Europe Really Needs to Step Up

President Obama will ask Congress for another $1 billion to improve security in Europe against the threat from Putin.  I have no problem with this.

What I do have a problem with is how little the Europeans do for themselves.  NATO’s members promised in 2006 to spend at least 2% of their GDP on their militaries, but of 28 members, only Britain, Greece, and Estonia, besides of course the U. S., have met that low standard.  Everyone talks about the great trains and inexpensive health care in Europe.  Well, that’s because they spend next to nothing on defense, relying too much on us, while our infrastructure is falling apart.  If they’re so worried about Putin, they need to stop building their houses of straw and sticks, while we get stuck providing the bricks.

I’m especially looking at you, France.  While the French can’t be bothered to defend themselves (again), they also won’t cancel their $1.6 billion sale of warships to Putin.  So they make our job tougher and more expensive.  You know, Mesdames et Messieurs, it’s your damn continent.  We just come over now and then (like 70 years ago today, when our soldiers got slaughtered on your Normandy beaches, while you all hung out in cafes in Paris) to save your sorry behinds.

Do You Want to Fight for Estonia?

Since under the NATO treaty, an attack on any of the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) is considered an attack on the United States, I went back to see how the Senate vote (May 8, 2003) went to admit those countries to NATO.

People, it was 96-0.  As if they were naming a post office.  No one seems to have thought about if we really want to go to war over the Baltic States.

What troubles me most is that Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were part of the old Soviet Union, and not simply Warsaw Pact countries like Poland or Bulgaria.  I see a distinction between adding former Warsaw Pact nations to NATO and adding former republics of the USSR.  The latter strikes me as in-your-face overreach, NATO on the Russian border, designed to infuriate the Russians and perhaps come back to bite us on the tush.

Okay, we “won” the Cold War, but there’s winning smart and winning dumb.  The Treaty of Versailles was winning dumb.  Expanding NATO as far as we did may have been winning dumb too.



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.

McCain Says Hagel and Obama Are Welcome on His Lawn

John McCain says the White House has answered his questions about Benghazi to his satisfaction.  Now he’s trying to get answers to Ted Cruz’s questions about Chuck Hagel himself.

If they can make Cruz happy (good luck with that), there won’t be a filibuster, and there will be an up or down (and it will be up) vote on Hagel tomorrow, and he can catch his flight to the NATO meeting in Brussels.

The GOP really doesn’t need another empty chair photo.


GOP Holds Up Hagel

Claiming that they want more information from Chuck Hagel about his past and from the White House about Benghazi, GOP senators are maneuvering to ensure his nomination doesn’t get an up or down vote tomorrow.  With the Senate then on recess next week, the earliest he could be confirmed would be February 25.

Meanwhile, NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels next week, with Afghanistan prominently on the agenda, and of course President Obama wants Hagel to be there.  The GOP seems to have a weird fondness for empty chairs.  The Clint Eastwood convention stunt was just pathetic, but a NATO meeting is a BFD.

All 55 Senate Dems will vote for Hagel and 2 Republicans have said they will too, so the Administration has more than the simple majority it needs for the nomination itself.  What it doesn’t have are the 60 votes needed for cloture to end debate and bring the nomination to the floor.

Some GOP senators have said that while they will vote against Hagel, they don’t support the filibuster to prevent that vote, but it looks as if some of these senators don’t want to buck their party to end the filibuster tomorrow.

Pakistan Wins

Pakistan closed our overland supply routes into Afghanistan last November because we refused to apologize for a mistaken NATO attack  in which 24 Pakistani soldiers (no civilians) died.

That impasse came to an end today.  We caved — Hillary Clinton apologized to Pakistan Foreign Minister Rabbani Khar.

We rightly refused to apologize because there was more than enough blame to go around.  The Pakistanis didn’t let us know they had a new outpost, even though they were supposed to keep us apprised of where their border troops were, so that we wouldn’t mistake them for the Taliban.  It’s not exactly easy to tell who’s who on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Pakistan was furious with us.  Today, I’m furious with President Obama for giving in.

Pakistan is not our ally, and no amount of denial or groveling will change that.

This President Doesn’t “Apologize” for America

Mitt and the GOP falsely accuse President Obama of “apologizing” for America.  I was pleased to see Colin Powell slam Sean Hannity on this phony talking point last week.

Our relations with Pakistan are at an impasse precisely because the President has refused to apologize for last November’s NATO strike that accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the border with Afghanistan.  There was plenty of blame to go around in that attack, especially since Pakistan didn’t inform us where their troops were.

The President also declined to meet with Pakistani President Zardari at the NATO summit in Chicago.  Zardari was invited because it looked as if the dispute over NATO’s using their roads to move supplies to Afghanistan was getting resolved.  But when the talks broke down, Obama snubbed Zardari, including leaving Pakistan out of the countries Obama publicly thanked for their help with Afghanistan.

The President also has refused to ease up on drone strikes against militants in Pakistan, despite Pakistani demands that we end those strikes.

The President is playing hard ball with Pakistan, as he should, but not getting any credit from the GOP.  They owe him an apology.