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

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

This morning’s key headlines from

  • 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 withthe title “Russia declares the Autonomous Republic of Crimea” by pointing out that Crimea hasbeen the “Autonomous State of Crimea” since the breakup of the SovietUnion in 1991. The point I was trying to make with that headline wasthat Russia was taking over in Crimea, but the result was poorlyworded. I apologize for the confusion.

Other readers pointed out that South Ossetia has a majority OrthodoxChristian population. There is a sizable Muslim population, but it’snot 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 ofRussian troops are pouring into Crimea, the southern peninsula ofUkraine, trapping Ukrainian soldiers in their bases and Ukrainianboats in their ports. There are 150,000 troops on Russia’s Ukrainianborder doing military exercises.

There were several reports on Monday of ultimata given by theRussians, demanding that the Ukrainians surrender or face a “militarystorm.” One of these deadlines is for late Monday evening, ET. Thesereports have been denied by Moscow, and have described these claims ofthreats as “nonsense.”

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

The administration of president Barack Obama is pinning its hopes onthese 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 itssoldiers on the ground and violate basic principles that arerecognized 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 weare examining a whole series of steps — economic, diplomatic –that will isolate Russia.”

According to the administration, Russia has already suffered heavyand rubles. The administration is considering sanctions againstRussia, such as restricting travel to the United States by Russianofficials and oligarchs.

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

However, according to the Washington Post’s editorial board, which hasalways been a strong supporter, Obama’s foreign policy is “based onfantasy”:

“For five years, President Obama has led a foreignpolicy based more on how he thinks the world should operate thanon reality. It was a world in which ‘the tide of war is receding’and the United States could, without much risk, radically reducethe size of its armed forces. Other leaders, in this vision,would behave rationally and in the interest of their people andthe world. Invasions, brute force, great-power games and shiftingalliances — these were things of the past. Secretary of State JohnF. Kerry displayed this mindset on ABC’s ‘This Week’ Sunday whenhe said, of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, ‘It’s a 19thcentury act in the 21st century.’ …

Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not receivedthe memo on 21st-century behavior. Neither has China’s president,Xi Jinping, who is engaging in gunboat diplomacy against Japan andthe weaker nations of Southeast Asia. Syrian president Basharal-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 familiescower in basements. These men will not be deterred by thedisapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or evendisinvestment by Silicon Valley companies. They are concernedprimarily with maintaining their holds on power.”

It’s very hard disagree with anything in this editorial. After oneforeign policy debacle after another, in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq,Afghanistan, and others, and after Monday’s statement pinning hopes ofvague “costs” to stop Russia in Ukraine, I can only repeat what I’vesaid before: Typical of his Generation-X cohort, President Obama andhis 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 couldchange at any time. Russia is making threats, trying to get Kiev tooverreact, so that Russia will have an excuse for military action.Perhaps Russia has no intention of military action, and is massingtroops for the purpose of gaining a negotiating advantage. But if so,and even if Kiev continues to play it cool, even an accidentalconflict. 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 whathe was going to say to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuduring their Monday meeting. Obama said that he believes thatPalestinian president Mahmoud Abbas “is sincere about his willingnessto recognize Israel and its right to exist.” However, Abbas hasrepeatedly demanded that Israel could exist only on condition of thelost their homes in the 1940s could reclaim those homes in modernIsrael. Obama said:

“We are coming to a point, though, over the nextcouple of months where the parties are going to have to make somedecisions about how they move forward. And my hope andexpectation is that, despite the incredible political challenges,that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abbas are able to reachpast their differences and arrive at a framework that can move usto peace.

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

Obama repeated an earlier threat that the U.S. would not be able toprotect Israel from “international fallout,” such as the Palestiniansjoining the International Criminal Court as the nation “Palestine,”and use that platform to accuse Israel of war crimes. Accordingto Obama,

“If you see no peace deal, and continued aggressivesettlement construction — and we have seen more aggressivesettlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seenin a very long time — if Palestinians come to believe that thepossibility of a contiguous, sovereign Palestinian state is nolonger within reach, then our ability to manage the internationalfallout is going to be limited.”

In a joint press conference on Monday afternoon, Netanyahuissued a rebuke:

“The 20 years that have passed since Israel enteredthe peace process have been marked by unprecedented steps thatIsrael has taken to advance peace. I mean, we vacated cities in[the West Bank]. We left entirely Gaza. We’ve not only frozensettlements, we’ve uprooted entire settlements. We’ve releasedhundreds of terrorist prisoners, including dozens in recentmonths.

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

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

Generational Dynamics predicts that there will be a major regional warbetween Jews and Arabs, re-fighting the war that followed the 1948partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Itreally 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 thatRussia invades countries and the U.S. invades countries, and sothere’s really no difference. This deserves a response.

Historically, this comparison is completely wrong. When theU.S. “invades,” it’s for a police action in our role as policemen ofthe world, for what we believe to be a benevolent cause. We becamepolicemen of the world in 1947 under the Truman Doctrine, which justified militarypolice actions because they could prevent a new world war, and becausetheir costs in blood and money are tiny in comparison to massive costsof World War II. This was later reaffirmed by President John Kennedywhen he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what youcan do for your country.”

However, when Russia invades, it’s to annex territory for theSoviet/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 theVietnam war and other wars were mistakes, and that may (or may not) betrue. But it’s incontrovertible that we did so to save South Vietnamfrom Communism, and that we never had any intention whatsoever toannex Vietnam. So there’s no “moral equivalence” between Russia andthe United States.

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