OBAMA'S ANEMIC RESPONSE TO PUTIN'S INVASION OF UKRAINE
Vladimir Putin comes from hardy communist stock. He is the quintessential oligarch who aspires to re-establish the Russian empirein the region of the former Soviet states. The land grab taking place in Crimea and potentially throughout the remainder of the Ukraine is but a start designed to intimidate and render more cooperative the former Soviet satellites. Obama’s projection of weakness, of vacillation, of leading from behind and his regulation into recession of American economic might has emboldened Putin to think Russian expansion achievable and sustainable. The Obama response to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine has been anemic and certainly within the calculus of potential reactions that Putin has already weighed and discounted.
As he continues to deploy forces in the Crimea, Putin depends on Obama’s weakness. It is precisely because of Obama’s threats followed by inaction in dealing with Syrai, Iran, and North Korea that Putin is convinced the present act of naked aggression will be accepted in time as a fait accompli. Putin proceeds very much like Adolph Hitler when the latter invaded the Sudetenland at the start of what became the Second World War. Putin speaks of Russian populations in the Crimea who rightfully belong to Russia in a manner strikingly similar to Hitler’s justification for annexing the Sudetenland. Moreover, Putin’s disdain for Obama mimics Hitler’s for Neville Chamberlain.
Putin expects Obama to respond with economic sanctions and to avoid any direct action that would thwart the Russian invasion and occupation. Economic sanctions are, for Putin, entirely manageable. Putin is an oligarch and, so, if his people must suffer from economic hardship caused by Western economic sanctions he is willing to have them pay that price to achieve his geopolitical ambitions. He can always rig the next elections, as he has in the past. He can always put in place a Putin puppet to rule Russia as his proxy, which he has also done in the past.
Solutions to problems like this one require the element of surprise and a clever assertion of regional power to make intervention by Russia consequential to its goal of regional hegemony. Actions sufficient to affect that result are precisely the ones Obama is unwilling to take, and Putin trusts in that. The time for taking those actions to ensure maximum effectiveness is fleeting. Like most international crises, this one finds Obama moving too slowly, too delicately, and too indecisively. He perpetually leads from behind.
What would a dynamic, truly competent leader do to pull the rug out from Putin? Such a President would contact all of the former Soviet states that are in NATO or are negotiating for entry into NATO and would secure from as many as possible agreements for establishing American military bases in their countries for the defense of those countries, including placement of tactical nuclear and short range nuclear weapons under American custody and control in those countries as a sign of a serious commitment by the United States to defend them. That would certainly mean something to Putin. It would very substantially move those former Soviet states away from Russia and into a closer orbit with the United States.
In addition, rather than limit aid to foodstuffs for the Ukraine, a dynamic, truly competent leader would givesignificant military aid to the regime in Kiev, including fighter and bomber aircraft and heavy munitions and would land in the region and in Kiev a large contingent of U.S. military training and support personnel. He would put in friendly nearby locations and in the Baltic more battleships, submarines, and forces.
A dynamic and truly competent leader would explain in no uncertain terms that so long as Russia continues to occupy the Crimea, the United States will maintain its strong military presence in the region to protect its allies and that any further Russian expansion would result in a U.S. military backed repulse of Russian forces.
Finally, we should engage Europe in the imposition of substantial economic sanctions. Germany is the key element in such a unified strategy but has as much as 30% of its petroleum imported from Russia. Seizing this opportunity to expand U.S. markets, a President of strength would work with Congress to repeal restrictions on export of U.S. oil and gas to Europe and would break down all remaining barriers to full and effective domestic exploitation of oil and gas reserves, such as immediate authorization of the Keystone pipeline and elimination of regulations that block fracking and further oil and gas exploration and production. Those essential actions would ease economic pressure on Europe, helping to embolden our European allies, and would secure for the United States markets previously occupied by Russia, harming Russia in the long run.
Although these moves would help contain Putin and turn a disadvantageous situation into an advantageous one for the United States and the West, Obama is far too fickle, far too indecisive, and far too fearful to take any such bold move, and Putin knows that. He has Obama pegged.
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