Because the United States agreed to negotiate and is doing so with Iran rather than use military force to stop the Iranian production of nuclear weapon; and, because the United States chose to negotiate the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons rather than respond with air strikes against Syria; Putin, the 21st century Russian Czar, has miscalculated and seen American willingness to talk rather than shoot as a sign of weakness. Twice in the last century the rulers of Germany and then once the ruler of Japan made the same mistake. America may take a long time to get roused in anger enough to unleash our military might but when we do dictators have learned to pay a heavy price.
Obama is trying to use 21st century multilateral methods to combat the new Stalin. Whether he succeeds will remain to be seen. But Putin would be well advised to ignore the Republican party propaganda in DC about Obama being weak and recognize that on this issue -- the freedom of the people of Ukraine-- Obama will remain strong. Shooting down a plane is akin to sinking ships a hundred years ago (Lusitania) an public ire will grow not diminish.
Unfortunately too many of my liberal friends (I consider myself a liberal) are bemoaning the “lack of clear evidence of Russian involvement” some have even taken to blaming the United States for starting the Ukraine crisis (which began when Putin forced his puppet President of Ukraine, Yanukoyvich, to drop plans to integrate with the EU which led to a popular uprising in Ukraine). Both Putin and our domestic liberal commentators say the answer is to guarantee that Ukraine will not be admitted to NATO. Firstly, Ukraine has never applied nor indicated interest in joining NATO--they want to be in the EU. Secondly, Ukraine in 1994 gave up their nuclear weapons as part of the Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing their territorial integrity only to have that integrity violated by a nuclear power. Now, guarantee that Ukraine will never be admitted to NATO, should they ever apply, and we invite Putin to take more aggressive action later.
The history of the 20th century is replete with occasions when democratic nations could have stopped dictators when they first made aggressive moves. And when the democracies didn’t act the resultant wars costs millions of lives.
It is time we accepted that not everything in foreign affairs is complex - likewise not everything is simple. Because the Bush-Cheney administration lied our country into a war in Iraq does not mean that Obama-Biden are lying us into peace through strength. Because the English translators of the Russian language recordings released by Ukraine used complete sentences and deleted curses doesn’t mean the recordings are fake -- those who understand and speak Russian find the actual language credible.
Russian separatists aided or directed by Russians used a Russian supplied weapon to shoot down what they thought was a Ukrainian cargo or troop plane. They made a mistake. They should have admitted it and pointed out that mistakes are made in wars. Instead Putin blames Ukraine. When a fox broke into my grandfather's chicken coop and stole two hens instead of trying to remove the danger and kill the fox, Putin would blame my grandfather for building the hen house and filling it with chickens.
Obama is Right. This is a wake up call! And if Europe doesn’t want to wake up then America must lead. In the 20th century in WWI and WWII we followed. During the Cold War we led. Now it is time for us to lead again. This may be our last chance to bring Russia into the world community as a peaceful partner as Gorbachev and Yeltsin tried to do. This may indeed be our last chance to put together a world of old powers (Germany, France, United Kingdom and Russia) and the emerging powers (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) We can lead that combination -- we must not let it become a new division with Russia leading one part. Putin has shown the world what he is capable of doing - now America must show the world that we will not allow him to bully the other nations on this globe.
19 July 2014