The recent revolution in Ukraine which toppled the pro-Moscow Viktor Yanukoych government has expended into a full-scale regional geopolitical crisis. Russian forces and their sympathizers in Crimea have taken over the regional parliament and are trying to expand their presence. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent increasing numbers of Russian troops to the Ukranian border to place pressure on the new Ukranian Government and try to bring it back into Moscow’s orbit. We must not forget that Putin has declared the Soviet Union’s collapse to be the 20th century’s greatest tragedy and clearly desires to use Moscow’s increasing military power to reconstitute something resembling the former Soviet Union.
Yet the U.S. and the west dither. The White House released a photo showing Obama talking on the phone with Putin creating the illusion that he was a bold and decisive leader. The photo actually serves as a reminder of Obama’s geopolitical ignorance and insistence on leading from behind as has been demonstrated in Libya, Iran, North Korea, and his mythical “red line” in Syria. Abysmal U.S. understanding of the stakes involved in this were recently expressed by Secretary of State John Kerry who claimed this was not a resurrected Cold War issue. Sorry to tell you this John Pierre, but the Cold War is back under Putin’s leadership and you still continue pathetically clinging to your naive multilateralist fantasy that the Cold War is over.
I do not favor direct U.S. military intervention in Ukraine. That would be a bridge to far given the constraints the U.S. military has and the geographic inaccessibility of Ukraine. However, there are several options the U.S. and its allies can use. These include:
1. Vocally denouncing Russian actions and providing whatever assistance we can to the new Ukranian Government including military and intelligence assistance to Kiev about Russian military actions and movements.
2. Imposing crippling financial sanctions against Russia such as freezing their financial assets in western banks, targeting their critical energy sectors, and expelling them from as many international government organizations as possible. Financially targeting critical businesses in Russia and those leading these businesses would also hurt Moscow’s wallet. Concerted efforts should also be made to financially target Putin supporting oligarchs.
3. Encouraging European nations who are heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies to turn to the U.S. and Canada as their key energy suppliers.
4. Terminate existing arms control agreements with Russia including the 2010 START agreement.
Ukraine is a country which has suffered heavily under Russia jackboots in the past. While it has not made the progress it should have in reforming its economy and opening up its political system since the Soviet Union’s collapse, we should do everything we can to move it into the western geopolitical orbit.
Ukranian immigrants have played valuable roles in U.S. and Canadian society and are particularly prominent in cities such as Chicago and Winnipeg. Undoubtedly, they are concerned with ongoing events in their ancestral homeland and are lobbying policymakers in the U.S. and Canada to take decisive and effective action against Moscow.
Despite the babblings of the leftist foreign policy cognoscenti, the unfortunate reality is that Russia is not interested in their bleatings about multilateral international cooperation and comity. Moscow, under Putin’s adroit and thuggish leadership, is interested in reconstituting its global military and strategic influence. We should quit deluding ourselves into thinking that empty platitudinous rhetoric and vacuous UN resolutions will stop Russia from imposing its will on Ukraine. Putin will play Obama like a poodle and the Ukranian people will be the victims of his geopolitical and strategic weakness.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, the Obama camp criticized Mitt Romney for saying Russia was our number one geopolitical threat. Moscow’s recent actions fully vindicate Romney’s prescience and demonstrate Obama and Kerry’s utter geopolitical incompetence which also applies to former Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton. Diplomatic history, like other venues of history, is inherently cyclical. For a few years after the Soviet Union’s collapse, their was naive hope in the west that Moscow could be brought into western security architects, that the “end of history” had arrived, and that a new era of east-west multilateral international harmony had arrived.
This illusion has been shattered by Russian attempts to use cyberwarfare to attack former Baltic Republics such as Estonia, its 2008 incursion to assist separatists in Georgia, and its ongoing actions in Ukraine. While Russia has accomplished many laudable things in history, we must never forget that it is an inherently aggressive and expansionist power which will do whatever it considers necessary to protect its power base and expand its security interests against real or imagined enemies. Any attempt to deal with Russia based on multilateral democratic idealism and international human values is destined for inevitable failure and disappointment. Effectively dealing with Moscow requires unflinching realism about its Hobbesian and Machiavellian history and human nature and the ability and willingness to use diplomatic, economic, and, if necessary, military cudgels to keep it in line.