You’ll have a hard time finding any mention of it in the left-wing mainstream media, but last Saturday former U.S. President James Earl Carter flew into the northern Russian city of Murmansk on a Gulfstream private jet for a little luxury fishing expedition (Russian-language link). It seems Mr. Carter would like to do all he can to legitimize Russian aggression in Ukraine, and if he can combine doing so with a gold-plated vacay, so much the better.
At almost the same moment, Ukrainian government troops were triumphantly raising the national flag over City Hall in the Eastern Ukraine city of Slaviansk, ejecting pro-Russian rebels from their main stronghold. An even more furious battle lies ahead in Donetsk, where the rebel cadre fled following their ouster. Throughout this struggle, human rights atrocities by the pro-Russian forces have been as relentless as they have been legion.
Even as the battle raged, the Putin regime was enacting tough new laws to ban separatist activity (Russian-language link) within Russia, one of the more amazing acts of suicidal political hypocrisy so far this century. And a famous Czech leader of the anti-Soviet struggle in his country was branding Vladimir Putin a war criminal for his frenzied acts of aggression against his smaller neighbors.
But none of that mattered to former President Carter. Nor did he care about Russia’s systematic efforts to “divide and conquer” the U.S. and her allies in Europe, or about Putin’s increasingly brutal crackdown on civil society, with special emphasis on the Internet. He blithely allowed his visit to be used by the Putin regime as clear proof that America doesn’t really oppose Putin’s naked imperialism in post-Soviet space, and in so doing encouraged even more such aggression from Russia.
One can’t help but recall Carter’s limp-wristed response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during his presidency, when all the gumption he could muster was an Olympic boycott. Combined with his gross mismanagement of the economy and his humiliatingly failed policies in Iran, it’s easy to understand how desperate Carter is to somehow remain relevant.
Russian journalist Dmitry Shipilov believes that Putin’s actions in Ukraine are designed for one purpose: to frustrate any attempt to establish a democratic, freedom-focused government in post-Soviet space out of fear that such a contagion could spread to Russia itself. It’s clear that Russia’s policy towards Ukraine is that it must be poor and energy starved, permanently servile and dependant upon Russian mercy for its existence.
Oh yes, they’re the great pretenders! Though seemingly at odds, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have much more in common than it appears, both having become lost in a world of self-delusion. Putin pretends he hasn’t alienated the entire civilized world with his barbaric aggression against smaller neighbors, and Obama pretends his failed policies haven’t been key in giving Putin the chance to do so.
A remarkable report in the New York Times reveals that Obama has now decided to “write off” America’s relationship with Russia and embark upon a new cold war, focusing on the time-honored principle of containment to guide it.
It states that the next U.S. ambassador to Russia will be John F. Tefft, who previously served as ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania and who served as deputy head of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in the 1990s under Bill Clinton.
The Times reports:
When the search began months ago, administration officials were leery of sending Mr. Tefft because of concern that his experience in former Soviet republics that have flouted Moscow’s influence would irritate Russia. Now, officials said, there is no reluctance to offend the Kremlin.
Indeed, Tefft was given the 2012 Diplomacy in Human Rights Award for his work in standing up to the pro-Russia Yanukovich regime before it was toppled this year, including lobbying hard for the release of Yanukovich’s leading political foe, Yulia Tymoshenko, from prison. He’s directly linked to the pro-West movement in Ukraine which has caused Putin to panic. Tefft’s appointment is a direct poke in the eye of Putin, and there’s no mistaking it.
The Times calls this a “remarkable turnaround” for Obama. That’s putting it mildly.
What’s actually happened is that circumstances have forced Obama to admit that the foreign policy he has pursued for the last six years towards Russia, a policy of appeasement, has crashed and burned. John McCain warned from the start that pursuing such a policy would give Putin the chance to consolidate his power and move aggressively against his neighbors, and that is exactly what has happened. It’s one of the most spectacular foreign policy debacles in U.S. history.
Obama promised us that in return for appeasement we’d get a reliable nuclear arms treaty with Russia. What we actually got was shameless Soviet-style cheating and treaty violations.
Obama promised us that in exchange for appeasement we’d get Russian help reining in Iran. What we actually got was Russian opposition to U.S. interests, not just in Iran but throughout the Middle East, from Libya to Syria.
And on top of it all, we got Russian tanks in Ukraine. As a headline in Stars and Stripes declared, Obama wrapped up a “terrific, triumphant, all good, totally awesome year” and delivered it to Putin with a big red bow on top.
As Senator Bob Corker told the Times:
They’re playing us. We continue to watch what they’re doing and try to respond to that. But it seems that in doing so, we create a policy that’s always a day late and a dollar short.
Indeed, Putin is far out ahead of Obama in weaponizing information surrounding the barbaric aggression against Ukraine, and Obama has consistently failed to implement the type of economic sanctions that might prevent Putin from moving deeper into Ukraine.
Alexander Dugin, Putin’s Goebbels, recently declared that
the territorial integrity of Armenia and Karabakh will not be guaranteed to the extent that Russia is a proportional power and naturally countries adjoining Russia can preserve their territorial integrity exclusively by maintaining good relations with Russia.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, a leader of Putin’s party of power in parliament, echoed Dugin, directly threatening Ukraine: “There are very few things the Ukrainian government can do now to keep their country together.”
Russia is, in other words, boldly threatening every neighbor, not just Ukraine, and is far from content with Crimea where Ukraine is concerned.
A Russian pundit recently argued that NATO should build a monument honoring the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin for reviving its potency. But even more eager to do so should be the U.S. coal and nuclear energy industries. Benighted Republicans, however, are missing a golden opportunity to spearhead a drive on these issues, which face considerable opposition from the American President.
Writing in the Moscow Times, the brilliant and courageous Russian defense industry analyst Alexander Golts opines that Putin has “given NATO functionaries and military personnel plenty of work for what I am afraid might be a very long time to come.” Golts notes that NATO had an “identity crisis” that Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine has instantly rectified.
Indeed, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, recently tweeted a brutal shot across Putin’s bow, stating: “Russians keep making stuff up.” Among other things, Vershbow openly accuses the Putin regime of lying about an alleged pledge not to expand NATO. We haven’t seen this kind of fortitude and vigor from NATO in many a moon. And we have Mr. Putin to thank for it!
NATO is not the only one, of course, experiencing an “identity crisis.” The coal and nuclear industries have one too. Due to alleged environmental risks, coal and nuclear power have been losing traction for some time, to such “cleaner” alternatives as natural gas, which Russia has in abundance.
But in light of Russian aggression in Ukraine, it’s pretty easy now to see that coal and nuclear power have many points in their favor. Unfortunately, this isn’t an area where NATO’s military resolve means much. Political will is required to bring coal and nuclear power to the playing field in order to roll back Europe’s reliance on Russian oil.
In fact, energy analyst Joe Parson thinks that acquiring Ukraine’s vast eastern coal fields is an important reason why Putin is menacing his smaller neighbor. Putin would kill two birds by doing so: First he would significantly increase Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas and oil, and second he would acquire stockpiles of coal that could be used to offset a Western effort to use coal as a bulwark against Russian oil and gas.
William B. Reed, founder and chairman of System Controls Inc., believes that coal and nuclear power could be “huge assets in demonstrating U.S. resolve to limit Russian ambitions.” He writes: “Coal can substitute for natural gas in electricity production, and it will continue to play a large and indispensable role in Europe under any scenario. Ramping up U.S. coal exports to Europe could make a real difference in countries like Poland, Hungary and Ukraine that are heavily dependent on Russian gas.” The U.S. can do the same thing, he says, in regard to providing nuclear power.
What’s more, Reed argues, as the world’s leading producer of gas and oil the U.S. can help take up the slack in Europe should Russia seek to weaponize such resources.
But when we turn to the White House, we see that Barack Obama is once again a toxic presence. Not only has Obama shown no backbone at all in dealing with Putin’s initial wave of aggression in Ukraine, his administration’s hostility to coal and nuclear power place further roadblocks in the path of any opposition to further aggression by Putin.
This gives Republicans a brilliant opportunity to both support the coal and nuclear power industries and hit Obama with criticism that will bite, while simultaneously seizing the leadership role on opposition to Russian aggression.
But will they be able to see and act upon this opportunity?
Recent events don’t seem encouraging. Republicans have not done a good job calling Obama on the carpet for his feckless dithering on Ukraine. He has made no military response, provided hardly any economic support, and imposed only the most limp-wristed of sanctions. Worse still, he hasn’t even had the courage to engage in a real rhetorical battle with Putin, nor has he put much effort into galvanizing Europe.
But the Republican response has been disorganized, muted and not much more inspiring. The GOP doesn’t appear to have a leading figure on the foreign policy front, even though the Russian analysis of John McCain, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney has been vindicated by recent events.
Republicans should be forcefully moving forward with specific plans to help the U.S. coal and nuclear industries become major players in the European pushback against Putin. No thinking person can dispute that Europe must wean itself away from Russian gas and oil, or that Ukraine must be made energy independent of Russia as a matter of global priority.
Achieving this will dramatically curtail Putin’s power both directly and indirectly. Firstly he’ll no longer be able to directly threaten Ukraine and Europe with energy blackmail, and secondly he’ll see the price of oil and gas fall as demand is reduced, thereby significantly cutting into Russian budgetary revenues and reserves. This will put massive pressure on him domestically, and he’ll be forced to turn inward, away from Europe and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the income of American companies will rise, jobs will be created and tax revenues added to Washington’s coffers. And at the same time, Republicans will gain significantly in credibility with voters.
It’s a win-win-win situation, in other words, and its time for Republican leaders to wake up and do their jobs.
Imagine that when you woke up this morning CNN was blasting the news that Mexico had announced it planned to annex Yuma County, Arizona and neighboring Imperial County, California. Mexican troops were massing on the U.S. border, about to invade. Mexico’s reason? Both counties have over 40% of their populations comprised of persons of Mexican ancestry, by far the dominant ethnic group, and both used to be part of Mexico. If you’d have a problem with a Mexican invasion, you should have an equally big problem with Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea and its open threats to seize portions of Eastern Ukraine.
Russia is offering exactly the same reason for its aggression, namely that these parts of Ukraine have large populations of “ethnic Russians” and used to be part of Russia. The Economist magazine reported just a few weeks ago on the extensive portions of the American Southwest where this was the case in regard to Mexicans.
In fact, the Mexican case for aggression would be even stronger than the Russian, because Yuma and Imperial were taken from Mexico by force whereas Crimea was given to Ukraine in a formal act of the Soviet state which was then ratified by Russia in writing when the USSR dissolved in a document known as the Budapest Accord.
It wouldn’t be hard for Mexico to show that its ethnic population is being oppressed in the USA. Their wages are much lower than their white counterparts, and they face all manner of racial hostility. Similarly, Russia says that Ukraine can’t be trusted to govern people of “Russian” ethnicity, that only Russia can be trusted to protect their rights.
What’s more, it would be far, far easier for Mexico to prove that the Yuma and Imperial populations ethnically “belong” to Mexico. You’d need a doctoral thesis, or two, in order to explain the “ethnic” differences between Ukrainians and Russians given that the two languages are highly similar as are the two religious practices, and the racial difference is many times more subtle. Trying to distinguish the cuisines and cultures is equally tricky compared to a similar effort involving Mexico and white America.
Now, you may say, if Ukraine and Russia are so similar, why shouldn’t they be part of the same country. There’s a one-word answer: Holodomor. Russia has a strange way of insisting that various people need to live under Russian rule and then seeking to liquidate them, as Stalin sought to do with a state-induced famine in Ukraine in the early 1930s. Similarly, although Russians are virulently racist against people from the Caucasus, they refuse to permit those people their freedom. It’s simply impossible, as a matter of historical fact, for Ukrainians to ever trust Russians to govern them. It would be like asking African-Americans to be ruled by Jefferson Davis.
After crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico into Texas, you’d need to travel for hundreds of miles before you’d enter territory Mexico couldn’t claim for itself under the rubric being used by Vladimir Putin to justify seizing chunks of Ukraine. And if instead of limiting yourself to Mexican ethnicity you began discussing instead simply all those Americans whose native tongue is Spanish, something else Putin repeatedly does in regard to Russian where Ukraine is concerned, you’d find vast swaths of the American landscape subject to Mexican aggression.
Fortunately for Americans, they have the wherewithal to defend themselves against ethnically motivated Mexican land grabs. Ukraine doesn’t, and that’s not Ukraine’s fault. The entire world ganged up on Ukraine when the USSR collapsed and told the country it had to surrender its nuclear strike force. In return, the Budapest Accord guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Now, it seems, Ukrainians have been victimized by the old “bait and switch.” What sane country would ever again agree to an international treaty like the Budapest Accord if the world doesn’t keep its word to Ukraine?
One has to wonder, of course, whether Putin has lost his mind. With every day that passes, Russia’s population becomes more and more Islamic in the West and more and more Chinese in the East. Does Putin really want to set a precedent by which Russia’s Islamic and Chinese regions can simply hold straw polls, as Crimea did last weekend, and then break away from the Russian federation to join countries which are more culturally and ethnically akin to them?
And indeed, if you look at the reporting on Putin both in the media and from world leaders, you’ll find many occasions when words like “paranoid” are used to describe him. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Putin did not seem to be in touch with reality when she recently spoke to him by phone about Ukraine. It’s very hard to distinguish Putin’s impulsive, self-destructive military aggression against Ukraine from the USSR’s thrust into Afghanistan, an act which now must be seen as the beginning of the end for the USSR as a nation state.
The response that the USA would make to a Mexican attempt to grab Imperial and Yuma is the response that the USA can and must support on the part of Ukraine in Russia. The USA would raze the entire country of Mexico to the ground before it would allow one blade of grass in Yuma or Imperial to fall under Mexican control, and it can and must arm Ukraine so that Ukrainians can do the same to Russia if they need to. In addition, it must support tough economic sanctions on Russia, whose economy is already on the verge of depression meaning that sanctions will have a particularly effective bite.
It is a matter of national honor. America led the way in disarming Ukraine after the fall of the USSR, and America has not done enough to bring Ukraine within the European and NATO umbrellas. If that had been done, there would be no chance of Russia daring to threaten Ukraine now.
And it’s more than that. If Putin can get away with grabbing chunks of Georgia in 2008 and chunks of Ukraine in 2014, there will be no stopping him. Putin sees the collapse of the USSR as a catastrophe, not a godsend, and he wants to restore the USSR to its former glory. He still uses the melody of the USSR’s national anthem. Many American lives have been spent to stop dominoes from falling around the world, we cannot forget the lessons of the past or we will have to learn them all over again, the hard way.
Follow Kim Zigfeld on Twitter @larussophobe.
In a jaw-dropping revelation on NBC’s Meet the Press, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) has stated that he believes the fugitive Edward Snowden had assistance from Russian spies when he stole vast amounts of sensitive U.S. security data and fled to Russia.
Rogers told MTP host David Gregory: “Let me just say this: I believe there’s a reason he [Snowden] ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB [successor to the KGB] agent in Moscow. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.” Rogers added that some of the methods Snowden used in lifting National Security Agency secrets were “beyond his technical capabilities.”
Amazingly, at the same time Rogers was speaking to Gregory, over on ABC’s This Week a taped interview with Snowden’s benefactor Vladimir Putin himself was being played. The interview had taken place with George Stephanopoulos earlier in the week, in the host city for the 2014 Olympics next month, Sochi. It was almost as if Rogers was deliberately torpedoing ABC’s much-ballyhooed coup in landing Putin, since Stephanopoulos would have no chance to question Putin about the statement Rogers had made, leaving him with egg on his face.
Indeed, Stephanopoulos didn’t grill Putin on Snowden at all, merely lobbing a single lame-question softball at him about whether Snowden was invited to Sochi and allowing Putin to respond that Snowden is free to do whatever he likes in Russia.
On the panel discussion afterwards, Stephanopoulos spoke to Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who echoed Rogers and stated: “Hey, listen, I don’t think Snowden — Mr. Snowden woke up one day and had the wherewithal to do this all by himself. I think he was helped by others. I personally believe that he was cultivated by a foreign power to do what he did.”
The irony is, of course, breathtaking. House Republicans are on the same page with the Obama administration as to Snowden being a virulent traitor, yet because of his craven “reset” policy towards Russia Obama won’t come forth with damning evidence against Snowden which shows he acted in concert with Russia. To do so, of course, would blow his entire foreign policy to smithereens. Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place.
With breathtaking chutzpah, Putin told a credulous Stephanopoulos: “I would very much like during the Olympics for the athletes, visitors, reporters and those who will follow the Olympics on TV through the media for people to see a new Russia.” This “new Russia” will play the national anthem of the USSR when its athletes win medals. It is run by a proud KGB spy who has jailed both of his main political rivals and has launched a furious new arms race while supplying aid to America’s worst enemies around the world, particularly in the Middle East.
Putin stated: “With respect to athletes, I’d recommend and advise them not to think about the political differences. Politics should not interfere with sports. And sports should impact politics.” Would Putin say a U.S. Olympiad should be depoliticized if it were learned that the U.S. government were giving aid to Doku Umarev, the separatist rebel who engages in terrorism? Of course not. Yet Putin demands the U.S. ignore waves of Russian aid flowing to Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.
In perhaps one of the greatest whoppers ever uttered by a national ruler on television, Putin had the gall to assert that “[s]o far, we are not seeing any major large-scale manifestations of corruption as part of the implementation of the Sochi project.” In fact, both in Russia and abroad experts agree that at least a third of the funds spent on the Sochi games have been stolen. Some put the figure at well over half. There’s no other explanation for why it would cost Russia as much to host these Winter Games as it will cost Brazil to stage both the Summer Olympics and the World Cup combined.