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Monday, March 3, 2014

How Quickly Will It Be Back to Business As Usual For Relations With Russia? -- By Max Boot, Commentary Magazine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves as he boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on his way to Doha, June 21, 2013. It’s good to hear that John Kerry is going to Kiev. It’s good to hear that Russia’s G-8 Summit might be canceled and that Russia might be booted out of the G-8 altogether. And good to hear, as Kerry said Sunday, “there could even be, ultimately, asset freezes, visa bans.”

The problem is the words “could be.” They suggest an escape clause—namely that none of this may actually come to pass or, if it does, it will be for only a short period of time and then it will be back to business as normal with Russia.

Certainly Vladimir Putin did not suffer any lasting consequences the last time he violated one of the most basic norms in international law by invading a neighboring state. His 2008 invasion of Georgia, which occurred in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration, caused no more than temporary consternation in Washington. Within a few months President Obama took office, promising a “reset” of relations with Russia.

The benefits of this “reset” are hard to find, unless one counts the Russian-orchestrated deal on Syrian chemical weapons which Bashar Assad is not carrying out on the agreed upon schedule. The costs of the “reset” are more obvious–it has convinced Putin that no matter how brazenly and unlawfully and thuggishly he acts, the U.S. will look the other way because semi-amicable relations with Russia are so important to whoever occupies the White House.

It is no coincidence that Putin has now invaded a second neighbor, taking control of Crimea and threatening to do the same with other parts of eastern Ukraine. For the second time Putin has committed armed aggression against a neighboring state. He will do it again in the future–and so too will other predators who are watching carefully what happens in the present instance–unless it is clear there is a real price to be paid for his flagrant misconduct.

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