See It My Way

The news is now dominated with two issues, where is Flight MH-370 and Russian ambitions in the Crimera.  There appear to be no clues yet to explain why the Boing 777 disappeared although there have been whispers that maybe one of the pilots was responsible.  How could anyone do such a deed?

The Russian Ukraine/Crimera ambitions are almost equally unexplained.  Crimera is an armpit of social and economic woes.  Why would Russia risk its world reputation when protection of its Black Sea naval port could easily be maintained without annexing Crimera.?

Surprisingly, many proposals have been put forth.  For example, (1) Putin is continuing to rebuild Russia self pride.  (2) Russian people have long and historic ties to those living in Crimera and next door Ukraine.  (3) Putin is getting even for the West trying to steal a former Soviet nation and incorporating it into NATO and the EU. (Hmmm, this one feels like we are getting warm.)

There is another possibility, however, we do not hear mentioned often but could have merit.  Consider that the West’s post cold war tactics no longer contained economic measures to control Russian behavior.  (We were suppose to be friends.)  The next best idea was cause the Russia governing process to be more like the US.  The plan was to bring what we take for granted in the West, freedom of speech, into Moscow’s front yard.

The West reasoned that if former Soviet nations could open and liberalize, ordinary Russians would see these nearby nations prosper and Russian citizens want to have a taste too.  Soon the Russian political process would morph into one more similar to the West.  Hmmm.

President Putin, probably would argue that Russia already has a “western style” political process where one Russian has one vote.  But that is not what is feared.

Putin and most other authoritarian leaders fear the spread of “allegations” which may or may not be true.  From Putin’s perspective they may be totally false but to prove it, he and his government would need to share far more information than they wish.  To ignore the allegations, would give a sort of nod that these charges were at least partly true.  Not a good position either.

So maybe Crimera is a shot across the bow telling other former Soviet countries that Russia does not want them to open their societies more than now.

All this makes President Obama’s task more complicated.  A new Cold War would be expensive and disruptive.  Confrontation militarily seems like a poor choice but making Putin’s foreign policy choices expensive has far more appeal.

Military options can be panderized in Congress.  They are blunt and uncultured actions, perfectly fitting for our Congress.  Making Putin’s choices expensive will require less obvious communications and a total absence of “I got you on that”.

Strangely whether Crimera is part of Russia or not can not make any difference to US interests.  Rather it is the Russia wanton disregard towards what we would call “international norms” and the fear that Crimera would be the first of several countries to feel Putin’s hot breath.

Leading from behind may not be such a bad place to make life expensive for the Russians.

 

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