By Tim Baldwin
The politics between Ukraine and Russia are complex. President Barack Obama recognizes the sovereignty of Ukraine and warned Russia of striking Ukraine. Obama declared there would be costs to Russia if they strike Ukraine, but he acknowledges these costs are diplomatic (i.e. economic and political in nature), not military. Good.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a 2016 presidential hopeful, stated he would take a stauncher position than Obama on the costs to Russia, but it appears Paul’s and Obama’s approaches are similar. Both oppose U.S. military involvement and prefer imposing diplomatic “costs” if Russia strikes Ukraine.
Compare them to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), another presidential hopeful, who stated, “I agree with [Rand Paul] that we should be very reluctant to deploy military force abroad. But I think there is a vital role [and] the United States has a responsibility to defend our values,” implying that the U.S. should use military force against Russia. Not Good.
The U.S. is not the policeman of the world. Bad things happen everywhere, but America does not have a moral or constitutional obligation to prevent bad things in foreign countries. Unless America’s sovereignty is truly (not pretextually) under attack, we have no authority to invade foreign countries and should refrain. Obama and Paul are right to be cautious and to use diplomacy over the military.
By Joe Carbonari
Perhaps the biggest danger of the situation in Ukraine is that either Putin and his advisors or Obama and his might back the other group into a corner. This is no time to be playing “Gotcha.” Over the long haul Russia and the West will be best off if they get along – helping to build world trade overall and cooperating in cooling international hot spots. That does not mean, however, that we should leave Putin’s actions in the Crimea and Ukraine unchallenged.
Putin’s “Black Ops” tactics in Crimea and his positioning of additional troops on the Ukrainian border are classic bullying tactics, spiced with the seizing of a gas production facility technically on the Ukrainian side of the border. Whether done as a provocation or to secure an additional bargaining chip it raises tension and the risk of igniting a cascade of escalating incidents – sort of like a “one-finger” wave on the highway. Clearly Putin has ceded the high road in international relations. We should pointedly take it.
The U.S. cannot and should not act alone, and realpolitik suggests that Putin cannot be stopped, but the world can make him wish he had. Putin craves respect. His actions, however, more widely engender suspicion and fear. Through the misuse of power he looks weaker rather than stronger. He will receive less international cooperation rather than more. We should work for world sanction and military sanity.
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