Are Putin’s action in the Ukraine a surprise? I hope not, but for the group of amateurs in this administration, they probably were. Is there a foreign policy expert in the stack of dead wood the president depends on? Certainly not Secretary of State Kerry or Vice President Biden or the departed Mrs. Clinton. Reminds me of the surprise of the Carter White House when the Ayatollah was allowed to enter Iran from Europe. When have deeply committed religious radicals ever established a true democracy with regular free elections? I think the Carter administration was shocked when his followers took over the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and established an Islamic theocracy. When the Russians moved into Afghanistan, he was again surprised.
For centuries, the czars had tried to establish a geo-political foothold in South Asia. Through Afghanistan was the most direct route to a warm-water port and the riches of the sub-continent. Only the power of the British Empire thwarted the Russian plan. The Russians, seeing a weak U.S. president, made their move and thousands of lives were lost to add to the total killed by the Muslim aristocracy in Iran. History holds many keys to the future and weakness invites aggression. It has always been so. Now what about Ukraine?
The Ukraine was part of the great Russian Empire that President Putin wants to restore. Ukraine looks both east and west. To the west are its hopes for a close relationship with Europe to balance the threat from Russia. To the east it has a long border with a powerful nation that has shown its willingness to use its military power to achieve political goals, such as the forcible annexation of a part of the Georgia nation in the era of the Bush presidency. Ukraine’s current leadership knows it cannot afford a conflict with Russia without strong political support from the west.
What are President Putin’s plans? Well, even the Obama administration should understand that the recent upheaval in the Ukraine threatens Russia’s strategic interests. The only warm-water port in the entire Russian nation is in the Ukraine. This port is part of a settlement between Ukraine and Russia. Russia’s entire Black Sea Naval Force calls Sevastopol home. A large portion of the people in the area of Sevastopol are Russian ethnics. President Putin probably felt he had to move to protect his naval forces. The question is will he push to acquire Ukrainian territory beyond the strategic area of Sevastopol? He knows his history. There is not great love between the people of Ukraine and the Russians to the east. When the German panzers pushed into the Ukraine in World War II, many Ukrainians welcomed them as liberators. Some even took up arms and supported the Germans. Unfortunately, for those Ukrainians and the German Army, the German leadership treated the Ukrainians like the other people they had conquered. German cruelty knew no ethnic bounds in their drive to occupy Moscow.
President Obama has few options. One is to know that his plan to reduce the U.S. Army to pre-World War II levels is another revealing sign of his weakness. He should immediately re-think his destruction of American power. Peace has never come from weakness. A strong America is necessary for a path to peace. The progressive party is well on the way to achieving what neither the aggressors of both World Wars and the Cold War could accomplish. Our president is a master of winning elections but he is way out of his league when dealing with a man who is not afraid of power and its use.
If Putin goes beyond the securing of routine access to strategic Russian bases in the Crimea portion of the Ukraine and annexes Ukrainian territory, the Obama administration will maybe learn that words do not count for much in the constant struggle to maintain world peace. Weakness only feeds the actions of dictators. It does nothing in the struggle to contain territorial aggression. The willingness to maintain and use national power when necessary, sets apart real leaders from empty ones. Ronald Reagan was a real leader. Barack Obama is not.