Let us consider the USA’s situation in Ukraine as President Putin launches his “unrelated military exercises” along the border of that country and then drops his troops into the unrest there in order to put a lid on the cries for independence and freedom from a people purported to be simpatico with Mother Russia. To the absolute shock and dismay of President Obama (and his poor excuse for a Secretary of State, John Kerry), Putin played his hand. His actions caught both of them as off-guard as a couple of Mississippi moonshiners getting busted by the crooked sheriff they just paid off.
Listening to Obama react, followed by Kerry’s whining about the etiquette of the 21st century when it comes to invading another country, I am sure that Putin was having a good laugh while sipping his premium vodka. Putin cut his teeth in the KGB. Manipulation, dishonesty, cruelty, and suffering mean little or nothing to him when it comes to achieving his goals. Certainly the rhetoric coming out of Washington means very little in that regard, as Putin pushes more chips onto the table in his effort to re-invent the old Soviet Union piece by piece. Putin is not saying much, but his message seems to be, I won’t be deterred. By the way, that attitude bears no understanding of any concept of 21st century invasion etiquette.
For those of you who do not know, Ukraine elected to go its own way when the Soviet Union collapsed and they stepped away from “Mother Russia”. In doing so, the country looked to other nations to support its efforts. This desire was key to Ukraine agreeing to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty and giving up its nuclear capabilities in exchange for promises from the USA, the Russian Federation, Northern Ireland, and Great Britain outlined in a document called the Budapest Memorandum. This was not a treaty but simply an agreement of understanding between the participating signatories. In general, Ukraine received assurances that its borders and independence would be respected and that no actions of a hostile, nuclear, or economic nature would be taken against Ukraine by those nations signing the agreement. If the agreement were violated by any one nation, then the other nations would “consult” as to the actions to be taken regarding the violating nation.
In a nutshell, that is where we are today. Putin has decided that he wants Ukraine under his thumb and has basically ignored the agreement which the Russian Federation signed. Neither the USA nor any of the other nations who signed the agreement has any obligation to take military action to stop Putin, but they are required to honor their promises and confer with each other about possible actions against the violator. This agreement was signed in December 1994, then reaffirmed in 2009 by all parties. Now that Ukraine has leanings toward joining the European Union, Putin has obviously decided that gambling his Black Sea port access may be a bit too much in the overall scheme of things. Since he has violated the terms of the agreement, the time for the other nations to consult has arrived.
Russia’s conduits for the transfer of oil and gas products into Europe and Black Sea ports dot the geography of Ukraine. Putin is not about to lose control of those assets or turn his back and walk away because of some scolding or sanctions. At the same time, while NATO may grumble a bit, I really do not see any firm positions being developed by the European nations in response to Putin’s actions. Russia is a key player in the European energy scenario, and as much as Putin may like the revenue, he could make things difficult energy-wise and send the Europeans scurrying for new sources—likely at much higher rates. That leaves the USA pretty much in the age-old position of going it alone and in the familiar face-to-face stare-down with old “Cold War” attitudes on Russia’s part. You see, Mr. Kerry, the Russians apparently did not get the memo regarding 21st century invasion etiquette.
One cannot watch this conflict play out without being reminded of the off-mike whisper between Obama and Putin’s spokesman, Dimitri Peskov. Obama told Peskov, “Tell Vladimir I will have more flexibility after the election.” While it was claimed that the statement was made to calm then “candidate” Putin’s fears concerning a European Missile Defense Shield, one can only wonder if that was really the case. Regardless, shield or not, Putin is apparently going ahead with his desire to rebuild the Soviet Bloc piece by piece. Ironically, it appears that he is employing the very same tactics used by Obama as he subverts the U.S. Constitution to achieve his socialist ends. Putin’s attitude is I am going to do it and who is going to stop me? One thing you can count on—under the guidance of Obama and Kerry, it won’t be the USA.
While Obama and his administration wrestle with various aspects of Russia’s confrontation with Ukraine, the American public and the rest of the world are gaining quite a bit of insight as to Obama and company’s complete lack of experience in dealing with international affairs. There is also a lesson being taught, and it is an age-old one that America has known almost since our nation’s founding--one cannot bargain or threaten from a position of weakness. Obama takes great pride in advising the world that he is about to gut the American military’s capability to pre-World War II levels. Folks like Vladimir Putin welcome that move and plan on taking advantage of it at every turn. Former president Ronald Reagan invested heavily in our military and its capabilities—a key factor in breaking the financial back of the Soviet Union. Now we witness the efforts of a pacifist president who, for the lack of better sense, engages in saber rattling—it won’t fly, at least not with a Cold War dinosaur like Putin. Obama’s efforts to bluff may well land the USA smack in the middle of World War III—something no American desires. But that is no surprise given Obama’s propensity to deliver that which is not desired.
Former president Dwight Eisenhower stated, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”. Given that this administration has been aware of the Budapest Memorandum since taking office and went so far as to reaffirm it in 2009, one might think that maybe some planning would have gone into the “what ifs” in the event that all parties to the agreement did not comply. At the present, it appears that that planning must have been, “we’ll play it by ear!” As Eisenhower observed, a given plan might hold no hope but planning for the possibilities is essential. Eisenhower made another apt observation: “The hand of the aggressor is stayed by strength—and strength alone.” Unfortunately, bargaining from a position of strength is a concept that totally escapes Barack Obama, and thus he is left with innocuous threats such as not attending the G8 Summit.
One would like to envision an outcome to this situation in which Putin would take his football and walk off into the sunset leaving Ukraine to its own destiny. As Americans, we would like to think that our word is our bond and that we kept that word to the Ukrainian people. The reality of the situation is that the USA could face another war over this matter and Putin knows it. Obama also knows that Putin has no intention of giving up those assets in Ukraine on the basis of sanctions or being given the economic cold shoulder by the USA. When the dust settles—and it will—Putin will have his Ukraine and Obama will have rattled his sword enough to look good for his part without involving us in a war. John Kerry will continue to spout his 21st century silliness (“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion. . .”, and the nations of this world will look silently on and wonder what happened to the USA. Meanwhile, the vast U.S. left-wing media will make sure that the American people understand that we defeated the dinosaur using 21st century tactics. Praises be to Obama!
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