The Russia/Ukraine “uncontested arrival” is not just a Putin/Obama confrontation. It is a test of the West’s willingness to stop territorial expansion by nation-states hungering for a little taste of their own Manifest Destiny.
It is hard to make an argument that other than fulfillment of the Budapest Memorandum that the West has a strategic interest in the region. That agreement is one so loose on definition as to be worthless – and the feckless Westerners so good at parsing words to assure that its weight on their collective consciences would light as a feather.
The only way the West could be shamed into stepping into the fray would be for Russia to line up tanks on the border, dress like King Leonidas from “300” and yell, “This. Is. Russia!” as they rolled into Crimea – and that’s not even guaranteed.
America’s actions matter because, for the last 40 years or so, America has been the sole country willing to lead against adventures like what is happening in Crimea today. From the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 80’s to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and to the enforcement of UN resolutions and a shooting war against terrorism in 2002, America was the first country to step forward and say: “This is it – no more. It stops here.”
But this is 2014…a different time and a different party and president in charge. This is a Democrat party that so vilified George W. Bush over Iraq and Afghanistan that they successfully poisoned the public debate over right and wrong and muted the idea that it is necessary to support our friends around the world. The best America has to offer today is a revival of 60’s anti-war ideology, a reestablishment of 70’s foreign policy and a president who actually sees “leading from behind” as a viable strategy.
The world is watching – and nowhere are they watching more intently than in Beijing. China has always wanted to hand Japan a little dose of whup-ass of their own for what they did to the Chinese before and during WWII and they have their own little proxy war going on over a few little Japanese islands. The big difference between this and the Ukraine being that we actually have had binding defense agreements of one sort or another with Japan since the end of WWII.
If China were to seize Taiwan, I can imagine the Russian foreign ministry spokesman saying, “Russia has always upheld the principles of diplomacy and the fundamental norms of international relations. At the same time we also take into consideration the history and the current complexities of the Taiwan issue.”
I could easily imagine Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping doing a Hitler-Stalin tango. Folks, this will not be over before the fat lady sings.
Sarah Palin saw all of this coming in 2008. Mitt Romney saw it in 2012. We ought to be asking ourselves, “What next?”
Imagine if China is emboldened to grab those islands thinking that America will not respond – and imagine the chaos that ensues if we don’t. That would be the final nail in the coffin of America as a super-power…and don’t think that Russia and China don’t salivate over that idea.
The other message that America’s inaction sends to any former Russian satellite state is that if they have nukes, they can’t afford to give them up like the Ukraine did because they won’t be supported – and if they don’t have them, they had better get them. Hell, Senator Obama and Dick Lugar spent some time in the Ukraine in 2005 to get them to destroy stocks of conventional weapons.
No, there is no direct strategic value of the Ukraine that impacts the everyday American…I doubt that more than 25% of Americans even knew that there was a county named “Ukraine” and even less know the history of destruction and death vested on the Ukrainian people by Soviet leaders under Stalin.
But the Ukraine does have value – its value is in how the world will perceive the response of America to this situation and how it is perceived by our enemies abroad. An ineffective response will embolden our enemies, including terrorists, and will cost us far more in treasure and lives than stopping this now.
I fear the Ukraine is already lost to Putin’s imperialist dreams, all that is left to do now is for Kerry and Obama to negotiate the terms of surrender.
Let’s just say that if I were Japan, I would be very, very nervous.