World View: West Discusses Sanctions, as Russia Prepares for War in Ukraine

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • More on the 'Autonomous State of Crimea'
  • West discusses sanctions, as Russia prepares for war in Ukraine
  • Israel's Netanyahu rebukes Obama over Mideast peace process
  • Is the United States really no different than Russia?

More on the 'Autonomous State of Crimea'

Several people have commented on yesterday's World View column with the title "Russia declares the Autonomous Republic of Crimea" by pointing out that Crimea has been the "Autonomous State of Crimea" since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The point I was trying to make with that headline was that Russia was taking over in Crimea, but the result was poorly worded. I apologize for the confusion.

Other readers pointed out that South Ossetia has a majority Orthodox Christian population. There is a sizable Muslim population, but it's not a majority. I apologize for the error.

Thanks for the corrections. Republic of South Ossetia

West discusses sanctions, as Russia prepares for war in Ukraine

Protesters compare Russia's annexation of Crimea with Hitler's annexation of Sudetenland in 1938 (AP)
Protesters compare Russia's annexation of Crimea with Hitler's annexation of Sudetenland in 1938 (AP)

No shots have been fired yet, but that may change soon. Thousands of Russian troops are pouring into Crimea, the southern peninsula of Ukraine, trapping Ukrainian soldiers in their bases and Ukrainian boats in their ports. There are 150,000 troops on Russia's Ukrainian border doing military exercises.

There were several reports on Monday of ultimata given by the Russians, demanding that the Ukrainians surrender or face a "military storm." One of these deadlines is for late Monday evening, ET. These reports have been denied by Moscow, and have described these claims of threats as "nonsense."

As tensions skyrocket in Ukraine, investors dumped the Russian stocks and the ruble currency. Russia's stock market plunged 11%, and the ruble fell 1.8% against the dollar, and a similar amount against the euro. Investors fear that Russia's energy exports will suffer, and that Ukraine's corn and wheat exports will also suffer.

The administration of president Barack Obama is pinning its hopes on these adverse economic reports as "costs" that Russia has to pay. According to Obama on Monday:

"Russia is on the wrong side of history. ...

What cannot be done is for Russia, with impunity, to put its soldiers on the ground and violate basic principles that are recognized around the world.

What we are also indicating to the Russians is that if, in fact, they continue on the current trajectory that they're on, that we are examining a whole series of steps -- economic, diplomatic -- that will isolate Russia."

According to the administration, Russia has already suffered heavy "costs" of billions of dollars from the plunge in Russian stock shares and rubles. The administration is considering sanctions against Russia, such as restricting travel to the United States by Russian officials and oligarchs.

Even if the administration went ahead with some kind of sanction, chances are it would be meaningless. Sanctions cut both ways, and Russia has many billion dollars of trade with Europe and more billions with the U.S. Stocks didn't just fall in Russia on Monday. They plunged globally, with the farthest in Russia. Any meaningful sanctions would be so painful to everyone they would never be enacted.

However, according to the Washington Post's editorial board, which has always been a strong supporter, Obama's foreign policy is "based on fantasy":

"For five years, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was a world in which 'the tide of war is receding' and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces. Other leaders, in this vision, would behave rationally and in the interest of their people and the world. Invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances — these were things of the past. Secretary of State John F. Kerry displayed this mindset on ABC’s 'This Week' Sunday when he said, of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, 'It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century.' ...

Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st-century behavior. Neither has China’s president, Xi Jinping, who is engaging in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and the weaker nations of Southeast Asia. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is waging a very 20th-century war against his own people, sending helicopters to drop exploding barrels full of screws, nails and other shrapnel onto apartment buildings where families cower in basements. These men will not be deterred by the disapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or even disinvestment by Silicon Valley companies. They are concerned primarily with maintaining their holds on power."

It's very hard disagree with anything in this editorial. After one foreign policy debacle after another, in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others, and after Monday's statement pinning hopes of vague "costs" to stop Russia in Ukraine, I can only repeat what I've said before: Typical of his Generation-X cohort, President Obama and his staff have no clue whatsoever what's going on in the world.

As of this writing, nobody has fired a shot in Ukraine, but that could change at any time. Russia is making threats, trying to get Kiev to overreact, so that Russia will have an excuse for military action. Perhaps Russia has no intention of military action, and is massing troops for the purpose of gaining a negotiating advantage. But if so, and even if Kiev continues to play it cool, even an accidental "incident" could occur at any time and spiral into a military conflict. AFP and Kyiv Post and Washington Post

Israel's Netanyahu rebukes Obama over Mideast peace process

In an interview late last week, President Barack Obama explained what he was going to say to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their Monday meeting. Obama said that he believes that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas "is sincere about his willingness to recognize Israel and its right to exist." However, Abbas has repeatedly demanded that Israel could exist only on condition of the "right to return," meaning that the grandchildren of Palestinians who lost their homes in the 1940s could reclaim those homes in modern Israel. Obama said:

"We are coming to a point, though, over the next couple of months where the parties are going to have to make some decisions about how they move forward. And my hope and expectation is that, despite the incredible political challenges, that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abbas are able to reach past their differences and arrive at a framework that can move us to peace.

When I have a conversation with Bibi, that’s the essence of my conversation. If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who? How does this get resolved?"

Obama repeated an earlier threat that the U.S. would not be able to protect Israel from "international fallout," such as the Palestinians joining the International Criminal Court as the nation "Palestine," and use that platform to accuse Israel of war crimes. According to Obama,

"If you see no peace deal, and continued aggressive settlement construction -- and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time -- if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous, sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited."

In a joint press conference on Monday afternoon, Netanyahu issued a rebuke:

"The 20 years that have passed since Israel entered the peace process have been marked by unprecedented steps that Israel has taken to advance peace. I mean, we vacated cities in [the West Bank]. We left entirely Gaza. We’ve not only frozen settlements, we’ve uprooted entire settlements. We’ve released hundreds of terrorist prisoners, including dozens in recent months.

And when you look at what we got in return, it’s been scores of suicide bombings, thousands of rockets on our cities fired from the areas we vacated, and just incessant Palestinian incitement against Israel. So Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinians haven’t.

Now, I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but it’s the truth. And the people of Israel know that it’s the truth because they’ve been living it."

Generational Dynamics predicts that there will be a major regional war between Jews and Arabs, re-fighting the war that followed the 1948 partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. It really doesn't make any difference what Obama and Netanyahu say or do. Bloomberg and White House

Is the United States really no different than Russia?

Something I've heard a lot in the last couple of weeks is that Russia invades countries and the U.S. invades countries, and so there's really no difference. This deserves a response.

Historically, this comparison is completely wrong. When the U.S. "invades," it's for a police action in our role as policemen of the world, for what we believe to be a benevolent cause. We became policemen of the world in 1947 under the Truman Doctrine, which justified military police actions because they could prevent a new world war, and because their costs in blood and money are tiny in comparison to massive costs of World War II. This was later reaffirmed by President John Kennedy when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

However, when Russia invades, it's to annex territory for the Soviet/Russian empire.

The U.S. has never annexed Germany, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, or Iraq, and has no plans to annex Afghanistan. You might argue that the Vietnam war and other wars were mistakes, and that may (or may not) be true. But it's incontrovertible that we did so to save South Vietnam from Communism, and that we never had any intention whatsoever to annex Vietnam. So there's no "moral equivalence" between Russia and the United States.


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