(Article changed on March 21, 2014 at 00:03)
(Article changed on March 20, 2014 at 03:57)
Much like a team of annoying, spoiled children, President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel are having a tantrum as Crimea joins the Russian Federation. Obama and Merkel seem more intent on provoking and humiliating Russia and President Putin than reversing the new realities in Crimea. Image: Adrian Askew
Regrettably, they hold on to their dangerous plan to weaken and isolate Russia, as though they believe that the Communists are still in charge and seeking world domination.
The Obama - Merkel response includes:
- Sanctions so tepid that the stock market went up in celebration of business as usual with Russia;
- Claims by Secretary of State Kerry that Russia is violating international law; and,
- Personal attacks by Merkel and German media figures claiming that Putin is "out of touch with reality."
These actions would be laughable were there not a more sinister history leading up to the current crisis.
Prior to the fall of the Ukraine's government, the European Union (EU) and Obama administration provoked Russia in a serious way by offering a EU alliance to the Ukraine, fomenting revolution through funding for protesters, and selecting a replacement of the elected Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych.
To Russia, a Ukraine-EU alliance is the first step toward EU and NATO membership, an outcome that any Russian leader would find anathema. A hostile Ukraine, living off of the Crimea and the generally pro Russia industrialized southeastern regions represented the cruelest of ironies.
The Western leaders lack the support of their people while the Russian people support their leader, President Vladimir Putin. Only 36% of Germans polled in early March support economic sanctions against Russia. In the United States, 56% prefer that the country "not get too involved." Only 48% of those polled approve of the president's actions while 56% approve of economic sanctions. On economic sanctions, the poll failed to ask if sanctions hurt the U.S. economy, do you approve. The Russian government has the support of 90% of the population according to a recent poll.
The Russians prevail in terms of national unity. Putin benefits from that. Far from weakening Putin, the entire effort to capture the Ukraine has increased his popularity.
A recurrent theme from the West is that Putin is "out of touch with reality." Angela Merkel supposedly said this after talking to Putin on the phone for an hour last week. Reporting on Putin's speech to the Russian Federation Council has this theme embedded - he's simply not dealing with the real world.
What the Western press forgets to mention is that chess is one of the most popular preferred activities in Russia. Fifty million Russians play chess on a regular basis.
Putin is playing chess while Obama and Merkel are, at best, playing a weak game of checkers.
Two of Putin's key goals are a buffer state between Russia and the eastern branch of NATO and port facilities for the Russian Navy in the Black Sea. Prior to recent events in the Ukraine, Russia had to worry about each successive Ukrainian government and watch the calendar as the years ticked off until its lease of naval facilities in the Crimea expired in 2042.
What have Putin's latest moves accomplished?