Ukraine: There Should Be Military Consequences
I’m not sure what Obama told Vladimir Putin in their 90-minute call yesterday, but aside from the typical asinine barking from the likes of Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and John McCain about being tougher, Obama needs to cut to the chase with Putin and Russia. We are now dealing with an outlaw state, one that has no fear of doing what it wants militarily and blocking whatever it needs to diplomatically to enhance its own interests, even at the expense of the blood and lives of others.
Make no mistake: Putin is doing this because he assumes Obama can’t or won’t do anything in retaliation, and yes, because he has no respect for him. Putin assumes his natural gas deals inoculate him from European pressure. And he assumes that Obama needs him on Syria, and perhaps Iran. In short, Putin assumes that Obama has no leverage.
He may be right on some of these issues, but Putin miscalculates if he thinks there aren't specific actions Obama can take. Among these actions are:
-On Syria, stop any further work with Russia (pleasing our regional allies) and reintroduce a military option;
-Signal that we will immediately work with our European allies to find natural gas alternatives to Russia;
-Signal that the Security Council veto is irrelevant, and that the United States will reserve the right to act unilaterally;
-Get our diplomatic staff and their families out of Russia now;
-Like the Canadians, we should recall our ambassador;
-Call for Russia's expulsion from the G-8;
-Stop work on any trade deals with them immediately.
We need to start treating Russia and Putin as the outlaw enterprise that they are. (John Kerry has started down this path already) We should isolate Russia from the G-7, and whatever benefits they receive from being treated like a major world player should immediately stop. Doing all of these things creates splits inside Russia's top leadership, between the "Russia First" cold warriors led by Putin, and the business and diplomatic class that take a longer view of things.
Putin of course thinks we won’t do anything militarily about Crimea or even his next annexation of most of Ukraine. But there is one thing we can do militarily that Obama and Chuck Hagel should start talking about openly, given Putin’s annexation of Crimea into a full-blown military outpost: we should start talking with NATO and specifically Greece and Turkey about reestablishing the Twelfth Fleet and expanding the Sixth Fleet in the interim. Greece may welcome the economic investment, as may Turkey. Frankly, I don’t care if Putin sees it as a provocation; he and his cronies in the “parliament” need to know they just bungled their way into having the United States Navy back in their backyard to restrain any future grabs or movements into other nearby countries.
And in case Putin thinks that this will only be a short term problem for him, we should send the message to him and our European allies that this will be a longer-term policy shift for the United States, and that he’s just isolated Russia with America for years beyond the Obama administration. To that end, it would be helpful if Hillary started sending a strong message herself about Russian isolation.
Image courtesy of progressivemediagroup.com