Fresh from Crimea Victory, Putin Aims to Cause Trouble Elsewhere Including Iran
First, Bosnia. Russia was never happy with how that war ended. Now Putin is stoking separatism.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has long resisted any efforts to centralize power in Sarajevo, predicting instead the country's eventual demise.
He met Russia's ambassador to Bosnia, Aleksandar Bocan-Harcenko, on Tuesday and said the Serb Republic backed Sunday's referendum in Crimea on joining Russia as "legitimate and democratic", in accordance with international law and the U.N.-guaranteed right to self-determination, Bosnia's Fena news agency reported.
As the Crimea crisis neared its climax last week, Dodik visited Moscow, where he was rewarded by Russian Patriarch Kirill for his efforts "to consolidate the unity of Orthodox nations".
Ashdown noted an offer by Russia of a loan to Bosnia's Serb Republic to compensate for a freeze in funding to both of Bosnia's entities by the International Monetary Fund over stalled economic measures.
Russia stepped in to help Ukraine's pro-Moscow president, Viktor Yanukovich, with billions of dollars in aid after he spurned a deal on closer ties with the European Union in late November. Yanukovich was toppled by mass protests in February, precipitating Crimea's secession by referendum on Sunday.
"The actions of offering an alternative loan ... to one of the (Bosnian) entities, the action of withdrawing support for a project to join Europe, it cannot have any other outcome but to encourage those who wish to see secessionism," Ashdown told reporters.
"Is this just a coincidence? Ask the Russian ambassador."
It's no more or less a coincidence than Ed Snowden dropping leaks on U.S. intel capabilities from wherever he now lives in Russia. And it's no more or less a coincidence than Russia going public with this now:
Interfax: Russian diplomat says Moscow considering changing stance in Iranian nuclear talks.
What does this mean? Russia has traditionally regarded Iran as a non-threat to itself, and has traditionally played its influence with Iran against U.S. interests. Iran's nuclear program is built on Russian technology. While Russia does not want a radical Islamic state armed with nuclear weapons, Russia here is signalling that it will fight any U.S.-led effort to slow down Iran's nuclear weapons program. Couple that with Obama's own Hamlet-esque dithering, and the bottom line is that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons. Iran has previously threatened to obliterate Israel. Russia and Iran have an understanding about who their real enemy is.
The American celebrity and media culture that elevated Barack Obama to the presidency is going to have a lot of reality to come to grips with. Presidents have to know more than just college basketball stats and the odd hard-left ideological trope. Their skills must go beyond those of the average insult comic. They have to be more than glib and photogenic. The Russia-China-Iran axis, with junior partners in Pyongyang and Karachi, may be about to make some very consequential moves.
Putin looks set to start too many fires for Obama and his pitiful national security team to deal with. His immediate prize remains, in my view, Ukraine and its energy production. He'll start one fire over here, another over there, and while those conflagrations get going, he gets what he wants, consolidates, and moves on to his next real target. So far, Putin is overmatching Obama. Badly.
And that's supposing that Obama really wants to keep Putin in check. That's not a given.