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“Playing The Wrong Blame Game”: Blame Vladimir Putin For The Ukraine Crisis, Not President Obama

All I have heard with regard to Ukraine & Russia is the blame game. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC said it was Bush’s fault. The right wingers in America say it’s President Barack Obama’s fault. And I, Leslie Marshall, who do I blame?

Putin.

Putin is acting like a school yard bully, only it isn’t kids he’s targeting, it’s an entire nation. Putin loves what most nation’s leaders historically have: power and money. Just look at the emperors of Rome or the kings of England; the more land they acquired, the more powerful and richer they were. And so is the case with Putin and Ukraine – if he gets his way. And that’s a big if. The people have spoken. The Ukranian parliament has booted its former elected leader. Ukraine wants to be westernized and a part of the European Union. And the western world wants to help them; the United States has already promised, pending Congressional approval, $1 billion dollars in loan guarantees.

Now there are those that believe this is personal between Putin and Obama, as if Putin deliberately took action in Ukraine when the president warned him not to. And to those I say: Don’t be ridiculous. Again, remember who this man is and what he wants. Putin has the ego of Ramses and would have responded in this matter to the resistance of the pro-European Ukranians no matter who was president … Obama, either Bush, Clinton, Carter, Reagan, FDR, Truman or Eisenhower in the same exact way.

And speaking of past presidents; many on the right have invoked the name ‘Reagan” with regard to this issue, saying their political messiah would have shown Putin who is boss. Really? Doubtful. This is a very different time. Putin isn’t Gorbachev, Ukraine isn’t East Germany.

The right also want to blame President Obama for resetting the U.S. relationship with Russia in ’09 and not being more forceful; accusing him of having a weak foreign policy. Really? Was taking Osama bin Laden out weak!? Oh I’m sorry, our Navy SEALs took him out, I forget. But when Saddam Hussein was captured, wasn’t the line being used that Bush got Saddam? I didn’t hear ‘our troops caught Saddam.”

So let’s talk about Saddam. Saddam Hussein. A man who wrongly imprisoned his people and made many of them disappear. Sounds a bit like Putin doesn’t it? There are those that also say we have no right to call out Russia for breaking the law by invading the sovereign nation of Ukraine; but let’s look at who is making that statement: President Obama. Although the United States invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, it was done during the Bush presidency – and voted against by a young Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama. Iraq was not Obama’s war. He did not start it, he ended it. Must we refuse to help any nation being invaded in the present because of our past sins?

And there are those on the right who roll their eyes at the president when he speaks (hello Lindsey Graham) and many on the right who say the world doesn’t respect Obama or take him seriously and they’re wrong. Of course when the president wanted to fly over Libya’s air space they said he was overreaching. And now with Ukraine’s he’s too cautious. Perhaps the right should make up its mind.

Let’s be honest, the United States is not going to get involved militarily in Ukraine. Obama knows it, the right knows it, Putin knows it and furthermore, both parties in the U.S. don’t want it nor do our allies. Ukraine is just not that important politically or resource wise to either the United States or the EU. So the President has limited options with what he can do. And I believe he is going about this the right way.

Due to Putin’s nature (power and greed), we must strike him where it hurts most. We need to reduce Russia’s International stature and isolate Russia, not just the country, but it’s people; especially the richest of the rich of Russia.

Now Russia’s stature has already been diminished. President Obama contacted (and got on board) Germany, the U.K., Poland and every other G8 nation to hold off preparations for the Sochi meetings. Further, to isolate Russia, Secretary Kerry has discussed travel bans and there is a possibility of freezing Russian business assets. And learning from history, the U.S. won’t do this alone. We won’t fly solo or take just a few of our team with us; we need everyone worldwide to be on board, otherwise we will fail.

And for those that think Obama is weak, an intellect who is trying diplomacy while Putin comes to the fight with a weapon; think again. Putin backed a failed government in Kiev. Putin watched as the world was disgusted by his actions in Ukraine; so much so, he made up a nice fairy tale to justify it. And after President Obama accused Putin of breaking the law, we have not seen any movement from the Russian military in  Crimea.

So who is to blame? Putin.

Who does the world look down upon? Putin.

Who is losing this fight? Putin

So for those of you that want to champion Putin over our president, like actor Steven Seagal did on Russian television, perhaps you had better wear red rather than red, white and blue. Obama’s our commander in chief. Russia’s not our ally. The right thing to do – the patriotic thing to do – is to back our president and trust he has our best interest at hand.

In Kiev this week, voices echoed as they chanted “Thank You America!” as Putin covered his ears.

 

BY: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, March 6, 2014

March 7, 2014 Posted by | Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Country First, Fellas, Country First”: Republicans Blow The Response To Putin’s Aggression

With nothing to offer beyond what the Obama administration is already pursuing in terms of tough economic recriminations in response to Russia’s offensive moves on the Crimean Peninsula, leading GOP elected officials took to the airwaves on Sunday to do what they always do when they have little in the way of constructive ideas—blame Obama.

The favored GOP meme pursued on the Sunday morning talk circuit revolved around suggestions that Obama’s tendency to draw “red lines”,  only to back away from confrontation when possible, has led foreign leaders—including Russian strongman Vladimir Putin—to disrespect the American leader and presume they can do as they please without interference or response from the USA.

Appearing on CNN’s State of The Union, Senator Lindsey Graham had this to say when giving a bit of unsolicited advice to President Obama:

“Well, number one, stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators. It is not your strong suit. Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression. President Obama needs to do something. How about this, suspend Russian membership in the G-8 and the G-20 at least for a year starting right now. And for every day they stay in Crimea, add to the suspension. Do something.”

Of course, had Senator Graham reserved comment in a manner more befitting of one who is alleged to be a seasoned statesman and foreign policy ‘expert’, he would have discovered—in but a few short hours—that the White House was way ahead of him. Indeed, the administration had already been hard at work lining up support from the G-8 to suspend preparations for the upcoming talks in Sochi, Russia and was doing so well before Graham threw in his two cents.

But then, I suppose that there is no such thing as statesmanship and commitment to the Commander–In-Chief during a foreign crisis when it is an election year, right Senator Graham?

In a joint statement from the G-8 countries issued on Sunday afternoon, the organization condemned Russia’s “clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine” and informed Putin that the remaining G-8 nations were suspending their participation in preparing for the upcoming summit “until the environment comes back where the G-I is able to have meaningful discussion.”

We are now left to await the Republican effort to take credit for the American policy—despite the fact that achieving such an agreement had to take the White House considerably longer than the couple of elapsed hours between the GOP criticism-fest and the jointly made G-8 announcement.

Even more interesting is the fact that Graham’s idea of playing hardball with Russia, as expressed on CNN, involved suspending the nation from the G-8 group for at least a year plus however many days Russia remains in Crimea.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry was on television suggesting that Russia’s actions could actually lead to a far, far tougher punishment for the Russians—the potential that the country could be permanently tossed out of the G-8. This would mean that, after years  of effort on the part of Russia to become a member of the economic elite, they would permanently be booted from the fraternity of top players in the world’s democratic nations and left to take a seat at the loser table after once being a part of the “in crowd”.

The simple reality is that were you to apply any sort of logic to the scenario, it becomes more than clear that a ‘tougher’ US policy towards Russia before the Ukraine crisis might have given John McCain some emotional satisfaction, but would have had zero impact on Putin’s decision to move against Crimea. This is the reality due to a very simple reason—the Russians, Americans and Europeans all know that there is not a viable military option to be pursued in this situation.

While Vladimir Putin is many undesirable things, he is likely not an idiot. He knows his importance to Europe is waning now that Europe has developed other ways of obtaining natural gas. Where Europe might have been far more timid when it comes to administering some pain on Russia in the past, they are in a far better position to do so today given their growing ability to stick their noses up at Russian energy. And while Putin may not have known the degree to which the West might turn the economic screws on his country, he had to know that his actions in Ukraine would bring an economic response in some measure.

This being the case, just what do these Republicans believe would have been different had President Obama taken a harder line against Russia during his years in office?

Making the GOP reasoning all the more ridiculous is their willingness to pretend that any weakness Putin may have sensed was the fault of Barack Obama.

If, somehow, Putin was led to believe that there would be no significant economic price to pay in response to his actions—as noted, nobody, including those in the GOP who never met a war they didn’t like, believes there is a military option on the table—why would he be looking at Obama?

It wasn’t President Obama who failed to do much of anything at all when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008. That would be President George W. Bush. And while I know that the reaction to this statement on the part of some will be to carp that I am just one more Obama apologist who wants to blame Bush for everything, I’m afraid one cannot escape history—and history tells us in great clarity that, just six years ago, Putin experienced the opportunity to invade a neighboring nation without any real US or European response whatsoever.

It may be great political fodder for Republicans to blame a president that super-hawk John McCain has now called “the most naïve president in US history” but it certainly appears that it is actually the John McCain line of reasoning that has been hobbled by naivety. Your first clue that this is the case would be the unwillingness of any of the President’s critics to offer up anything in the way of a sophisticated explanation as to how things might have been different had Obama played it rough and tough with Putin.

Given that the White House is showing signs of taking a much harder line and showing a readiness to enforce economic and political sanctions against Russia that go beyond what most Republicans spent the weekend proposing, would it not have been the wise political move for Republicans to simply chill on the useless criticism as the “go to” response and get behind the President? It might, in fact, have very much helped Republicans running for office this year—like Lindsey Graham—to show their constituencies that they can be reasonable and supportive of the President during a crisis, thus adding credibility to their positions where they have opposed the President.

Of course, to do that requires an actual commitment to the advancement of the national interest rather than advancement of personal, political interests—and that is something that has long been in short supply in Republican circles.

Country first, fellas….country first.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, March 3, 2014

March 4, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Republicans, Ukraine | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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