Andrej Illiaronov, Putin's economic adviser between 2000 and 2005 and now senior member of the Cato Institute think tank, said that "parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and Finland are states where Putin claims to have ownership. Putin's view is that he protects what belongs to him and his predecessors,"
So Czar Vladimir has started chopping off pieces of the once-liberated Soviet Empire the way Jack the Ripper handled his business with the ladies. He has totally called Barack Obama’s bluff and has deduced that soft power and gutless, blustering venality are synonyms in the foreign policy thesaurus. He has decreed that the time has come to reinstate The Brezhnev Doctrine and that nobody West of Prague has the willpower to deny him that which he believes is already his. The amazing thing is not so much that Vladimir Putin has moved to punch a big, gaping hole through the rotten crust of the decaying Post-modern West. I’m thus far pleasantly surprised by the fact that more of the rest of the world isn’t joining him for a massive pile-on. This, of course, can be subject to change.
The rest of the world looks on as Vladimir Putin tests Western resolve. Or perhaps, they’ve seen what they needed or wanted to see and have now commenced with the sharpening of their cutlery. This demonstration has offered evidence that suggests two things as Euan Graham of The Asia Times explains below.
With the UN Security Council immobilized by Russia's permanent veto, Moscow has shown, first, that it can use undeclared military force against a neighboring state with virtual impunity, in open defiance of past treaty commitments and Western protests. Secondly, the March 16, 2014, referendum in Crimea and its rapid incorporation into the Russian Federation presented the West with a fait accompli "land grab" that poses fundamental challenges to the international order.
If it were *just* the Russians who decided to get pushy and roll out the self-propelled howitzer battalions, we are in good shape to shirk any obligations we have towards basic decency until the Russian bear encroaches upon Poland*. Putin may be grossly underestimating what his soldiers would encounter if they attempted to re-Finlandize Finland. Things went poorly at first for Josef Stalin when he invaded the country early in WWII. The Russians could suffer a similar case of indigestion from munching on Finland in the 21st Century as well. This allows us the meely-minded hope that the attendant unpleasantness can stay in Eastern Europe and not bug any of the Beautiful People during dinner at Davos.
As long as all the butchery took place in Eastern Europe amidst the mud and the snow, nobody in the United States intelligentsia would lift a finger to save them. The Eugene Robinsons of the world probably believe that Vladimir Putin would be doing the rest of us a favor if he kept those people in line with the same tact and subtlety displayed by Nikita Khrushchev when he took off his shoe and pounded the podium. I mean somebody has to mind the Non-Integrating Gap - it’s Noblesse Oblige!.
The problems that could really make this go Chernobyl on the self-anointed Functional Core involve what happens when it isn’t “just” Vladimir Putin who attempts to steal a march on the New World Order. The appearance of weakness is far more significant than silent and unannounced actual weakness. It encourages all sorts of local score-settling and unconstrained nastiness. It will also usher in an era where suppressed traditionalism expresses itself in a manner that the United States will intensely dislike and be utterly incapable of stopping. The backlash against the golden strait-jacket and the electronic herd will explode under the built-up steam-pressure of decades of baronial arrogance on the part of the current international order.
When the United States talks loudly and then does nothing we appear to be laughably and contemptibly weak. Whether we like it or not; the United States has its finger in the dyke in a lot of places that in our sudden absence would rapidly descend into a fiery crescendo reminiscent of Hell. If we don’t want his ongoing responsibility, we should be honest and forthright in writing a lot of people off a la Senator Rand Paul. As we do so, we need to be self-aware enough to grimly eat the costs of appeasing murderers on behalf of our own personal comfort.
If we intend to defend the next set of ramparts after the Crimea, we had better stop reducing our capabilities and start encouraging NATO and to help us up our game. Soon more bloodthirsty and less mentally stable people than Vladimir Putin could decide that it is now open season on nations nominally allied with The United States. World War III would soon be afoot whether Barack Obama attempted to disbelieve this possibility or not..
*-Poland is in NATO. Ukraine, Finland and many others are on their own and in a really bad neighborhood...