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Don Roach: Obama Loses Showdown with Putin

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

 

There’s really no way to put it.

Last Friday, President Obama told Russia that “there will be costs” to any Russian military intervention in the Crimean region of the Ukraine. If you are unaware, Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, was recently removed from his position as a result of significant political unrest in the country. Not only that, an arrest warrant was issued for Yanukovych over the recent deaths of Ukrainian protesters.

Much of the political unrest in Ukraine, to make a long story short, stems from Yanukovych’s November 2013 decision to step away from talks that would strengthen ties between Ukraine and the European Union. Afterwards, Ukrainians took to the streets in displeasure over the move. Fast forward a few months, Yanukovych was out and Obama told Russia not to move into the Ukraine or face the consequences. So how did Russia respond?

One day after Obama told Russia to stay out of Ukraine, Russia sent 16,000 troops to Ukraine.

Let me repeat and format that sentence for effect.

One day after Obama told Russia to stay out of Ukraine, Russia sent 16,000 troops to Ukraine.

Has the United States become a paper tiger?

I understand that for decade Russia and the US were embroiled in a Cold War. I get that, but I also get that that Cold War should have ended back in what, 1989? I also recall an America that was a leader on the world stage who could speak and people would at least pause before acting.

Not so with Obama’s latest tough talk. Instead, Russia made moves to protect its interests in Ukraine. I don’t care what Putin says about why he’s moved troops into Ukraine, it’s all about Russia and nothing about what the Ukrainian people want. The Ukrainian people wanted stronger ties with the EU and Ukraine’s Parliament booted ex-President Yanukovych because of the fallout that resulted when he took those ties off the table.

But what is bothersome to me is how little power it appears our “big stick” has in the world. Prior to Russia moving into Crimea there was no Obama-Putin conversation (that happened afterwards) and what’s more Obama’s talk polarized his position.

If you say there will be costs if you move into Crimea, now that Russia has done just that, there must be costs to the Russians.

And no, I don’t believe boycotting the G8 summit constitutes as “costs”? If our answer to military action is to simply not talk no, doesn’t that sound more like someone who’d move troops to Iraq than the guy who promised “change we can believe in”?

When I first saw Obama’s comments, I thought they were some of the most idiotic and reckless comments he’s made. No, I’m not sitting in the war room discussing diplomacy on a daily basis but I have negotiated with people before. They usually tell you not to put a threat out there unless you’re willing to back it up.

Putin called Obama’s bluff. And America shot back with a boycott.

I guess this is what diplomacy looks like in the Obama administration. 2016 can’t come soon enough!

Don can be reached at don@donroach.org . You can also follow Don on Twitter at @donroach34.

 

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