We are now Day 4 into the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Kerry's in Kiev for crisis talks, the National Security Council has met with the President, and we await, without bated breath, for more aghast-laced rhetoric about the cost to Putin and Russia for their dastardly act. From yesterday's Washington Post lead editorial, "President Obama's foreign policy is based on fantasy", to an excellent article from Politico Magazine, "Why Russia No Longer Fears the West, and another from Forbes.com, "Why Did Russia Invade Ukraine? Because the West is Weak", we have a prescient picture of a 21st century Europe and US redux of 1938, when Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia, and the West did nothing.
Most of us are familiar with the Santayana quote, "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Europe's fortunes are inextricably tied to the US, and the vacuum and retreat of US leadership around the world is now being filled by the likes of Putin, Xi Jinping, and other assorted cretins on a more local level, who kill children and burn down schools without fear of condemnation or retribution.
Remember the infamous open-mic 2012 comments between President Obama and Russian President Medvedev relating to European missile defense?
“This is my last election,” Obama told Medvedev. “After my election I have more flexibility.”
“I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” Medvedev said, referring to incoming President Vladimir Putin.
As Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama's favorite pastor, once said, "the chickens are coming home to roost."
Obama and his minions have not only fundamentally transformed America on the domestic front, but on the world stage as well. US foreign policy has lacked backbone and spine since 2009. We set aside a multi-year negotiated treaty between the US, Poland and the Czech Republic to install a missile defense system in favor of the "reset" button. How's that "reset" working? From Putin's support of Assad's regime in Syria, where Obama's "line in the sand" over the use of chemical weapons was reduced to just that, a line, to asylum for Edward Snowden, where Kerry warned there would be "consequences" and there were none, Obama has been on the losing end of every flashpoint with Putin.
Iran is on its way to nuclear hegemony in the Middle East, while "US Secretary of State John Kerry said at the annual conference of the US-Israeli committee for public relations yesterday that the US will only sign a treaty with Iran if it gives guarantees that no nuclear weapons will be developed", according to the latest morning report form Itar-Tass via Vestnik. "Iran gives guarantees." Laughable. One of Swiftboat Kerry's finest moments to date. China is building modern, sophisticated aircraft carriers and recently our US intelligence community confirmed the fielding of China's new intermediate-range nuclear missile, while we in the US listen to Defense Secretary Hagel announce US military cutbacks to unheard of pre-1940's levels.
Our Western allies are no better. The UK's David Cameron and Germany's Angela Merkel "express anxiety," as Cameron further states, "the world is watching." Yes, that's about all the world is doing, and Putin knows it. Before he caught the world off-guard with his invasion of Ukraine, it would be safe to say he took into account every potential action that the West could take against him, or rather, be willing to take, and still felt the gamble was worth it.
The US foreign policy decision to concentrate on ensuring better ties with Russia, left European leaders to fill the void on how to handle Russia and its former satellites. In 2012, Ukraine and the EU initialed the Association Agreement, a trade and political Pact that would bring the EU and Ukraine closer together. However, early in 2013, Russia began pressuring Ukraine to back off by reducing Russian imports. Miscalculations by the US and its allies as to what Putin would/would not do has brought about this present day crisis, probably the first of many.
So the question begs, what can the US and its allies do to halt the re-assembling of the former Soviet Union -- because that's what it's coming down to. Sanctions? Possibly, but only if they're of the most watered-down, menial type that can be allowed without harming powerful business interests. That's why we have a jittery stock market. If Obama and other Western leaders are serious about sending the message to Putin, they'd tighten anti-money laundering regs and start investigating the oligarchs. Here, within the US, we'd strengthen, not ease, the enforcement of the Magnitsky Act, and approve the Keystone Pipeline, for starters.
Perhaps our foreign policy experts/sages will not admit it openly, but the road we are on today certainly resembles the road of the late 1930's, and we all know where that road took us, the conflagration known as World War II. This time, though, the world players are already nuclear. Without sounding too dark and negative, let's hope that future? historians will not remember these last several years of the Obama Administration's foreign policy, as the road that set the stage for World War III.