Tag Archives: Crimea

Obama didn’t ‘allow’ annexation of Crimea

This won’t surprise regular readers of this blog, but I agree with former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice’s assertion that Donald Trump has taken an outrageous position with regard to Russia and its former membership in the Group of Eight nations.

Trump wants the now G-7 nations to bring Russia back into its fold. Susan Rice said the following, according to The Hill: Rice said Trump made “a disgraceful statement” when he said Obama “allowed Russia to take Crimea.”

“Rather than understand Russia is our adversary, Russia had taken on behavior that is absolutely reprehensible… for the president of the United States to suggest all that is forgotten, that we are together, that we are fine with one country annexing another country’s sovereign territory is outrageous,” Rice said.

Russia took another nation’s territory by force. It has done not a damn thing to rectify its aggression against Ukraine. It has continued to prop up a dictatorial regime in Syria. Oh, and it meddled in our 2016 election.

Rice is suggesting that Trump is divorced from any semblance of reality by asking for Russia’s re-inclusion into the G-7 nations comprising the world’s greatest economic powers.

The president’s desire to bring Russia back after the nations kicked it out after annexing Crimea has been met with almost unanimous scorn by the rest of the G-7; only Italy has backed the president’s request.

Moreover, Trump’s continual harping on actions taken by his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, seem to suggest some sort of sick fixation with the 44th president. He keeps singling him out specifically, making preposterous assertions that he “allowed” Russia to take Crimea. It begs the question: What would Donald Trump had done if he had been in the Oval Office, making the tough call? Does anyone actually believe he would have put “boots on the ground” to prevent a Russian takeover? Give me a break, man!

I have stayed away from asserting in this blog that Russia might have the goods on Trump, that it might be holding some deep, dark secrets about the president’s business dealings in Russia.

These continuing assertions from Trump that all is forgiven with regard to Russia are making me wonder about those reports about Russia and possible business connections with the Trump Organization.


Let's ask: Did Putin play a part in this killing?

It’s easy for peanut-gallery observers far away from the action to ask questions those closer to the scene might not ask. So, I’ll ask it: Did Russian strongman/president Vladimir Putin have a hand in the assassination of a leading critic of his government?


I’m not sure if the Russian criminal justice system has a presumed-innocent clause in its framework, but having watched Putin from a great distance over many years, and knowing of his background, my darker side tells me something just doesn’t smell right in Moscow.

Boris Nemtsov was gunned down on a Moscow street — in the shadow of the Kremlin — this past week. Who is this fellow? He was considered perhaps Putin’s leading critic. He had a huge political following in Russia and was seen by some as a serious political threat to the Russian president. Many thousands of them marched in tribute to the slain leader.


Now, what about Putin?

His background is worth examining. In his previous life, Putin fellow led the KGB, the intelligence agency of the Soviet Union, the one-time “Evil Empire” made infamous by its known practice of eliminating critics of the communist regime. The KGB’s name went away when the Soviet Union vaporized in 1991, but its infrastructure has remained pretty much in place, even as the agency was split into two parts.

Putin has served a couple of non-consecutive tours of duty as Russia’s president. Each one has demonstrated the hallmark of this individual’s makeup.

He is as ruthless as ruthless gets. He took over a portion of Ukraine, a supposedly sovereign country bordering Russia. The term “bully” doesn’t even come close to describing Putin.

I have this terrible feeling in my gut that Vladimir Putin — at the very least — just might have a good idea as to who killed Nemtsov. If he does — and I believe that’s the case — let’s not expect Putin to give up whoever did the deed.


Don't discount pain of economic punishment

Before we let the chicken hawks and armchair generals get too far ahead of themselves in this U.S.-Russia confrontation debate, it’s good to perhaps understand what kind of pain can be delivered via economic sanctions leveled against Russia.

A number of President Obama’s critics want him to do more than just level some specific economic sanctions against Russia. They want some form of military option, such as arming Ukrainian military units and sending troops to NATO nations as a standby warning to Russia.


However, the sanctions that Obama has imposed on a number of key Russian leaders with lots of money spread around in banks throughout the world well could put a serious damper on an already-weak Russian economy.

Russia’s economic growth is near zero. The Crimean region that Russia has effectively annexed is an economic basket case. Corruption still runs rampant throughout Russia, with gangsters and thugs controlling an underground economy that dwarfs many aspects of the above-ground economy.

The measures enacted by the White House through executive orders signed by the president are meant to deny access to financial assets by key Russian leaders. It’s going to cause them considerable personal pain. There well might be more severe measures taken against rank-and-file Russians if Russia ratchets up its military involvement in Ukraine.

Let’s be crystal clear about one non-starter of an idea: War with Russia is out of the question, which Obama has declared. There will be no battlefield confrontation between the nations.

Having said that, there’s no way to guarantee what Russia might do to re-annex three Baltic states — Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, all of which are members of NATO. Let us not forget that NATO constitution says that an attack against one member nation is an attack against the entire alliance — which includes the United States of America.

The White House is banking that given the sad state of the Russian economy, the economic punishment just might be enough to give Russia pause if it aims to continue its aggression in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the chicken hawks ought to pipe down.

Let's define 'sanctions'

The media have this habit of latching on to words without clarifying their context, meaning or importance.

The word of the day is “sanctions.”

President Obama today announced he is expanding the sanctions being leveled on high-level Russian officials who have played any important role in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Being a reasonably well-read individual, I think I know what he means by “sanctions.” The president is using executive authority to freeze assets of individuals high up in the Russian government. They’ll be unable to move money around. They’ll be hit where it hurts, in the bank account.

I think that’s what the word means.

The media, though, ought to explain these sanctions and how the U.S. government intends to inflict enough pain on Russia’s government to make it stop interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs. If the media cannot do it, then they should ask White House officials, Treasury Department gurus, Federal Reserve Board brass, high-level Ivy League economists or anyone else with intimate knowledge on how these things work to explain to us unwashed masses.


It’s a nice word. It seems so clinical, so clean and so, oh, bordering on meaningless unless you can define how the sanctions actually work.

I’m all ears.

U.S.-Russia relations in freezer

Let’s not call it Cold War 2.0, at least not yet.

The New York Times reports that the Ukraine crisis involving the Russian takeover of Crimea signals a deepening freezing of relations between the world lone superpower and one of its rivals for international supremacy.

The United States won the first Cold War partly because the then-Soviet Union bankrupted itself by trying to out-muscle its American rivals. It didn’t have the resources to keep up. The United States won. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Russia emerged a damaged, highly corrupt nation.

What’s happening now in Ukraine isn’t the first such land grab that the Russians have completed. They did the same thing in Georgia in 2008. Ukraine’s unrest made Moscow nervous for the ethnic Russians in Crimea, which voted to secede from Ukraine.

Where do U.S.-Russia relations go from here? Into the tank, according to the New York Times.

The Times’s Peter Baker reports: “The decision by President Vladimir V. Putin to snatch Crimea away from Ukraine, celebrated in a defiant treaty-signing ceremony in the Kremlin on Tuesday, threatens to usher in a new, more dangerous era. If it is not the renewed Cold War that some fear, it seems likely to involve a sustained period of confrontation and alienation that will be hard to overcome. The next reset, if there ever is one, for the moment appears far off and far-fetched.”

Against this backdrop we have critics of President Obama pushing him to do more than he’s done. Obama’s response has been to rely heavily on international allies to join in condemning the Russians’ efforts to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty. Russia, of course, is having none of it.

What does the United States do? What can the lone superpower do? The hard reality is that our hands are tied, except to deny Russia involvement in high-level economic summits, such as the G-7 meeting about to occur next week in The Netherlands. It should be the G-8, but Russian strongman Vladimir Putin won’t be there.

The rivalry between the United States and Russia has just gotten a good bit frostier.

Vlad says U.S. crossed the line? What line?

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks to his parliament had me turning to my atlas.

He told Russian lawmakers that the United States and its allies “crossed the line” by imposing sanctions on Russia for its incursion into Crimea, a section of Ukraine.


I pulled my atlas out and looked at the map of Europe. Yep, there it was: Ukraine includes the Crimea Peninsula; it’s all part of the same sovereign country, or at least it was until Crimea seceded from Ukraine over the weekend.

Putin ordered thousands of Russian troops into Crimea to “protect” ethnic Russians there. He’s now officially recognized the creation of this new entity in southern Ukraine.

But he’s scolding the United States because we refuse to recognize the incursion — or invasion — of Russian forces into Crimea? We were “unprofessional”?

“We have to stop this Cold War rhetoric and realize that Russia is an independent nation … you have to respect those interests of Russia,” Putin told the parliament. True enough, Mr. Strongman/President. No one doubts Russia’s independence. What’s at issue here is why Russia seems to doubt Ukraine’s independence, just as it did in 2008 when it doubted Georgia’s independence when it sent troops into that former Soviet satellite republic.

Russia is in the catbird seat here. The international community can do only so much to Russia. There will be no military counter-offensive to boot the Russians out of Crimea, or air strikes against military facilities elsewhere in the massive country. There will be further economic sanctions and political isolation measures taken.

Putin can criticize the United States all he wants. We are, after all, the biggest of the big dogs seeking to pressure Russia to rethink its own interference in another nation’s internal struggle.

For him, though, to say the United States has “crossed the line” is laughable on its face.