Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Putin's Takeover of Crimea, part of Ukraine's Sovereign Territory

For those who follow current events there is a lot happening in the world right now.   May I recommend a couple of great articles from today's Wall Street Journal?  The first is by Robert Gates who served as secretary of defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  The article is called "Putin's Challenge to the West."  You can read the entire article (and I recommend that you do) here.

For me, here a couple of his key points:
Mr. Putin aspires to restore Russia's global power and influence and to bring the now-independent states that were once part of the Soviet Union back into Moscow's orbit. While he has no apparent desire to recreate the Soviet Union (which would include responsibility for a number of economic basket cases), he is determined to create a Russian sphere of influence—political, economic and security—and dominance. There is no grand plan or strategy to do this, just opportunistic and ruthless aspiration. And patience.
Gates goes on to say....
He also has a dramatically different worldview than the leaders of Europe and the U.S. He does not share Western leaders' reverence for international law, the sanctity of borders, which Westerners' believe should only be changed through negotiation, due process and rule of law. He has no concern for human and political rights. Above all, Mr. Putin clings to a zero-sum worldview.
Gates concludes with a strong opinion.
Therefore, the burden of explaining the need to act forcefully falls, as always, on our leaders. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "Government includes the act of formulating a policy" and "persuading, leading, sacrificing, teaching always, because the greatest duty of a statesman is to educate." The aggressive, arrogant actions of Vladimir Putin require from Western leaders strategic thinking, bold leadership and steely resolve—now.
Russia's taking over Crimea, part of Ukraine, is no small thing.

In 1994 Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum together with the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty website has a concise explanation of what that memorandum means.
In the "Budapest Memorandum," Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States promised that none of them would ever threaten or use force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine. They also pledged that none of them would ever use economic coercion to subordinate Ukraine to their own interest.
They specifically pledged they would refrain from making each other's territory the object of military occupation or engage in other uses of force in violation of international law.
Russia has violated the Budapest Memorandum as well as many international laws.

As a result, several government officials have had travel restrictions imposed on them by the United States, a move that was mocked on Twitter by a couple of the officials themselves.

Then Russia was kicked out of the G-8.  Putin himself belittled this move making it clear he is not at all troubled by that decision.

I don't pretend to know what the United States should do about this.  But I think it's safe to say that as the leader of the most powerful nation in the free world, Mr. Obama needs to show some strong leadership.  I don't think we're seeing that yet.

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