The situation in Ukraine is ramping-up, and we could be looking at potential engagement between Russian and Ukranian forces. Putin is still leveraging his position with alternately militant and vaguely conciliatory language.
It’s true that as in Georgia, our likelihood of going to war on this far Eastern front of Western interests was small to begin with, and not necessarily in our best interests, any more than playing Putin’s Cold War gamesmanship is in our best interests.
Putin and the Geneva Conventions?
Something needs to be done and we need some kind of Russia policy, but which kind exactly?
This is not particularly reassuring:
The current diplomatic team still seems to be telegraphing its intentions and aims too easily, with a particularly naive use of social media while setting deadlines it often can’t meet. This can undermine our credibility.
Many folks like the idea of Western interests banding together, rowing in the same direction to promote liberal democracy by enticing those with divergent and opposing interests to join or face consequences. Human rights, democracy promotion, and tough-as-nails diplomacy through international law and institutions are presumed to be the best foundations for the kind of world we’d like to live in (better than the consequences of Iraq, for example).
Yet, promoting democratic elections in Egypt hasn’t worked out particularly well for our interests (little as we could do there), leading to the return of what will likely be another military-controlled autocracy after the Muslim Brotherhood failure. The surgically-controlled coalitional strikes to take out Gadhafi in the hopes Libyans could put something together in his wake has led to instability across North Africa, and a haven for Islamic radicalism pouring into Syria. Libya was in rough shape, and is still in rough shape.
Meanwhile, in Syria, we emboldened a weakened Putin to leverage us heavily, while allowing Assad to buy himself time. As a result, the country’s Civil War rages on, Islamist radicals have poured in, and as Adam Garfinkle pointed out on April 10th, this has had consequences for us in Crimea.
‘The Syria point? The Obama Administration should watch its mouth. It should say as little as possible about reports of the Syrian regime’s use of poison gas unless it’s prepared to actually do something appropriate to the challenge. Its feckless posturing only drives its credibility further down the crapper. It’s not time to wring hands and blurt out Hamlet-like soliloquies; it’s time to wring necks. Again, if the facts prove that a poison gas attack has occurred and the Obama Administration does essentially nothing about it, it will be open season on every American and allied interest worldwide. It’s nice that Chuck Hagel went recently to Tokyo to calm our Japanese allies down, as though their jitters are not fully justified by the facts; a lot of good it will do, however, if the President does another duck-and-cover over the enormities of the Assad regime.’