Busy week in the real world, so here goes with another libertybelle contrarian view.
Paul Rahe, highly respected academic, penned a piece on Putin, “Vladimir Putin: The World’s Greatest Fool”, which I disagree with and where it struck me that in America, this inability to objectively evaluate our own moves and how others around the globe perceive them, permeates the intellectual movers, who influence American foreign policy. Rahe states:
“After Chechneya came Georgia. Then, Syria. And, of course, now it is the turn of the Ukraine. Do not kid yourselves. The masked gunmen who seized the Parliament building in the Crimea earlier today were not locals. They were Spetznatz — special-purpose forces — dispatched by Moscow to carry out a coup d’etat and prepare the way for Russia’s seizure of that Ukrainian province, and the odds are tolerably good that they will succeed in doing just that. Vladimir Putin knows that words of warning from Barack Obama mean nothing at all.”
All these charges fail to take into account the Russian view on these areas and it pretty much fits the pattern of accusing the Russians of interfering in their neighbors business, while we tirelessly push NATO and western predominance among those very same neighbors. In Syria, no mention is made of how important Tartus is to the Russians. Just like in Crimea, well, the Russian Black Sea Fleet resides there, so of course the Russians have a legitimate and vital national security interest in how events play out in Ukraine. If the Russians rely on hardball tactics, now, that’s a fair charge, but failing to at least acknowledge that from a national security stance they do have legitimate interests does a real disservice to ever being able to find some common ground when dealing with the Russians. All this resurrecting Cold War era level rhetoric about Putin being the progeny of the “evil empire” keeps us from realistically viewing events. The Russian moves make perfect geopolitical sense. Our own personalizing this about Putin as an evil nemesis, misses the point completely. We had to know that the Russians would use force to secure their Black Sea Fleet access and assert themselves there. Turning this into a soap opera rather than a look at the maps and pieces on the board doesn’t help us forge a way forward. Negotiations, just like real conversations, have got to start by respecting your adversary’s point-of-view and listening to the concerns. Issuing threats, ultimatums, highly charged rhetoric backs us into a corner from the start. The Obama administration has no clear objectives, no ability to formulate a coherent policy and plays low-ball politics – just read Nuland’s leaked comments to see how the Obama administration was trying to dictate which protestors should play a role in the future government in Ukraine. Putin is behaving like the leader of Russia, while Obama putts one more time. I respect Putin’s abilities and while I am fully aware how brutally the Russians react, it would behoove us to look at: USSR in 1989 and Russia today, then imagine if you were responsible for Russian national security planning. I wish President Obama would put half as much effort into promoting our national security interests as Putin does to promote his country’s interests. Putin isn’t the problem here – it’s American fecklessness and particularly Obama’s total failure of leadership. Endless saber-rattling and shouting threats at the Russians won’t get us anywhere and frankly, how embarrassing was the Syria debacle, where even Assad’s kid pegged Obama as weak. And after that flubbering about, President Obama tossed the reins to Putin anyway. The US acts like a spoiled brat, constant assertions of moral superiority, temper-tantrums and endless demands (red lines) and it’s way past time to grow up and actually behave with a bit of humility and treat other countries with some respect – not likely to happen with this narcissistic crowd.
I assessed the personalities over a year ago: “Putin By A Mile”