Rubio's Swing and a Miss on Russia

Marco Rubio’s statement on Ukraine:

The Obama administration must immediately increase sanctions on Russia. Sector-based sanctions should begin to be imposed and President Putin’s own financial assets, and those of his associates, targeted.

By delaying the most significant penalties, the United States and our allies have unfortunately sent the message to Russia that there will be little cost to pay for this type of behavior.

We should also stand with Ukraine as the interim government attempts to deal with these provocations. This includes immediately providing the lethal assistance they requested weeks ago.

We also need to take measures to reassure our allies in Central and Eastern Europe by deploying more alliance assets to their territories to reinforce our NATO commitments to their security.

“Armed takeovers of foreign territory by masked men are the crude tactics of bygone regional powers, not the actions of 21st century nations. Until Russia is convinced of a real cost of its current course of action, I fear that Ukraine’s stability will continue to be undermined. I urge the President to act without delay.

This doesn’t exactly lend me any assurance of Rubio’s foreign policy acumen. He’s combined Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s naif-like assessment of Russia’s standing with tough talk of “lethal assistance” that the Administration, NATO, or Europe is unlikely to offer.

This strikes more as the statement of somebody feeling around for a Reaganesque response to the Kremlin but without quite finding one.

So what would Reagan do? Reagan brought down the Soviet empire in the public stage by treating our adversary with the respect they deserved as a world power, but with the moral understanding that the empire was indeed evil. In the Western hemisphere Reagan provided arms to freedom fighters in Communist countries, and in the case of Grenada, an armed invasion. The only lethal assistance Reagan provided in the eastern hemisphere was to the mujahadin in Afghanistan, a backwater where the Red Army was already fully engaged — but with no restive Russian minority and not a part of Russia’s historic “near abroad.”

Reagan used a conventional arms buildup and investments in missile defense to bankrupt the Soviets financially and technologically. Behind the scenes Reagan worked with our energy allies (mostly the Saudis) to keep oil prices low enough, long enough to put the final squeeze on the Soviet economy. Here at home Reagan made the moral and political case against statism at every opportunity.

What Reagan never did was threaten to wage hot war in Eastern Europe or within the USSR because — and please pardon the f-bomb — Russia was a f***** nuclear power.

So the question remains: What would Reagan do? I don’t know — these are different times. But I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t release a statement like Rubio’s.