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Obama, Ukraine and the Price of Weakness
Commentary Magazine ^ | March 2, 2014 | Jonathan S. Tobin

Posted on 03/02/2014 2:42:09 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife

There may be no way for the United States to reverse the Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. The Obama administration still has the opportunity to send a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin to punish Moscow for this aggression in response to the ouster of one of their stooge in Kiev by a popular uprising. Indeed, he would do well to listen to the advice of Senator Marco Rubio who outlined eight steps the U.S. should take in response to the crisis. But whether or not the president acts appropriately now, it’s probably too late to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine from a predatory Russia. As he did in Georgia in 2008, Putin counted on both America and Europe being too weak and irresolute to stop him from aggression carried on in his own backyard even if meant violating international law by carrying out a unilateral partition of Ukraine to either annex part of that country to Russia or, as is more likely, set up another puppet state in the strategic Crimea. At this moment, there’s little reason to believe that calculation was incorrect.

But even if we take for granted that it’s too late to save Ukraine, the spectacle of Russian aggression should provoke a re-examination of the direction of U.S. foreign policy under President Obama. It should also cause us to think again about the assumption that the American people are, as Senator Rand Paul and a growing chorus of isolationists on both the right and the left have advocated, perfectly happy to retreat from the world stage and let aggressors such as Putin ‘s Russia or Iran have their way. The lessons of the tragedy unfolding in the Crimea are many, but surely the first of them must be that when dictators don’t fear the warnings of the leader of the free world and when America demonstrates that it is war weary and won’t, on almost any account, take firm action, to defend its interests and to restrain aggression, mayhem is almost certainly always going to follow.

No doubt there will be many, whether they call themselves realists or isolationists, who will in the coming days argue that what happens in the Ukraine is none of our business. Americans who are sick of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan say they want no part of foreign wars or even a strong foreign policy that carries with it the chance of engaging in conflict. They may not cheer when Barack Obama speaks of “leading from behind” but they are entirely comfortable with the general drift toward retreat that has taken place in the last five years under his leadership. But, as we have seen in Syria and now in the Ukraine, there is a price to pay for such weakness and it is not one that will be paid by Bashar Assad or Putin. Nor will others who seek to test the mettle of American resolve, such as the leaders of Iran, fail to observe that the free world is led by a paper tiger. U.S. allies will draw the same conclusion.

A world in which dictators do as they like despite clear American warnings — as President Obama did first in Syria and then again this week about attacks on Ukraine — is not only a far more dangerous place. It also creates a dynamic in which every such American warning or diplomatic initiative is discounted as mere rhetoric, even if those daring to defy the United States are not so well situated as Putin is with his bold stroke in the Crimea. That is especially true with regards to the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

The circumstances of the U.S. diplomatic effort to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions are starkly different from those in the territories of the former Soviet Union. But the basic formula of a bold rogue regime that has no reason to fear the threats or the blandishments of either the U.S. or Europe is present in the P5+1 talks. Lack of credibility in foreign policy cannot be compartmentalized in one region or particular issue. Weakness and irresolution are fungible commodities in international diplomacy. The Obama administration gave up the formidable military, political and economic leverage they had over Iran last fall by signing an interim agreement with Iran that gave Tehran what it wanted in terms of recognizing their right to enrich uranium as well as loosening sanctions in exchange for almost nothing. If the Iranians had good reason to think they had nothing to fear from the Obama administration before this latest humiliation of the president at the hands of Putin, their conviction that they can be as tough as they like with him without worrying about a strong American response can only be greater today.

It is too late to save Ukraine from the theft of its territory. But it is not too late to reverse the U.S. retreat from the world stage that has been going on in the last years. President Obama can begin to regain some of his credibility by taking a strong stand on sanctions against Russia and sticking to it. But if he doesn’t no one should be under the illusion that it won’t affect Obama’s ability to prevail in the Iran talks. The cost of Obama-style weakness and isolationism will not be cheap, either for U.S. allies or for an American people who must now understand what it is like to live in a world where no one respects or fears their government.

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Russia; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: crimea; foreignpolicy; isolationism; isolationist; leadingfrombehind; libertarian; militaryweakness; nationalsecurity; nobama; obama; powervacuum; putinsbuttboys; randpaul; russia; surrendermonkeys; ukraine; viktoryanukovich; waronterror; weakness; yuliatymoshenko
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1 posted on 03/02/2014 2:42:10 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Monroe Doctrine Dead; Putin "Sudetenland" Corollary to Brezhnev Doctrine Alive and Well
2 posted on 03/02/2014 2:57:25 AM PST by ScaniaBoy (Part of the Right Wing Research & Attack Machine)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

We could begin by dealing with this Russian warship now sitting in Havana harbor. Why is no one incensed by this?

3 posted on 03/02/2014 3:42:37 AM PST by wayoverontheright
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To: wayoverontheright

So, who do you think will take “Best Director”?

4 posted on 03/02/2014 3:46:24 AM PST by NY.SS-Bar9 (Those that vote for a living outnumber those that work for one.)
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To: wayoverontheright

Considering that Putin (a brutal dictator who more than dabbles in communism) is less anti-freedom and anti-American than Obama, I’m happy to see just about anything Putin does that weakens Obama further.

5 posted on 03/02/2014 3:47:14 AM PST by Pollster1 ("Shall not be infringed" is unambiguous.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

The First Moslem Tyrant-by-Pelosi’s-Perjury
is ONLY interest in Islam and his Caliphate.

The US position in the world under the Tyrant-Fraud
means nothing to his Excellency
except as a way for his Moslem Brotherhood
to murder/rape/behead more Americans
and Christians/Jews EVERYWHERE.

6 posted on 03/02/2014 3:51:50 AM PST by Diogenesis
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Yeah, our communist in chief really put the fear of God into Putin by gutting our military strength.

Now he comes for our guns while increasing the militaristic power of his favored liberal agencies like the IRS, Homeland Security....etc.

What’s up is down.......

7 posted on 03/02/2014 4:03:38 AM PST by DH (Once the tainted finger of government touches anything the rot begins)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Russians don’t think like Americans or anyone else for that matter.

I’m shocked Obama is simply allowing this to happen. A revitalized Russia is so dangerous, especially with China’s assent. One day Russia and China will fight over Siberia and eastern Russian, but for now, they have common cause and are making the most of a weak US.

Last week, a Chinese admiral said there would be blood. They don’t say these things for squeeks and giggles. He meant it. They have too many males and a big rural poverty problem besides a soon to be noticed yuan devaluation, banking problem and derivitives exposure.

This is a bigger move than just Ukraine. It’s geopolitical chess and Obama is still learning to match puppies and kittens with flashcards. Those pipelines are going to be owned by our enemies and so will the oil. Iran is playing with the US and Syria is part of this board.

Obama and Jarette are so far out of their depth, we are all going to drown.

8 posted on 03/02/2014 4:13:13 AM PST by OpusatFR
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To: DH

“Now he comes for our guns”

Note first thing the Ruskies did in the Ukraine. See any difference? I don’t. His excellency does it by stealth, Putin did it directly.

9 posted on 03/02/2014 4:14:33 AM PST by Mouton (The insurrection laws perpetuate what we have for a government now.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

10 posted on 03/02/2014 4:16:26 AM PST by Diogenesis
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
The first, middle and last question that should be asked about this latest and all “foreign crisis” to beset the Obama regime is; WHAT IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE UNITED STATES?

It has been a long time since question has been asked by anyone sitting in the White Hut. At least 4 administrations.

11 posted on 03/02/2014 4:25:13 AM PST by Tupelo (I feel more like Philip Nolan every day)
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To: OpusatFR
......This is a bigger move than just Ukraine.....

Obama and his WH adviser John P. Holdren (they're all of like-mind) believe that the world will be SAFER when the U.S. is de-developed and diminished on the world stage; that it is desirable that other countries gain while we lose status. [I guess Russia and China didn't get that memo. In reality they recognize how to fill a power vacuum when it is gift wrapped and sealed with big wet kisses].

12 posted on 03/02/2014 4:58:30 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

The Crimea is a special case - after all, the territory IS mostly ethnic Russian and Russia does have a case in protecting its interests and the people who live there.

A Russian attack on Ukraine itself would be a completely different matter but the West would be powerless to respond - its decadent, flabby and weak. People who want to be its friends are advised not to repose a great deal confidence in it.

That was the Maidan revolutionaries and the Western Ukrainians big mistakes - for which they’re now facing Russian wrath. Moscow’s not too subtle message is reject us and face the consequences. Join with us and you will have influence, peace and security.

Its one not being lost on the Ukrainians. In the end, they may have to capitulate to the Bear because they have no real options and the West isn’t going to be there for them. But the reason they would want to choose a future with Russia is because Russia is the only country that can protect as well as punish them. In a dangerous world - an enemy as good as his word is also the kind of ally you want to have as a friend.

What does the West offer Ukrane really? And Moscow’s other side is it can offer a lot of money, inducements and trade to sign up with them. Poor Jonathan Tobin and a lot of Westerners who wax high on platitudes need to go back and read their Machiavelli. “Its better to be feared than to be loved.” The bottom line is Vladimir Putin knows exactly how win respect for his country.

We should give it a try sometime.

13 posted on 03/02/2014 5:00:05 AM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

Best Dictator? I didn’t know that was a category. There would seem to be a clear front-runner, though.

14 posted on 03/02/2014 5:00:52 AM PST by 22202NOVA ("Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage." -- H.L. Mencken)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
But it is not too late to reverse the U.S. retreat from the world stage that has been going on in the last years. President Obama can begin to regain some of his credibility by taking a strong stand on sanctions against Russia and sticking to it.

He's joking, right? This is Zero we're talking about here.

15 posted on 03/02/2014 5:02:04 AM PST by Hardastarboard (The question of our age is whether a majority of Americans can and will vote us all into slavery.)
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To: goldstategop
South China Morning Post: Russia facing 'second Chechnya' if its military invades Crimea, expert says "..................Russia has put its combat planes on alert and has begun new training exercises, moves that prompted speculation of an impending invasion similar to the one into Georgia in 2008.

But all-out invasion of Ukraine appears unlikely at present given that even if Russia were to win, it would face years of costly and bloody insurrection.

Taking over just Crimea appears, at least initially, to be less risky given that more than half the population is ethnic Russian. As a peninsula, Crimea would be theoretically easy to defend.

But a Russian takeover of Crimea could be disastrous in the long run. The Kremlin would be underestimating the impact of the sizeable population of Tatars who were forcibly deported from Crimea by Josef Stalin in 1944 and not allowed to return until the beginning of political and economic reform in the 1980s.

Sutyagin, who is at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said: "The Tatars are very anti-Russian. They will do anything not to be under the Russians. They will be determined to fight for Ukraine. It would be a second Chechnya."

Many of the soldiers fighting in the Ukrainian army are ethnic Russians but Sutyagin said loyalty to the idea of an independent Ukrainian state would top their ethnicity. "The entry of Russian troops would be a deep humiliation for Ukraine. Ukrainians do not want to be occupied. It is a mistake by Russian politicians who think ethnic Russians are Russian," Sutyagin said."

16 posted on 03/02/2014 5:09:03 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Hardastarboard

America will do nothing. Ukraine is the Russians’ backyard - if they want to slap it silly, who is going to stop them?

And what is amusing to the Russians is the high minded dungeon from countries that once ran empires. The Russians still know hard power ultimately is the best instrument of asserting real influence.

They don’t care if they burn their bridges to the West - but they will obtain the respect they think they rightly deserve and aren’t about to let upstart Ukraine spit in their face. There is a method in Vladimir Putin’s seeming madness and its one that may pay them dividends.

17 posted on 03/02/2014 5:12:24 AM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: Hardastarboard
"One of the leaders of Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Cemil, said that the Majlis, the Tatar's ethnic parliament in Crimea, would never negotiate with illegitimate Crimean separatist authorities.

Moreover, according to him, Crimean Tatars have already begun to organize themselves into voluntary self-defense units, who may be given weapons.

"The Majlis will fight, even if we have to be engaged in a violent confrontation with the invaders. We are now creating units of Crimean Tatars who are ready for an active fight.

These units will be armed if they get the status of an Ukrainian state formation. They could be put under command of some Ukrainian police or army department. Then they will get weapons. Negotiations are underway on this", said Cemil.

It is to be recalled that on February 26, thousands of Crimean Tatars seized all approaches to the local Crimean parliament, counteracting Russian extremists and separatists.

Meanwhile, for the first time since the invasion of Crimea by Russian troops, western officials acknowledged the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

"Obviously, there is a Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Their likely immediate aim is to set up a puppet pro-Russian semi-state in Crimea", said Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt.

Until then, no western leader, including Obama (whose position looks frankly shameful), has admitted the obvious the fact of Russia's military attack on Ukraine by their seizure of Crimea." Kavkaz Center

18 posted on 03/02/2014 5:15:48 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

If the Tartars fight the Russians will just expel them to Ukraine.

19 posted on 03/02/2014 5:17:34 AM PST by lodi90
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Consider 1864 when Lincoln sent troops south to recapture the secessionist states. Is Putin marching into Ukraine different than yankee Sherman burning Georgia?

20 posted on 03/02/2014 5:21:29 AM PST by bert ((K.E. N.P. N.C. +12 ..... History is a process, not an event)
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