Well, not to look like too much of a dupe (me), but chess great Garry Kasparov, who has spoken-out at great personal risk for his birthplace of Azerbaijan as well as for the freedoms of all against autocracy and tyranny, has been very vocal on Twitter as to just what we’re likely dealing with in Putin:
Addition: Kasparov is a human-rights advocate having a tough time finding support against the actual force used by Putin against those supporting an independent Ukraine. Some human-rights advocates are as close to foreign policy decisions as they’ve been in a while in the current U.S. administration.
Is there any merit in applying rational motives to Putin’s behavior?
Perhaps, if you’re in Kasparov’s shoes, no, there isn’t. Putin’s actions should be clear enough.
Hopefully, I’m aware that many Western media outlets occupy a kind of secular-bubble within which everyone’s a potential convert to a shared set of assumptions about liberal democracy. The spread of human-rights through international institutions is often presumed to be the natural course of events. Apparently even Putin, China, the mullahs in Iran, and Islamic terrorists might be welcome to join as long as they agree to some basic conditions.
It’s ain’t what you know…
Moving along, here’s liberal strategist and thinker Zbigniew Brzezinski at WaPo, born in Poland, who served under Jimmy Carter (yes, Obama’s further out there than Carter, in many respects).
Putin’s actions can’t go unpunished:
‘This does not mean that the West, or the United States, should threaten war. But in the first instance, Russia’s unilateral and menacing acts mean the West should promptly recognize the current government of Ukraine as legitimate. Uncertainty regarding its legal status could tempt Putin to repeat his Crimean charade. Second, the West should convey — privately at this stage, so as not to humiliate Russia — that the Ukrainian army can count on immediate and direct Western aid so as to enhance its defensive capabilities. There should be no doubt left in Putin’s mind that an attack on Ukraine would precipitate a prolonged and costly engagement, and Ukrainians should not fear that they would be left in the lurch’
WaPo’s editorial board wakes up to Obama’s foreign policy assumptions, at least before potentially nodding-off again.
I think it’s reasonable to expect more redlines and deadlines from the President. Economic sanctions and scrambling behind the 8-ball are par-for-the-course these days. Check out Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic’s interview with Obama. It’s quite insightful.
My take: This administration is deeply invested in a kind of everyone-come-to-the-table peace activism and idealism, as well as Obama’s ability to read the intentions of others using this roadmap. I suspect he’ll likely redouble efforts for an Israel/Palestine peace process and a tentative peace-deal with the leadership in Iran, evidence to the contrary, history, strategy, peace through strength notwithstanding. The liberal internationalists are grounding him in realpolitik to some extent, bolstering this worldview which I suspect Obama sees as quite pragmatic and middle-of-the-road.
Yes, he’ll use drones, take out Bin-Laden, and keep our security in mind, but his default position is towards an ideal of peace, not necessarily peace through strength. His political and ideological interests are similarly aligned.
Addition: Is Putin acting to undermine his own interests quickly, more slowly?
Important to note: American withdrawal supply lines out of Afghanistan run through Russian territory, and any possible negotiations with the Iranian leadership depends upon some Russian cooperation.
Also, what many Americans may have missed during the last election:
We need a grander strategy, from the Middle-East through Asia, though how this strategy would look, exactly, is up for debate.
Charles Hill suggests that if America doesn’t lead with a new set of challenges that face the West, then Europe surely isn’t capable of leading either. If we don’t strike out on our own as Truman did with bold leadership after World War II, we will end a generations long experiment in American exceptionalism. If we don’t lead, someone who doesn’t share our values, probably will.
The world can easily destabilize and get quite violent, quite quickly.
This seems to be where we are.
Any thoughts and comments are welcome
(*As for liberal democracy, my understanding is that there are many strains within it that are highly illiberal, and threaten it from within, obviously, while claiming high ideals and insisting upon utopian and big solutions to persistent problems).