Cream Floats

President Obama has been criticized for his so-called “leading from behind” foreign policy. While lacking bravado, and with certainty we know one strategy cannot fit all situations, “leading from behind” still has much to offer.

And, it is quite possible that President Obama may be wise again applying this approach to the Ukraine and Crimea.

Much has been written about Russian President Putin and his alleged land grab of Crimea. The news media portrays Putin and Russia as the black hats, strong and acting as a bully. Traditionally, the white hat role is supposed to be played by the US. It is the US who is supposed to oppose Russian aggression (as the US did in the past against the Soviet Union).

The typical picture puts the US military face to face with Russia’s. Not this time, at least not at this point with the Ukrainian situation. And, why is this a wise approach?

  • The Ukraine was previously a member of the Soviet Union and has had a long history of close Russian relations.
  • The Ukraine is Russia’s neighbor and if Russia chose to invade, the speed Russia could show would make it strategically impossible for the US or NATO to mount an armed resistance.
  • Crimea has closer ties to Russia than to the Ukraine.
  • There is no imminent threat to American interests.
  • And, both Russia and the people of the Ukraine and Crimea will soon learn that Russian rule is not the way to a better life.

By “leading from behind”, the US is allowing facts on the ground to become clearer to all parties. When the Soviet Union cut the Eastern European countries free in the 80’s, it did so because the Soviets could no longer afford what little support it provided these lands.

Communism, while possibly a very fair economic system in theory, in practice was both inefficient and unproductive for the average citizen. In short, most everyone endured a poorer existence and learned from experience to do as little as possible.

Separate from economic communism, but essential to how the Soviets administered their authority, was intense measures to control what people thought and said. Those living in the Soviet Union were told their form of government and economy was the best in the world. Hmmm.

Fast forward. The internet has changed the world. People can easily see that others live differently. Trying now to tell Ukrainians and Crimean residents that they must be content with even less than they had before will not be an easy sell.

Russia will also be faced with issues of food, water, and fuel availability. Does Russia intend to supply (or at least subsidize) their availability? And how much will the Russian Government be willing to take away from its domestic budget and prop up the Ukraine and Crimea?

One can find “hot heads” or mercenary soldiers for hire anyplace. At a reasonably low cost, these militias can project popular opposition. But when it comes to long term control the bills go up.

Russia is faced with this corundum.

“Leading from behind” should help the US stay out of another expensive conflict and allow natural forces to convince both the Russians and the Ukrainians that there is nothing to be gained by the Ukraine aligning with Russia.

This is not an open and shut conclusion.  Life will not be that rosy aligning with Europe, it just won’t be worse.  For the US, it should be a win-win.  Russia gets the extra costs and probably a very disgruntled people should Ukraine realign with Russia.  Or, if the Ukraine aligns with Europe, there will be one more chance for an open economy to grow.

 

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