So. Crimea has had its vote, and the US looks weak, thanks to our community-organizer-cum-president. Regarless of all the rhetoric there is nothing that can be done about the Crimea situation at this point. The US certainly cannot serve up Putin a military solution, even by proxy. We are tired of war and while we would gird our loins for yet another war if it were necessary for the defense of America, the fact is that we have no compelling national interest in “fixing” the Crimea situation. At this point its too late anyway. The deed is done.
It IS in our national interest to prevent the partitioning of eastern Ukraine, however.
How is that? Its because of an agreement we have with Ukraine, the Budapest Memorandum, signed in 1994 by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia. According to the US State Department, the memorandum’s purpose is:
Under its terms, the three parties commit to refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
FULL TEXT OF THE BUDAPEST MEMORANDUM CAN BE FOUND HERE
In return, Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear weapons, remnants of the old Soviet Union, which it had considered keeping, mainly as a defense against Russia. Were the US fail to keep its end of the bargain and Russia were allowed to take over Ukraine as well as Crimea, the remaining former Soviet bloc countries would in all likelihood work to develop nuclear arms to defend themselves against Russia as they would feel the US was not going to be of assistance.
The world is currently on the verge of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East because of the Iranian march toward having a nuclear weapon. The world…and the United States…doesn’t need another nuclead arms race in eastern Europe, so it is in our national interest to uphold our end of the bargain in the Budapest Memorandum. It is also in out national interest to do so without a direct or proxy war with Russia.
The solution is simple. Not easy, but simple.
First we must recognize why Putin would want to annex Ukraine. His reasons are both psychological and practical (from the Russian perspective).
On the psychological side, Putin is highly narcisstic and very nationalistic…and he is an ex-KGB agent who longs for the old days of the Soviet Union. He is a man who is actually sorry that the Cold War ended. Pre-Obama, every west backed success of newly free countries that were under the thumb of the Soviet Union prior to its breakup he takes personally as a poke in the eye. He knows…and enjoys…how to play hardball.
From a practical standpoint, Russia is a failing state and Putin knows it, and being extremely nationalistic he is willing to do anything to save Mother Russia. Look at what he has to work with:
- For all its size, Russia’s military is a paper tiger. While its military numbers about 766,00 active members, they are poorly paid, poorly trained mostly conscripts, with the exception of the few members who must be highly trained, like fighter pilots. With the exception of its nuclear arsenal, useful only if you wish to bring about MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) Russia is very weak militarily.
- Russia has very little to offer the world beyond a fairly decent sized amount of oil and natural gas reaserves. Without a ready market for those reserves, and an easy, economical way to deliver the goods to that market (like the pipelines to its European customers…that go through Ukraine) Russia’s economy will collapse. Based only on the unrest of the last month or two the ruble has fallen about 10% in value in that short period.
- Russia’s population is dwindling…fast. Russia’s death rate has exceeded its birth rate by about 1 million people a year since the early 1990’s. Through the end of the last century this was largely offset by an influx of immigrants, mostly people from countries formerly allied with the former Soviet Union that were unhappy about its breakup and wanted to remain a part of Russia. That influx is over and the deaths exceeding births is really showing in the polulation drop, which is now exacerbated by a flood of people leaving Russia.
So, in Russia what you have is a country marginally able to conduct conventional war, whose economy is weak and getting weaker and depends on pipelines running through Ukraine, who has very little to offer to the world to make itself relevant, with a dwindling population growing more and more unable to sustain the motherland internally, all of which is wrapped up in a country that Putin the nationalist loves with all his being. He sees the salvation of Russia to be the reconstruction of the old Soviet Union by bringing the old soviet bloc states back under Russian influence and rule as much as possible, dragging them kicking and screaming if necessary.
And…we must remember, to Putin a return to the Cold War would be a good thing.
The 4 step plan to stop Russian expansion to the Ukraine…and beyond
- Step 1a. Sanctions with teeth
Based on the Crimea annexation (forget the bogus election. Russia has annexed Crimea) Obama and the State Department announced sanctions against Russia yesterday (March 18)…or did they?
Not really.The US…and only the US…sanctioned 11 individuals (7 Russians and 4 Ukranians), freezing their US assets. Just what those alleged assets are hasn’t been announced, but just how severe could actions against individuals, not the government, be? Just what have we “frozen”? A penthouse apartment in NYC?
Just what sanctions would actually have an effect?
A total freeze (not confiscation, just freeze until the resolution of the situation in favor of US interests) of all things Russian, from Russian personal assets to Russian corporate assets to Russian government assets in the United States and across our European allies.
That last part…across our European allies…is problematic, but the problem is easily solvable. The European Union gets a third of its oil and gas from Russia through the pipelines crossing Ukraine, and currently sees no way to replace those supplies, so they will not pressure Russia in any effective manner for fear of Russia cutting off their oil. That leads to step 1b
- Step 1b. Drill baby drill, and announce it loudly
The United States sits on more oil and gas reserves than Russia and Saudi Arabia combined. The operative phrase here is “sits on”. Thanks in part to Obama’s dislike for most viable forms of energy production, but especially oil, gas, and coal, a resource that could make the United States totally independent of other countries (Saudi Arabia) for its emergy needs and it could easily supply the Europeans’ oil and gas needs as well.
An announcement, followed by actions demonstrating that we are serious, that the United States is going to begin an energy policy that takes advantage of the resources we have here, and that those resources will be shared with our European allies, would allay their fears of losing Russian energy.
As an added benefit it would cause the immediate drop in market oil prices because OPEC and specifically the Sausis would lose their stranglehold on the world’s oil supply.
- Step 2. Immediately arm the Ukrainian Army.
Last week, the leaders of the new Ukrainian government came to Washington asking for help. They did not ask that we send troops. They did not ask that we send military advisers. They did not ask for anything coming even close to “boots on the ground”. All they wanted was one thing…Military hardware that would allow them to defend themselves against Russian aggression.
Instead, we gave them food.
The extent of our military assistance is MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Nobody in their right mind… Nobody with any common sense… Would think that MREs were of any use whatsoever in stopping Russian aggression. That policy needs to be changed immediately, and the United States should arm the Ukrainians.
- Step 3. The new Ukrainian government favors closer ties with the West and with the European Union.
Ukrainian membership in the European Union should be strongly encouraged (including using behind the scenes pressure) to immediately accept the Ukraine into the EU).
- Step 4. Encourage Ukrainian membership in NATO.
Ever since the breakup of the Soviet Union Ukraine, along with most of the former Soviet bloc states, has been hesitant about forming ties with other countries. Given its Soviet Union experiences, it is understandable that Ukraine would be hesitant to do anything that might have an effect on its autonomy. In the past, it has displayed a hesitancy towards even thinking about joining NATO.
Keeping that in mind, the United States should quietly encourage Ukraine to apply for membership in NATO. At the same time we should be encouraging NATO to be welcoming to Ukraine (and any other former Soviet bloc countries, fearful of Russian aggression).
Results? Win, win, win. lose
The United States actually gets a double win. It will stop Russia’s further adventures among Ukraine and the remaining Soviet bloc states. Incursions like the one into Crimea will end. Also, US standding around the world and more specificly in east and west Europe will rise. It will serve our national interest.
The United Kingdom and the rest of Europe win because they will be assured of a supply of oil and gas without having to fear Russia and Putin cutting them off for real or percieved slights.
Ukraine and the rest of the former Soviet bloc countries win because they will be assured that they will not become Russia’s next annexation target.
Russia and Putin lose. The move will finish destroying their economy and will leave them unable to go on these adventures in order to assuage Putin’s ego.
And the chances of this are…
To use a cheesy old saying, the chance of Obama doing any of this is slim to none, and Slim just got on his horse and left town.