, and from Egyptian generals with Saudi money in their bank accounts, looking to punish the Obama administration by creating the appearance of a new Russian role in Egyptian military affairs. It’s quite possible that the value of some Saudi backed arms deals with Egyptians and maybe Pakistanis could more than offset the cost of western sanctions to the Russian economy. In any case, Russia thinks it has some running room in foreign policy now, and we should expect it to take advantage where it can.

There may still be some people in Washington who think Putin has blundered into a weak position, but from Tokyo and Beijing to Teheran and Damascus, Putin is probably looking like a stronger horse today, and Uncle Sam like a weaker one.

We shall see, but the most important question now probably isn’t what happens next in Ukraine. The question is how does the breakdown of the Obama administration’s Russia policy affect America’s position in the Middle East. Will Iran now assume that it can have more backing from Russia and will that harden its stance in the nuclear talks? Will Assad now conclude that he has less to fear from the Americans than ever before? Will that be reflected in a continual hardening of his stance on chemical weapons?

If those things happen, how will the Obama administration reshape its stance in the Middle East? If Iran and Syria negotiations deteriorate, and Russia is being the reverse of helpful, what is America’s next move?

Meanwhile, let’s see what the West comes up with for Plan D in Ukraine.

[UPDATED]

  • Corlyss

    Don’t you guys on Via Meadia as foreign policy pros love the way administration officials talk about “19th Century” territorial aggrandizement as if when the calendar turned over in 2001, all concerns about intractable geography and historical experience were suddenly swept away in a fairytale-like substitution of brotherly love, UNICEFian clasped hands across the seas, and mutual agreement “that violence never solves anything?” It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

    The fabulists never seem to live in an adult world where human nature and geography never change.

    • Andrew Allison

      The essay makes clear that, while Prof. Mead’s qualifications as a student of history and foreign affairs are unquestionable, his grasp of real-time geopolitics leaves something to be desired.

      • 10th Amendment is the Solution

        the reality that obama is clueless on Russia, looks foolish, which leads to his approval numbers falling resulting in the Dems efforts to retain the Senate in November less and less likely, makes you a bit uneasy, huh?

        • Corlyss

          Andrew’s a pretty cool customer. I don’t know about him, but as one of the tiny circle of foreign policy voters, this administration scares the crap out of me. The same cluelessness that afflicted Wilson and Carter. Repetition of these jokers’ trajectory is recurring faster.

          • Thirdsyphon

            Historically, notwithstanding their job description, Presidents who are actually good at foreign policy are fairly unusual. In my lifetime, Republicans have tended to be better at it than Democrats, but from what I’ve seen over the last 20 years or so, the Republicans have more than lost their touch.

          • Andrew Allison

            Did you mean since Reagan? If so, I agree with you. FWIW, in my opinion, all of the Presidents following him prior to 2008 suffered from the flaw that they wanted the job rather than wanting the job to achieve an objective; and that today we are suffering from the fact that the objectives of the current one are not in the bestinterests of the country.

      • ThomasD

        If you put some meat on those bones of critique you might be more credible.

        • Andrew Allison

          If you read the subsequent comments before posting, you would have avoided making yourself look foolish.

          • CrassyKnoll

          • ThomasD

            I’m supposed to assume every one of your empty utterances is somehow secretly footnoted, and go searching for the actual pearls of wisdom?

            Well, you certainly know something about foolishness, but a judge of it you are not…

          • Jim__L

            Go easy, this post’s comment count grew pretty fast. I think RCP may be linking VM again.

          • Andrew Allison

            His stupid, and offensive, comment was posted a full day after mine. You are, however, correct in observing that there’s an inverse relationship between the visibility of FEED and the cogency of the comments [/grin]

          • Jim__L

            I have to admit some self-interest here — as great as this site is, I can’t imagine many people have the time to read the comments after the count passes a few dozen.

      • Peter Miller

        What a meaningless comment.

    • TBill

      This belief that the world has changed so greatly that the past is irrelevant has correlates in other fields. In Catholicism it was referred to as Modernism or, more recently, “The Hermeneutics of Rupture.” In economics or finance, it goes under the simpler rubric of”it’s different this time.” Other examples of this disastrously pernicious idea are likely to exist.

      • ThomasD

        You forgot the one about communism never having failed because true communism has never been tried.

    • Peter Miller

      It’s what they learned in college.

    • Thirdsyphon

      Based on history, geography and other relevant yardsticks of 19th Century-style realpolitik, Russia is severely underperforming the sphere of influence that one would currently expect it to possess, given its size and resources.

      Regardless of the ultimate outcome in Ukraine (which is still very much in doubt), the important story here in geopolitical terms is that the current incarnation of Russia is so phenomenally weak that it was forced to battle the West for influence over Ukraine, lest it join the EU and/or NATO.

      I’m no Otto von Bismarck, but I think his snap analysis of what’s going on here is that Russia is now in a position that no competent Great Power would let itself be boxed into; and from this, he would conclude that one or possibly both of the following must be true:

      1) Russia has been consistently and catastrophically outplayed by her adversaries, for a generation or more; or

      2) Russia is no longer a Great Power.

      • O’Connor Margaret

        “Russia is no longer a great power”….Maybe true….BUT it no longer takes a great power to make the US (i.e. THIS Administration) look like clowns because that is exactly what they are. Let’s continue this conversation say 4 weeks from now…….when Putin has given up the Crimea. Oh, you don’t think Putin will be giving up Crimea in the next 4 weeks. Guess what? Neither do I….although I would NOT be surprised if 4 weeks from now Putin wasn’t “digesting” the eastern (Russian) half of the Ukraine while US/EU are still wringing their hands and calling for international inspectors.

        • Thirdsyphon

          Putin’s tanks will probably still be in the Crimea 4 weeks from now, no matter what the referendum decides, but still:

          1) At the risk of repeating myself, we’re talking here about a country whose unquestioned writ, just a quarter of a century ago, ran all the way to Berlin. The fact that Moscow now has to physically roll tanks just to enforce its will in the Crimean Peninsula is the mark of a power in wholesale collapse, not one on the rise.

          2) The relevant timeframe isn’t four weeks from now, but four years. If I had to guess at the most likely outcome for Ukraine in that time frame, I’d say that there’s about an 85% chance that Crimea will be part of Russia. . .but also a 50-50 chance that at least part of Ukraine (and possibly all of it outside of Crimea) will be a member of NATO on a fast track for accession to the EU. Given that the status of Russia’s naval base itself was never in doubt, these aren’t dice that any competent leader should want to roll. . . but it seems to be part of Putin’s consistent pattern of doubling down on bad results.

          • O’Connor Margaret

            Thirdsyphon: I CAN follow your line of reasoning…(85% chance that Crimea will be part of Russia) ..with ONE exception: Russia (not just Putin, but the entire country) will NEVER, EVER allow the West to transform Western Ukraine into “NATO on a fast track for accession to the EU”.

            I realize most people are LAZY and don’t want to do REAL research; however, simply go to Google or Wikipedia to see what Russia and the Russian people mean by the “NEAR BEYOND”……EXACTLY the same concept as the US means by the Monroe Doctrine; i.e. NO foreign power comes into our sphere of influence, or we WILL go to war.

            The difference between the US/Russia when it comes to enforcing a ‘Near Beyond/Monroe Doctrine’? Just in the 20th century, Russia has been invaded by Germany TWICE (WWI = 5 million casualties) WWII 20+ million casualties; from 1300-1939? Russia invaded by Austria, Hungary, Poland [200+ years of conflict] Germany, England (twice) France (3 times) Sweden [300 years of conflict] Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania (as surrogates of Sweden). That’s just from the West! From the South, Russia was at war for 600 YEARS with the Khans (Moslems/Mongols/Tatars) before Peter the Great and Catherine the Great ‘finalized’ that threat (from Russia’s point of view). By comparison, the US has been invaded but 3 times in its history: War of 1812; Pearl Harbor, and 9/11

            Russia (and the Russian people – not just Mr. Putin) WILL go down in flames before they give up the Ukraine which has been Russian territory [and its Near Beyond] since the reign of Catherine The Great (i.e. BEFORE the US was born). And they WILL go down in flames for much the same reason the US was prepared to go to nuclear war with Russia over missiles in Cuba – since Russian missiles in Cuba contravened the Monroe Doctrine.

            I’m NOT saying the Russians are right/wrong in this respect; all I’m suggesting is the Ukraine to Russia is at LEAST as important to that country as America’s claim that the Monroe Doctrine’ serves as legitimate basis for us to go right to the brink of Armageddon (and beyond if necessary)

          • Jim__L

            Considering Russian overtures to Venezuela, are you sure you should be referring to the Monroe Doctrine in the present tense?

          • O’Connor Margaret

            Jim: I’m really not sure the Monroe Doctrine means ANYTHING to the U.S. anymore. We just appear to be wandering from pillar to post, and aren’t really sure WHERE our principles lie (IF we have any principles left)

          • jimb82

            In fact, if I’m not mistaken Kerry recently declared the Monroe Doctrine dead.

      • misanthropicus

        Aferim …
        It’s difficult to swallow the crudness of Russia’s acts in Ukraine/Crimea, but I cannot see in long terms a benefit of it for the, formerly known Soviet Union – au contraire -

        Clearly, Russia has exploited the global predicaments of the US (the only polity able to punch their nose) very well -
        Two weeks ago, the headlines in RCP were all about China’s growing challenge in the Pacific, and how Vietnam, Taiwan, phillipines, Japan , etc., are all looking for a sign of, heavens! encouragement! or call to close the ranks which, alas, hasn’t yet came from Washington -

        Certainly, in the Maps Room, W.DC. there is much and legitimate concern and attention to various parts of the world in which the US interests are challenged, and how to respond to them – it is difficult to be the World Pace Keeper, particularly in these, not so bright Post Crisis trimes -

        And in this vacuum, well sensed by the Russians, they were able to move in in Ukraine -

        Poor them, Ukrainians – if not relieved, the things will go worse and worse for that nation, because the’re forved to join an already drunk and bankrupt brother -

    • jimb82

      They sure worry about 19th Century domestic developments a lot.

  • Pete

    Excellent analysis, Mr. Mead.

    • Andrew Allison

      I beg to differ.

      • 10th Amendment is the Solution

        …because it make your King look bad?

        • Winston Smith

          I think Vladi has discovered that our Emperor has no clothes.

        • Andrew Allison

          No, because (as I’ve commented) the analysis is half assed. The fact is that the West completely bungled the situation, and is continuing to make its collective itself look not just impotent but stupid.

      • qet

        I think it is an excellent analysis, a sound reasoning from premises. The only question is: are the premises correct? To me, the chief premise is Via Meadia’s assertion that Putin has the Russian oligarchs under his control. It seems that the greatest part of any proposed Western strategy relies on being able to use money as a lever to pry the Russian plutogarchs from support for Putin. If that indeed is not feasible, then the non-cooperation of Western plutogarchs is irrelevant.

        I wonder if a sudden and complete volte-face by Obama in his foreign policy approach could deliver enough shock and awe to cause Putin to waver. After all, he, too, is making calculations. Maybe Obama’s instantly turning into a JFK-style hawk would be effective? I have no idea.

        • Jim__L

          Tired all over…

        • Andrew Allison

          Surely you jest? This so-called “analysis” is unworthy of one of the very few thoughtful blogs around. There was never, ever, any question on the part of even a half-educated student of geopolitics that Putin would place Russia’s only warm-water port and home port to the Baltic Fleet at risk of EU influence. The fact that the EU and Emperor O failed to recognize this is not merely embarassing, but terrifying. The West is utterly impotent in this situation: the EU is as dependent upon Russian gas as the Ukraine, and the US has precisely zero leverage.

          • qet

            No, I don’t jest, and your comments are not inconsistent with my remarks about premises being the most important matters. And as for your comment, I really don’t see that running off Yanukovych jeopardized Russia’s Black Sea port. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Ukraine to have entered into a long term lease a la Hong Kong or Guantanamo Bay or otherwise by treaty guarantee the port, which they would have done, so your analysis of the port question is not convincing. I do agree with you, mostly, on the question of US/EU leverage, but leverage is a dynamic, not a static, quality and is subject to change by competent actors. I’m not saying there are any such actors around at present. Still, for all that, your analysis may be correct. I myself am not a foreign policy maven.

          • jimb82

            The Baltic Fleet is home ported in Leningrad and Kaliningrad, which are on the Baltic Sea, not the Black Sea.

    • Billy Bones

      If Putin’s playing chess he must really suck at it!
      Mr Putin made a bet on Yanukovych, which backfired in an EPIC way. Super-protests against Russia by it’s neighbor, Yanukovych (Putin’s lapdog) kicked from power and Putin is forced to roll tanks into a pro-Russian region which was has always been Ukranian in-name-only. Now Crimea has voted to join Russia proper and now Putin is waking up to a border country he wanted fully pro-Russian but will now be 100% pro-EU!

      • toumanbeg

        Spin that ball as fast as you want. When the spin dies down, as it always does, Russia will control the Ukraine.
        Pootie doesn’t give a flip about what a bunch of limp-wristed girly men think.
        It’s a done deal. Russia invaded the Ukraine fair and square. Your silly rules don’t matter. The left is uncomfortable because they just found out that their world view is an illusion.
        Might makes right. Always has, always will.
        No amount of sniveling will change that.

        • Billy Bones

          You can talk about Limp-wristed men all you want, but grandpa also said ‘Snark don’t make a man”.
          FACTS are that armed men occupied parts of the most pro-Russia region of Ukraine but couldn’t bring themselves to wear Russian insigna . There goes your ‘fair & square invasion’ fairy dust.
          FACTS are that most of Ukraine is virulently anti-Russian, and ‘Russia will NOT control Ukraine’. If the ouster of Yanukovych cannot make you see this then I label you a true conservative, mindless as they come.

          • toumanbeg

            Written like a true Liberal, As delusional as they come.

          • Billy Bones

            Well, liberals called BS on the Iraq war while you were busy crowing ‘mission accomplished’ and pouring French wine down the drains. We called BS on Sarah Palin while you were calling her ‘the next Reagan’ and of course we called BS on Romney’s landslide, which you all believed in right till the results were in!
            Now we are calling your hero Putin a blundering fool who has managed to push large parts of Ukraine further to the west while losing a sympathetic Ukranian administration

          • jimb82

            Sarah Palin predicted the move into the Ukraine in 2008. Mitt Romney was ridiculed by President Obama for stating that Russia was out geopolitical adversary. Looks like Palin and Romney know more about foreign policy than the community organizer, doesn’t it?

          • Peter Miller

            Sure, all the protestors from Kiev are going to march on Crimea and the Russian army will retreat in haste! The fantasy world liberals inhabit, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that a completely different world exists, is mind boggling, grating, unsupportable and maddening. The excuse of this lead from the behind administration (president) to every scandal, every inept move, every short coming and policy blunder is to say: “I didn’t know” and “It’s not my fault.”

          • SongDog

            Bill,

            Don’t overlook the fact that the USSR, meaning chiefly the Russians, controlled large swaths of Europe all the way to Berlin and beyond for 45 years after WWII and there was never a successful revolt, let alone an escape. Empires work that way.

          • Corlyss

            “If the ouster of Yanukovych cannot make you see this then I label you a true conservative, mindless as they come.”

            Alas, that was only a brief way station on the road to the ultimate result, which will likely be the skiving off of eastern Ukraine, you know, so the Russians in Crimea won’t be so lonely. Prof. Stephen Cohen, tireless apologist for Russians whether Communist or not, promised us a Russian invasion would never happen, yet there it is, on the ground in unmarked uniforms, sporting sophisticated weapons that can kill 100 Ukrainians a second, driving around in armored vehicles with Russian license plates. Some facts are just too big to ride around.

      • ThomasD

        That’s a nice picture you paint there, shame it’s pure fiction.

        The current situation is not the end game. Putin will not settle for Crimea alone. He will want, at minimum eastern Ukraine in order to have a land round to Sevastopol, and may decide the best way to keep control of all of his pipelines is to take the rest of Ukraine.

        He’s rather used to ruling over large dissident populations, and It’s not like Obama or anyone else is going to stop him.

        • Steveglen

          Putin is a bulldog, tenacious, relentless, having risen to the top from the KGB, as tough as it gets.
          obama has been pampered all his life, a whiner who cries when FOX writes a critical article. A paved highway to the presidency, money pouring in from Soros and the other progressives, I doubt he ever did a single day of hard physical labor.
          Who do you think will prevail?

        • Peter Miller

          He probably doesn’t need to take eastern Ukraine, just keep it destabilized enough that the central government in Kiev has no real administrative control over the region.

          • ThomasD

            You are correct that he doesn’t need to use a conventional military force, but he wants control, not chaos or uncertainty. So he’ll try a minimalist approach but always reserve the option for raw force.

          • SongDog

            I have read that he is issuing Russian passports to Russian ethnics in eastern Ukraine. This was his tactic in Georgia, leading eventually to an invasion and annexation “to protect Russian citizens”. What other purpose could it have?

      • Vince Foster

        not after he rolls the tanks in, that is what you liberals will never get and why you will not be in the white house in 2016. Putin does not see rolling the tanks across ukraine and then into, belorussia and then into the baltics as a bad thing or a last resort. That is his goal. The more power he can seize virtually unopposed by a show of force the better. It strengthens his position and gives the false impression to his neighbors that his military is strong when in reality it is second rate. If the U.S. chose to go to war they would be in moscow within a month. They would also win a nuclear conflict by completely anihlating Russia with little damage to the U.S. Putin knows Obama does not have the will to go to war with him, that is why he is winning.

        • bannedforselfcensorship

          “They would also win a nuclear conflict by completely anihlating Russia with little damage to the U.S.”

          Really?

      • Thirdsyphon

        Well said. Putin has overreached himself, and not for the first time. He seems to be under the cardinal neocon (or in his case neoCOM) misapprehension that the power to shape events is something that can be conjured into existence through sheer force of will.

      • livelystone

        I think the mob that pushed out a duly elected president in a democratic country are the ones who play a bad game of chess. You can’t have it both ways. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander I always say. If they wanted to remove their president they should have acted at the ballot box and not the street corner hurling homemade grenades. Now the Crimeans are following their lead and pushing out the Ukraine government.

  • Anthony

    For related material on WRM’s theme see former secretary of state Henry Kissinger on Charlie Rose (3-5-14 ) and read an opinion piece in Washington Post.

    • Andrew Allison

      Kissenger’s opinion piece in the VaPo is a terrific primer on what’s really going on in Crimea, and an indictment of the vapid commentary regarding it.

      • ThomasD

        The Kissinger piece is two parts good, and one part wondering if he’s showing early signs of dementia.

        …Russia must accept that to try to force Ukraine into a satellite status,
        and thereby move Russia’s borders again, would doom Moscow to repeat
        its history of self-fulfilling cycles of reciprocal pressures with
        Europe and the United States…

        …Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of
        military impositions would produce another Cold War. For its part, the
        United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be
        patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington. Putin is a
        serious strategist — on the premises of Russian history. Understanding
        U.S. values and psychology are not his strong suits. Nor has
        understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point of U.S.
        policymakers…

        Agreed, and unfortunately as this is certainly the way Putin has chosen to play, and Obama has chosen to respond, this is the reality we will be confronting. Not just right now, but for years to come. Putin is simply in too deep to substantially reverse course, not without risking his own grasp on power.

        We can have all sorts of after action arguments about whether Obama, or anyone else could have done things sufficiently different to prevent this, and since, for the time being, all we have is time, we will.

        …1. Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe.

        This is where you’d think maybe Kissinger has just woken up from his nap and needs some reorientation before the nurse brings him his lunch tray. That issue already having arisen in the very chain of events that has brought us to this juncture.

        Or maybe he’s just trying to leave a trail of foreign policy breadcrumbs for Little Lost Obama…

  • stefanstackhouse

    Washington wants national borders to be sacrosanct and unchangeable forever, and it wants self-determination for all peoples to be sacrosanct. Our “best and brightest” policy making elites seem to have never realized that these two sacrosanct principles might occasionally be brought into conflict, and that it may sometimes be impossible to uphold both. Putin does not labor under any such disability.

    As it happens, the US has already had to go on record compromising the sanctity of national borders and national sovereignty for the sake of self-determination not just once or twice but three times over the past two decades. Need I mention Kosovo, or Timor Leste, or South Sudan? How, then, are we going to be able to claim with any credibility whatsoever that a popular referendum by the Crimean people to split off from Ukraine is out-of-bounds and forever disallowed? Putin knows full well that his pieces on the chessboard are very skillfully placed, and ours are not.

    By the way, in case anyone hasn’t noticed (and I doubt that anyone in Washington has), once Crimea has been successfully split off from Ukraine in not just in a de-facto but also de-jure manner, this will by no means be the end of the dismembering of nation states. The breakups are just going to get started. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of peoples that are yearning to change their minority status within a larger entity into a majority status within a smaller nation of their own. Washington seems to think this is a bad thing, but is it, really? And does it really serve the US to position itself perpetually as the status quo power opposed to any change, no matter how badly needed and wanted?

    There is an off-ramp for ourselves, if we have the good sense to choose it. Stop opposing peoples wanting to split away and go their own way, but resolutely oppose neo-imperialist powers like Russia or China from snatching these up and attaching them to themselves. You see, separatism is actually much more of a threat to both of these than it really ever can be for the US. We had our fight over separatism over a century ago, the separatists lost, and that sentiment was dumped in the dust bin of history (except for a few cranks and crackpots). Both Russia and China, however, are multi-ethnic empires, assemblages of many smaller components, many of which have not been incorporated for all that long and are not all that happy to remain so. Encouraging separatism can cut both ways, and it can actually cut a lot sharper and more harmfully against Russia and China than it ever can against us.

    We should thus affirm the right of the Crimean people (and all Ukrainian people in their respective regions) to their own self-determination. If Crimea votes to split, so be it. What we should oppose, however, is any incorporation of Crimea into Russia. If they split, they split to become independent. I actually think that Putin could live with that, and could be made to realize that pushing for anything more than that is pushing too far and is too risky. This turns the tables on him, however, and starts dozens of minority ethnic groups within the Russian Federation starting to wonder why what works for Crimea shouldn’t work for them.

    • Andrew Allison

      More succinctly, Washington is utterly clueless.

    • SolidBro

      Of course Clinton began the precedent for this by stealing Kosovo from Serbia, unilaterally redrawing boundaries of a sovereign nation by making war on it and bombing Serbian civilians (and some Chinese embassy staff also). I cannot defend Putin and the Crimean attempt for independence, but it is two-faced for 0bama to try and pontificate that redrawing boundaries is somehow verboten when Clinton did exactly that and worse in Serbia.

      • rheddles

        No, I believe Woodrow Wilson among his many evil actions was the first redrawer of borders to match “peoples” or “nations”.

        Note that after World War II we kept the borders but moved the people.

        It should be the policy of the US that borders belong to states, not peoples. The test case is California. Should it be repatriated to Mexico once the majority of residents are former Mexicans?

        • O’Connor Margaret

          Hasn’t CA already reached that stage???????

        • jimb82

          Could Mexico afford it?

      • Peter Miller

        It is a straw man created by looking at all situations with similarities as being morally equivalent. They are not.

    • amcalabrese

      There is another issue here also. Namely, that the Crimea never had a large Ukranian population. It went from the Turkish Tartars to the Russians. It has had a Russian majority for about 150-200 years and was part of Russia until 1954. It was transferred to Ukraine supposedly by Khrushchev in a hallway on his way to lunch. We are not talking about the Germans seizing Alsace Lorraine here.

      • Jim__L

        Are you sure about that? Alsace-Lorraine was part of France because Louis XIV conquered it, not because it was full of Frenchmen.

    • E2_Remote

      Given the number of Spetsnaz, ahem *cough cough,* I mean “unidentified armed men” roaming about, it’s rather difficult to say what the people of Crimea may actually want. Do you honestly think that many, if not all, decision-makers in Crimea don’t have Russian Kalashnikovs in their backs and/or have been given “offers they can’t refuse?” Those that may prefer an alternative to joining with Russia are probably wisely keeping that opinion to themselves.

    • Jim__L

      Europe 1919– chopping up the old Empires into bite-sized chunks for Germany to devour.

  • Andrew Allison

    I trust that “Yet another western plan for Ukraine ended in failure today. Will this hurt Obama’s standing in the Middle East?” was a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious.
    Meanwhile, the coverage of what’s going on in Ukraine, including (to my great disappointment), that by TAI is, quite simply, mindless. Where’s the evidence that “western diplomats decided to help the protestors replace the Yanukovych regime with a new government that could unite the country and bring it toward the West”? The acknowledgement that if overthrowing an elected government in Kiev is OK, doing so in Sevastopol is too? That Russia had, in effect, occupied Crimea long before the current unpleasantness? That the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has voted for a referendum on whether to remain part of Ukraine or return to Russia? That the current government of the Ukraine has no more legitimacy that that of the Crimea? Etc., etc?
    Time for a reality check!

    • 10th Amendment is the Solution

      Andrew, come clean….you are less concerned about Ukraine/Crimea and are more concerned about how these events further the difficulties of the Dems to retain the Senate in November, given that folks that are anti-Obama (the majority of the nation) are likely to vote anti-Democrat.

  • Dan Wafford

    You mean they didn’t knuckle under to Dear Leader’s bold move of saying an unknown number of Russian pols involved in the takeover of Crimea (their names as well as their number are unknown) won’t be granted travel visas to the US? Well, just wait until they hear his next move: if they ARE allowed to travel to the US (after all, he changes his mind every day), they darned sure won’t be allowed to cash any traveler’s checks! Sic ‘em, Big O; you’ve got ‘em tremblin’ in their boots. They’ll be begging to give Crimea back tomorrow.

  • glissando

    WHAT STANDING OF OBAMA IN THE MIDDLE EAST. HE’S A PATSY; HE IS OSWALD.

  • Independence 1776

    Would you like some cheese with that whine. hmmmmm

  • SolidBro

    Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
    0bama: “Vlad, that’s a mighty pretty wall you’ve built there.”

    • Peter Miller

      Or perhaps: Vlad, that wall will not stand–unless you let it.”

  • Winston Smith

    But, I thought we won the Cold War. Did Vladi get the memo?

  • John Galt

    Obama is more concerned with divisiveness, fundraisers, golf and playing Spades with Reggie Love than he is about the long term national security of the country.
    The media and Democrats are more concerned about covering up, rationalizing policies and clinging to power than they are about the pain that the country is in.
    What a sad state of affairs.

    Putin sees the empty chair presidency for what it is and he is not done taking advantage.

    • Peter Miller

      Because Obummer know that the burning issues of our day are: Income inequality; raising the minimum wage; restoring long-term unemployment benefits and reducing CO2 emissions. Distractions like the tens of thousands being killed in Syria by a regime supported by Iran, Russia and Hizbollah is just considered a lot of chatter by critics who blather blather.

  • Common_Sense_Post

    The Russians are just racists on the wrong side of history. Obama may lose in the Crimea, Iran and Syria, but that does not matter as right is on his side. Right wing haters who only care about outcomes and not motives are anachronisms and do not represent the new US!

    • jimb82

      And homophobes.

      • Common_Sense_Post

        Yea, and homophones!

  • Winston Smith

    I think it is wonderful how hard Mr. Obama is working to make President Carter’s foreign policy look brilliant. Barry will now slip below Carter in ranking of ineptness in foreign policy. I guess international relations weren’t taught in the South-side Chicago school politics that Barry attended.

    • jimb82

      Nor economics.

  • gso

    Careful Vlad, you might get audited.

  • Marcus Lindroos

    [...] ” awesome display of resolve” [...] “inflicted a humiliation on the West” [...] “probably looking like a stronger horse today”. As if Mead’s idiotic reasoning wasn’t thoroughly discredited back in 2001-08 when the neoconservatives were running the show.

  • MontyBurnz

    But but but he killed Bin Laden and Gm is alive! Obama can’t be a failure, WRM must be a racist bagger. Boo Hoo

    • Ronald W. Mann

      Bin is alive and living in a government funded condo in S Beach

  • docdave88

    The perfectly predictable results of having a naif elected President, Monica Lewinski’s Boyfriend’s Wife serve as Secretary of State, and a lapdog Senate including plenty of republicrats confirming incompetents.

    But none of this really matters. It all worked so well in the faculty lounge.

  • jonodough

    This crisis is getting in the way of yet another tax payer funded Obama vacation. Didn’t he just come back from one?

    I have had enough of this illegal fraud.

  • brock2118

    The big thing here is the perception. And the perception now is supposed to be that “republicans are hypocrites”. It’s up there with “no tea party was turned down by the IRS. Period.” and “fast and furious was a Bush program we terminated!”

  • Welcome_2_the_Future

    This piece, written by someone who is staunchly middle of the road, has been featured in New Yorker Magazine, and who voted for Barack Obama for President, should scare the pants off any Democrat with an ounce of sense. This is not a Fox News diatribe, this is as unbiased a view as you can get in this world, from a man The New York Times Book Review called one of the “country’s liveliest thinkers about America’s role in the world”, and it completely trashes the current President and assigns Obama EPIC FAIL status. If you ever had any hope that history would look at the Obama Presidency as something other than a complete disaster, you need to re-read this piece, and then go read Walter Meads’ Wikipedia page. Walter Mead exemplifies the historians that take views on Presidents. Consider this piece the writing on Obama’s wall. Democrats, you can officially say goodby to any hopes of a Sweet ’16.

    • Billy Bones

      Well, I have read Mead’s Wikipedia page. He supported the Iraq adventure to the hilt, so pardon me if I’m NOT “scare the pants off any Democrat with an ounce of sense.” by this ‘Historian’.
      The facts, as I see them are;
      Mr Putin made a bet on Yanukovych, which backfired in an EPIC way. Super-protests against Russia by it’s neighbor, Yanukovych (Putin’s lapdog) kicked from power and Putin is forced to roll tanks into a pro-Russian region which was has always been Ukranian in-name-only. Now Crimea has voted to join Russia proper and now Putin is waking up to a border country he wanted fully pro-Russian but will now be 100% pro-EU!
      If that is chess, I think I’ll continue with my marbles

      • ThomasD

        Guess that means you think Kerry has no business being involved, him likewise having supported the Iraq invasion.

        And it’s a really good thin Hilary is gone and forgotten, amirite?

        Copypasta twice in one comment thread sure makes it seem like you are getting your spin and marching orders from above, OFAbot.

        • jimb82

          Remember, he voted for it before he voted against it.

  • Don

    This analysis ignores the reality that Putin is a fiction that is totally dependent on high energy prices. The Russian economy and the ruble will collapse as soon as the USA decides to bankrupt them through low energy prices and a strong dollar as they did in 1989 and 1998. The only problem is the ideologue in the White House who thinks suppression of domestic energy production to keep energy prices high is the best way to foster his phony green agenda.

    Obama’s determined support of artificially high energy prices is a major factor in the persistent stagnation of the USA economy and high unemployment and has filled Putin’s coffers with the money he needs to pursue his dream of a new USSR. An determined American shift away from the green/global warming hoax to aggressive oil and gas production in the USA and the free world would dramatically reduce energy prices and have the dual benefit of stimulating economic growth while bankrupting Putin’s Russia.

    Obama’s geopolitical and economic ignorance and his deeply flawed ideologies are the only reasons that Putin exists.

    • Mumb1es

      Before everyone attacks me for being a “mouthpiece for the regime” or a great supporter for “dear leader,” let me state that I make a policy of looking at every issue from the standpoint of what course of action makes the most sense, and I have to say that it makes a lot more sense to attempt a diplomatic resolution to Russia’s aggression that a military one. Additionally, I agree with you, that the way to hurt Russia is to hit them in the wallet, and that the best way to do that it to attack their energy sector. It is, after all, the largest money maker in their economy.

      Before I continue though, I must note one disagreement: your assertions that this administration is limiting the growth of America’s energy sector. As a matter of fact, sine 2008 our oil industry has repeatedly posted record growth numbers. While shale oil is a large part of this (and that growth started under G. W. Bush), crude oil production has also grown (that growth started sharply upon Obama’s entrance to the scene*).

      Back to the point, I am not well versed in geopolitical methods for controlling authoritarian regimes, but it seems to me that offering Germany greater access to American oil and natural gas, in an effort to turn them from Russian energy, would go a very long way to showing Russia that this behavior is unacceptable. While there are certainly issues with this that don’t exist when getting energy from Russia (transportation costs would be one). This would put money into America’s energy sector, provide Germany with a more trusted supplier, and hurt Russia very much in an economic sense.

      * http://aneconomicsense.com/2012/04/06/the-price-of-oil-dont-blame-obama/
      http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/07/updates-on-the-death-of-peak-oil/

      • Hypernonpartisan

        The energy boom is in spite of, not because of, Obama’s policies. Look at the 5 year LNG export delay! What if Obama stopped hindering LNG exports and instead announced that he would fast-track approval? I’ll bet that would get Putin’s attention! But that would require Obama to recognize that CAGW is not the world’s biggest threat, so I’m not holding my breath.

      • merkinfuzz

        And that liquid natural gas will get to Germany and Europe how ? The paper potus can’t even make up his mind on the Keystone pipline.

      • Peter Miller

        Federal land permits for drilling are at an all-time low approval rating and are being slow-walked by regulators. Almost all the oil and gas development has taken place on private land where the federal government can’t stop it. The overarching problem, as the article outlines but doesn’t state outright, is that there is no strategic vision for foreign policy, almost a lackadaisical concern for it, and no real leadership. Before we can impact oil and gas supplies and prices, however, much time will be needed. There is no good military option at the moment, though we should begin examining how we can bolster and modernize the Ukrainian military as soon as we feel there is stable government in Kiev. The first and most important diplomatic move has already been conceded. That is to get all our Western European allies speaking with one voice. That Germany, from the outset, said it won’t provide much cooperation in sanctioning Russia is unacceptable. We should not have asked for Germany’s support and participation, we should have demanded it! This is a time when America must lead, and not lead from its behind as this administration is wont to do. Its approach to allies and enemies alike is akin to tapping them on the shoulder and politely asking: “Excuse me, I was wondering if you could do me a favor.” It commands neither respect nor fear and provides no guidance on what is really important to us, the USA. We must enunciate clear cut interests, goals, values and expectations for the world at large to avoid misunderstanding and show our resolve to promote peace, stability, free trade, liberty and freedom everywhere. Our voice is the most important weapon we have and the mouthpiece currently addressing the world lacks direction or power, diminishes trust and fails to inspire or influence.

        • Mumb1es

          You may be right regarding oil/gas production, it appears you’ve done more research than I have though you haven’t cited any (that’s not an attack, what you say rings true, but I would genuinely like to see the numbers on this).

          It is a very strong assumption on your part, though, that Germany (or any other ally, European or otherwise) would hop to if we “demanded” they support sanctions on Russia. Germany, unlike Ukraine was to Putin, is not an American vassal. They have their own interests to consider,and are free to do so. While I think they are wrong to put energy prices ahead of righteous moral outrage over Russia violating Ukraine’s borders, it is their choice. The only way America can dictate what other countries do is with the threat or execution of economic/political sanctions and/or military action. It is not typically wise to sanction or attack your allies when they don’t agree with you.

          • jimb82

            An audit of the balance sheets of German banks that operate in the US ought to get their attention.

      • jimb82

        You are correct that increasing LNG and light oil exports is something that makes both economic and strategic sense. However, the fact that crude oil production has risen is also due to shale oil, which the Obama administration has continued to oppose where it could. (Where you talked about shale oil rising starting under Bush, you meant shale gas, which is what your source cites. Shale has both liquids and gas, although in varying degrees in varying places.) As Peter Miller notes below, they have made it exceptionally difficult to get new permits on federal lands, and they have also blocked new offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific, blocked development on ANWR, blocked pipelines where possible, and when the Deepwater Horizon happened, blocked shallow water drilling, which has nothing to do with deepwater drilling (and as a result several rigs left the Gulf permanently, which slows the ability to drill in the shallow Gulf). This administration is anti-fossil fuel to its core.

    • Peter Miller

      But the “only problem” you mention is a BIG, BIG PROBLEM! Even in 2016, if we are lucky to have a conservative administration and majority House and Senate, reversing what this administration has done will be a long and difficult road to travel. Restoring America’s place in the world and reviving its influence will require vast changes in policies that will require time, energy and money. The pace of recovery will not be as swift as the Reagan revival because so much damage has been done and so much has to unraveled and rebuilt,

  • ltlee1

    The US and its allies have lost big time. Russia could not possibly “invade” and take control of Crimea (a region of 10,000+ square mile region and a little bigger than Maryland), without firing a shot if the Crimeans, Russian speaking and non-Russian speaking, are not totally on board.

  • BobSykes

    The reality is, Putin has the upper hand, not only economically and militarily but also with regard to sanctions.

    For example, Putin could simply refuse to transport Americans and their European allies to the International Space Station. They have no way to get there other than the Russian Soyuz. This would cost Russia nothing and would humiliate the US/EU. To add to the effrontery, Russia could invite the Chinese to replace the Americans and Euros. That would be a real stick in the eye.

    Putin could also change the subject and really muddy the waters. He could insist that the expansion of NATO to include Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Rep., Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia is a violation of the Final Settlement Regarding Germany that allowed German reunification. Gorbachev has repeatedly said that there was a side agreement that prohibited the expansion.

    It should also be borne in mind that sanctions without military action have never changed the policy of any government. Even in the case of tiny Serbia, the Serbs caved only after their capital and critical parts of their infrastructure were bombed. Sanctions didn’t work against Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan, aren’t working agains Syria or Iran or North Korea and won’t work against Russia.

    While small countries can be bombed into submission or invaded and conquered, the cost of dominating large countries is high. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because American economic sanctions to force them out of China really hurt. And they preferred war to submission.

    If US/EU sanctions against Russia really hurt, Russia will lash out, too. Ultimately, Putin could shut down the long line of oil tankers running from the Persian Gulf to the Channel ports with a single torpedo into a single tanker. That of course would lead to a naval war, but maybe Putin doesn’t care.

    • Thirdsyphon

      Regarding the ISS, a crewed variant of the SpaceX Dragon has been under development since 2009. It’s not currently scheduled for full deployment until December 2015, but that timeline can almost certainly be accelerated if it has to be. Also, making a nuisance of himself in this way would not be free of cost for Putin.

      Putin is free to dispute the legal legitimacy of the former Warsaw Pact nations’ inclusion in NATO if he wants to look foolish and waste his time; but that ship has sailed. Those nations are now under NATO’s protection, and they’re not about to voluntarily give it up just because Moscow asks them to. (Indeed, fear and distrust of Moscow was what motivated most of the former Warsaw Pact nations to sign up for NATO in the first place!). These countries are already nervous about Putin’s behavior in Crimea, and further saber-rattling will only inspire even more of them to call for military consultations under Article IV of the NATO treaty, which they’re already beginning to do.

      Finally, although Putin could theoretically disrupt the global energy supply by launching submarine attacks on unarmed civilian oil tankers, this would be rightly viewed by almost every nation in the world as an act of war. . . and not even a particularly effective one, if the goal is to cripple the United States, since we’re basically energy self-sufficient. . . unlike China, India, the E.U. and Japan, to whom this maneuver would pose an existential threat that they would have both the means and the motive to answer, with or without U.S. help.

  • rene591

    let me get you guys back to reality . 82% of americans and 75% of republicans are against any move in Ukraine( only republicans voted against 1 billion package in house-no money congress but we will deal with that in the 2014 election). No one in Europe is pushing sanctions( large trade with Russia) and the facts on the ground say it will be transfer of Crimea to Russia(fait accompli). So on to important stuff (Like CPAC -watch the neo conservatives get their head handed to them)

    • Nedwardsf

      LOL.

    • jimb82

      Leaders have to lead, not organize communities. Before Pearl Harbor, America was overwhelmingly opposed to getting involved in the wars in Europe and the Pacific. The draft in 1940 passed by a very slim margin, and had we not started to move toward a war footing then, history may have taken quite a different turn.

  • Nedwardsf

    Obama seems to be on ‘luise’ control.

  • free_agent

    You write, “Will this hurt Obama’s standing in the Middle East?”

    What standing? Or rather, I’m sure that Obama is still quite good at greasing through an agreement when both parties want an agreement and have considerable alignment on what the agreement has to look like. But when it comes time to bust heads (which it is, more often than not, in Dogcrapistan, er, the Middle East), Obama has no credibility left. But perhaps that was a rhetorical question and I’m just too dense to see the irony marks…

  • toumanbeg

    What standing? The verb standing being used in place of the more accurate ‘groveling on his belly like a worm’ causes cognitive dissonance in most Liberals.

  • amcalabrese

    Maybe the problem is that we should not have gotten involved in the first place. Is there an important US interest here? I see a European interest but what matters more to the US, Crimea or Iranian nuclear weapons?

    • Nedwardsf

      Do you not believe that Obama is capable of multitasking?

      • amcalabrese

        It is not a question of multitasking. It is a question that there is no US interest here. And if Iran is as big a threat as claimed, is not alienating Putin more important?

        • Nedwardsf

          Obama and Putin share the same dream. The big difference between the two is that Putin has the guts to pursue it and Obama is no more than a coward.

      • Ronald W. Mann

        Multitask? He has enough problems failing one project at a time

    • sandbun

      The one item that could be considered an important US interest would be the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons (or at least the ones in its borders when the USSR fell) for the promise that its borders would be respected. Ukraine not being defended might make the next country less willing to give up/stop pursuing nuclear weapons if such promises aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

      • jimb82

        True. There is zero chance of anyone trusting us and giving up nukes, ever.

    • jimb82

      The problem with the “we have no interest here” argument is sort of like the old saying atributed to Niebuhr, “When they came for the Jews, I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew . . . .” Or for another analogy, the “broken windows” theory of policing, that if you allow vandalism and other petty crimes to occur with no consequences, it sends a signal to the criminals that people don’t care very much about their neighborhood, so violent crime goes up too, but if you crack down on the squeegee guys and the taggers, the streets become safe again.

      It is always possible, in isolation, to rationalize giving up on any particular issue, but when you look at the cumulative effect of a lot of surrenders, it’s a lot of surrenders. Face it, the United States is still the indispensable nation in the Western, free world coalition. Without us, nothing gets done, and the enemies of democracy and freedom get free reign. With us, the other allies will generally find some sort of backbone and stand with us.

      It’s always a lot better to deter than defend. “Peace through strength” is not just a slogan. We should never have canceled the deployment of antimissile systems in Eastern Europe, and as noted above, we should be exporting the hell out of LNG to Europe now. But we’re in a position of fundamental weakness, unable to affect events on the ground, because we are led by incompetent boobs who actually think it’s wrong for the United States to be a strong and powerful nation. It is no accident that this all happened the very week that Secretary Hagel outlined a plan to take the US Army down to its smallest size since 1939, with corresponding cuts to the other services.

      I hope they don’t blunder us into something tragic because they are so inept.

      • amcalabrese

        There is a large difference between peace through strength and feeling the need to respond to every event in the world of geopolitics. into every Russia is no threat to us unless we make her one. This is different fro the Cold War, where the threat of communism was real and threatened to extinguish freedom. Communism was a real threat because there were people in every country, including ours, ready to die for communism. The communist end game was the Young Pioneers marching down every American Main Street on May Day. That is not the case here. Putin is trying to dominate Russia’s neighbors and keep the EU and NATO off Russia’s borders. He is a thug and a fascist but right now, at this moment, no threat to America or our interests. I fear we are blundering into making him one.

        • jimb82

          How long before Russia’s influence in Latin America, via Cuba and Venezuela, increases? And just what is the line for you that Putin cannot cross, if it is not invading a sovereign nation? If you oppose the little things, the big things never happen.

          • amcalabrese

            They have been trying for year. We see Cuba, Venezuela is in the midst of massive civil disobedience and that is about it. If Mexico was considering joining the Warsaw Pact, I would have reacted much as Putin did.

  • LPetrou

    The only ones that thought Putin “…blundered into a weakened condition…” was Obama and he is delusional

    • Thirdsyphon

      I don’t think that Putin has blundered -his actions all make tactical sense, considered individually- but strategically they’ve left him in a weakened position. In Crimea, in particular, Putin has walked a great distance away from shore on some exceptionally thin and brittle ice. The Ukrainians aren’t the placid rubes that Putin seems to take them for; and Russia isn’t as strong as he wants his adversaries to believe.

    • Black_Saint

      The danger to America is not Barrack Obama, but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with no accomplishment or qualification to give any hint that he would or could execute the duties of the world,s most important job..

      It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of this President than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved uneducated electorate looking for handouts thus willing to elect such unqualified men for their president.

      The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America . Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince.

      The Republic can survive a Barrack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools, such as those who made him their president.

      ” Author unknown.

  • Thirdsyphon

    On one level, Putin has apparently “wrecked three Western plans” to bring Ukraine into the European orbit, but I think that’s burying the lede. The headline here is that Putin has been forced to act, and act, and act again just to preserve Russia’s influence in a region that until recently was considered part of Moscow’s back yard.

    It’s not immediately clear how the people of Crimea feel about annexation; but it’s hard to imagine that this whole chain of events won’t stoke a nationalist backlash against Russia in even the pro-Russian Eastern regions of Ukraine. Meanwhile, the pro-European Western segment of Ukraine is debating secession. . .and if Putin attempts to restore Yanukovych to power, he’ll discover that the Western Ukrainians aren’t even close to bluffing about this.

    Meanwhile, it’s hard to see how the situation in Syria is playing to Putin’s advantage. Supporting Assad is a burden that Moscow must bear, if it wants to preserve its last foothold of influence in the Near East; but each time Assad drags his feet on turning over his chemical weapons, or commits new atrocities that alienate other nations in the region, Putin takes a hit to his credibility and prestige, and so does Russia.

    Incidentally- if Crimea votes against annexation to Russia, Putin’s humiliation will be comprehensive and deep. It’s hard to see where he’d go from there. His occupation of that region has so far been peaceful, but it’s an unstable situation, to say the very least.

    • Welcome_2_the_Future

      Well stated view, and I do respect your post. Although, it does make me wonder if you might have missed the latest news. “Reuters: Crimea’s parliament voted to join Russia on Thursday and its Moscow-backed government set a referendum in 10 days’ time”

      • Thirdsyphon

        Thanks for your response. I was thinking of the referendum, not the parliamentary vote. A referendum is harder to predict. In all likelihood the results will probably ratify (or be successfully falsified to “ratify”) the decision of the Crimean parliament. . but I doubt there’s been much in the way of reliable polling on this issue, so there’s still a non-trivial possibility that this process will end in an outcome that embarrasses Moscow.

        • O’Connor Margaret

          If Obama wants to ENSURE the upcoming referendum in Crimea goes against Mr. Putin, he only needs to send those Democrat ward chiefs in Philly, St Louis, Chicago, LA, etc. who got 103%-105% of the ‘electorate’ to vote for Mr. Obama’s re-election.

  • Black_Saint

    I disagree ….I think Dear Leader has Putin quaking in his books and his bowels running loose. We know when Dear Leader speaks Tyrants, Terrorist, Criminals and Dictators around the world tremble.

    Never have we had a President like Dear Leader That the world respects, likes, trust and friends adore and foes fear…He really is….THE ONE!

  • ShadrachSmith

    I would expand on the mortal threat of a Westernized Ukraine. The threat is that if Crimea and Odessa become politically unfriendly, Russia loses its Black Sea Hegemony. That is the mortal threat. Sun Tzu demands defensible borders of a good ruler, and Putin is simply the historical figure who secures that terrain for mother Russia. This will stabilize the region after the war.

    I would also suggest that looking forward China must be looking at finally acquiring Taiwan. Why not now, why not while this weak president is in office?

    • Black_Saint

      Our borders are wide open we have been conquer by a invading horde of Uneducated welfare Democrats!

      • ShadrachSmith

        To Obama, Sun Tzu may as well be a Chicago grocer that he organized the community to boycott in 2003.

        • Black_Saint

          I agree LOL

      • TexasStomp

        If that were the only problem we’d be ahead of the game. There are over 25 Hezbollah cells operating out of Mexico that we know of with assurance. More if you count off shoot groups. Known ME terrorists are walking across our open borders too.

        • Vince Foster

          but if the borders werent wide open and our culture so dilluted muslims would not be able to operate at will in our country without immediately raising suspicion

          ie we would specifically target and search muslims at the airport instead of wasting our efforts searching old women and veterans

          • edlarson

            I loved the clip last year of the TSA searching a 2 year old.

          • TexasStomp

            ooo rah

    • Vince Foster

      and will also be casting an eye toward manchuria as always

      • ShadrachSmith

        No doubt, but that dog bites.

        • Vince Foster

          but it is just a dog after all

    • TexasStomp

      “The Russian parliament may vote on Crimea’s annexation March 21,
      Euronews reported March 7. The proposal was approved March 7 by the
      parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Legislation and will be
      discussed in the Duma on March 11.” Stratfor

      Not seein a lot of opposition to joining Russia and more important I don’t see anyone else, US, NATO or otherwise directly challenging Russia’s annexation of the region by Russia.

      They ain’t givin up the Black Sea…it’s the only route for their Navy. Trying to block them from that is a fool’s errand. Would you give up America’s only blue water? It would be like us giving up Hormuz or the Panama Canal. Not gonna happen.

      • Vince Foster

        we arent expecting them to give it up, we just need to force him to act on our terms not his. Put warships in the baltic he will back down, he cannot afford war with the U.S. if he is really that crazy make then he needs to be ousted anyway and then roll tanks into moscow. It would be over in weeks.

        and then obviously do not be stupid and try to occupy a hostile country. Install whatever government has a possibility of stability and leave them to tear each other to shreds if they want to.

        • ShadrachSmith

          How do you feel about China taking Taiwan?

          • Vince Foster

            I am against it,

            we should encourage them to look at manchuria as a suitable alternative

      • jimb82

        Not true. They have Murmansk and Vladivostok. It’s the only blue water route to the Mediterranean, but only if Turkey keeps the Dardanelles open.

        • TexasStomp

          Right you are.

  • David

    Russia blows past Obama while Obama is blowing Reggie Love.

  • themaskedblogger

    Well said. However, I think the author discounts Putin’s indifference to economic turmoil a bit too much. Even if not, the path forward is clear: Invoke the Magnitsky act; embargo Russian trade, in particular enhanced oilfield recovery tools; and go all in on fossil fuels development and export to the EU. Then wait for the collapse. Not at all surprisingly, that’s exactly how Reagan handled the same problem, and successfully.

    • Vince Foster

      send a fleet of warships to the baltic, Putin cant even afford to keep his own outdated fleet at sea

      • rene591

        we call that bait in these parts

        • Vince Foster

          Putin knows that a confrontation with the U.S. would be over in weeks but he also knows obama is too weak to confront him, so he will grab everything he can get his hands on in the next three years or until someone delivers a credible threat of force to him

          • rene591

            We are leaving. did you not get the memo. what part of 17 trillion and wars are very very very expensive did you not get. oh and look at the republican side. which of the neo conservative winners do you pick to lead them back to the imperial road. pick one

          • TexasStomp

            As opposed to Hillary?

          • rene591

            that would be one way to keep her out. paint with the Iraq and Afgan brush. because looking at the polls the GOP is going to need all the help it can get. so a non neo con candidate may be just the ticket

          • TexasStomp

            Sorry but that one blew right past me, rene. Re Hillary….I’m not convinced she’s going to run. As a physician I’ll bet you good money she got more than a “bump on the head” when she fell. She’s got noticeable neurological issue. Don’t know what specifically, but her speech has slowed, she seems at time to have trouble with her speeches, she’s putting on weight which tells me she’s not exercising or able to. I don’t think she’s just eating herself into a new dress size. Also she just doesn’t look as alert as she did before that fall. Something’s going on. And if I’m right about her health….and she does run, I’d pay close attention to her running mate. They may well end up defacto president.

            As for a GOP neocon nominee……Rove is destroying the party’s chances to win the WH. And I won’t go along. If the GOP doesn’t have enough sense to get rid of ham fisted neocons….good luck and God speed. I’ll won’t support them.

            Been there, done that. I don’t make the same mistakes twice.

          • Vince Foster

            Yeah, I noticed something kind of weird like a month or so ago, one week out of the blue all the ultra liberal haters like joan walsh strarted going more ballistic than usual saying how the republicans had no viable candidates and trying to prove point by point that none of the repub front runners could win. At the time I thought maybe they had some inside info on hillary.

            but personally I am hoping she runs. It would be a gift. She cant win. Too old, too mean, to many skeletons

          • jimb82

            Scott Walker, with Marco Rubio for VP.

          • rene591

            right on. you have it the nail on the head. we would certainly be blessed if you see that happen in 2016

          • Vince Foster

            project strength to prevent war, we would never even have this problem if obama was not weak

          • rene591

            Can you say Georgia

          • Vince Foster

            You mean the country that is still independent because Putin knew they would fight him house to house with ak-47s and stiinger missiles if he invaded

            …. and yes Putin moved into a small province in Georgia because he saw the U.S. as weakened in 2008

          • rene591

            only cost them two provinces. same for Ukraine . cost them Crimea

          • Vince Foster

            so in other words, its Bush’s fault…..

            never fear though there is more to come. Putin actually seesms to enjoy taking advantage of obama like the capricious woman that he is. this is like winning the lottery for him

          • rene591

            nope. every situation is different. but to think it would matter who is president needs to look up the hubris

          • Vince Foster

            obama is weak

          • rene591

            no that would be Russia. but I see how you are confused. civis americanus sum

          • Vince Foster

            you are a weak fool who is destined to be ruled by tyrants

          • CFL68

            Obama caused the Maidan uprising in Ukraine? Really?

            As for Crimea, the people there are mostly Russian and approve of the occupation. Russia might not have such an easy time of it if they moved on Ukraine proper.

            But it is true that Putin took advantage of turmoil after Yanukovych fled.

          • Vince Foster

            see lybia, egypt, syria…. and coming soon to a theater near you Bagdhad

          • CFL68

            You are listing troubled places in the world whose power and social structures are changing driven by intrinsic aspirations that we all acknowledge are pretty normal. This is all Obama’s fault too?

            In Libya we did intervene in an already raging civil war. I think one Swedish policeman was killed on an Italian airbase. Iraq is was not…

          • Vince Foster

            yes once the radical islamists saw that obama would not support U.S. allies in egypt they were emboldened to overthrow the local strongman

          • CFL68

            So all of these revolutions were all radicals? No progressive movements? And its all Obama’s fault for not helping an Egyptian tyrant to oppress his people.

            got it!

            This is classic stuff bro!

          • Vince Foster

            you are so naive – there are no progressive muslims. you commies think you are controlling the muslims and that once they have served your purpose you will be able to control them.

            you have no idea. they have been fighting this same exact struggle for 1500 years. they have sacrificed the advancement of their culture for it. they are strong and you are weak. they are the ones using you

          • CFL68

            Nice rant. I’m a commie lol? You are coming unhinged.

            You have this whole causality thing muddled in your head. Obama did not cause the arab spring. In fact he barely touched it. Sounds like you would have preferred he support the dictators against the massive grass roots protests…

            Mkay.

      • themaskedblogger

        It would work, of course. But we’re down to 300 ships right now, a deplorable state of affairs, and sending them to the Baltic would take them out of the game in the western Pacific where they are more likely to be needed and most useful. It would be smarter to go all in on fossil fuels development. This would be slower but more certain, and take the Russians out of the game permanently.

        • Vince Foster

          obviously but unfortuantely obama is president. If we had say Palin in the white house I would not even call it a slow process. We would be supplying our NATO allies with all the fuel they need and Putin would be running for his life from an angry mob as crude prices drop to under $100 a barrel within three years

          • themaskedblogger

            No doubt the country would be in much better shape under those circumstances. Clint Eastwood’s empty chair would be a better president.

        • TexasStomp

          you have mail….

          • themaskedblogger

            Every word is true. But rather than saying it can’t be done, it says it can be done with the right political impetus. For Immediate assistance, gas can be piped to Canada and Mexico, where LNG liquefaction plants and export terminals do exist while ours are building. Tax incentives should take care of the rest. Oh, yes, another good policy idea is to restrict export of enhanced recovery technologies to Russia. One key point is we don’t have to replace Russian gas totally, or to compete price-wise in an absolute sense, because a reliable supplier who isn’t likely to cut off exports as a means of continental domination is worth something. It is further true that adding supplies to the market, no matter what the demand side of the equation does, automatically reduces Russian influence over what it would have been without such additions.

            I said above it’s the long term ploy. It is. But it has the benefit of permanently resolving the Russian influence problem. We ought to be doing it anyway, regardless of the Ukrainian problem.

          • TexasStomp

            Nobody in my shpear is even blinking at this whole thing. Ethnically the Crimea is by and large Russian so it’s little surprise. They’ve already elected a new president and voted to become part of Russia….as they were the USSR in the cold war.

            What is generating far more chatter is that missile installation in Poland. It’s not not the Military that has reservations or the MDA…..it’s only a question of money. Have we got the gitas now. obama should never have been allowed to cancel that. First order of business in 2011 should have been to get that installation done. What an idiot.

            I agree with the need to do the LPG thing regardless. We might just be able to buy China off cheap. Don’t think they don’t see an advantage since this has happened. That is not being discussed but it dam well needs to be. We lose their business and we lose them as well. No cool.

          • Vince Foster

            If it is a matter of money that is a legitimate concern. If we do not have the money to support our current strategy (which I believe evidence points to the fact that we do not) we must make that decision immediately and scale back our strategy to one that can be effectively executed. If that means abandoning certain regions so be it, but it must be done in a way that is obvious and deliberate and shows that we are still in charge and clearly defines our limits and if our new limits are crossed must be ruthlessly enforces.

            obama’s capriciousness is interminable and will cause more conflict and cost more money

          • themaskedblogger

            I personally do not give a dam about the Crimea, either. I saw the Olympics tapes, and I do not want to visit. But the principle that a state or province of a sovereign nation should be allowed to secede from their country, with the help of an armed neighbor, does bother me. If Hawaii decided they were being oppressed by the USA, and petitioned Japan to station troops there to protect them from US law, I wouldn’t like it much.

            And yes to both of the others. The Polish missiles are important. We should have done it already, and should do so now if we can. I wonder if Poland and Czechoslovakia would now trust this government? I surely do not. And we ought to go all in on the fossil fuels thing, too, Rabid Green Weenie be d@mned.

          • TexasStomp

            Agreed on all points. Especially the fossil fuels. Such a perfect opportunity just getting whizzed away. And I doubt very seriously it has anything to do with climate change and a great deal to do with that carbon exchange. Gore didn’t get rich on his good looks or intellect. It too a US president and the UN to create a ponzi scheme that would make a circus carni proud indeed.

          • themaskedblogger

            Yup, I believe you have the right of it. Well, you sound like you know what to do, lmk when you are elected Planetary Grand Vizir and I’ll take the Minister for Free Market Reeducation portfolio. Perhaps I can help those blighted souls :-)

        • edlarson

          One Aegis cruiser is all that we would need to put there, that and one hunter killer sub.

          • themaskedblogger

            I personally would not care to put them in so close as the Baltic with only one Aegis cruiser for air support. The Russians still have 150 Tu-22 backfires in the navy and Ar Force, each of which can carry 3 AS-4 Kitchen or 10 AS-16 Kickback. The Virgina and Tico class boats each carry less than 70 SM-2 Standards.

          • edlarson

            Russia would never directly attack a US warship. They know that there are a lot more where that one came from. Also, given our history of getting into wars after our ships are attacked, they would avoid an above ground attack. They would secretly sink the cruiser in deep water with a torpedo from a sub. That is why we would have a hunter killer in the same waters, that prevents them from using a sub against our ship.

          • themaskedblogger

            Desperate people do desperate things. if the Russians concluded their sovereignty was threatened they would. And if you’re not going to threaten their sovereignty, why do it?

          • Vince Foster

            yeah probably need an entire fleet with a carrier

          • themaskedblogger

            I’d sleep better. So would those aboard, I’m thinking.

      • ptm

        And do WHAT with them?

        • Vince Foster

          just float, thats all they need to do

          and on the odd chance Putin is feeling frisky deliver overwhelming air superiority

          • ptm

            Oh sure, that’ll make Putin SHAKE in his boots, floating around not even a THREAT of firing (NO ONE WANTS THAT) and that’ll make him pay $50 billion for the Olympics oops, he’s done that.

          • Vince Foster

            good point but we have to begin to make ourselves credible in some way. Another idea: Putin is completely paranoid about the CIA and western agitators (realistically or not). We need to find a way to play into his paranoia. Start sponsoring protests in moscow like the Pussy Riot, etc. that will drive him crazy

          • ptm

            By the way, we DID send a destroyer from Greece to the Black sea, Bulgaria and Romanian ports of call.

          • Vince Foster

            a destroyer? why are they tracking a sub?

          • ptm

            The 300 on board voted to try some Romanian/Hungarian GULYAS and some Bulgarian style baklava.

      • ptm

        Oh you mean like “Can we pretty please catch a ride on one of your rockets to the space station, we can’t afford our own.”

  • DougPage
  • edlarson

    Everyone is assuming that Crimea is Putin’s ultimate goal. I don’t think that it is. Crimea will hold their vote this month and they will be annexed by Russia. Then Putin can stage as many troops there as he wants and once he has enough troops to take the rest of Ukraine, he will.

    • Vince Foster

      he wont stop until someone stops him by force or threat of force. he is cautious and pragmatic and manipulative. he is not a raging beast like hitler. Putin will stop consolidate his gains and calculate his next move in a systematic fashion, but he will definately be growing bolder and bolder the longer obama remains in office

      • edlarson

        I totally agree. Putin chose this moment carefully and no doubt he has decided that Barack Obama is not a threat.

        • Vince Foster

          gee do you think, or maybe thousands of russian troops in civilian clothes just happened to be present in crimea,maybe they were on vacation. I would say this plan had to have already been in place prior to the uprising in Kiev, there wouldnt have been enough time to draw it up from scratch, this was obviously plan B

          • edlarson

            LOL! I loved how the media bought into the lie. Here come a bunch of Russian troops over the border in Russian helicopters and Putin says that they were “local militia troops.” The media then spreads the lie around like it is a shiny new dime.

  • Dee Bradford

    Just like every other Obama weakness article, this author offers no solution, just criticism.

    • Vince Foster

      remove him

    • edlarson

      How would you suggest that we go about growing a backbone for The One?

      • edlarson

        You can de-bone a chicken but you cannot re-bone one

        • Vince Foster

          unless you are reggie love, then you can bone a chicken repeatedly

          • Nedwardsf

            LOL, good one.

  • CFL68

    Arguments are mostly overstated. This is Russia’s front yard and they overmatch any opponent. Ukraine’s move was based on intrinsic aspirations – not some plan of Obama’s. Of course the west will try diplomacy, but when it fails, blaming the west is disingenuous. That about sums up the article.

    In the medium long term, Russia will now own instead of lease Sevastopol. Its vacationers, who did not need visas to visit ‘Krim’ in the summer, will still not need visas. But Putin has played its hand.

    Ukraine has a pretty clear picture the level of respect that Russia holds for its historic slavic brothers. They will be driven further west. Every other country in proximity to Russia got the message. The west will work to mitigate all risks posed by Russia’s military and economic influence. NATO will step up its game. Deeper economic ties and investments will slow. EU will seek out energy alternatives. US will continue to expand its domestic energy production.

    Since Russia has failed to diversify its economy away from raw materials exports, it remains very vulnerable.

    In the end, it may turn out very good for the US if we return to a bipolar paradigm of international relations. Russia on the other hand, just gave a rhetorical blank check for independence to all of its autonomous regions – especially on the periphery.

    • Vince Foster

      what about Belorus and the baltics? those are his backyard too much as the rhineland was hitlers, then poland, then france….

      • edlarson

        It’s Springtime for Putin.

        • Vince Foster

          someone dig up Leni Reifenstahl

          • edlarson

            Triumph of the Willing

      • CFL68

        Belorus is a reliable Russian sputnik, and there has been a lot of talk about deeper integration. This has been talked about for years in Russia (at least when I was there in the 90′s. The Baltics are already part of NATO.

        What are you trying to say?

        • edlarson

          If Russia rolled into Latvia, NATO would sit on its hands and probably “sit” in it pants as well.

          • CFL68

            Latvia is NATO. As is Lithuania and Estonia.

            Its one thing to take low hanging fruit to avoid lease issues for your black sea fleet, its quite another to attack NATO.

          • Vince Foster

            thats what obama thinks anyways

          • edlarson

            That’s my point. Our “NATO allies” didn’t want to go into Afghanistan after 9/11. The US had to invoke the mutual defense clause of the agreement.

            Will Germany, England, and the US, step up and send hundreds of thousands of troops to defend Latvia? I don’t think so. If we will happily sacrifice an almost NATO ally to Russia, then we will probably also sacrifice a few smaller NATO members as well.

            I am quite sure that Putin sees this as well.

          • CFL68

            Afghanistan did not attack the US. Afghanistan barely has light bulbs, Anyone skeptical about that adventure deserves a prize.

            The only way for your world to make sense is to make gross exaggerations.

          • Vince Foster

            A show of force was absolutely necessary after the 9/11 attacks. However the gross negliegence and naivite of Bush was that he thought we were going to occupy and convert muslim countries into democracies.

            The correct action would have to been depose the rulers and install the best available strongman to replace them. Or even partition the countries like Biden wanted to do. Risky but probably would have worked

          • edlarson

            We are still paying the price of Vietnam. Somewhere along the line, our military and political leaders got the idea that we win wars by “winning the hearts and minds of the people.”

            History shows that wars are won by kicking the stuffing out of a country until they no longer have the will to fight.

          • Vince Foster

            It is sheer hubris

          • edlarson

            Where did I make an exaggeration? I simply stated the fact that NATO did not have our back in the wake of 9/11.

            BTW We went into Afghanistan because that was where Osama bin Laden was and Afghanistan refused to give him up. Don’t you remember?

          • CFL68

            Sure. It was a bronze age backwater that we tried to own even though every other attempt over the last several centuries ended in abject failure.

            With perfect hindsight, we should have left things at punitive strikes. Trying to own the place is a tragic disaster.

          • edlarson

            But where did I exaggerate? Nowhere. I simply stated what happened.

            As for Afghanistan. It takes at least 40 years to permanently change a society. That is from Sociology. We occupied Germany and Japan and permanently changed those countries, but that is due to the fact that we stayed for decades.

            I am with you that we should have trashed Afghanistan and then left, but if our goal was change then we should also have known that that would mean staying for decades. Unfortunately we have an ADHD population. They want quick solutions and they are not prepared to make long term commitments. This is one reason why our space program is a shambles.

        • Vince Foster

          yeah a reliable satellite just like ukraine was until, in putin’s mind, the CIA overthrew, his puppet. (is he just paranoid or are they really following him?)

          then the real fun questions start. Are obama and the EU craven enough to allow Putin to roll into the balkans? Would they sacrifice NATO to avoid war? In my mind Obama’s cowardice and capriciousness have no bottom. Putin is a bit more cautious but seems determined to test his limits.

          • CFL68

            Oh of course everything could change, But Lukashenko is more Putin than Putin is. No viable opposition and none will be tolerated and no one will ask questions. Not sure what happens when Lukashenko goes though… That will be interesting. Its worth investing in the success of Ukraine to show the poor Belorussians they have options.

            By balkans you probably mean Baltics. But again – they are NATO. Your shallow/cliche assessment of Obama and all of Europe is no doubt sincere, but its based on irrational hate and disrespect, not reason.

          • Vince Foster

            no it is simply based on my assessment of their personality based on their actions the same way anyone else, including putin would assess them. Based on the evident facts it is irrational to believe that obam or the EU would come strongly to the defense of a Nato ally, if the stakes were unrestricted war with Russia.

            Putin knows he can’t back that threat up, that his militay is second rate, his equipment is thirty years old and he does not have enough money to go to war with the west.

            That will not keep him from bluffing and obama from progressively folding

          • Chadnis

            So, by your logic if Obama had shown strength then Putin would never have invaded Ukraine? Well, that’s exactly what Bush did- 2 simultaneous Mideast wars show strength and yet Putin still invaded Georgia didn’t he? I’m not an Obama supporter but I don’t think you can pin Putin’s actions on him…

          • Vince Foster

            yeah in 2008 when the U.S. was in chaos and he knew they would be unable to respond. And incidently he was stopped cold by Georgian Militia with ak-47s

          • Chadnis

            I just don’t think this is a partisan issue. I think Putin knows that we really can’t oppose him in his own backyard. Yes, we have the biggest, baddest, most well-trained and well-equiped military in human history- but Russia has almost as many nukes as us, so we won’t be fighting them near their soil. I think it’s time to let Putin know that if he intends to ressurect the Soviet Union, then we’ll have to ressurect the Cold War. How’d that work out for his country last time?

          • edlarson

            How did the Cold War work out for us? LOL!

            We won.

          • Vince Foster

            cold war nukes are borderline irrelevant, the Russians long range nuclear capacity could be eliminated in a first strike. Putin would have to be mad to up the stakes. the result of a nuclear exchange is, every russian city is a smoking radioactive ruin and maybe they get a couple icbms off causing great suffering in the U.S. but not seriously affecting national security.

            The military should probably be focusing more on strategies to make them 100% irrelevant. But at any rate Putin is in no position to use MAD as leverage like in the cold war. He knows he loses a nuclear exchange and the U.S. comes out more or less intact. Putin would only use nukes against a weaker foe

          • Chadnis

            I’m going to have to disagree with you there- nobody wins in nuclear exchange. Even smaller nuclear-armed states pose a threat, why do you think we haven’t done anything about North Korea? You sound like you think a few nukes dropped in american cities are no big deal… Reality is that any state that gets nuclear weapons becomes immune to conventional war. One nuke dropped on american soil is an unacceptable risk.

          • Vince Foster

            yeah a threat, but you cannot let them gain leverage using a threat. how much are you willing to surrender to prevent “one nuke” from dropping on U.S. soil. Accept sharia law? and capitulation will only further embolden the terrorists and increase the probability of a nuke being used. The only successful deterrance is overwhelming strength, which must be exercized constantly and any threat attacked immediately before they have a chance to think or plan

          • Chadnis

            Mutually assured destruction means we don’t have to surrender anything, but it also means we can’t start a war with a country that possesses nukes- that’s just reality. And you just gave the definition for the Pre-emptive War strategy, the problem with that strategy is that it gives too much power to the government- who gets to define “threats”? It’s a great way to ensure endless wars though…

          • Vince Foster

            MAD no longer exists. No other country has the capacity to destroy the U.S. including Russia. Any nuclear exchange in the modern world would simply be an act of nihlistic terrorism. The U.S. could annihlate any foe on the globe with relatively inconsequential damage to their own infrastructure

          • Chadnis

            i don’t know where you get that idea, but it’s wrong. Again, you seem to think if just 1 or 2 nukes get through that’s exceptable. It’s not, I bet if you were in the city that got hit you’d agree wouldn’t you?And Russia only has about 1000 less nukes than us. You like to gamble a little too much, luckily you’re not in charge.

          • Vince Foster

            I am not thinking of this from my own self interest, I am think of it from a strategic perspective. It is more of a gamble to back down, or to capitulate to a threat, because the enemy is emboldened. Against a weaker enemy you must keep your boot on their throat and never allow them to get up off the ground as obama is doing

          • Chadnis

            So you think ny not getting miltarily involved in Ukraine we are “backing down” or capitulating? Explain how going to war with Russia (or any other nuclear state for that matter) over Ukraine is a vital american interest.

          • Vince Foster

            no we should not get involved militarily, that would be playing into the enemies hand at this point we merely need to regain our credibility and stop acting on Putin’s terms, we must dictate the terms to the world not vice versa and only act militarily on our own terms

          • Chadnis

            So, what real-world actions would you suggest to achieve that?

          • Vince Foster

            I have suggested a few if you want to read the several dozen posts above, but send a fleet of warships to the baltic sea. put the intermediate range missile back in poland. put some short range missile in the baltics, send special forces into the ukraine

          • Chadnis

            I’m with you on a couple of those ideas, but special forces in Ukraine is military involvement and could lead to war…

          • Vince Foster

            shhh… its a secret

          • royw

            Ah you, Libs. You always ask what we suggest to put out the inferno, once you started the fire.

          • Chadnis

            I’m not a liberal, and you can go b l o w yourself ;)

          • edlarson

            “nobody wins in nuclear exchange” Yeah, that is the popular meme from the Cold War. The truth is that the United States won the only nuclear exchange in history. I admit it was a one way exchange.

          • Chadnis

            Yea, good thing Japan didn’t have the A bomb!

          • edlarson

            Yep, but we did in fact win the first nuclear war.

          • edlarson

            I have to disagree with the idea that we could completely cripple Russian nuclear capability in a first strike. They still have plenty of mobile launchers in the field. Judging from our performance in the First Gulf War, we would have a very difficult time knocking out all of their mobile systems in a single strike.

            Then there is the submarine fleet which is much smaller than it used to be, but they are still there and could do considerable damage to us.

            Then there are nuclear capable surface ships, aircraft, and tactical warheads. It would be too risky for us to try a first strike.

          • Vince Foster

            mobile launchers are not intercontinental. I am not saying it would not be a horrifying exchange, but we would win

          • edlarson

            Actually the SS-20 series (which the Russians have upgraded and maintained) are ICBMs and are capable of hitting about half of the US.

          • Vince Foster

            no shit, i guess the details are important, lol.

            so I guess the only way you can move against those is to cripple command and control, I betcha Putin’s field commanders arent authorized to take a dump on their own. So it is probably possible to neutralize the intercontinental launchers to a degree which would make them insignificant. My idea is that the subs probably pose the greatest threat

  • pabarge

    Walter Russell Mead voted for Barack Obama. Keep that in mind.

    • Vince Foster

      maybe he has discontinued his medication

    • Jim__L

      In 2008. He indicated in one of his 2012 blogs that he didn’t do so again.

  • Francis J. Poperowitz Jr.

    Community Organizer vs. a KGB agent? Which horse would you bet on???

    • edlarson

      Don’t forget that Putin was also a world champion Judo black belt. Barack Obama? He played basketball once in high school.

      • Vince Foster

        and then quit so he could focus on smoking cannabis

      • Obliterati

        You like big beefy manly men, don’t you?

    • Vince Foster

      or better yet pampered multicultural pet of the elite left, vs. ruthless power hungry dictator fighting for his own survival

      hyena vs. pomeranian, which one will win?

    • Black_Saint

      Why the Ghetto organizer of course. Its takes great talent to organize mobs of takers to go blackmail the makers!

  • smedley

    According to the foreign policy pundits Reagan had no impact on the Soviet Union with his policies and did not hasten/cause its collapse, but Clinton making Estonia part of NATO changed Russian history while Obama’s dithering and incoherence had no effect on Putin. I wish the experts would make up their mind.

    • edlarson

      The Dems don’t ever mention that 17 billion dollar aid package that Clinton sent to Russia that was promptly stolen by the oligarchs. If a Republican had done that, they’d still be talking about it.

  • Chadnis

    It looks like Russia will swallow eastern Ukraine and there’s not really a lot we can do about it, but I’m wondering what happens after that? Does anyone believe Putin will stop there? A smaller, more pro-western Ukraine is still a threat to Putin’s plan of a ressurected Soviet Union. Suppose Ukraine became a successful western-style democracy, I don’t think Putin would ever let that happen…

    • Vince Foster

      I know its f-ing hilarious how each time the libs are like – oh see he stopped, he is not going to take any more, see we were right he is a reasonable man, after all it is his backyard some of those people are ethnic russian, who cares about sovereignty or rule of law? those are rules made up by old white men
      and capitalists and slaveowners

      and then a month later he rolls into eastern ukraine. how do they fail to learn?

    • edlarson

      I’m with you. I think that the goal is to take all of Ukraine, not just Crimea or the eastern provinces. Ukraine has a reasonably good economy and it has a booming technology sector.

      • TexasStomp

        Ethnically Ukrain has more in common with Russia than not. They’re already on board with this. They voted late yesterday or this am to join. This isn’t a repeat of of Czechoslovakia and the cold war. We got no dog in this fight and by the look of it, nobody’s puttin up a fight. New President. Unanimous vote. Why is this our concern?

        • Vince Foster

          Ukraine, belorus and russia are distiinct cultural and etnic groups, they are all eastern slavic peoples but have distinct languages and have never willingly been a single nation

          and the slavs are not our concern. american interests are our concern. NATO is our concern, and weakening NATO’s hegemony is our concern

        • edlarson

          Well I disagree. Ukraine is not Russia and those people still remember that Lenin and Stalin starved over 20 million Ukrainians to death.

          Sure, Crimea had a vote. Last week armed gunmen took over the Parliament and “elected” that “new President.” This is gunpoint diplomacy. I am willing to bet that those ballot boxes were already full of ballots before the vote was ever held.

          The Ukrainians know what is going on, but they have learned to keep their heads down when it comes to the Russians.

          • edlarson

            BTW That “new President” was from the “Russian Unity Party.” I took the liberty of visiting the CIA World Factbook yesterday. There are about 20 major political parties listed for Ukraine but the “Russian Unity Party” was not one of them. Imagine if armed gunmen took over your local courthouse and elected a new mayor from the Green Party, or some other minor faction.

          • TexasStomp

            When will people of other nations learn to protect themselves? I agree with you and I wouldn’t like it but the threat can hardly have been a surprise. How many years has it been since the USSR fell? And the peoples of nations that were conquered then have done WHAT to secure themselves and prevent what happened before from happening again?

            If NATO nations much closer than we are, are not willing to do anything, why does it fall to us? And what are we expected to do? Go to war with Russia? Airlifts like Berlin? Expel Russia from the G8? What do you have in mind that we can afford to do? We’re not exactly solvent. Or even close. And after 11 years of war our Military isn’t exactly champin at the bit to take on the Russians. Thoughts?

          • Vince Foster

            they have to fend for themselves, but we cannot rely on them nor allow them to interfere with our interests

            Bush’s collosal mistake was thinking we have the ability and/or the duty to rebuild a nations civil society after we conquer them.

          • TexasStomp

            Agreed. Nation building is and always has been a fool’s game.

        • Chadnis

          Eastern Ukraine is pro-russian. Western Ukraine- not so much.

    • wrecktafire

      Don’t forget where Ukraine’s Nat Gas comes from, either: old Pootie.

  • WBC

    In 2008 Barack Obama declared without significant objection by Europe or anyone on the left that by merely electing him president the United States would have no enemies or rivals in the world. His message is and continues to be messianic. Nothing has changed, he’s merely puzzled why facts and events so stubbornly refuse to conform to his vision. At this point one has to seriously wonder about the man’s sanity.

    • Vince Foster

      after the election, i will have more freedom to capitulate to you vlad, just give me a couple years….

      and he did, man of his word

    • edlarson

      IMO Obama is just the frontman. He says whatever his handlers want him to say. I don’t think that we can draw any conclusions about Barack Obama’s sanity or intelligence based on what we have seen. He is a play actor simply reading his lines and performing a role.

    • Black_Saint

      Any man who believes he is “We are the one the world has been waiting for” and “We are the Change we seek” promises “to stop the rise of the Oceans and begin the cooling of the Earth” is to say the least an individual of staggering arrogance or more likely an individual with serious mental problems.

      Why anyone continues to support this incompetent, lying, petulant, whining, blaming, sulking, narcissist is hard to understand!

      But then look how many adored Hitler and screaming “Hail Hitler, Hail Hitler” Here the brainless cult members Scream “Yes We Can, Yes We can” during his Coronation.

      Years go by but left wing socialist promising to take from them that will work and give to them that refuse to work, spewing lies and manipulating the idiots that support them remain the same the world over!

    • royw

      I have from the first time I heard him speak.

      He is pathological.

    • fedupMan

      Personally I think his plan has and is to hurt USA and bring it down by any means.

  • Victor Sandor

    Great article!

  • Vince Foster

    besides global warming is the real threat, not russia, what is this the 1980′s calling?

  • stephendunbar

    To the victor belongs Obama.

  • royw

    Community organizer vs head of the KGB.

    Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. Place your bets.

  • dsh_nva

    >> If the west goes after Putin’s own golden horde of ill-gotten simoleons

    Hoard, not “horde.”

  • mertsj

    The O-man, Barack Hussein Obama, is an eloquently tailored empty suit. No resume, no accomplishments, no experience, no original ideas, no understanding of how the economy works, no understanding of how the world works, no balls, nothing but abstract, empty rhetoric devoid of real substance.

    He has no real identity. He is half-white, which he rejects. The rest of him is mostly Arab, which he hides but is disclosed by his non-African Arabic surname and his Arabic first and middle names as a way to triply proclaim his Arabic parentage to people in Kenya . Only a small part of him is African Black from his Luo grandmother, which he pretends he is exclusively.

    What he isn’t, not a genetic drop of, is ‘African-American,’ the descendant of enslaved Africans brought to America chained in slave ships. He hasn’t a single ancestor who was a slave. Instead, his Arab ancestors were slave owners. Slave-trading was the main Arab business in East Africa for centuries until the British ended it.

    Let that sink in: Obama is not the descendant of slaves, he is the descendant of slave owners. Thus he makes the perfect Liberal Messiah.

    It’s something Hillary doesn’t understand – how some complete neophyte came out of the blue and stole the Dem nomination from her. Obamamania is beyond politics and reason. It is a true religious cult, whose adherents reject Christianity yet still believe in Original Sin, transferring it from the evil of being human to the evil of being white.

    Thus Obama has become the white liberals’ Christ, offering absolution from the Sin of Being White. There is no reason or logic behind it, no faults or flaws of his can diminish it, no arguments Hillary could make of any kind can be effective against it. The absurdity of Hypocrisy Clothed In Human Flesh being their Savior is all the more cause for liberals to worship him: Credo quia absurdum, I believe it because it is absurd.

    Thank heavens that the voting majority of Americans remain Christian and are in no desperate need of a phony savior.

    He is ridiculous and should not be taken seriously by any thinking American.

    • jimb82

      Unfortunately, it looks like the voting majority voted for him twice. The takers outnumber the makers.

  • visper

    WRM says Putin is all right and that Obama is all wrong.
    Is it possible that both are right and both are wrong?
    Putin-Right
    He must do something for a vision of a once- again- influential Russia–Crimea has the right historical tone–and strong ties to Russia.
    He needs foreign policy successes to mask domestic policy problems.
    Putin-Wrong
    Getting mired in Crimea, does not mean he can take over the rest of Eastern Ukraine–even in Kharkiv (the first capital of Ukraine with pro-Russian tendencies).
    Brezhnev–born in Ukraine–as premier of the USSR tried to russify Ukraine–and only succeeded in strengthening Ukrainian culture and language. Ukrainians are mostly sensitive about geographical boundaries. If Putin tries to take the rest of Ukraine–he probably faces the same result as Brezhnev’s.
    US-Obama policy–Right
    This issue is of utmost importance to Germany, and UK, and the rest of EU more than to the US. Germany and UK do not want to upset Russians–Russian investment in Europe is significant. Actions to take must follow the lead of Germany and UK.
    US policy in West Asia (Arab, Iran, Turkey, Israel) is already complicated enough and the US has suffered loss of reputation there–starting with Irak under Bush II and continuing with this administration. So, no sense of loss because of Ukraine.
    Individual sanctions on wealth of oligarchs can be titrated to disrupt influential players in Russia and in Crimea. This is an empirical exercise.
    US-Obama policy–wrong
    Ukraine is not the only scenario involving Russia–the focus could include China (there are border conflicts between Russia and China), and India (where there is a lot of interest by Russia for investment). Other nations in Asia where the US has leverage, with burgeoning interests with or against Russia might come in handy–Qatar and Bahrain have gas supplies that could compete with Russian gas. So, applying leverage not only from Europe but from Asia might make economic difference.
    Georgia is another example of a country invaded by Russia with sections being in effect annexed. Efforts in Georgia could be a countervailing factor vs. expanding tendencies to the rest of Ukraine.
    What WMR should concede is that Plan a, Plan b, Plan c, and today’s discussion in London which could be called Plan d–shows that the US is trying hard for diplomatic solutions.
    After the referendum in two days–where no one expects that Russia will fail in Crimea–then the next steps will come from Russia as to what to do in the rest of Ukraine. Plans d to z will evolve in response–the US taking the diplomatic role, but the economic hard-ball will be played by other countries. This is not a fait accompli as WRM argues. Brezhnev’s era of Russification is now called the era of stagnation. Pres. Reagan’s strong rhetoric “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall,” took place because Mr. Brezhnev set the table for that to happen. Putin may be at a similar junction–russifying because a new stagnation has set in.
    WRM doth protest too much. ‘Tis difficult to see how this will turn out–but it is not one man’s fault, rather it is a complicated vector set of interests, policies, and personalities.

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