Monday, March 31, 2014

If I May Remind People of the Events of a Whole Month Ago

Take Russia seriously. Or they'll keep pushing until we have to take notice.

I like this reasoning for why Putin would never order his troops to cross the border into eastern Ukraine:

Politically, Putin would find himself on very shaky ground. Already, he mustered only 10 other countries—the likes of Belarus, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, and Syria—to oppose a U.N. resolution condemning the annexation of Crimea. If he invades Ukraine, a sovereign nation with a United Nations seat, his isolation will widen and deepen politically, diplomatically, and economically.

The author's cautions about the difficulties Russia's army would have in an invasion where Ukraine's military resisted are well taken--and I think a victory would come too dearly for Putin to find the effort worth it.

But I'm sorry, doesn't this dismissal based on potential Western reaction ignore the fact that Putin already invaded Ukraine and took Crimea?

You know? That stuff that happened starting at the end of last month? Ring a bell? Crimea was part of Ukraine a month ago and now it isn't? Russia has it now? You may have forgotten since CNN started talking about MH370's fate in terms of divine intervention and black holes.

Yeah. That's the one. Crimea.

Explain to me why a second invasion would be the one that awakens NATO and the world to resist Putin's Russia if the first invasion didn't seem to shake up enough people to seriously isolate Russia politically, diplomatically, and economically?

Putin can rightly believe that eventually the West will rouse itself to resist Russian aggression, but where does Putin calculate that stand will be made?

I mean, with all due respect for the differences between Putin and Hitler (and at least allow me that the Hitler of 1939 was nowhere near the level of evil that Hitler Version 1945 was, so the comparison isn't totally off base, notwithstanding Godwin's Law), Hitler didn't think his invasion of Poland would trigger an Allied declaration of war. Hitler thought he had a couple more years at least to prepare for war with France and Britain.

But we all did eventually stop Hitler, so whatever. No need to think of what we could have done earlier, right?

We don't need to go Cold War II on Russia--why stroke Putin's ego with that? President Obama was right--psychotic, but absolutely right (sorry, Animal House reference, there)--Russia is just a regional military power:

“Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness."

The pooh-poohing of Moscow certainly understates the severity of the challenge posed by a restive Russia. No world leader should be sanguine when having disagreements with other countries that own nuclear weapons. But, that said, the nature and scope of that challenge does not support the “Cold War is back” rhetoric now current among many pundits. Today’s Russia is not yesterday’s Soviet Union. This Russia represents a problem all its own.

But they are an aggressive regional military power in a region of great importance to us.

So no new Cold War. There are lots of reasons it is not. But do treat the Russians under Putin as the potential threat that Putin is happily turning Russia in to these days.

It will take a little longer than I'd hoped for sanity to break out in post-Soviet Russia.

Of course, if it is a stupid and futile gesture we want in response, Secretary Kerry's just the guy to do it.