Sunday, April 20, 2014


Remember the Berlin Crisis (1958/1963)?  Khrushchev was looking for a weak spot to make clear that the balance of power in Europe could be tilted in his favor.  President Kennedy increased the US defense budget, called up reserves and dispatched troops on the Autobahn through the Soviet zone.  Consequently, the Soviets got cold feet (as they were to do again in Cuba) ... but then was "then."

Ukraine is an altogether different case:  it sets moral conviction against strategic analysis, quoting Dr. Henry Kissinger.  Admittedly, Ukraine did not figure as a priority on the diplomatic agenda. The American President had boxed himself into the healthcare narrative, and the EU became a pawnshop for who was out and a migration nightmare for who was in. Putin was patiently looking for a spot of lesser resistance to start the restoration process of the former Soviet empire.  He thought that his moment had come following the Maidan protest in Kiev and after having made the assessment that President Obama and NATO would procrastinate.  Now this comes at a most unfortunate juncture, as the US administration is hostage to electoral priorities inside and seemingly unable to reassure allies worldwide, who doubt American leadership.

To be fair, despite remaining a major historical factor in Russia's DNA, elswhere Ukraine was considered as little more than folklore tourism (the Hutsul village of Yaremche) and a rather "bizarre" set of  P.Ms.  The folklore forgotten, a reality check is urgently needed. With the exception of the Russian Federation (which feels "at home" there) the EU and the United States are totally unprepared to face this sudden vortex.  Putin makes them run while he sets the pace. For him, Ukraine is a cornerstone for an almost neo-Tsarist territorial Wanderlust.

The Geneva "agreement" will probably be dead on arrival and frankly there is very little the West can do, since military intervention is a non-starter.  Besides, public opinion does not care that much about international rule of law which Putin has disposed of without bothering to excuse or explain. All this reminds us of painful historical precedents, but then like now the tide of indifference covers principle.

The cause, if there was such a thing, is lost.  Better to face the reality.   The West should concentrate on the Baltic states, Poland, and Moldova where NATO could show it is more than an alliance of countries which do not pay their dues.   Sea and air power have to be increased, Patriot missiles might have to be considered, joint military maneuvers have to be planned, sanctions shouls be broadened. This is important for NATO members and front line states, but it is equally urgent that observers worldwide notice that the timid have not taken over the Western psyche.  President Obama will have a lot of explaining to do to convince the Asians that the "pivot" is more than a "ToysRus" lolly pop. Meanwhile, we can kiss Ukraine goodbye!  The OSCE can be relevant for once, delivering the pallbearers for a funeral "announced".

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