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Monday, March 3, 2014

Crimea? Not our concern

Conservatives are criticizing President Obama for either failing to intervene in the takeover of Crimea by Russia or having pursued a timid foreign policy that emboldened Vladimir Putin to act. I've even heard people conjuring up visions of the 1930s when other nations acquiesced in Nazi expansion. Give me a break!

Crimea has been under Russian influence since the late 18th century. The majority of people in Crimea today speak Russian, although to some extent this is a consequence of ethnic cleansing by Stalin in 1944 after the Russian military regained the land from the Germans. The Russian Navy has one of its three largest bases, and the only one near the Mediterranean, in Crimea. The Russians are not about to let go of Crimea.

What are the options for intervention? Only a lunatic would propose a military option, which would certainly escalate and probably fail anyway. Besides, the USA is on the verge of extracting ourselves from almost 25 years of war in the Middle East. I don't believe the American people are ready for another entanglement unless there is a clear line of sight to a compelling American interest. In this case there is no such interest, other than a vague revival of the Domino Theory. A baseline mistrust of Russia or of Putin personally is certainly not a compelling American interest. Nor does a revival of the Cold War make any sense, except to the military-industrial complex who want to maintain the current level of DoD spending as Afghanistan winds down.

I doubt that the international community is sufficiently stirred up by Putin's move to organize and sustain an effective economic option; Europeans in particular need Russian natural gas. Diplomacy isn't likely to work in this case, either.

In short, direct intervention offers no prospect of success. So why pursue it?

This article in The Atlantic effectively responds to the assertion that Obama's foreign policy has encouraged Putin to act aggressively. As to comparisons between Putin and Adolph Hitler, again I have to say that conservatives are attempting to manipulate public opinion opportunistically. Putin is no angel, and perhaps he is even dangerous. But I don't believe he is evil in the sense of a Hitler, a Stalin, or a Tojo.

I dislike what has happened and is still happening in the Ukraine, including Crimea. But sometimes we Americans must accept that the USA is not all-powerful and that it's not a good idea to stick our nose into everything that goes wrong in this world.