Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ukraine, Crimea, Russia - What do we do?

The more I watch the media coverage on Ukraine, Crimea, and Russia the more irritated I am on what’s being said. More importantly, however,  is what’s not being said. No one is talking about what the long term repercussions of Russia’s actions are for the entire “World Island”.

Putin appears to be advocating an extremely dangerous foreign policy. He’s saying that ethnic identification is more important than citizenship.

In Putin’s mind if there’s a high ethnic population in a foreign country that gives the right to militarily annex territory from a sovereign nation. This foreign policy was on display in the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and now currently in Ukraine.

Be very careful with the box you’re opening up here Mr Putin. You’re stoking the flames of nationalism in an area that has seen this type of behavior before. Europe is already seeing the rise of several far right groups. The situation in Crimea has the ability to create an ethnic ripple that could reach both great oceans.
How long before the Chinese use this as a basis to annex parts of eastern Russia? The number of Han Chinese along Russia’s eastern border grows every year. How long before Azerbaijan uses their high number of ethnic Azeris inside Iran? What about the high amount of ethnic Hungarians in Romania? As history has shown all it takes is one charismatic leader to stoke the fascist flames.

No one seems too keen on providing the public with actual options. How can we as citizens demand any kind of action from our elected officials if we don’t understand what needs to be done? Quit with the clever catch phrases like “It’s a new Cold War” or “Putin out maneuvers the west” etc.

Well….what should the U.S./Western response be?

First of all Russia needs to be expelled from the G8 immediately. How they got in at all was a complete mystery. There’s nothing complex or dynamic with their economy. It’s a fossil fuel export driven cartel...that’s about it. Immediately offer the vacant space to China. This would send not only Russia a message but also to China as well. Reading between the lines China would know that their G8 membership could be stripped if their aggression in the East and South China Seas get out of control.
Second, the United States needs to increase their military footprint in NATO countries. Nothing major that would constitute a buildup on Russian borders. Just enough to show the eastern European countries that we’re committed to their security.
Third, the U.S. needs to immediately approve natural gas exports to western European allies, NATO members, and other countries Russia threatens with their energy monopoly. This would help to take away Moscow’s natural gas trump card, and buy some time for the southern gas corridor pipelines to be built (roughly in 2018).

Remember that having Putin so focussed on his periphery is a very good thing. I laugh when I hear people claim that Putin outmaneuvered the west on this. How? Besides the fact that Russia lost Ukraine the biggest loss is that he woke the United State’s up in an area he thought was secure. Putin was so comfortable with the state of affairs in the countries along his borders that he got greedy and began to meddle elsewhere. Iran, Syria, Egypt...all areas he was able to engage in with the stability of his periphery. Now he can’t devote so much attention there anymore.
If I’m John Kerry I’m advising the President to keep Putin focused on Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, etc. Don’t let the heat on this cool. While Putin’s eye is focused here we can go back to work elsewhere.

Russia is not a global superpower. They are however a strong regional power. The down side of a regional power trying to exert themselves throughout the globe is that they get over extended. This is what’s happening currently to Putin and why he’s currently on the defensive….not offensive.