Karzai Cool with Crimea

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has joined the governments of Syria and Venezuela in recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Why are we still giving this guy billions of dollars and letting our sons and daughters die for him?  Talk about thick as thieves — Putin and Karzai are quite a pair.

Crimea? Snowden’s Fault

Okay, here’s a weird one for you.  Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is blaming Crimea on Edward Snowden:  “He’s actually supporting, in an odd way, this very activity of brazen brutality and expansion of Russia.”

Oh, please — If Snowden were still toiling away quietly for the NSA in Hawaii, Pootie-Poot would still have taken Crimea.

Ukraine Signs EU Agreement

Ukraine’s acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyk has signed the “association” agreement with the European Union that Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign, leading to his ouster and Russia’s seizing of the Crimea.

It is just a political agreement, not a trade agreement, so it’s a long way from Ukraine’s actually joining the EU.

Oh, God, He’s Baaaaack

Mittens has an op-ed in the WSJ journal, “The Price of Failed Leadership.”  He’s not writing about his 2012 campaign, he’s writing about Obama.

He says that if only Obama had assured Putin that “we would not exclude Russia from its base in Sevastopol or threaten its influence in Kiev,” Putin might not have invaded Crimea.

But I don’t think it ever occurred to Putin (or to Obama) that we might kick him out of Sevastopol.  I don’t think even Dick Cheney or John Bolton ever wanted to do that.  If you like your warm water port, you can keep your warm water port.  Nor were we threatening Russia’s influence in Kiev.  In case, Mitt hasn’t noticed, we kind of have enough problems right now, and we’ve been trying to get Putin to work with us on stuff like Syria and Iran.  We really weren’t looking for trouble in Ukraine, of all places.

Putin has long wanted to get Crimea back.  Events in Ukraine gave him an opening/excuse, and he took it.  I don’t blame Putin for doing what he thinks is in Russia’s interest, and I don’t blame Obama, any more than I blame Bush for what happened in Georgia in 2008.  Geo-political shit happens.

Quote of the Day

“I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russia’s hands. … Putin invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president. Nobody ever accused George W. Bush or being weak or unwilling to use military force,” he said. “I think Putin saw an opportunity here, and he has seized it.”

Former Bush 43 and Obama Defense Secretary Bob Gates

 

 

Crimea Secedes

The Crimean Parliament has voted to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia.  They plan a referendum on the issue for their citizens on March 16.  Will the rest of Russia-leaning eastern Ukraine follow suit?

If Ukraine splits up, it might be easier for them to move forward.  Since independence from the Soviet Union, they have been torn by those who want to look east and those who want to look west and have been somewhat immobilized.

Ukraine’s biggest problem is its horrific corruption and dominance by oligarchs, who function as feudal lords.  If the western part splits off and joins Europe, they will have a chance of reducing that corruption to, say, Italian or Greek or New Jersey levels.  The eastern part will remain a mini-Russia, a kleptocracy.

The big takeaway here, people, is that if you have nuclear weapons, don’t ever give them up for a meaningless piece of paper (that joke of a Budapest Memorandum).

On a more serious note, my main sentiment is that when the Soviet Union broke up, Russia’s power and prestige hit rock bottom and had nowhere to go but up.  So I see Putin’s actions in the Crimea, like his actions in Georgia in 2008, as a “reversion to the mean.”

He knows he’s not going to get his whole empire of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact back, but he also knows he can get something without having to fight.   Taking Crimea is a slam dunk, as taking the rest of eastern Ukraine probably is.  Heading into western Ukraine means he’d have to fight the locals, who’d have help from us, and occupy them.  Heading into Poland means he’d have to fight NATO.  I doubt Putin’s eyes are bigger than his tummy.

Of all the aggressive actions Putin could take, I see the Crimea as the most logical and least threatening to our interests.  If you did a word cloud for Russia, “warm water port” would appear very prominently.  Of all the world’s territory technically outside Russia right now, I can’t think of anything more deeply tied to them, more arguably theirs, than the Crimea.

Quote of the Day

“President Obama is such a weak strongman. What’s more, he is a feeble dictator and a timid tyrant.

“That, at any rate, is Republicans’ critique of him. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Obama’s critics pivoted seamlessly from complaining about his overreach to fretting that he is being too cautious. Call it Operation Oxymoron.”

Dana Milbank, “Obama, the feckless tyrant,” WaPo

The GOP has been behaving as shamelessly and disingenuously as Putin in all this.

What the GOP Should Read on Ukraine

“In the days since Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into the Crimea, it has been amateur hour back in Washington.

“I don’t mean Barack Obama. He’s doing pretty much everything he can, with what are a very limited set of policy options at his disposal. No, I’m talking about the people who won’t stop weighing in on Obama’s lack of “action” in the Ukraine. Indeed, the sea of foreign policy punditry – already shark-infested – has reached new lows in fear-mongering, exaggerated doom-saying and a stunning inability to place global events in any rational historical context.

“But this crisis is Putin’s Waterloo, not ours.

“Which brings us to perhaps the most bizarre element of watching the Crimean situation unfold through a US-centric lens:  the iron-clad certainty of the pundit class that Putin is winning and Obama is losing.  The exact opposite is true.

“Putin has initiated a conflict that will…result in greater diplomatic and political isolation as well as the potential for economic sanction.  He’s compounded his loss of a key ally in Kiev by further enflaming Ukrainian nationalism, and his provocations could have a cascading effect in Europe by pushing countries that rely on Russian’s natural gas exports to look elsewhere for their energy needs.  Putin is the leader of a country with a weak military, an under-performing economy and a host of social, environmental and health-related challenges.  Seizing the Crimea will only make the problems facing Russia that much greater.”

Michael Cohen, “Don’t listen to Obama’s Ukraine critics:  he’s not ‘losing’ — and it’s not his fight,” The Guardian