Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Obama on 1994 U.S. Ukraine defense agreement: What agreement?

In 1994 after the break up of the old Soviet Union, as an inducement to Ukraine to give up its formidable stockpile of former Soviet nuclear weapons within its borders,  the U.S. and the U.K. offered a defense agreement with Ukraine guaranteeing its soverignity and defense in return for Ukraine giving up all of its nuclear missiles and warheads. Ukraine agreed. 

Yet today and for the past month,  with Russian troops within Ukraine's borders and eastern cities disguised as local militia, seizing buildings, fomenting violence and acts of terrorism, trying to give Putin a pretext to invade, and with Russian troops, armour and air power massed on Ukraine's eastern border   one would think to hear Obama talk, that agreement doesn't even exist. Which is exactly what Putin is trying to find out.

 With Russia annexing Crimea mostly with Russian troops thinly, almost comically disguised as local militia, and with 40,000 Russian troops now sitting on Ukraine's eastern border, and with more armed Russian troops and agents wearing local militia fatigues without insignias as if anyone is being fooled, staging armed take overs of Ukrainian government buildings, Obama talks sanctions.

Its safe to say that the Gambino Family did a better job guaranteeing the safety of its members than the U.S. is doing in living up to its 1994 agreement with Ukraine.

There is little doubt Putin feels he can steam roll Obama and doesn't take anything Obama says seriously. And why should he? Obama couldn't stand up to the health insurance lobby, caved in on his own red line in Syria which only compounded the disaster there, waffled so much on Libya that the UK and France decided to act on their own sending in fighter jets, the agreement with Iran is becoming a farce and it is fairly common knowledge Obama has been a laughing stock around the world regarding foreign policy and for good reason. It is hard to think of any president, even the disastrous Bush and his misuse of American military, who was weaker and more indecisive than Obama.

So the last thing Putin is worried about is Obama living up to the 1994 agreement and assisting Ukraine militarily even if only with weapons and material.

His history aside, another reason Putin has no fear of Obama, is that for absolutely no useful reason, Obama publicly declared that  there would be no U.S. military involvement  or response and that the U.S.  living up to its defense obligations with Ukraine was off the table. It was, typically,  incredibly stupid and served no purpose except to embolden Putin.

Even if  an internal decision was made to not act militarily there was no reason to tell that to Putin. There was no useful rational reason to tell Putin that no matter what he did, he could do it with impunity  and not have to be concerned about any U.S. intervention. Sanctions? Hardship? After everything the Russian people have been through the last 100 years? If sanctions is the price Putin feels he has to pay to reclaim Ukraine even if it means doing it militarily he is prepared to do it.

It is one more misfiring and miscalculation by Obama which can almost  be expected since he's done the same repeatedly both in domestic policy as well as foreign.

Putin continues to show no fear militarily as his troop build up on the eastern end of Ukraine's border continues and the American NATO commander, a U.S. Air Force General is convinced the Russians are going to cross.

Obama will be quick to try and claim he is living up to the 1994 defense agreement while at the same time throwing it under the bus,  by saying defense can take many forms and that more sanctions are a form of defense and will hurt Russia.

 But it should be obvious by now that the sanctions imposed after Crimea did nothing to deter Putin from instigating more violence inside Ukraine. He has already set up his pretext for invasion and is waiting to see if the Ukrainian government has the temerity to actually fight back against the Russian plants inside Ukraine posing as local militia taking over government buildings and intimidating unarmed local officials, and then claim Ukraine is attacking civilians ( as if armed civilian terrorists would be any less  criminal and dangerous)  then use that as  his pretext to invade. The recent buzzing of a U.S. warship by an unarmed Russian military jet shows Putin is not afraid of Obama and that was a clear example of Putin probing Obama's weaknesses.

The Ukrainians have good reason to be nervous. Russia continues a massive troop build up on its borders and Obama just talks.  And talks.

There have been ultimatums laid down by the Ukrainian government for the Russian troops posing as militia and their protestors to surrender and leave the buildings or face being removed by force. These are ultimatums that have come and gone without action being taking and one can only hope that the government in Ukraine is not being coached by Obama since giving ultimatums and not living up to them has Obama's fingerprints all over them.

(NOTE: This last supposition has proved to be accurate. On April 17, appearing on CNN, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, Wesley Clark, having just returned from Ukraine said that the Ukraine government and military has been following advice and "guidance" it had been given in surrendering their weapons and military vehicles to the Russian thugs and terrorists in Crimea and in other Ukrainian cities in order "not to provoke" and "to avoid bloodshed at any cost". The result has been the Ukrainian military suffering one humiliation after another emboldening the Russian terrorists and giving Putin propaganda victories. Though Clarke wouldn't say, there is only one place that "guidance" could have come from.)

For whatever economic sanctions Obama and the G7 now threaten to impose on Russia,  it still  would have been a good idea for Obama to keep Putin guessing about what the U.S. military response might be if  he invaded Ukraine. Obama could have done so simply by bringing up the 1994 agreement and leaving open all possibilities as opposed to making a point of saying the U.S. had no intention of living up to it militarily.  But Putin probably already knows that since,   as Obama has shown in the past, any agreement or pledge Obama makes is  never worth the paper its printed on anyway. And so far it looks as if Putin is acting accordingly.


In an interview on Al-Jazeera America on  April 17, former American NATO amabassador Kurt Volker reiterated the point made above:  that Obama's publicly taking military aid to Ukraine in any form off the table in spite of the 1994 defense agreement,  was not only uncessary but has emboldened Putin giving him one less thing to worry about knowing that Obama will avoid any military confrontation at all costs,  and in the end has made the crisis worse.

The decision for Obama to say publicly that military aid was "off the table" can only be called stupid and has proved once again, as was proved by Yale graduate George W. Bush, that being educated and being smart are two entirely different things.

And so the possibility of another defeat looms, more chaos is assured,  perhaps another victory for Putin, and all because of Obama's weakness, his fears, the weakness of his advisors, inexplicable stupidity and one more failure by Obama to live up to an agreement.


Michael Garland said...

Nice story. Well done. I'm getting tired of reading Russian propaganda and hearing the responses from Obamaphiles. How can the people of this country be so naive and stupid. Thanks for your input.

Marla said...

I could not agree with Marc more. In February, after Yanukovych fled, both the U.S. and E.U. told Ukraine to work on relations with Russia. When they did that, I thought that they were throwing Ukraine to the wolf. The Sochi Olympics had just ended and many people who wrote comments to the New York Times felt that there would be a replay of Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968. There was the news today (4/17/2014) that Putin did admit that it was Russian troops in Crimea. The big meeting in Geneva with the U.S., E.U., Ukraine and Russia took place. The armed groups are to be disbanded and disarmed, but we will see if this happens.

One of the lasting images from the 2008 Democratic primaries that I remember was Hillary asking if Obama would be ready for the 3:00 a.m. phone call. The crisis in Ukraine has been that phone call and he has not been ready.

My paternal grandfather arrived in the U.S. in 1908 because he wanted to live in a free Lithuania, not the Lithuanian oblast of Russia. My husband and I are also the proud parents of a boy adopted from Ukraine. We traveled there and we were getting ready to bring him home at the time of the Orange Revolution.

It has been very important for me for these two reasons that the U.S. provide an appropriate response that stops Putin from putting the Soviet Union back together.