Doing the Right Thing on Russia
One of the benefits of age is wisdom, and the willingness to take a second look at initial judgments. Most recently, for me, this involves my initial observations about what the Obama administration should do about Putin’s annexation of Crimea and threatened invasion of the rest of Ukraine. I took a hard line about what Obama should do in response to Putin’s behavior, and I wanted the administration to isolate Russia for their “outlaw” behavior.
I wanted the administration to get the G-7 to kick Russia out of the G-8, and avoid any participation at Russian G-8 events. Thankfully, the administration has done both of these, as well as implement a series of sanctions that start out small and targeted, and do not as yet go as far as I would want in stopping the major oil deals between companies in our two countries. I suspect that the administration is holding these possible additional sanctions in abeyance for now to see what Putin’s next moves are.
I still believe, as I said earlier that the United States should reestablish the 12th Fleet in the eastern Mediterranean, and both Russia and Syria should know that our navy will patrol the eastern Mediterranean as we see fit to protect our national interests and those of our allies. But beyond this, the suspension of Russia from the G-8, the possible sanctioning of large-scale oil deals, and a possible permanent Russian expulsion from the G-8, I think the Obama administration has taken the right steps in response to a move by Putin that we could not prevent, no matter what Obama’s senseless critics say.
Putin is a Russian nationalist first and foremost, who wants to reestablish friendly non-NATO buffer states through any means and rationale necessary. As ably explained by experts like Princeton’s Stephen Cohen, Putin feels deceived by the EU and Obama administration over Libya, and threatened by any additional NATO expansion closer to his borders. Regardless of what we may think about his fears and assessment of our credibility, the fact remains that Russia and America do share common interests against Islamic terrorism and instability, and it is the obligation of the American foreign policy establishment to fashion a relationship with Russia that takes into account Putin’s overriding nationalism and mitigates his ability to extort other nations, and still makes the most of areas where the two countries can maximize joint influence and common interests.