It’s been grimly amusing to watch the Liberal-Left grapple with Putin’s invasion of the Crimean Peninsula: “It’s a mistake“, “What are their aims / sure to backfire“, and the general slackjawed confused incredulity coupled with indignation and condemnation. We’re seeing something like a cascade effect; yes, they’re ticked off at Russia, but also the Obama Administration, and not just for this instance, but for the botched diplomacy of the last five years. “Reset Button” indeed.
It’s the reaction of the Liberal-Left to this geopolitical crisis which I find surprising. Yesterday, in a stunning editorial (“President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy” – Editorial – WaPo – 2014-03-02) – which in terms of content or tone could have appeared in almost any mainstream right-wing blog or magazine – the WaPo seems to have suddenly realized what the right-wing has been saying for years and years, even before Obama was elected POTUS. Not that they’ll give due credit to them for being correct; recall that Romney, Palin, McCain, and even W were castigated and mocked by these lefties as being stupid throwbacks who were still stuck in the Cold War. Just a week ago the editorial board of the NYTimes was lauding proposed cuts to our military budget, the better to fit our modern era of peace (“A Military Budget to Fit the Times” – NYTimes Editorial – 2014-02-25); now they’re outraged at the military aggression of Russia (“Russia’s Aggression” – NYTimes Editorial – 2014-03-02). That’s not to say that they’ll connect those dots, but they do seem to be converging.
It seems to me that what Russia is doing is plain. They have a major naval base in Crimea and they want it back; not directly annexed into the Russian Federation, per se, but under the control of a puppet government, much as satellite states such as the whole of Ukraine were under the Soviet Union. Ukraine is unable to resist them; militarily they are vastly inferior and would be defeated should they attempt to take back Crimea by force (and note well that it is this Ukrainian military weakness which has invited Russian military aggression). In the event that they were to try to do so anyway Russia may very well take more of their territory, perhaps to the extent of militarily overthrowing the new government and installing a puppet regime over the whole of their country. Europe is beholden to Russia for their oil and natural gas and so are unlikely to impose meaningful or long-lasting sanctions to punish Russia; Russia would likely retaliate economically by raising their prices, or even curtailing supply. The United States has little economic leverage with Russia so economic sanctions on our part are essentially toothless. What’s more (for those Lefties playing along at home), let me point out that Russia is on the U.N. Security Council and will veto any binding resolutions against them.
So is Russia making a mistake? Doesn’t look that way to me. They got to keep a chunk of Georgia they took in 2008, and now they’ve bitten off a hunk of the Ukraine, and there’s little anyone can do about it. The Russian stock market is down and the Ruble continues to slide, but the economic loss so far has been comparatively negligible since declining Russian economic fortunes have had more to do with the decline in pricing of petroenergy than anything else; on the whole, so far, they’ve gotten Crimea for a bargain. That looks like a win for Russia.
In the West, mugged by reality, Liberals seem genuinely surprised. It’s like they’re awake now, after a long dream about unicorns and rainbows – let’s see how long it takes for them to nod off again. In the meantime I think this is an excellent opportunity to approach the non-aligned countries of Eastern European with talks on strengthening our economic and military ties.