Edward Luce at the Financial Times writes Putin cooks up Obama’s chicken Kiev moment:
In the dying days of the Soviet Union, President George H W Bush gave a speech in Kiev urging Ukrainian nationalists not to provoke Moscow. US conservatives dubbed it his “chicken Kiev” speech. Having long since been branded America’s appeaser-in-chief, President Barack Obama now confronts his own chicken Kiev moment. Can Mr Obama stand up to Vladimir Putin, the Russian fox circling the chicken coop? It is unclear whether he has the will and the skill – let alone the means – to do so. Yet the future of his presidency depends on it. There can be little doubt that Mr Putin wants to restore the boundaries of the Russian empire. Mr Obama must somehow find a way to frustrate him. [...]Matthew Rothschild at The Progressive writes On Russian Aggression and U.S. Hypocrisy:
Everything that Mr Obama wants—nation building at home, a nuclear deal with Iran, a quiescent Middle East and the pivot to Asia—hinges on how he responds to Mr Putin. At the start of his presidency, Mr Obama offered to “reset” US-Russia relations. That is now in tatters. Along with many others, Mr Obama has consistently underestimated Mr Putin’s readiness to challenge the status quo. As recently as last Thursday, the White House dismissed predictions of a Russian incursion into Crimea. In a 90-minute phone call on Saturday, Mr Putin hinted to Mr Obama he was prepared to extend Russia’s Crimean occupation into eastern Ukraine. It would be naive to assume he will not.
What can Mr Obama do to prevent it? His starting point must be to ignore the chicken hawks in Washington. Threatening a military response—as Mr Obama’s most trenchant critics are now urging—would be manifestly absurd. There is no US military solution to the crisis.
I just saw John Kerry on Face the Nation about Russia’s invasion of the Crimea, and he was in full indignation mode, saying it was against international law, against the U.N. Charter, and a violation of Crimea’s sovereignty.You can find more pundit excerpts below the fold
But who is the United States to object?
We’ve repeatedly violated international law and other county’s sovereignty as recently as the Iraq War (with John Kerry himself voting in favor of it). And the list prior to that is very long, including direct U.S. invasions of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Dominican Republican, Cuba, Haiti (several times in the twentieth century), Nicaragua (ditto), Panama and Guatemala. The U.S. has also supported coups from Brazil, Paraguay, Iran and Chile to Ghana and the Congo, and it has supported invasions by allies such as Indonesia into East Timor, Saudi Arabia into Bahrain and Israel into Lebanon. (For a more comprehensive list, see William Blum’s “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.)
This record of illegal U.S. interventions makes Kerry’s denunciations of Russia’s aggression ring extremely hollow.
The Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times states Putin plays with fire in Ukraine:
Secretary of State John F. Kerry is right: Russia's deployment of troops in Crimea is an "incredible act of aggression" that violates express promises Russia made two decades ago to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity. If Russia doesn't reverse course, the United States and countries in Europe should impose economic sanctions. But even as they weigh such measures, the United States and its allies must be willing to show Russia that its concerns can be resolved, in Kerry's words, "according to the standards of the 21st century."Simon Tisdall at The Guardian sneers that the West's puny response to Ukraine crisis will not deter Vladimir Putin:
Some of those concerns are legitimate. Ukraine's elected, pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovich, was driven out of office by his own people even after he agreed to reforms and early elections. The forces now in control in the capital of Kiev include some ultranationalists who are hostile to Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Russians remember how Russian-speaking minorities in other former Soviet republics were targeted for discrimination after independence was achieved.
Barack Obama has sternly warned Vladimir Putin there will be "costs" for Russia if it continues or expands its military intervention in Ukraine. But the American president did not specify what these costs might be, and this toothlessness, in a nutshell, is the dilemma now facing the US and its allies. Putin does not fear the west. On the contrary, he is once again forcefully demonstrating his deep contempt.[...]Bob Dreyfuss at The Nation writes Vladimir Putin Must Back Down:
Even if Obama did want to pursue a military option, he would be hard put to make it credible. US forces in western Europe have been cut back repeatedly. The US sixth fleet, headquartered in Naples, is a considerable weapon. But to make any sort of impact in Ukraine, it would have to deploy into the Black Sea via the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, a move that Turkey would find highly objectionable, and which Russia would regard as a direct threat. [...]
o what can Obama do? He needs Russian help with key foreign agenda items – Iran and reducing nuclear proliferation. He needs Moscow if the Syrian war is ever to be halted. He is short of cash. And, it can be assumed, he lacks public support from a war-weary American public for any new foreign adventure.
It’s outright war propaganda. A statement from Moscow described Putin’s call with President Obama thus:The Editorial Board of The New York Times challenges Russia’s Aggression:“In response to the concern shown by Obama about the plans for the possible use of Russia’s armed forces on the territory of Ukraine, Putin drew attention to the provocative, criminal actions by ultra-nationalists, in essence encouraged by the current authorities in Kiev … The Russian President underlined that there are real threats to the life and health of Russian citizens and compatriots on Ukrainian territory. Vladimir Putin stressed that if violence spread further in the eastern regions of Ukraine and in Crimea, Russia reserves the right to protect its interests and those of Russian speakers living there.”The trick for President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry is to create a face-saving way for Putin to accept the fact that Ukraine, including the disputed Crimea, isn’t Russia’s any longer, and neither the Russian empire nor the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics exist any longer. And the venue has to shift to the United Nations.
There was a lot to criticize about the way President Viktor Yanukovych’s government was thrown out in Ukraine and hurriedly replaced with an interim team. The victorious opposition should have known how critical it was to reassure all groups in that country that their rights would be respected in any new order; instead, one of the Parliament’s first actions was to abolish a law that ensured a legal status for Russian and other minority languages, thus raising fears among Russian speakers that Ukrainian nationalists were taking over.The Editorial Board of The Washington Post, so eager to get the U.S. military into Iraq a dozen years ago, calls the president weak on foreign policy without actually using that word in President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy:
Yet none of this justifies Vladimir Putin’s cynical and outrageous exploitation of the Ukrainian crisis to seize control of Crimea, nor any other power grab he may be hatching. The United States and the European Union have few effective levers short of military force, which is not an option, to compel President Putin of Russia to back down, but they must make clear to him that he has stepped far outside the bounds of civilized behavior, and that this carries a steep price in international standing and in economic relations. Whatever else they do, the Western powers must provide prompt and substantial assistance to the Kiev government, whose treasury was left bare by Mr. Yanukovych.
The White House often responds by accusing critics of being warmongers who want American “boots on the ground” all over the world and have yet to learn the lessons of Iraq. So let’s stipulate: We don’t want U.S. troops in Syria, and we don’t want U.S. troops in Crimea. A great power can become overextended, and if its economy falters, so will its ability to lead. None of this is simple.David Ignatius at The Washington Post writes Putin’s error in Ukraine is the kind that leads to catastrophe:
But it’s also true that, as long as some leaders play by what Mr. Kerry dismisses as 19th-century rules, the United States can’t pretend that the only game is in another arena altogether. Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan—these still matter, much as we might wish they did not. While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding. In the long run, that’s harmful to U.S. national security, too.
As Mr. Putin ponders whether to advance further—into eastern Ukraine, say—he will measure the seriousness of U.S. and allied actions, not their statements. China, pondering its next steps in the East China Sea, will do the same. Sadly, that’s the nature of the century we’re living in.
Vladimir Putin has made a mistake invading Crimea, escalating a crisis for Russia that has been brewing for many months. It might have been beneficial if President Obama could have dissuaded him from this error. But Putin’s move into Crimea appeared to spring from a deeper misjudgment about the reversibility of the process that led to the breakup of Soviet Union in 1991. The further Russia wades into this revanchist strategy, the worse its troubles will become.David Sirota at In These Times writes—The Real Welfare Queens:
The Russian leader’s nostalgia for the past was on display at the Sochi Olympics. As David Remnick wrote last week in the New Yorker, Putin regards the fall of the Soviet Union as a “tragic error,” and the Olympics celebrated his vision that a strong Russia is back. That attitude led Putin to what Secretary of State John Kerry described on Sunday as a “brazen act of aggression” and a “violation of international obligations.”
Entitled “Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent,” the report from the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First shows that the world’s largest companies aren’t models of self-sufficiency and unbridled capitalism. To the contrary, they’re propped up by billions of dollars in welfare payments from state and local governments.Bob Lefsetz at The Guardian gets deep into Academy Awards hate with his The Oscars are a forgettable pageant for the 1%. Good luck changing that:
Such subsidies might be a bit more defensible if they were being doled out in a way that promoted upstart entrepreneurialism. But as the study also shows, a full “three-quarters of all the economic development dollars awarded and disclosed by state and local governments have gone to just 965 large corporations”—not to the small businesses and startups that politicians so often pretend to care about.
In dollar figures, that’s a whopping $110 billion going to big companies. Fortune 500 firms alone receive more than 16,000 subsidies at a total cost of $63 billion.
The official theme for this year’s Oscars is “heroes”. Once upon a time, movie stars were heroes, people we looked up to, tried to emulate. Now they’re all self-satisfied pricks we denigrate, except for those few who transition to television and do real work.
Kind of like Kevin Spacey, hanging it out there in Netflix’s House of Cards, which is more dangerous than American Hustle and more truthful. Oh, I like Jennifer Lawrence—who doesn’t?—and Christian Bale did a masterful job, but where’s the deeper meaning?
Entertainment. Made to play around the world. Dumbed down so far beyond comprehension that even Americans are flummoxed.