Putin reignites the Cold War

Posted by Admin On Monday, 3 March 2014 0 comments
Russian President Vladimir Putin must understand one, singular message from the West: Get out of Ukraine immediately. He obviously is testing the United States and Europe and fully believes Russia can withstand any economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation or other punishment the West tries to mete out.
The key to disabusing him of any notion that he can get away with his invasion of Ukraine is to muster powerful sanctions immediately, without delay. If President Barack Obama allows this to become a meandering, dribs-n’-drabs series of pinprick sanctions, none of this will mean anything. What got Iran’s attention? Clearly, the the slow increase in trade sanctions — blockage of computers and other consumer items — didn’t do it. Iran finally heeded the West’s message when its international bank accounts were frozen and Iran couldn’t get access to hard currency or repatriate its oil earnings from abroad.
That’s what has to happen with Russia — now. Any Russian cargo ships currently in U.S. or European ports should be ordered to depart immediately. Russians visiting this country should be notified that their visas are subject to cancellation immediately. I guarantee, the Kremlin would grasp very quickly how serious the West takes its aggression in Ukraine when its own citizens register their concerns about the West’s anger.
But right now, I don’t think Putin takes Obama and Europe seriously at all. He believes we are weak, indecisive and easily manipulated.
His argument for invading Crimea is to protect the lives of Russians living there. The rationale is absurd. First, there is no evidence whatsoever that Russian lives are in danger. If that were the case, an evacuation would be in order, not an invasion. Second, it has been Russia’s goal for decades to populate Ukraine, and particularly Crimea, with Russians, kind of like Israel has done in the West Bank. Now that Russian lives as “in danger,” Russia treats Crimea as effectively Russian territory. (The irony is that Russia has historically stood on the side of the Arabs in condemning Israel’s settlement and military occupation of the West Bank and has rejected Israel’s rationale — to protect the lives of Israeli citizens — for its continued crackdown on Palestinians. Now Russia appears to be doing exactly the same thing.)
Major powers, superpowers, don’t behave this way. Even if Putin were to compare this to the ill-advised, U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the comparison would be false. The build-up to the U.S. invasion took months of diplomatic back-and-forth. Washington painstakingly went to the Security Council and worked through a series of resolutions to obtain a patina of legal sanction for its invasion. The international community was deeply divided, but no one can argue that the United States didn’t broadcast its intentions well in advance.
Russia flat out lied. It mobilized troops late last week and told the world it had nothing to do with Ukraine. Russia insisted it had no plans to invade. Then it invaded — all in the span of three days. There was no attempt to consult with the Security Council or obtain some kind of resolution. It was a blatant violation of international law, which is why a strong and quick Western response is required.
For the United States and Europe, economic retaliation against Russia will come at a heavy price. Russian businesses, led by Putin allies, are deeply entangled in U.S. internet ventures. For years, they have developed the ability to sabotage internet communications in this country and can be relied upon to do it if Putin asks them to. The United States opened the door to Russian investment in key U.S. internet ventures, believing that free trade was the key to good relations between the two countries. Against the advice of many experts who recognized our vulnerability, Washington gave trade a higher priority than national security.
Europeans are even more vulnerable. They rely heavily on Russian gas supplies, and they have known for years that their vulnerability put them at a strategic disadvantage in the event Russia chose to put the squeeze on its petroleum shipments. Well, that day might have arrived.
Putin, I don’t doubt, has made these calculations. He knows there will be no military response from the West. He believes he can bring the West to its knees, and that we will ultimately acquiesce to his demands for the ongoing Russian military and political domination of Ukraine.
The best way to make him reconsider is for the West to act in unison and with an, overwhelming economic response. Make Russia feel the pain immediately. Anything less will only confirm Putin’s assumptions about our lack of resolve.


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