Because I’m still on the mailing list of the U.S. embassy in Warsaw, I still get their travel advisories, warnings of demonstrations that might turn lively etc.
On Monday I got one with a link to the site of U.S. Passports and International Travel, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State.
“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine, and particularly the Crimean Peninsula, due to the potential for instability following the departure of former President Yanukovych and the establishment of a new government.”
Ukraine is the largest country that lies entirely within Europe, a fact that comes as a surprise to most folks who don’t think much about it until something like this happens. The population is about 78 percent ethnic Ukrainian and 17 percent Russian – well above the dangerous number for a disaffected minority, particularly one with a larger state next door.
The remainder are a collection of small minorities such as Belorussians, Tartars and Romanians.
As of the time of writing Russian forces have occupied and established control of the Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea that is historically Russian but was included as part of the Ukrainian SSR in the old Soviet Union by Nikita Krushchev for reasons now obscure. An old rumor has it he was drunk at the time but never mind.
President Obama spent 90 minutes on the phone with Vladimir Putin, a call he called the toughest of his administration.
Whew! Hope Vlad appreciated that.
Secretary of State John Kerry denounced Russia’s action and called it, “an act of weakness, not of strength.”
No it’s not. Invading and occupying someone else’s territory who doesn’t dare immediately respond with all the force at their command takes strength for sure, it’s just not very nice.
“There are very serious repercussions that can flow out of this. There are a broad array of options that are available, not just to the United States but to our allies,” Kerry warned.
No there aren’t. There’s not a damn thing we can do that Putin cares a fig about. Everything Kerry mentioned we might do is purely symbolic or economic pin pricks to be finessed away as soon as the furor dies down.
Sarah Palin is crowing though. Palin warned in 2008 after Russia threw it’s weight around in Georgia that they might very well invade Ukraine if Obama was re-elected.
To be sure it doesn’t take a psychic to predict “Russia will invade Ukraine, sometime,” but Palin was ridiculed by a fair number of oh-so-wise “foreign policy experts” so she’s got some comeback coming.
I haven’t been to Ukraine but I’ve lived within spitting distance of it and I have friends there. So it pains me to say that the reality is, Ukraine is too close to Russia and isn’t important enough to our interests to risk war over.
Come on, does anybody seriously think the U.S. with it’s NATO allies, who between them cannot put a combat division into the field and don’t have a strategic air force to their name, are going to move east in force even absent the possibility of a nuclear exchange? Let’s get real.
So it’s not entirely fair to blame this on Obama’s administration. Nevertheless it does not help matters to invite the contempt of Putin and the world by bluffing with a bad hand. We can “condemn in the strongest terms” without making empty threats.
And how did Palin know that Russia might do that when wiser heads poo-pooed her as an intellectual lightweight?
Because she knew something they don’t. Something Putin knows very well. Something Thucydides knew 2,500 years ago when he wrote the history of the Peloponesian War.
That human nature does not change in spite of pious moralizing. That it certainly hasn’t changed from Thucydides’ time until now.
That in a world with no power great enough to impose laws on nations, “The strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must.”