Fellows Speak

Obama’s Gift to Putin

Ben Lim
March 19, 2014

Posted by CenPEG.org
March 20, 2014

America’s foreign policy strategy to change unfriendly heads of states through coups d’état or color revolutions by pro-American and CIA supported opposition forces backfired in the case of Ukraine  when anti-Russia opposition forces in Kiev deposed its democratically-elected president, Viktor Yanukovych. Anti-Russian leaders were quickly approved and legitimized by US President Barrack Obama and his European Union counterparts. However, when Yanukovych asked for Russian help and Putin readily sent over 16,000 Russian troops to Crimea, the so-called “victory” or success of the coup was short-lived.

A clear majority of the Crimean, 90 percent, who are mostly ethnic Russians, with the exception of the Tartar minority and ethnic Ukrainian, voted in a referendum to join the Russian Federation “to return to the embrace of their motherland”.

Upon learning of the outcome, Obama and the European Union leaders cried foul and immediately declared that they will “never” recognize the Crimean vote to join the Russian Federation. They even went to the United Nations with a resolution to nullify the Crimean people’s right of self-determination which is guaranteed under Chapter One of the U.N. Charter. The Russian vetoed the resolution which ended Obama’s and EU leaders’ campaign to nullify the referendum in the UN.

Accordingly, in a telephone conversation with Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin quoted the Kosovo precedent, a reference to the recognition by the U.S. and several European states of a 2008 declaration of independence by the provincial assembly in Pristina, while Kosovo then was still a part of Serbia.  Putin then asked Obama the difference between Kosovo and Crimea.

Obama’s domestic critics cited other precedents: South Sudan, East Timor, Croatia, and Montenegro and other Balkan states, which the US and its allies upheld and sustained the principle of self-determination. Moreover, independent reports of massive turnouts and wholehearted celebrations showed that the outcome reflected popular wishes – unlike the putsch staged by anti-Russian CIA agents against Yanukovych.

Still Obama and other EU leaders while refusing to acknowledge their fatal mistake, insisted that these cases were different and unique (meaning they are supported by the West) and therefore must be treated on its own merits. In short the Western leaders are saying that the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan are legally and morally justified, whereas Putin’s sending in of troops to Crimea to insure the safety of ethnic Russians is not. And for this reason, Obama and the EU leaders in Washington and Brussels are preparing sanctions and punishments for Russia.

Ironically all self-righteous attacks against Russian support of Crimea have led many observers to ridicule Washington’s hypocrisy. They cited the remark of US Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland , who revealed America’s hand in the Ukraine color revolution or coup when she attacked the EU partners for not doing enough to back Kiev’s street supporters and even shouted: “f*ck the EU.”  

Clearly after the world has learned of America’s complicity in the coup against Yanukovych, most nations were amused by US Secretary of State John Kerry’s self-righteous declaration that it is unacceptable to invade another country on a “completely trumped-up pretext” or just because the current leadership does not support your foreign policy objectives. Critics reminded Kerry not only of American complicity in the coup against Yanukovych, but cited the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 when Bush, Jr. and Tony Blair trumped up charges that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and declared that they were invading Iraq to remove his stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. After killing Hussein and razing Iraq to the ground, American nuclear experts and soldiers were unable to find weapons of mass destruction or any evidence of presence of such weapons.

Obama himself, following the Bush legacy, repeatedly claimed that America’s enemies flouted the international law when he launched or backed armed attacks in Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan.  Worse, while Obama talked about violations of international law, the US until now refuses to join or recognize the International Criminal Court, an instrument of international justice established in 1945.

For most geopolitical analysts who looked backed to what happened in Georgia, they believed that sanctions such as economic embargo and isolating Russia from international organizations are only temporary measures and definitely ineffective. The more important move would be to prevent Putin from encouraging, most especially, the cities in eastern Ukraine where they have large ethnic Russian populations but also has other ethnic groups with differing heritage and loyalties to secede from Ukraine. American leaders seem to be running out of ideas on how to stop Putin from making Crimea a part of Russia. According to  US Senator John McCain the best way to stop Putin,  is an “Iran style sanctions regime blocking energy exports, investment, banking and other mainstream business and commercial activities such as arms sales.” Above all “direct US and European military assistance to Kiev.” However, all of these options according to most Pentagon analysts are not realizable unless America and its allies pay a heavy price for it too. Russian journalists told Western reporters that these proposed sanctions:  “Are pinpricks which Putin will readily ignore.”   Even former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger noted that all these posturing “would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West, especially Russia and Europe – into cooperative international system.”

Whether the McCain proposal will be pursued or not, the fact is, most European’s energy needs are supplied by Russia. The EU would be punishing itself too if it were to force Russia to turn off the pipeline and instead buy more expensive energy from other sources. Moreover Russia is not a small market to the EU, hewing the American line would certainly raise domestic outrage and opposition.

It appears that America’s way of war (color revolution and coup d’état or intervention into the internal affairs of other countries), has miscarried in Ukraine and has unwittingly played into Putin’s hand. For most observers, the uncharacteristic, and fatal, Obama mistake paradoxically, turns Crimea into Obama’s unintended gift for Putin. And indeed on March 18 Putin signed a draft treaty to make Crimea part of Russia.

What lured Obama into his misstep? He was looking for a hook to continue the American foreign policy objective of eroding Russia’s power and influence little by little. Obama sensed that twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union – after all the real and imaginary scandals that have followed Putin’s reign, slicing up further Russian sphere of influence could eventually reduce Russia to a third class power. Unfortunately for Obama, Putin still believes that Russia is a first class military power, he has the support of the Russian people, and appears ready to prove it.  By keeping Russian troops in Crimea, Putin dared Obama to go war against Russia in Ukraine. (Posted by CenPEG.org)

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