The Crimean crisis proves amateur hour is over

President Obama is “deeply concerned” by Russia taking the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and said “there will be costs”. Secretary of State John Kerry complained that Vladimir Putin is playing by “19th century” rules instead of 21st century norms. Senator Dick Durbin (D- IL) declared, “those are the tactics of a bully”. Welcome to reality. Dictators act with impunity when American leaders are naïve and weak.

President Obama is “deeply concerned” by Russia taking the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and said “there will be costs”. Secretary of State John Kerry complained that Vladimir Putin is playing by “19th century” rules instead of 21st century norms. Senator Dick Durbin (D- IL) declared, “those are the tactics of a bully”. Welcome to reality. Dictators act with impunity when American leaders are naïve and weak.

The Obama Administration is under the illusion that the 21st century has transformed human nature such that violations of national sovereignty are passé. Apparently, the world is one big, happy family now. With that mindset, the President told the United Nations, “No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation.” Translation: America should not have unsurpassed military power and economic influence in the world.

Mitt Romney warned against such folly, saying, “I’m not going to wear rose colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin. And I’m certainly not going to say to him, I’ll give you more flexibility after the election.” Obama dismissed Romney by saying, “The 1980’s is calling to ask for their foreign policy back. The Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

At best, President Obama views American strength as a burden. He complained, “Whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower, and when conflicts break out, one way or another we get pulled into them.” Well, leading the free world involves responsibility. Often the United States must act as the world’s police force. If America doesn’t step up to the plate as a formidable force for good, who will?

America makes a difference in the world because it’s strong. Yet today President Obama proposes to reduce the United States military to a pre-WWII size. The White House is calling on Congress to make difficult choices to solve our nation’s “fiscal challenges”. Meanwhile, Russia is flexing its military muscle, China’s defense spending is exploding, and Iran is going nuclear.

These nations won’t be deterred without demonstrable evidence of United States strength and resolve. Obama did the opposite when he “reset” relations with Russia, essentially exonerating them for the invasion of Georgia during the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration also conceded to Russian pressure and cancelled missile defense agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic.

When Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons in his people, Barack Obama said it crossed his “red line” and threatened U.S. military action. Putin rose to Assad’s defense and the President backed away from a confrontation. On the contrary, he allowed Russia to assert control in Syria and legitimized Putin’s promise to dispose of Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

Last fall, the White House barely blinked when the Ukrainian president cancelled a trade pact with the European Union and sold out his country to communist Russia. Outraged citizens rose up and demanded preservation of the liberty and free markets they had worked to secure since breaking away from the former Soviet Union. They stood alone while the Russians rolled into Crimea.

Throughout history, weakness has invited aggression. The 21st century is no different than the 19th or any other century. Borders, treaties, and international agreements mean nothing to world aggressors.  Tyrants will push as long as there are no consequences. The naïve call it bully tactics.

Vladimir Putin has reclaimed Crimea for Mother Russia. The threat of economic sanctions to punish Russia’s transgressions is too little, too late. Besides, the rest of Europe knows they will pay the price for sanctions too. They’re dependent on Russian natural gas. It’s no surprise that our president is failing to rally serious world opposition to Putin.

The Crimean crisis shows that America won’t be calling the shots by simply “standing with the international community”. Russia has filled the vacuum of power created by Obama in Europe and the Middle East. Speeches in front of Teleprompters won’t change that.

Amateur hour is over on the world stage. Vladimir Putin is a KGB professional experienced in international subversion who rose to power with ruthless political savvy. The rebirth of a Soviet empire is his goal. Such ambitions won’t be stopped by a clueless community organizer bent solely on fundamental change for America.

This “Right Angles” column was published in Glenwood Springs Post Independent on March 18, 2014 http://www.postindependent.com/opinion/10618981-113/obama-russia-president-putin

James D. Kellogg

James D. Kellogg is a water resource engineer in Glenwood Springs, Colorado and the author of Radical Action: A Colt Kelley Thriller. His Right Angles opinion column appears monthly in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent newspaper.

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