Mitt Romney is the kind of guy who just never goes away, even when you really, really want him to. Readers will recall that Mitt had some funny ideas about foreign policy back in 2012, insisting that Russia was our "number one geopolitical foe." He is now at it again, explaining what he would have done about Ukraine and Russia. Per Mitt, it should have been "evident" to the president that Russia might take advantage of the turmoil in Ukraine to seize control of Crimea, so Obama should have arranged "punishments and sanctions" before anything happened, conveying the threat of the same to Moscow to force Putin to stay his hand. Mitt would have said "I know what you are thinking of doing and if you do it you will be severely punished."
Mitt fails to understand that "hands off" threats would have convinced Putin that the US was actually preparing to install an anti-Russian regime in Kiev, compelling him to act sooner than he did. Russia has a legitimate vital interest in developments in Ukraine because it is on its doorstep, but its major focus is on Crimea, home port of the Russian Black Sea fleet, where a large majority of the population is ethnically Russian, Russophone, and identified politically with Moscow. Putin did indeed enable Crimea to declare independence from Ukraine and then endorsed a referendum to determine if it wished to merge with Russia. The referendum, which undeniably can be challenged on procedural grounds, passed overwhelmingly and there is no reason to doubt that it expressed the will of the majority of the Crimean people. This led to the return of Crimea to Russia, which Moscow had governed for two centuries prior to 1954, when communist party head Nikita Khruschev administratively attached it to Ukraine for reasons that remain unclear (he may have been drunk at the time). The Romney "solution," based on the idea that Washington has some kind of right to preemptively threaten punishment to regulate developments that may not even occur, would undoubtedly have produced a quicker and possibly less measured response from Moscow which would have been bad for all parties involved.
Senator Marco Rubio, who might be considered a Romney wannabe in that they both have good hair and want to be president, adds to the confusion. He wants to punish Putin in an odd way, insisting that "Russian cooperation should not be sought on global strategic challenges until the people of Crimea are given a free and fair opportunity to decide their fate without outside pressure." Huh? So Rubio will punish Moscow by ceasing to cooperate with it over issues like Syria, Iran and nuclear proliferation. Which will mean the slaughter in Syria will continue, Iran will out of desperation go nuclear, and a gaggle of other countries noting what Iran is up to will follow suit. Nice one Marco.
And when Mitt and Marco are unavailable, there is always Senator John McCain, who, one suspects, must have hit his head on his aircraft canopy while bailing out over North Vietnam in 1967. McCain astonished the world in 2008 when he declared that "we are all Georgians now" after Tbilisi decided to attack Russia. He has since that time been an unrelenting critic of all things Russian and has become a leader of the let’s kick some Russki butt movement vis-à-vis the current conflict centered on Ukraine. Prior to the fall of Viktor Yanukovych, McCain joined the "freedom fighter" demonstrators on Maidan Square in Kiev, putting his arm around one of the leaders of the fascist party, a stunt similar to the State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland traveling there and handing out cookies. Nuland later used some potty language in describing what she thought of the European reluctance to overthrow Yanukovych in a phone call that was unfortunately recorded. One wonders at the tolerance of the Ukrainian government in letting two such clowns into the country in the first place.
McCain, who has called Russia a "gas station masquerading as a country," also wants to widen the conflict. He has said "Ukraine is going to need a long-term military assistance program from the United States — equipment both lethal and nonlethal. They ask for some modest means that can help them resist. I believe we should provide it…because it is the right and decent thing to do." He is also calling for a complete reset of relations with Russia, which means returning to something like the adversarial state prevailing during the Cold War, and sums up Putin as "…an old KGB colonel bent on restoration of the Soviet empire. …This president [Obama] has never understood it.”
And then there’s McCain’s beloved Sancho Panza Senator Lindsay Graham who finds an unlikely explanation for what is going on in Ukraine: "It started with Benghazi. When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression."
Meanwhile off to the side we also have the usual wing nuts who are always keen on starting a new war, to include the Fox News perennial favorite Bill Kristol. Kristol cannot understand how the US public can be turning its back on the wars that have made the country great. He recently called for Americans to be "awakened and rallied" from their "war-weariness," which is preventing resolute military action in places like Iran and Ukraine.
But enough of Republican bashing. Our national lunacy is bipartisan, witness the number of Congressmen who are coming out with thinly veiled threats against Russia. It is also clearly exhibited in a recent letter signed by 83 Senators calling on the White House to reject any Iranian "right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty." The script could have been and probably was written by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and, if followed, would guarantee that the negotiations will fail because Tehran has a legal right to enrich for peaceful purposes. That would leave only the military option on that table that Obama keeps talking about.
The ignorance and hubris of the folks that we have elected to high office is astonishing, but it is matched by what one reads in the mainstream media where there is a steady drumbeat to "do something" every time a foreigner looks askance at the insane policies that Washington regularly promotes. If there is one central truth about the US-Russian relationship it is that it is better to have a friendly Russia cooperating on issues like Iran and Syria than it is to have a hostile Russia that will use its considerable resources to obstruct Washington’s initiatives. Unfortunately no one inside the beltway seems to understand that.
And the dysfunction is not limited to opposition politicians, talking heads and congress, where buffoonery is taken for granted. President Obama, who should know better, called Putin the bored kid slouching around in the back of a classroom, demonstrating that there is little gratitude in politics after Russia bailed Washington out of the Syrian mess that the US president had unwisely gotten trapped into. It also revealed that if there is an adult actually present in the room it is Putin. Obama’s own Sancho Panza Joe Biden is meanwhile calling for NATO military maneuvers close to Russia in the Baltics, which will undoubtedly calm things down quite nicely.
Democratic front leader Hillary Clinton’s dearly missed husband Bill started the current "problem" when he unwisely reneged on an understanding with Moscow by starting the NATO expansion into Eastern Europe after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Hillary is comparing Vladimir Putin to Hitler while also suggesting that it is important to keep jawing in an effort to get him to change his mind about Crimea, as if evoking the Third Reich is not in itself a deal breaker if one expects to be taken seriously. While receiving an award from the American Jewish Congress she also described herself as "personally skeptical" regarding the Iran nuclear talks because Iran’s leaders would not "follow through" on any agreement, laying the blame exactly where her audience wanted it to go. You have to ask yourself, "And she was secretary of state and now wants to be president?"
And it’s not just Russia and Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry, who appears to be energetically pursuing some kind of framework for peace in the Middle East, signaled immediately that he was not serious when he named Martin Indyk as chief US negotiator. Indyk, an Australian who was hurriedly naturalized so Bill Clinton could appoint him US ambassador to Israel, comes out of AIPAC, WINEP and most recently the Saban Center, all organizations that look out for Israel’s interests. So where is the even handed broker?
Compare for a moment Team America’s lineup of lunkheads with the cool assessment made by Vladimir Putin in his New York Times op-ed as well as his restrained and effective response to a crisis on his doorstep that was essentially engineered by Washington. His speech before the Russian Duma explaining Moscow’s policy and castigating western hypocrisy is heavy going but well worth reading. He noted, correctly, that the US leaders have "come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right." You nailed it Vlad!