A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery.
Every crisis contains two facets. There is, of course, the problem. This is why risk-averse, beneficent individuals would prefer that crisis periods occur as infrequently as possible. A crisis will also present an opportunity. This is why risk-hungry, non-benevolent individuals never want to see one go to waste. Regardless of whether the GOP or the United States as a whole wants the Ukraine to present us with a big, thumping crisis; this is precisely what is happening as we sit and read our screens. It therefore behooves both the GOP and The United States of America to make the best of the feces sandwich which has been dropped onto our plate with love from Kiev.
The Ukraine is a large, meta-stable Eastern European country with vast agricultural and energy assets. It dominates the Northern Black Sea and serves as a gateway region between Russia, Europe and the Northern Middle East. Any veteran Risk player knows you can attack much of the world out of The Ukraine. During WWII; Hitler and Stalin both tried. The nation’s government has completely lost the willing support of the population, and civil war seems to be on the verge of breaking out. Walter Russell Mead describes why the Ukraine is in the hand-basket and downward bound below..
Ukrainian society is unable to produce a strong and united government that could limit the influence of foreign interests and lobbies so that the Ukrainian state and people would follow a consistent course toward either Moscow or Brussels, much less find some kind of effective pathway in between.
The temptation to lead from as far behind on this as possible is understandable. Vladimir Putin would consider too forceful an American or EU involvement in the Ukraine as a possible Cassus Bellum. He is particularly agitated since his preferred puppet-President; Viktor Yanukovych has been formally removed by the nation’s dubiously-functional parliament and has surrounded himself with militiamen as a self-preservation measure. Staying out of this mess allows Russia the opportunity to show maturity and goodwill by writing Yanukovych off as a lost sunk cost without looking like the West forced President Putin’s hand.
But what happens if Vladimir Putin succumbs to the sunk cost fallacy and tosses good blood and treasure in after his initial investment? Well, lets see….Europe gets a significant portion of its natural gas supply via pipelines that run through the Ukraine. If Russia turns that particular screw hard enough, and the Ukraine becomes Indian Country, Europe’s economy could go pretty much the way of Europe’s economy – except bigger, longer and painfully uncut. Take away reliable electrical power, the weather turns cloudy with a chance of expletive. David Goldman describes the current state of Europe’s economy below.
If the European Union had a vibrant economy, matters might be different. But Europe is barely showing vital signs after the Great Crash of 2008 and the Great European Recession of 2011-2012. Unemployment is stuck above 12%, and industrial production remains 15% below the pre-2008 peak.
It doesn't take a genius to draw an unpleasant mathematical relation between economic trouble in Germany, France, Great Britain, et al. and financial consequences for you, me and the rest of us here in the US of A. The consequences of poor decision-making in Europe; coupled with isolationist leadership from behind from America will undoubtedly wash ashore here like an oil spill on the beach. Our current leadership in DC has managed the remarkable athletic feat of approaching this current crisis with its collective thumb in its mouth and its head up its butt at the same time. The American public increasingly realizes how weak, cowardly and feckless Barack Obama’s foreign policy has truly become.
Current American strategy has its thumb in mouth because we just released a plan to field the smallest US Army since before WWII. Our current tactical posture suffers cranial-rectal inversion because it simultaneously threatens one of the most heavily armed nations in the world with “grave consequences” if they play too heavily in The Ukraine. Herein lies an opportunity and a call to duty for anyone in the GOP willing to step up and grasp the nettle.
America can either A) reduce the economic burden imposed on society by the military-industrial complex, or B) threaten to smash one of the largest land powers in the world from over 2,000 miles away. There is no way to credibly accomplish both. We need to stop drawing Red Lines that any power-mad dictator can snort through a rolled-up paper currency. This should be the GOP mantra on this situation. The US has to make a choice. We can either draw back from the world and let a few places burn, or we can make the capital investment necessary to threaten a man who learned his professional ethics as a KGB employee from 2,000 miles away.
I could understand and live with either alternative here. However, we should at least be realistic enough to accept that you don’t get to threaten a man like Vladimir Putin without a full ensemble of pieces for your chess board. That is the point that needs to be hammered home as Barack Obama wastes oxygen posturing over a situation he has thrown away the wherewithal to meaningfully influence.