Ukraine: Russian Force Authorized; What Will Obama Do?

UkraineThe upper house of the Russian parliament has authorized Vladimir Putin to use military force in Ukraine despite a warning from President Obama that if the Russians do intervene “there will be costs.” Now the President, who has come under fire for drawing a red line in Syria over chemical weapons without following up, is on the hot seat again.

Putin’s intervention is the only thing that saved Bashar Al Assad, the president of Syria and Russia’s ally, from missile strikes from the United States after it was confirmed chemical weapons were used in the civil war in Syria last year. Putin used the opportunity to promote himself as a peacemaker, rather than a supporter of a war criminal in Assad, and even penned an op-ed for The New York Times scolding America for its planned military intervention and questioning the idea of American exceptionalism. Political opponents of Obama slammed him for looking weak and used the situation to further attack the President’s foreign policy abilities.

UkraineThe President comes to a moment of truth yet again, this time with more serious implications. Just hours after warning the Russian Federation not to authorize military force within Ukraine, it seems that Putin plans to do just that and we’re left to wonder what Obama will do. This is more than a push to action, it’s a shove, and the world is watching with bated breath as Cold War-era tensions manifest in Crimea, an autonomous region within the Ukraine.

It’s been a week since former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, also a Putin ally, was ousted amidst civil unrest. The country has been struggling to establish a peaceful transition government and now the newly appointed, pro-Russian Prime Minister of Crimea, Sergiy Aksyonov, has secured control of the military and police there and has asked for military aid from Russia. It seems that’s exactly what he’s going to get, as Russia’s Black Sea fleet is already parked along Crimea’s shores. Aksyonov says he seeks to maintain “peace and tranquility” in the region and has claimed that unidentified armed men and military equipment have been detected nearby due to the central Ukrainian government being unstable. These claims are unconfirmed.

Chief of Crimea’s national police, Igor Aveytskiy, said in an interview that “all was peaceful” last night. “Conditions are good. The Situation is under control” he said. When asked about violence in Crimea, Mikhail Amirov, a guard at the Interior Ministry said, “It’s all rumors, all lies.” The news didn’t stop a quick response from Russian politicians that gives Putin a free hand to move troops into Crimea.

If we’ve learned anything about Obama’s foreign policy style, it’s that he favors the slow play. He’s a pragmatist at heart and in five years under his administration, America has avoided getting massively involved in any one world conflict, though he has flirted with the idea in Syria and “led from behind” in Libya. However, Obama is still presiding over the war in Afghanistan, started by George W Bush, as commander in chief and has been labeled “The Drone President” for his unrivaled use of remote strikes against terror targets abroad.

It’s clear Americans have no stomach for boots on the ground and find themselves adopting a non-interventionist mindset after a decade of fighting in the Middle East, but this incident screams for a firm, measured response from the President. Obama has drawn another red line and just hours later he is forced to back up his words as Russian force has been authorized in the Ukraine and we are left to wait and see what he will do about it. It is ironic, though maybe unsurprising,  that just one week after the Olympic flame, an icon of world peace, was extinguished in Sochi that the drums of war are beating again.

By Matt Stinson


New York Times

Washington Post


Wall Street Journal

2 Responses to "Ukraine: Russian Force Authorized; What Will Obama Do?"

  1. Anderson   March 2, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    In Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August” she details the belief that there couldn’t be a long or large war due to the interwoven economies of Europe. Basically, it would be too expensive and would lead to economic collapse. She explains that Belgium was a protectorate of GB, France and Germany and anyone that invaded would face the armies of the others. So the belief at the time was that a war couldn’t happen, and even if it did, it couldn’t last more than a couple of weeks, a month, tops. In other words, World War I couldn’t happen…

    If you look at this situation in comparison to the situation in 1914, Russia’s leadership is expansionist, the pundits in EU and USA say our economies are too interwoven, the UK, French and German armies are in a cycle of decline. The German Army has a strength of 62,279 soldiers who are mostly reserves, the UK had a strength in October 2013 of 205,850 with 181,720 in reserve, the French have a reported strength of 222,215 with 200,000 in reserve. Russia, on the other hand has 766,000 under arms as of 2013 with a further 2,035,000 in reserve.

    If they really want to, Russia will probably take all the previous Soviet Bloc countries, they could go on and move into Europe, depending upon the response of the major European powers.

  2. retsosnikosNikos Retsos   March 2, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    What will Obama do? is the wrong question. The rights question is “What can Obama do? and the answer is NOTHING! The U.S. cannot start and win a war at the borders of Russia, and U.S. threats of sanctions against Russia are just lip service to the new Ukrainian leaders who were naïve enough to believe that once they had Yanukovich out,
    the West would have fully supported them to break away from Russia.

    The naiveté on this calculation is: “The 100.00 protesters who overthrew Yanukovich cannot make decisions on behalf of 45 million Ukrainians. They can do that if they win the may elections with 65% or more, and then the they would represent the 2/3 of the will of Ukrainians. Obama and the other European leaders were naïve to believe that they could
    inflate the expectations of a few Ukrainians about a future European Union (EU)membership, and chip away a traditional, historical, cultural, and linguistic Russian ally. Now their naiveté has backfired, and they are bubbling out empty threats of sanctions, etc.,

    What happened in Ukraine is a phenomenal ignorance of both the Western leaders, an of the protesters in Ukraine who thought they could take over Ukraine and jump with it into
    the EU – grasshopper style. Now they have awaken up from those sweet dreams, and realized that the reality is actually a nightmare! Nikos Retsos, retired professor


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