About Me

My photo
This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Triumph of 1989 Erodes, Right before Our Eyes -- By Jim Geraghty, National Review

The always-reliable Eli Lake, quoting apparently fallible sources, February 27: "American intelligence has concluded that Russia won't openly invade Ukraine, despite a massive military exercise on the border and the armed takeover of local airports. U.S. intelligence estimates conclude that Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine. This, despite the launch of a massive, new Russian military exercise near Ukraine's border and moves from armed men to seize two key airports in the country's Crimea region."
Word Sunday night: "A senior administration official told reporters on a conference call that Russian forces were 'now in complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula.' The official said, 'There is no question that they are in an occupation commission in Crimea. They are flying in reinforcements and they are settling in."
(drumming fingers)
How do you botch that? Obviously, a lot of us don't think terribly highly of the foreign-policy instincts and chops of John Kerry, Bob Kerrey, Susan Rice, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama. But is this all-star team getting bad intelligence on top of their other problems? Or is it that they only hear what they want to hear from the intelligence community? 
"Russia chose this brazen act of aggression and moved in with its forces on a completely trumped up set of pretext, claiming that people were threatened. And the fact is that that's not the act of somebody who is strong, that's the act of somebody who is acting out of weakness and out of certain kind of desperation."
Above: What Kerry calls 'weak.'
Is it really an act of weakness, John? Because right now, Putin controls Crimea and he's got Kiev shaking in its boots, and the only thing that Washington and the European capitals can agree on is that they don't want to get into a shooting war with Russia. What's desperate about it? Right now, Putin is basically daring the West, seeing what they're willing to do to stop him. Perhaps not quite as explicitly as the UK newspaper The Sun puts it…
Maybe they'll throw Russia out of the G8. What other consequences are there?
In that interview, Bob Schieffer said the White House described Barack Obama's 90-minute phone call with Putin "the toughest phone call of his presidency."
Ah. A tough phone call.
Thus the arsenal of democracy is reduced to the tools of the telemarketer.
The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl: "New White House background spin for journalists: Putin has made such a big mistake by invading Crimea that it's a good thing, really."
We have a White House full of officials who think they can spin a Russian invasion. It's as if they think they can alter reality with their minds. 
As I mentioned in an earlier Jolt, shortly after the Syria debacle, the Obama administration came into power oblivious to some hard lessons of foreign policy, and has proven strikingly resistant to those lessons: Being nicer to countries like Russia will not make them nicer to you. The United Nations is not an effective tool for resolving crises. Some foreign leaders are beyond persuasion and diplomacy. There is no "international community" ready to work together to solve problems, and there probably never will be.
You can pin this on Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Susan Rice, but most of all, the buck stops with the president. Those of us who scoffed a bit at a state senator ascending to the presidency within four years on a wave of media hype and adoration are not quite so shocked by this current mess. We never bought into this notion that getting greater cooperation from our allies, and less hostility from our enemies, was just a matter of giving this crew the wheel and letting them practice, as Hillary Clinton arrogantly declared it, "smart power." (These people can't even label a foreign-policy approach without reminding us of how highly they think of themselves.) They looked out at the world at the end of the Bush years, and didn't see tough decisions, unsolvable problems, unstable institutions, restless populations, technology enabling the impulse to destabilize existing institutions, evil men hungry for more power, and difficult trade-offs. No, our problems and challengers were just a matter of the previous hands running U.S. foreign policy not being smart enough.
The whole "reset button" ceremony with Hillary Clinton and Russia's Sergey Lavrov was a formal commemoration of the incoming administration's naïveté. The "famously stormy" relationship between Condi Rice and Lavrov was not a matter of Rice not being diplomatic enough or nice enough or trying hard enough. It reflected that Vladimir Putin and most of Russia's highest levels of government defined their interests as opposing our interests.
So What to Do?
You're going to hear a lot of "well, there's not much we can do" in the coming days and weeks, a pre-emptive excuse for administration dithering, indecision, and empty gestures.
The U.S. should immediately move to expand its existing Magnitsky Act, which prohibits Russians engaged in illegal activity from entering the U.S. If it were extended to the regulation of bank accounts and property ownership in the U.S., we'd hear howls of outrage from many Russian officials and oligarchs. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), for one, supports this kind of restriction: "Living in Miami, I have seen in recent years the wave of Russian tourists coming to our city and state to spend money and buy property. Many are government officials or allies whose wealth stems from allegiance to Putin, and we should limit their ability to travel here."
Russia today is not the isolated Soviet Union, and its leaders and oligarchs need access to Western markets and capital. All trade and banking relationships with Russia ought to be reconsidered, and the U.S. should restrict the access of Russian banks to the global financial system. Aggressive investigations and leaks about the money the oligarchs and Mr. Putin hold in Western banks might raise the pressure in the Kremlin. The U.S. should also expand the list of Russian officials on the Magnitsky Act's American visa ban and financial assets freeze, including Mr. Putin.
The U.S. can also deploy ships from the Europe-based Sixth Fleet into the Black Sea, and send the newly commissioned George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean. NATO has a "distinctive partnership" with Kiev and in 2008 promised Ukraine that it could eventually join. It's impractical and risky to bring Ukraine in now. But the alliance should do what it can to help Ukraine and certainly boot the Russian mission, a well-known den of spies, from NATO headquarters in Brussels and shut down the useless Russia-NATO Council.
Were the president to unleash America's energy boom into the export sector, fast-tracking energy supplies to Europe, he'd pull the rug out from under Putin's feet. No longer subject to Putin's energy protection racket, Europe would be free to take a tougher stand against his intimidation. More important, removed of the foreign capital flows born of his own energy exports, Putin would be unable to support his increasing military expenditures and continuing support for Assad's rampages in Syria.
(Click link below to read more)
READ MORE Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Post a Comment