Thursday, April 17, 2014
The West’s reaction has been weak. The sanctions imposed and contemplated are not dramatic, regardless of immediate Russian losses in volatile stock and currency exchange markets. Europe’s dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, and affinity for Russian investments, were apparent last week when the German foreign minister feted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov for trade talks, even as NATO photos of Russian military equipment stockpiled near Ukraine emerged. While European foot-dragging is the biggest obstacle to an effective response, some of Washington’s initial comments and actions suggested unwillingness to face the reality of Putin’s actions. The Obama administration also bears the burden of its Middle Eastern policy of avoiding military conflicts. NATO member states in Eastern Europe are asking the same question many in the Middle East have: Can we rely on Washington to make hard military decisions?
The best way to send Putin a tough message and possibly deflect a Russian campaign against more vulnerable NATO states is to back up our commitment to the sanctity of NATO territory with ground troops, the only military deployment that can make such commitments unequivocal.On closer inspection, Jeffrey's piece is not as bad as it seems: he's advocating sending American troops to Poland, the Baltic states and Romania, rather than to Ukraine. The problem with the piece, however, lies in its overall approach. Like a lot of the old Cold War types who have been front-and-center in the public discussion of Russia-Ukraine this year, Jeffrey: a) personalizes the conflict around Russian President Vladimir Putin; b) assumes that Putin is in control of the situation in eastern Ukraine; and c) focuses upon the need to look tough vis-a-vis Putin, as if that were an end in itself.
Think about it: Putin could very well be leading his country into a violent quagmire right on his country's borders. For a country that is already made up of literally dozens of ethnically-based republics, districts and regions, such a policy seems insane.