3/1/14

Vladimir Putin is the most powerful man and the undisputed leader of the only super power in the world. Any thoughts otherwise are simply flying in the face of the facts.

It has not been even a week since he presided over the pomp and circumstance of the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games and in a brutal efficiency Ukraine is under the thumb of Russia, fully and completely.

You got to give it to him—the man is dependable and effective.

In an amazing show of political ruthlessness, efficiency, and resolve, he acted swiftly to take what he considers his—the Crimea. Never mind international law, damn treaties that Russia is a signatory on, and especially screw (I wanted to use the other word…) the jokers in Washington and Brussels.

The contempt that the Russian leader feels toward the USA is palpable. The arrogant appearance of the Russian ambassador to the UN in a press conference lying and denying in the face of incontrovertible facts, and the call of the Russian upper house of parliament to recall its ambassador from the US—all orchestrated by Putin—are just a modicum of this fully justified contempt. You cannot argue with his success.

The takeover of Crimea was especially well choreographed. Within about three days of his puppet in Kiev losing control, about 2,000 men armed to the teeth arrived to take control of the only two airports in Crimea and the local parliament building. Who are these people? Officially no one knows but they are speaking Russian, fully equipped with the best weapons and support systems that the Russian army provides, and they serve the purpose of Russia—ergo they are Russian soldiers but they provide Russia with deniability. I would not go as far as to say plausible deniability because only a complete fool would accept for one second that they are not Russians.

Within two days after that the local parliament under the open eyes and presence of these armed non-uniformed Russian gunmen deposed the previous local prime minster and elected a new one and lo and behold, he is a staunchly pro-Russian local politician.

A lot is said by the usual apologists for Putin (BBC, Democrats) and appeasers (Fareed Zakaria is, of course, among those) about the fact that Crimea is majority Russian. The fact is that it is only a very small majority. Over 40% are not Russian and one has to assume that all Crimeans of Russian descent really want to be part of Mother Russia to assume that in a free pool, the majority of Crimean people will choose to be part of Russia. The fact is that in the last local election, this man, the new prime minister who was advocating secession from Ukraine and annexation to Russia, got all of four percent of the vote. I repeat 4%. Not 40%, nor 14%, just 4%.

Like a good actor in a well-written play, the first act of the newly installed, by the power of the gun, prime minster was well rehearsed—he called for Mother Russia to help.

The response from Russia on Friday was that his request for help will not be rejected and indeed within 24 hours of his request, Putin requested and obtained the approval of the upper house of parliament to send Russian troops into Ukraine to “normalize the political situation there.” Putin said that he needs to do that due to the “extraordinary situation” in Ukraine, and because there are threats to the lives of Russian citizens and Russian military personnel based in the Crimean region.

So there you go: The overtaking of Crimea was accomplished in 120 hours.

In addition, the resolution called for and passed by the upper house refers to Ukraine not to Crimea, so watch this space—there is likely more to come.

It is amazing in its efficiency and audaciousness, and in its lack of fear of any reaction from anyone.

And what does the free world do? The president of the U.S. gives a short speech in which he says few things:

  • He is concerned. (Wow…that is really serious.)
  • There will be a cost if Russia interferes (IF? They already have, Mr. President. It is over)
  • Instability will follow for Ukraine, for Europe, and for Russia. (But astoundingly and purposefully NOT for the U.S., according to the president).

I am sure that Putin is shaking in his boots from fear on hearing this speech from the man the world USED to think was the leader of the one super-power in the world, but now only the last remaining diehards of his fanatic followers still believe that. More likely Putin is convulsing with laughter and contempt while looking at the joke that the U.S. has become under this president.

Personally for the first time ever, I am ashamed of being an American. It is particularly humiliating to watch the slew of American officials in addition to the president, be it the secretary of state and of defense, be it pundits or TV commentators, still saying things, and still acting as if the U.S. has ANY moral or real authority in the world. It is simply a laughing stock.

The reaction around the world to Obama’s speech was astonishment at a new low for the weakness that this president broadcasts, for the fact that he cares less about what happens in Ukraine and in Europe, and for his completely meaningless statements.

To add insult to injury, but true to his form, following this statement the president went to a political event of the Democratic Party where he joked and laughed as if there is no national security emergency. Just the same as he did a few months ago after his statement about seeking authority from Congress for the use of force against Syria—how much graver can a president’s statement be than asking for a congressional resolution on the use of force, yet he went to play a round of golf. Similarly after he makes a statement in the Rose Garden about the loss of an American Ambassador in an attack on an American diplomatic post—America’s land—he flies to Las Vegas for a campaign event. Just unbelievable.

I am as astonished by the ZERO reaction from European leaders. It is true that with the U.S. making it clear that they have no interest in this matter, the EU leaders cannot do much, especially given their dependence on Russian gas for fuel and heat, but even given those mitigating circumstances, the silence from Europe is shocking.

Therefore we are now facing a new world reality—the Crimea is part of the Russian Federation and this is the new world order: What Russia wants, Russia takes and no one, no one better make a pip.

Should we care? Damn right we should.

Let’s look at history first. History is not necessarily a predictor of the future but lessons can and should be learned, especially when the similarities are too many to ignore. Seventy-five years ago, the European bully of the time did the same thing; Hitler annexed the Sudetenland in October 1938 and the rest is history. Hitler at least had the (shameful and disgraceful) acquiescence of the UK and France for his action BEFORE he did it.

What Putin did in the Crimea just now is ten times worse because Russia as well as the UK, and yes, wait for it, the United States of America have all signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in February 1994, only twenty years ago. That memorandum confirmed that the signatories to it will (amongst other things):

  1. Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders.
  2. Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.
  3. Refrain from using economic pressure on Ukraine in order to influence its politics.
  4. Consult with one another if questions arise regarding these commitments.

(The emphasis above is mine.)

The signatories to this agreement have all ignored their undertakings.

The two implications of these events are:

  • All countries around the world who rely on the U.S. for their protection whether or not via formalized treaties like say Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, or via other declarations and historical commitments such as Israel, Saudi, and others, will know that President Obama is a cowardly leader who has zero intent to stand behind U.S. commitments and undertaking.
  • All evildoers around the world will know that they can do whatever they want with impunity. Iran can develop nuclear weapons; China can take control of everything they want to, be it Taiwan, South Korea, and all parts of the China Sea, Russia—anything they want.

The result will be a lawless world where political tyranny will be on the rise, where economic activity will suffer, and if we go back to history, where one of these evildoers will finally do something so egregious to trigger a third world war.

I said before in many blogs that this president’s foreign policy is a disaster waiting to happen. What happened over the last few days in Ukraine sealed the “deal.” There cannot be any argument anymore.

Somewhere, sometime, soon (although maybe Obama will be lucky enough and that soon will happen after he leaves office) the world will erupt entirely due to Obama’s lack of understanding and interest in world affairs on the one hand, and total lack of willingness to use American power to keep a safe world order.

The world will pay a terrible price but America will pay a huge price too.