Monday, March 3, 2014

Cooler Heads Than John McCain Weigh in on Ukraine

And guess what? They're not saber rattling. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have gotten a case of the vapors (bless their hearts) over Ukraine, but former Carter National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski's head stays cool as he explains that Putin cannot be punked, but he can be beaten:
Much depends on how clearly the West conveys to the dictator in the Kremlin — a partially comical imitation of Mussolini and a more menacing reminder of Hitler — that NATO cannot be passive if war erupts in Europe. If Ukraine is crushed while the West is simply watching, the new freedom and security in bordering Romania, Poland and the three Baltic republics would also be threatened.
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.
In addition, such efforts to avert miscalculations that could lead to a war should be matched by a reaffirmation of the West’s desire for a peaceful accommodation with Russia regarding a joint effort to help Ukraine recover economically and stabilize politically. The West should reassure Russia that it is not seeking to draw Ukraine into NATO or to turn it against Russia. Ukrainians themselves can define the depth of their closeness to Europe and the scope of their economic cooperation with Russia, to the benefit of peace and stability in Europe. And after their May elections, they can revise some of the arrangements for a special status for Crimea, but they should not do so under duress or attack from a neighbor driven by imperial or personal ambitions.
Simon Shuster of Time explains that Putin is already losing in Ukraine. (Not from this article but another points out that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych was Putin's boy and he got tossed out, strike one against Putin.)
At home, this intervention looks to be one of the most unpopular decisions Putin has ever made. The Kremlin’s own pollster released a survey on Monday that showed 73% of Russians reject it. In phrasing its question posed in early February to 1,600 respondents across the country, the state-funded sociologists at WCIOM were clearly trying to get as much support for the intervention as possible: “Should Russia react to the overthrow of the legally elected authorities in Ukraine?” they asked. Only 15% said yes — hardly a national consensus.
Yes, and hardly a basis for expanding the occupation.

One more nail in the "Obama's weak and Putin punked him" GOP fairytale, this from the Guardian's Michael Cohen via Ed Kilgore of Political Animal:
Putin has initiated a conflict that will, quite obviously, result in greater diplomatic and political isolation as well as the potential for economic sanction. He’s compounded his loss of a key ally in Kiev by further enflaming Ukrainian nationalism, and his provocations could have a cascading effect in Europe by pushing countries that rely on Russia’s natural gas exports to look elsewhere for their energy needs. Putin is the leader of a country with a weak military, an under-performing economy and a host of social, environmental and health-related challenges. Seizing the Crimea will only make the problems facing Russia that much greater.
No, the more I read, the less I worry. Sure, Obama's gambits, should he shape them wisely, would require a deft hand, not the flapping gums of gunslingers like McCain and the rest of the Obama Derangement Syndrome crowd. But let them flap away. Americans will eventually get to choose which side in Washington has the most egg on its face.

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