Posted March 5, 2014
Putin’s Ukraine Invasion, Robert Gates, and Russian Roulette
By Arelya J. Mitchell, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief
The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway
I remember watching NBC’s Olympics coverage and watching Vladimir Putin and watching what was going on in Ukraine. I remarked to those around me: “When the Olympics are over, he’s is going to kick ass, and Mitt Romney is going to get the last laugh.”
I did not agree with Romney on much, but I was in perfect accord with him when he spoke of Russia and the Cold War. The political pundits and even the President himself had a field day with the one-time presidential candidate saying that he was out of touch with reality. I never felt the Cold War was over but rather was put in the refrigerator with the rest of the ice cubes.
Coincidentally before this Russian Roulette with Ukraine started I was finishing up a rough draft of my review of “Duty” by former Secretary of Defense Robert ‘Bob’ Gates. Because of my intense interest in Russia and being a Putin watcher, I was especially drawn to Gates’ chapters on America’s foreign policy relating to Russia and member nations of a collapsed Warsaw Pact. “Duty” covers only Gates’ tenure under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. (For the record, Gates has served under eight presidents).
You see, I’ve always thought of Czar Putin as a bastard, but a brilliant bastard. He thrives on underestimation. Presently, he has checkmated the U.S. and Obama. When the Czar comes out of this he either will be closer to sitting on a re-constituted Balance of Power scale or in fact sitting there.
If America’s foreign policy continues in its naïve Euro-centric mode of thinking which floats in that river called denial which allows the U.S. to get into major conflicts without reasonable exit strategies, China will be on the other end of that scale along with Russia. This nation cannot keep going to war and remaining on foreign territory for generations then look up and wonder why it’s hated, resented, and why guerilla tactics are geared up to drive out America. Practically every Euro-nation has had to learn this valuable lesson colonialism provided.
Also, if America’s foreign policy continues to define itself by whittling down a Defense budget with more regard to appeasing those who want to ‘give peace a chance’ rather than deal with the cold reality that there are those who want to take down Number One (U.S.A.) just to say they took down Number One. Having said this, any rational person wants peace and tranquility. Oh, if the world were comprised one-hundred percent of rational persons!
While in Bush’s administration, here’s what Gates says about Putin during the Georgian crisis: “The Russians had baited the trap, and the impetuous [Mikheil] Saakashvili walked right into it. The Russians, Putin in particular, wanted to reassert Russia’s traditional sphere of influence, including the Caucasus. I was asked by a reporter if I trusted Vladimir Putin ‘anymore’? I responded, ‘Anymore’ is an interesting word. I have never believed that one should make national security policy on the basis of trust. I think you make national security policy based on interests and on realities.’ I said to some of my colleagues privately that I’d looked into Putin’s eyes and, just as I expected, had seen a stone-cold killer.”
In reading “Duty” especially in light of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis, I am more than convinced that in the Obama administration those who had the expertise, knowledge and maturity about foreign policy constantly were either being undermined and/or sabotaged. I am convinced that Gates (along with a few others) had to get the hell out of Dodge to save his sanity if not his soul. Strong words from yours truly? Yes. Moving on.
One has to wonder what assessment Gates would make of current events; and by the same token I was wondering if he himself made a fatal flaw in thinking that Ukraine should not have been fast-tracked into NATO when he was in the first Bush administration.
He writes: “But moving so quickly after the collapse of the Soviet Union to incorporate so many of its formerly subjugated states into NATO was a mistake. Including the Baltic states, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary quickly was the right thing to do, but I believe the process should then have slowed…The Russians had long historical ties to Serbia, which we largely ignored. Trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching. The roots of the Russian Empire trace back to Kiev in the ninth century, so that was an especially monumental provocation.”
It would seem that not fast tracking Ukraine has come back to bite the U.S. in the buttocks.
To reiterate, now Putin has checkmated the U.S. and Obama. Granted this checkmate did not start with Obama but like it or not, Obama can use the same advice parents give their teenage daughters: As long as you’re the one left literally holding the bag, you’re the one who had better be the most responsible.
Of course, Czar Putin is correctly predicting that any U.S. –led sanctions placed upon it will backfire against the West. I believe he is right, because these sanctions rest in the sphere-of-empty words. Putin just might feel that he can hold out against any sanctions until after 2016 just to negotiate with a new president and to embarrass Obama. Besides, I would ascertain that our allies are tired of following America into seemingly non-ending wars. Putin is quietly chortling every time President Obama makes what can amount to no more than empty threats. Putin is mockingly saying: ‘What are you going to do? Fight three wars at the same time?’
Furthermore, don’t think Putin has not looked at how many American generals and others with high military rank have been behaving badly? And why is the military morale so low? There is a reason for this that the President/Commander in Chief needs to examine along with a nation which has been disrespecting its soldiers since Vietnam.
Yes, the real truth—long before Obama took office—is that America has been looking like a ‘loser’ on the war front since Vietnam. In international relations, perception is a very determinate variable in any realistic framework of analysis. That variable eventually morphs into an indicator—into a measurement-- to determine the effectiveness of a foreign policy. America’s foreign policy is murky at best; indefinable at worse.
The global stock markets are precarious with this crisis of a renewed – yes—Cold War. But in the 21st Century it is beyond me why the international money makers (e.g. multi-national banks and companies) are not formally thrown into the mix in determining foreign policy—here or in Russia, for I am sure if I were a little birdie on the wall, Putin, who is one of the world’s wealthiest people, has received clandestine calls or messages from his fellow billionaires and zillionaires who are watching their purses on the monetary global front. Why the world’s ‘One Percent’ is not viewed as more of a substantial player in the international relations framework of analysis has puzzled me. I feel underneath this crisis, this player might be the catalyst to slow down Putin, seeing that his personal billions are at stake because unlike his old communist Russian counterparts, Putin is the new hybrid of capitalism and communism. He is the communist poster child for Adam Smith. He’s learned well the lesson from that Chinese model of capitalism with a red twist. Yes, money makes the world go ‘round. Unfortunately.
Gates writes the following on the suggestion of any sanctions tactics during Russia’s Georgian invasion: “…President Bush and all his senior advisers knew that if we took strong unilateral political and economic action against Russia, we ran the risk of the United States, rather than the Russians, becoming isolated over the invasion. A statement by the European Union criticizing the invasion by [sic] was predictably tepid. So as much as most of us wanted strong action against Russia, we suppressed our feelings and agreed to march in lockstep with our NATO allies…”
Putin’s fatal flaw might have been in not moving quicker to hem up Ukraine. In hindsight, when the Soviet Union collapsed the U.S. should have moved quicker (contrary to what Gates asserts) with rough edges and all to lead those Soviet “subjugated states” into NATO. After all at that time, what could Russia have done? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. This time if Czar Putin had moved quicker, with all due respect, what could the United States have done? Nothing. Absolutely nothing but bitch (which is all it is doing presently coupled with Secretary of State Kerry offering a weak Ukraine government $1 billion in aid). To reiterate, this nation cannot fight three wars? Europe wishes to do no more than pay lip service in the form of sending in some team to investigate Ukraine’s complaint (I am sure Putin is chuckling over that!) after all is said and done, pretty much like Gates summed up during Russia’s 1968 invasion of the Czechoslovakia crisis regarding sanctions: “As horrified as the Europeans said they were by the brutal invasion, for them, everything was back to business with the Soviets within three or four months.” So it will be in 2014.
Even if Putin were to half-step back, he still comes out smelling like an international proverbial rose because he at least has the façade of being a winner—of being a leader—of being a czar. Like him or not. He is theoretically closer to bringing back the Balance of Power. All because America has an administration which was caught with its pants down due not to an earnest blunder but due to an arrogance of a new generation of powerniks who are more adept to working social media technology than working real time in international politics which old fogies like Putin and Gates who can put them out to pasture on “Animal Farm” with their knowledge base.
How do you Tweet ‘screw up’?