Recent events in Crimea carry political consequences in the United States, calling the Obama administration to action in response to Vladimir Putin’s show of strength in the region. Already fettered by friction due to Edward Snowden being granted asylum by Russia last year, and noted diplomatic discord between Obama and Putin since they have shared the world stage, negotiations have gone nowhere between the two leaders.
According to some pundits, Obama has no leverage in this game of chicken, due to his wavering on the Syrian chemical weapons issue last year. What they fail to understand, however, is that Putin has a long history of human rights abuses and it should be no surprise to see his emboldened behavior in this case; regardless of Obama’s diplomatic prowess. The situation is complicated, and while we may be in the early stages of the conflict, Putin appears to be rolling onward with his agenda, despite the Obama administration’s attempts to rein him in.
An important lesson for Obama, which he appears to be coming to terms with, is that President Bush’s foreign policy yielded many of the same characteristic responses from Putin as those seen by the current President’s administration. As much as Republicans would like to point out differences between the two Presidents’ approaches, it is hypocritical to say Bush’s diplomatic track record with Putin was any more successful than Obama’s (outside of Bush gazing longingly into Putin’s eyes to see the soul of a man after his own heart. – Mugsy)
Simply put, Putin’s justification for acting in Ukraine is to protect the rights of native Russians settled there, in the face of attacks from Ukrainian nationalists. On the other hand, Crimea is of strategic importance, so it is easy to extrapolate motivations beyond protecting human rights. Putin does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Kiev government, so he claims his actions are reasonable and just.
President Obama has initiated diplomacy by phone, recently issuing a warning of sorts, which appears to have fallen flat. To conservative analysts, Obama’s true message is that we will not intervene in the affair; prompting Putin to disregard the President altogether. While the President spoke of consequences, the political right believes him to have patronized Putin and weakened United States foreign policy. Unfortunately for detractors, Putin’s past behavior mirrors his agenda here, so hanging the Obama administration out to dry for foreign policy failures does little to acknowledge Putin’s tendencies to act unilaterally and aggressively.
Abuse of Power Plagues Putin
Putin retains leadership in Russia as a result of his own willingness to abuse power. After serving two terms as President, he became Prime Minister only to transfer the powers of government to his new position. After Putin regained the presidency in 2012, term limits were extended; cementing Putin’s iron-fisted rule for years to come.
Based on centralized control of elections and media, Putin’s legacy is one of “power at any price”, including the lives and well-being of his countrymen.
Putin [and his cronies - editor] is believed to have siphoned billions off of the Russian economy for himself; distributed across Europe among a myriad of business ventures, to launder the funds. (As we saw with the “SuperBowl Ring” dust-up last year, Putin clearly takes whatever he wants. – Mugsy) Since gaining power in 2000, independent television does not operate in Putin’s Russia. Instead, conditions resemble Soviet-era control of media and other segments of society. Political opposition is quashed and foreigners are expelled at the whim of Russian leadership. Even the way local government is established favors Putin. By replacing elected governors, and local representation, Putin extended central control by creating a system where regional leaders are appointed by the Kremlin.
As clear as the autocratic message has been from Putin, there is another case-study showing exactly how the Ukrainian situation is likely to unfold. Putin’s invasion of Georgia provides a blueprint to study, furnishing valuable insight into what we can expect in today’s Ukrainian conflict. In 2008 Putin relentlessly bombed Georgia, despite warnings from the West. Eventually he reached accord with the European Union to cease occupation there, but never really complied. There are many similarities present in the prevailing actions of Putin in Crimea, which show no signs of shifting significantly.
To understand where Putin is headed, Obama detractors and the President himself should lean heavily on the Russian President’s history of transgressions, for clues. Republicans’ politicizing the Ukrainian issue at home ignores Putin’s potential to act aggressively and unilaterally, despite the United States’ stance. Even in opposition to the present administration’s foreign policy, Republicans need to see Putin for who he is – looking to the similar way the Russian leader treated Bush over Georgia. For Obama, the clear lesson to be learned is that despite diametric foreign policy divides between he and Bush, both leaders have seen the same Putin.
Addendum by Mugsy
In keeping this post current, I felt it necessary to comment on recent events.
Crimea voted to rejoin Russia over the weekend. In a landslide victory typically only seen in Communist dictatorships, Crimeans voted overwhelmingly, “95.7%”, in support of rejoining Russia. While the outcome was never really in doubt, Russia still felt it necessary to intimidate its critics, with one local man showing an NBC Nightly News reporter flyers that were being posted in his neighborhood alerting local residents that “a traitor” lies in their midst’s.
I couldn’t help but be reminded, oddly, of the Watergate Break-in. The 1972 Presidential campaign was going just awful for Democrats and there was little doubt that President Nixon would win
Republican critics on the major network news talk shows yesterday continued to repeat the latest nonsense talking point that some apparent display of “weakness” by President Obama in dealing with Syria, that only Republicans and
The Rachel Maddow Show last week also picked on on Putin’s “pattern of behavior” and what to look out for next:
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