Anxiety permeates the air as Americans and the press eagerly watch as a dramatic March unfolds. Unfortunately, much about the upsets occurring on the “world’s court” are getting insufficient attention. Namely, a once-favored United States that is being pummeled by an old rival, Russia.
Vladimir Putin described the breakup of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Russia’s recent, and seemingly thus far, successful efforts to exert increased influence on old Soviet republics and surrounding areas should come as no surprise. Within the last few weeks, we have seen the occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula by Russian forces, a pre-formed vote for succession from the region, and an annexation of it via treaty.
The consequences? The president announced sanctions on a group of Russians from inside and outside the government. The result? Derision from many of those targeted individuals and counter sanctions.
As tepid as the current policy appears, there is greater worry for the world as a whole going forward. Ukraine still faces greater incursion from the Russians particularly in its eastern and southern parts. Old world Soviet satellites like the Baltic States-Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania-are all now at risk and could be taken over by Russia should Putin choose to do so. Iran sees the continued weakness, and whatever help the Russians might have been against their nuclear program has evaporated. The civil war continues to rage in Syria with tens of thousands of dead piling up and Assad remaining, again with Russian support. North Korea, not wanting to miss out, could begin agitating more and more against South Korea. China, meanwhile, has been eyeing a set of Japanese controlled islands. Why worry about the West getting in your way anymore?
We have seen the ineffectiveness of soft power on hard liners. They run up the score. Maybe the “international community” we hear so much about will gather and alleviate all of our problems. It’s 1979 all over again, with President Obama repeating the mistakes of Jimmy Carter.
As much as I hate to say, “I told you so,” it’s true. Conservatives screamed at the top of their lungs that Obama was nothing more than Jimmy Carter’s second term, and sadly we’ve been proven right. Many Americans and the press, whose jobs it is, seem to care little regarding international crises when they have a bracket to worry about.
The basketball madness will end in April. A diminished presence around the globe can last decades.