11 February 2015

To stop Putin, you must stop him on battlefield

Kyiv Post: 10. February 2015
Op-ed — by Askold S. Lozynskyj

A Russian rebel walks next to a destroyed tank on Feb. 7, 2015 in the eastern Ukrainian town of Vuglegirsk in the Donetsk Oblast.

The political spectrum between U.S. senators Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, is as wide as their age difference.
However, that difference is apparent mostly in social programs. 

Foreign policy issues are often equalizers because principles in politics, in particular when your own home appears safe, is anathema. 
The appearance of one's own safety is often the result of shortsightedness. Long-term strategic interests are subjects left for academic discourse. In politics, principles are compromised for the sake of political expediency, electability and the like.

The most recent annals of American presidential history is a mixed bag of pronouncements and then retraction rationalized as compromise. 
Even Ronald Reagan, the much revered American president by the right, wasn't immune from the greatest tax increase in U.S. history to that point, despite being staunchly opposed to big government.
George H. W. Bush was a CIA operative with little or no convictions. In fact he became the object of ridicule by the ideological followers of Reagan for his lack of principles, and often substantiated those attacks with performances like his “Chicken Kyiv” speech on suicidal nationalism and separatism. 
William Jefferson Clinton had his own personal failings, but was fortunate enough not to be in a foreign policy crisis throughout his term.
George W. Bush looked Putin in the eye and decided he could do business with Putin because he had seen his soul. He then watched the object of his affection invade Georgian territory and Bush responded with merely a few U. S. naval exercises.

President Barack Obama is not immune from political frailties, particularly in foreign policy. In fact he is more susceptible because of his extreme inexperience in global politics. His main advisers have been lacking as well.
Hillary Clinton had a modicum of foreign policy experience. Being the wife of a president and a short-term senator from New York does not provide the necessary exposure. Additionally Clinton has been burdened by her own ambitions for electability. Pretty much Clinton appears ready to say anything to get support.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, despite a lengthy resume in the Senate, does not have foreign policy experience either. 

Being a Vietnam War hero and then an anti-war activist does not prepare one to tackle complex global issues. Despite his Senate longevity, he had little or no record on the Soviet Union or the Cold War.
Current National Security Adviser Susan Rice was a United Nations permanent representative failure, could not make secretary of state, so Obama appointed her to head the National Security Council.
There isn't anyone close to a Henry Kissinger among them. As a result Obama is left to his own devices.

Two issues in foreign policy have overwhelmed Obama – Russian aggression and the volatility of the Middle East. 
In both instances the president has been reluctant to act resolutely. Unfortunately, inaction spells disaster. Additionally, Obama has manifested a weakness by attempting to befriend those who are, in fact, America's enemies. 
As a result Iran is developing its nuclear capability at Israel's peril, and perhaps, ultimately at America's peril, Islamic extremists have sprouted all over the Middle East and Russia's current scourge sitting as head of state Vladimir Putin is emboldened to test Western resolve in rebuffing his attempts to reconstitute Russian greatness.

Obama has assisted Iran in its nuclear development by giving Iran time and the benefit of a doubt as if Iran was acting in good faith, paying little heed to Israel, who is America's only ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. 
In Eastern Europe, Obama has enabled Putin to annex Crimea, conduct a full scale war and terrorist activities in Eastern Ukraine.

The president's initial belief was that Putin would stop at Crimea. Then that belief expanded to enclaves and a hybrid war in parts of eastern Ukraine together with the removal of Ukraine's accession to membership from NATO's agenda.
The imposition of sanctions have done more for President Obama's public image than curbing Putin's appetite. Unstopped militarily and emboldened, Putin took Crimea, now his sights are set on Donbas and carving an avenue through Mariupol over Ukrainian lands into Crimea, tomorrow he may desire all of Ukraine, then Estonia, Latvia, etc.

Like Israel in the Middle East, Ukraine is clearly America's friend in Eastern Europe.
Ukraine is prepared to do the heavy lifting, the fighting and the dying. But Ukraine needs lethal defense supplies against Russia's sophisticated weaponry. Congress passed a bill authorizing those arms. The president himself signed it into law. One can only assume that he read it and was aware of its significance. Sure the law merely authorizes the president. But why sign the bill if you have no intention of acting. The lethal weapons are not forthcoming. No assuaging of Ukraine by Kerry or Vice President Joe Biden will do. No talk of diplomatic negotiations will solve this problem.

The only way to stop Putin is to stop him on the battlefield.

Askold S. Lozynskyj is a past president of the Ukrainian World Congress.

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