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February 28th, 2014 - 3:55 pm

[This post has been updated to reflect Putin's announcement that he's preparing to intervene in the Ukraine]

Here are four videos with an overlapping cast of characters. You remember their names, but probably not the story. Nobody knows the story yet. What action they are portraying on stage remains a puzzle. They may not even know it themselves. What drama does it represent? Is it a comedy of errors? Or a tragedy?

In the video above, President Obama warns Russia about the consequences of destabilizing the Ukraine. The president’s remarks contain two undeniable facts. One, that he’s been trying to lasso Vladimir Putin into a joint resolution of the Ukrainian problem. Two, that so far he’s had no luck. Something has bolted the barn and that something must be coaxed back into the corral.

During the height of the Cold War it was believed that having to emphasize the obvious represented a failure of policy. Deterrence had to be self-evident; a daily thing. You didn’t go on the air to issue bloodcurdling warnings. You didn’t have to because stability was there, part of the normal like the air or the earth. The Russian president only had to look at the his daily briefing to know that the USAF was flying and hence that the day could begin as peacefully as the previous one.

One of my professors at Harvard remarked that it was possible to destabilize the world by building down as much as building up. If you changed the incentives, he said, you changed behavior. You encourage certain types of behavior and you get more of it. It was something everybody knew back then, but there were always those who knew better.

When an American president has to issue veiled warnings to Vladimir Putin — say something that Putin should know as second nature — then something terrible has happened. Some upset has occurred. A thing that was previously there to keep the floor level has gone missing. Why else should President Obama have to make a pointless observation on TV to communicate something that Putin should know from the moment he puts on his socks in the morning?

Where did it go wrong? What has gone wrong? That is what historians of the future — assuming there are any left around — will determine. But in the meantime, here are three videos as background. How does the story go: Tragedy? Farce? Or cliffhanger?

Update

But I guess the next act in the drama has begun. Putin has emphatically replied to Obama’s warning not to intervene in the Ukraine by declaring he was going to do exactly that.  Obama drew the line. Putin just stepped over it.

NBC News just announced that “Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked parliament for approval to use the country’s military in Ukraine, the Kremlin said in a statement Saturday. Putin said the move is needed to protect ethnic Russians and the personnel of a Russian military base in Ukraine’s strategic region of Crimea.”

The text of the Putin’s request, as reported by the BBC is:

“In connection with the extraordinary situation that has arisen in the Ukraine, the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our fellow countrymen and the personnel of the military contingent of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation deployed on the territory of the Ukraine (the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea) in accordance with an international agreement, on the basis of Point G Part 1 of Article 101 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation [governing the use of Russian armed forces outside Russian territory], I am submitting to the Council of the Federation [upper house] of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation a request to use the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of the Ukraine until the normalisation of the socio-political situation in that country.”

If Russia goes into the Ukraine, Kiev may invoke the Budapest Memorandum. “A treaty signed in 1994 by the US and Britain could pull both countries into a war to protect Ukraine if President Putin’s troops cross into the country. Bill Clinton, John Major, Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma – the then-rulers of the USA, UK, Russia and Ukraine – agreed to the The Budapest Memorandum as part of the denuclearization of former Soviet republics after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Technically it means that if Russia has invaded Ukraine then it would be difficult for the US and Britain to avoid going to war.”

This would be lunacy on the scale of August, 1914.  But it would be good to remember that no one saw the crisis in the Balkans escalating that far either.

The sheer comprehensiveness of the administration’s miscalculation is now crystal clear. The crisis with Russia comes at a time when the US still has troops in landlocked Afghanistan, dependent in part on supplies delivered through sufferance of the Kremlin, because stalwart Pakistan is holding up supplies and blocking egress. It comes at a moment when the southern flank of the Black Sea, Turkey and the Levant are embroiled in a crisis. At it arrives when the US military has been cut to the bone.

Perhaps the administration calculated it could spread American forces out like thin butter because it was superlative at smart diplomacy. Maybe the president thought he could lock up the ground forces in Afghanistan without a port to their rear to keep them out of trouble. Perchance he figured that he could reduce the size of the army, starve the navy, and shrink the airforce. He had his phone and he had his pen. What more did he need?

Inherent in this calculation was the idea that he had an ample Design Margin; that he could spend the substance of America on Hope and Change; on Navigators and not navigation and on social change instead of maintaining the Pax Americana which perhaps he regarded as something as old and irrelevant as the Constitution.

I guess he was wrong. And maybe the commenters on this site can take momentary satisfaction at being right. But a fat lot of good it’s going to do us.  I’d rather be wrong and copacetic than right and in a passel of trouble.

Events are now moving so swiftly that Obama himself has become an irrelevancy. He let the crisis overrun him without so much as a cabinet meeting or an attempt at a council of national unity.  The gooks are in the wire and he’s declared Happy Hour for the Democratic Party. But that only underscores the problem. He’s history one way or the other. The problem is to keep from joining him.

The challenge facing the American political class is what to do now. The unthinkable has happened: a real international crisis has flared up with an equally real dope in the Oval Office. The political class must realize they are playing for real money now.  They must try try to stabilize the crisis before it gets completely away. This game’s for keeps.


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Top Rated Comments   
The "distinction without a difference" is that in 1939, one could argue that honorable men were trying to attain peaceful means for a solution to the budding Nazi Germany.

In 2014, Obama is a dishonorable man, expecting other dishonorable men to be honorable. In other words, he has no concept of the idea, or, more accurately, a warped concept of same and to him, what makes him the most angry is that it's interfering with his "magnificence" and "awesomeness" and most likely, exposing him as the utter fool that he is.

This serves to anger Obama because he takes it all personally. He wants a solution; Not to save innocent lives or to stabilize a region of the globe from oppression, but because he feels and believes they (the Russians/Putin) are doing it to make him angry.

There is no hope for such a person on the international stage who believes that the world views him as a real bringer of peace. The biggest error in judgement occurred when some idiots in Sweden awarded him the unearned Nobel Peace Prize for what they thought he would bring about.

Of course, everyone here has noticed that global destabilization has increased a hundred-fold during this presidency. The national socialists though, still want to harp on about Iraq and Afghanistan and all that being "Bush's fault".

So, hey, national socialists, how's the hope & change working out for you now? You've got:

A destabilized Egypt
A destabilized Syria
China threatening to take over parts of Japan
The Norks giving us the finger
Putin sending troops into the Crimea

To say nothing of the now-permanent civil wars waging in Western Africa

And Iran building nukes.

Way to go. Go smoke another joint and tell us all how it's "all under control". You utter fool.

You have, by accident or by design, represented the United States as weak which is a direct result of your hatred for your supposed own homeland, have derided its citizenry of being racist, sexist homophobic hate-mongers while you, yourself have foisted your own brand of bile-ridden hatred upon it by "punishing your enemies".

You don't belong here, Obama. You are a somnambulist, sleepwalking your way through your presidency from this fairway to that; Not caring or listening or even understanding the complexities of international affairs. You never studied any of world history, except to satisfy your own curiosity as to how it would reinforce your own notions of an "imperial" United States intent on stealing the world's riches.

Well, here you sit, with the media at your feet, protecting you from any criticism. But more than half the nation knows you are not very bright, not very astute, not very aware of the world around you and yet you have stuck your finger in the light socket of world affairs anyway. But hopefully, you have now learned, though it's very doubtful, that the world doesn't revolve around you; That in spite of your meanderings, the world will do what it will not because of you but in spite of you.

Not personally, as you take it but ignoring you because it finds you to be unimportant, and they do not hear your words.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
No wrath of Godwin, because Adolf and Nazi Germany were real. And the reactions to them were real. And while history does not repeat itself, human stupidity does.

The last paragraph of Chamberlain's can be taken as delivered, and also as it might be interpreted today by those in Former Soviet Republics, and former Warsaw Pact countries whose sovereignty and territorial integrity was guaranteed by Western Powers the same as that of the Ukraine in the Budapest Memorandum. And no, we are not going to fight for the Ukraine, memorandum, guarantee, or not. But all across what the Russians call the Near Abroad; every country now knows it is surely on its own and safety will lay in either collaboration with the aggressor, or in singly or collectively developing a countervalue deterrent. Which development will make the world increasingly untidy.

That lesson is also being learned by our Asian allies. South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Australia are as on their own as the Ukraine. And they will have the same choices as the Eastern Europeans.

There is a third possible interpretation of that paragraph:

>>>We have a clear conscience. We have done all that any country could do to establish peace. But the situation in which no word given by Germany's ruler could be trusted, and no people or country could feel itself safe, had become intolerable. And now that we have resolved to finish it, I know that you will all play your part with calmness and courage."<<<

Replace the word "Germany" with the word "America", and ponder the domestic implications. And the options for the American people are not that far off from those of the Eastern Europeans and our Asian allies; collaboration or resistance.

2014 is the Year of Consequences, when the vultures come home to roost.

Subotai Bahadur
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
A few posts back you'll notice a reference to George Soro's recent, triumphant article, where he considered the new Ukrainian government to be in the pocket of the EU, whom he exhorted to dominate the gap between the West and Russia and serve as the linchpin of a commercial empire -- under the tutelage of Germany.

I found the idea extraordinary and dangerous. Almost mad. What? Was the EU was going to waken the bear armed with baguettes? What were they thinking? I'll tell you what they might have been thinking. Either that Putin would lie down or that Obama would back them up.

It occurred to me they might have gotten the idea from Obama himself who has a way of selling different buyers the same bridge in Brooklyn. He did it to the Saudis. He's pulling the same stunt in Iran. He's the king of selling pet rocks and empty boxes. But what happens when people go home and find nothing but sawdust inside?

Well there's bound to be trouble. And here he is again, rambling on in his vague way. Raising hopes with the Ukranians and probably secretly selling them out to the Russians while reassuring old Angela and David in Europe that they can go on as Soros had planned.

Kick the can down the road and edge toward the door so when they open the empty box, you'll be halfway to the corridor. That's the story of his life, the secret of his shabby success.

Obama's problem is that he can't deal from the top of the deck if his life depended on it. He's a compulsive liar. That got him to the top of the political heap. But now it is also getting him into trouble. Trouble which will only get worse until the Democratic Party and the left get really, really hurt. I mean personally and individually hurt; scared sh**tless by his antics and decide to give him a good talking to.

Not until the liberals revolt; not until their eyes turn white with worry will anything be done. The good news is that the liberals are near that point. Their foot is starting to slip down the slope. But they haven't slid down yet.
(show less)
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
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28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
this may trigger a lot of countries to get nuclear weapons. I bet
Ukraine wishes they had theirs right now. And not all outcomes are bad. A nuclear armed east Asia might achieve peace through deterrence.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Deeply concerned...... deeply destabilizing........ "

POTUS is a Concern Troll. I hate Concern Trolls.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
The political class must ...

Stop right there. No the don't. Just watch.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
The gooks ae in the wire and he’s declared Happy Hour for the Democratic Party..

And

The challenge facing the Americans....is what to do now...

In times like this Iam always reminded of the Caine Mutiny and the plethora of military coups directed at corrupt venal and criminal regimes in the banana republics.

Assuredly Obama is more incompetent than Humphrey Bogarts character in the Caine Mutiny. Thle ship of state has entered a perfect typhoon worthy of that in the movie. To those who would decry a military intervention to secure the Eecutive Office because its not our culture: Well it is now. Thanks to Anti Racism, Affirmative Action, Civil Rights and above all non stop Third World Immigration, all promoted in bipartisanship, the US is in all but name a giant Banana Republic worthy of any plantation economy of the 19th cencentury.

Thus the USA has now let the cooks on the Caine become the officers. Escorting the worlds fleet across the ocean they have picked up a foreigner on a boat called the SS George Soros and made him Captain. Now Captain Obama taking orders from SS George Soros has guided the entire fleet into a typhoon and the monkeys in control are screaming in confusion.

Accordingly to save the Constitution of the United States from domestic and foreign enemies and especially the future of the world, the military should immediately arrest the leading officers and appointees of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches and let the succession to the Presidency give it the imprimatur of legitimacy by having the remaining Congress remove them from office.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
The gooks are in the wire and he’s declared Happy Hour for the Democratic Party...

And

The challenge facing the Americans....is what to do now...

In times like this Iam always reminded of the Caine Mutiny and the plethora of military coups directed at corrupt venal and criminal regimes in the banana republics.

Assuredly Obama is more incompetent than Humphrey Bogarts character in the Caine Mutiny. The ship of state has entered a perfect typhoon worthy of that in the movie. To those who would decry a military intervention to secure the Eecutive Office because its not our culture: Well it is now. Thanks to Anti Racism, Affirmative Action, Civil Rights and above all non stop Third World Immigration, all promoted in bipartisanship, the US is in all but name a giant Banana Republic worthyof any plantation economy of the 19th cencentury. Accordingly to save the Constitution of the United States from domestic and foreign enemies and especially the future of the world, the military should immediately arrest the leading officers and appointees of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches and let the succession to the Presidency give it the imprimatur of legitimacy by having the remaining Congress remove them from office.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Succession to the Presidency? Biden? Boehner?
You know, not so long time ago I thought that dictators (Stalin, Mao, Saddam, etc.) preserve their power to a substantial extend by surrounding themself with mediocrities. Now I think that mediocrities arise to the top even without dictators actively seeking and promoting them. It is probably a law of physics: sh*t is always rising to the surface.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cesspool Theory of Government

The biggest pieces always rise to the top.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Tymochenko is likely to be the choice for the western side and for Putin, she is going to be in Moscow next monday

Janukovych is burnt

I expect that Putin speeding in Crimea was to assert his position for further bigger deals, who is going to bail out Ukraine, and he doesnt want to be th only pay check master
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I understand the Ukraine has no more Nuclear weapons, having sent them back to Russia for dismantling.

How important was the Bupdapest Memorandum to the Ukraine's decision to send back the nuclear weapons?
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unsk and P Boston. A leftist's view of the makeup and elements of the Maidan insurgents. ALEXANDER PIVTORAK@n+1 [http://nplusonemag.com/ukraine-s-political-breakdown-and-the-crisis-of-the-ukrainian-left]

He is all for the protesters/insurgents but the conflict is basically against the Oligarchs and the old communist party leaders who benefited greatly after the privatization of state monopolies.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
One of the first things the new Ukrainian government did was downgrade the Russian language from official status to something less. I'm going to continue to believe my lying eyes.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/ousted-ukraine-president-accused-of-mass-murder/2014/02/24/c2e19d30-9d47-11e3-b8d8-94577ff66b28_story.html
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
that wan't a clever turn

what idiots they are as if they were going to remove their lingua franca by a law , when it took us several centuries to abandon the latin as lingua franca
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
That WaPo article doesn't pass my smell test, but it might be true that the WaPo is really after the truth for once in a VERY long time.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
basically, who are paying the neo nazis that are harming the justice prosecutors?
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some french dude named Soros...
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
curiouly they all have there basis in the US, and endorsed by your state department
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Post-Obama freefall in a happy, new Progressive world order!
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
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