Monday, March 3, 2014

White House Putin their heads together for Ukraine response and looking dazed and confused.

Although no one has mentioned it yet, (for diplomatic reasons or because it has completely escaped them?), Vladmir Putin's justification for his invasion of the Crimean peninsula is precisely the same justification given by Adolph Hitler for invading the Sudentenland inside Czechoslovakia in 1938 -- to protect the German speaking people from being oppressed by the Czech government.  He did this two years after taking the Rhineland in violation of the Versailles Treaty.

Consider this from a History of WWII:

 In 1938, Hitler ordered his generals to start to make plans for the invasion of Czechoslovakia. He also ordered Henlein and his followers to start to create trouble in the Sudetenland, therefore proving to the outside world that the Czech government was incapable of maintaining order in its own state. Hitler planned to use this chaos to put his army into the Sudetenland to restore law and order.

There has been incidents offered by Russia's UN ambassador, including a statement from the former president of the Ukraine which was clearly written for him,  of Russian speaking people and those feeling loyal to Russia in the Crimea being subjected to gang violence by pro-western Ukrainians, churches being destroyed and all civil authority breaking down,  which no journalist or anyone else on the ground  has seen or been able to substantiate. But according to Putin, Russian troops have been sent there only to restore law and order.

Whatever Putin's motives, news organizations continue to report that "the White House is scrambling for a response",  the operative word being "scrambling". Which shouldn't come as a surprise.

Obama's credibility on so many issues both foreign and domestic has taken so many hits it must be near impossible at this point to come up with a statement or policy that Russia or anyone else would take seriously. The best Obama has been able to do so far is say "there will be consequences"  and "costs" without being able to say what those costs will be. More recently Obama has said that "events in the Crimea are deeply troubling", something that comes from page 32 of the Politicians Book of Meaningless Cliches right before "Putin is on the wrong side of history".

The problem, as should be obvious by now, is that Obama, since the beginning of his presidency, has already reneged on so many declarations and backed down so many times on so many issues, not just in foreign policy but to Republicans on domestic issues, that there is little Obama can actually say that would matter which is making coming up with a response more difficult.

The most recent reminder is Obama's "red line" over Syria's use of chemical weapons and his promised missile strike if they were used, a red line that was washed away as soon as he faced even the smallest,  insignificant and politically and militarily ignorant domestic resistance  (MoveOn preposterously claimed their petition of 147,000 signatures against the missile strike  out of a membership of 8 million,  caused Obama to back down)  and instead of sticking by his own pledge, something Obama generally fails to do,  he decided to put the use of a missile strike for the killing of hundreds of civilians including children by a chemical attack, to a vote. And the vote was no.

As everyone, including,hopefully,  MoveOn,  knows by now, the result of backing down on the missile strike was that Assad continues to slaughter thousands of Syrians with an air force that would have been severely degraded by a missile strike on their air fields. On top of that Assad has not lived up to his agreement to destroy his chemical weapons since only 11% of his stockpile has been destroyed when the agreement called for all of it to have been destroyed long before now.

Which, as former Russian chess champion, activist and Putin hater, Garry Kasperov recently pointed out, led to Putin's belief that Obama could be steam rolled. Kasperov said at the time Obama reversed himself on the missile strike that there would be a price to pay in the future for Obama not standing by his "red line".  And Kasperov believes that future is now and its happening in the Ukraine.

But it wasn't just Syria. The world also saw the waffling by Obama over the upheavals in Egypt not knowing whether to back Mubarak as he first did, or side with the demonstrators and military. He was then in a quandry over whether to side with the military when the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown. There was the same waffling over Libya which led France and Great Britain, tired of waiting for Obama to make up his mind, decided on their own to send fighter jets against Ghaddafi's forces. And they did it without even informing Obama first.

Which means it might well be up to Europe again to lead in the Ukraine and for the U.S. to follow. Because as Kasperov pointed out, Putin sees Obama as a weak opponent, and one that he can checkmate because of moves Obama didn't make in Syria and beyond. 

Many foreign policy experts say that once demonstrations and violence broke out as a result of the governments refusal to make a deal with the EU and Ukraine's president who opposed the deal was forced out by angry demonstrators, the Obama administration should have predicted or been prepared for the Russian response. Or, as some Republicans and even some Democrats charge as to the weakness of Obama foreign policy, the proof is in the Putin.

 (Note: Yesterday, after this was written,  Hillary Clinton pointed out as I did, that Putin used exactly the same justifcation, and many say pretext,  for sending troops to the Crimea as Hitler did for his invasion and eventual annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938 as noted in the excerpt I cited in the second paragraph. 

Today,  CNN, in what can only be called more sleazy, tabloid style sensationalist journalism simplemindedly exclaimed that Clinton had compared Putin to Hitler. Wolf Blitzer blared "Hillary Clinton compares Putin to Hitler! Is she right? Stay tuned. We'll discuss it after the break!". The same nonsense was delievered by the cliche ridden JD Tapper also accusing Clinton of comparing Putin to Hitler, ("did she go too far???) Of course she did not compare Putin to Hitler, which seemed to reveal the lousy reading comprehension of Blitzer and Tapper and their editors,  but pointed out the identical historical justification used by both, almost verbatim,  which was obviously too much for both Blitzer and Tapper to comprehend. 

Instead of pointing out the FACT and historical accuracy of both men using the same pretext, and whether or not it was potentially significant, CNN did what it always does -- it went for the cheap shot, ignoring the substance and importance of the comparison and ignoring the axiom that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, a  lesson obviously too sophisticated for anchors and editors at CNN which is probably why they've hit a twenty year low in their ratings.)


Anonymous said...

Clinton Derangement Syndrome is off to an early start.

Marla said...

I would agree that Clinton Derangement Syndrome is off to an early start.

And since Obama never follows through on what he says so Putin has been emboldened to act.

Putin is of course the bad actor here. He does not want an economically strong, prosperous, democratic Ukraine to inspire Russians in the way Poland's standard of living has inspired Ukrainians.

I hope for the best for the Ukraine having spent several weeks there to adopt my wonderful child.

For anyone interested, I recommend the Kyiv Post and New York Review of Books. Timothy Snyder wrote a book called "Bloodlands:Europe between Hitler and Stalin." Prof. Synder's posts are very illuminating.

The links are: