How to Counter Putin’s Aggression.

Mar 07

Russia’s invasion of the Crimea has made Europians and North Americans understandably nervous about that country’s intent for the rest of the Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc nations. It’s believed Russian premier Vladimir Putin intends to annex the rest of the Ukraine, then perhaps set his sights on other Eastern Europe nations which dominated by the former Soviet Union.


There’s plenty of speculation over Putin’s desire to broaden Russia’s influence, perhaps evern reestablish his country’s borders to its old Cold War lines. Putin is said to consider the United States not as a friend but as something of an adversary, blaming the US and Western European nations of deliberately meddling in Russian affairs.


Russian premier Vladimir Putin is stuck in a morass of his own making.

Russian premier Vladimir Putin is stuck in a morass of his own making in Ukraine.

A number of influential Western pundits and bloggers are calling upon US President Obama to stand up to Putin whilst at the same time chiding Obama for his “weakness” in dealing with the Russian leader. The reality, however, is there’s little the United States can do to drive Russia out of the Crimea. There’s no military action Obama can take, not without plunging the world into a potential global conflict. Nobody wants that. Sabre-rattling won’t achieve anything.


The Western powers will do something, of course. They’re threatening economic sanctions, which could do serious harm to Russia’s fragile economy. Russia largely depends upon its petroleum industry as its economic engine. Sanctions on their shipments of oil and gas to European countries could have serious consequences for that country.


Will it force Putin out of the Ukraine? Maybe, maybe not. The bottom line is those are the only realistic things the West can do to Russia, short of bargaining by offering up economic goodies if they withdraw. That’s what it could take for Putin to save face. He’s gotten himself in deep now in the Ukraine, which seems on the brink of civil war. If that should happen, this could ugly in a real hurry for Russia. Their military isn’t as strong as it was during the Cold War era. Heck, as historical records reveal, Russia’s military wasn’t that strong to begin with, it’s nuclear arsenal aside. There’s a risk Russian occupation could galvanize the anti-Russian forces within the Ukraine, intensifying into a long, bloody guerrilla conflict which would only serve to unnecessarily bloody the Russian forces.


Putin is often portrayed in the Western media as either losing his grip on reality or being a cunning dictator. The truth is likely more mundane. Yes, Putin is a dictator, propped up by his security services and oil oligarchs. It appears his desire to broaden his own economic sphere to counter the pull of NATO and the European Union upon other former Soviet bloc nations is behind his push into the Ukraine, just as it was with Georgia in 2008. He got away with his Georgian excursion because the world was largely distracted by the onset of the great global economic collapse of 2008. He evidently believes he can do it again without consequences in Ukraine.


But the Ukraine is proving a different kettle of fish. Its Russian-friendly premier couldn’t stem the rising tide of anti-Russian sentiment sparked by his willingness to accept bribes from Putin to forsake the EU. That led to his overthrow, forcing Putin to use military incursion into that country under the smokescreen of protecting the interests of Russian-speaking Ukrainians.


The West, however, wasn’t buying it, and are now bringing to bear what could be the full weight of serious economic sanctions. Putin may think they’re bluffing, but if they’re not, he likely knows he may have overplayed his hand and must find a way out.


Putin last fall helped Obama save face in Syria by convincing Syrian president Asaad to give up his arsenal of biological and chemical weapons. He could expect Obama to return the favor by helping him find a way out of a potential morass of his own making.

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