The Children's Crusade - Obama and Merkel Go After Russia

Published: Fri 21 Mar 2014 09:35 AM
The Children's Crusade - Obama and Merkel Go After Russia
By Michael Collins
Image: Adrian Askew
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.
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 industry in the Crimea and southeastern regions represented the cruelest of ironies since Communist leaders ceded these regions to the Ukraine in the 1950s.
Who Prevails?
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?
Russia gained the U.S.-NATO queen by taking Crimea into the Russian Federation. No more looking at the calendar every year wondering what happens when the lease runs out. Now, the lease runs forever.
Russia has the military capability to take the southeastern Ukraine any time it wants. President Obama's announcement that this isn't worth a war only enhances that position.
Putin can accomplish his objectives without military action. Russian troops put a hold on any Ukrainian military action in the Russian speaking territories. The military intimidation option can be used to achieve autonomous state status for these states within the Ukraine. Without firing a shot, Russia gains a barrier between Russia and NATO.
In this scenario, Russia has put NATO's king in check by stopping a unified Ukraine from slipping into EU and NATO hands. At the least, Russia will have the most economically viable part of Ukraine as its buffer. As time goes on, with a few more deft moves, Russia may take the EU king.
But, here's the checkmate, the reason that Russia will be able to achieve its geopolitical objectives without a trade war with Europe and the United States. In 2012, the European Union imported 213 billion Euros a year worth of goods from Russia and exported 123 billion.
Does anyone in his or her right mind think that the EU is ready to give up that trading arrangement?
The neoconservatives, their nihilist followers in Congress, and the servile Obama media enthusiasts can play at the grand game. At some point, the real players, the ones with all the money, will step in and restore sanity, clear the board so to speak. Checkmate.
In the meantime, the rest of us languish in the dead calm of a lifeless economy as we await the imminent calamities from radical climate change.
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