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President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013.
President Barack Obama and his administration are faced with hard questions about how to respond to Russian troops taking control of the Crimean peninsula. Nobody wants to go to war with Russia; at least, not even the usual congressional warmongers. But the general consensus is that Obama must do something, however weak American moral authority may be on this front. So what are Obama's options?

Pressure on Russia's international stature is a leading option:

In addition to Ms. Merkel, Mr. Obama spoke with his counterparts from Britain and Poland on Sunday and won agreement from all the other G-8 countries to suspend preparations for the Sochi meeting and find ways to shore up the economically fragile Ukrainian government. The administration also canceled a trade mission to Moscow and a Russian trip to Washington to discuss energy while vowing to also scrap a naval-cooperation meeting with Russia.
Working to isolate Russia not just as a nation among other nations but its citizens, particularly its elite, is another possible strategy:
Unlike being evicted from the G-8, a travel ban would impact Putin’s wealthiest supporters who have grown used to open access to the West. [...]

[Secretary of State John] Kerry couched a potential visa ban as something that would be taken by the “global community” and not just the United States.

Similarly, Kerry warned that Putin "may find himself with asset freezes on Russian business."

All of these options would require the Obama administration to line up enough other countries to give them teeth; it's one thing for Russian elites not to be able to travel to or send their kids to school in the U.S., but it's another to extend that ban to Great Britain, France, Germany, and so on. Not to mention that we've seen how well it works out when the U.S. tries to police the world with just the small handful of countries it can coerce into going along.

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Comment Preferences

  •  my plan (8+ / 0-)

    Pro-Russia Independent Republic of Crimea in exchange for a NATO base in Kiev

  •  Options? (14+ / 0-)

    What options?  Russia provides the natural gas that keeps the European economy going.  The Russians have more leverage in this situation than any other country or combination of countries.

  •  Russia just issued an ultimatum (12+ / 0-)

    Breaking from the BBC:

    15:15: Breaking News

    Russia's Black Sea Fleet has given Ukrainian forces in Crimea until 5:00 local time (03:00 GMT) on Tuesday to surrender or face an all-out assault, according to Ukrainian defence ministry sources quoted by Interfax-Ukraine news agency. "If by 5am tomorrow morning they do not surrender a real assault will begin on units and sections of the Ukrainian armed forces all over Crimea," defence ministry officials are quoted as saying. So far there is no further confirmation of the ultimatum from other sources.

    To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

    by dizzydean on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:35:17 AM PST

  •  without UN sanction and approval, the US (6+ / 0-)

    has no more legal right to do anything to a sovereign country than anyone else does.

    It's time the US gives up this idea that "international law" is only a weapon to be used against people we don't like, and to be blocked when used against people we DO like.

    We are not the ones who get to decide what happens to other sovereign nations. That's what we have a UN for.  And if the UN is unable to act (because five nations have given themselves veto power over the rest of the world), then it's time to change that.

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:37:18 AM PST

    •  And the moraliy... (10+ / 0-)

      Is not at all clear on this one.  The Crimea itself is already the home of a major Russian naval base, because the Crimea has been associated with/part of Russia for hundreds of years.  If news reports are at all accurate, a large majority of the people of the Crimea would rather be a part of Russia than Ukraine.  

      So what we would be starting a war for?  Not democratic ideals.  Is the territorial integrity of Ukraine worth fighting for?  Because that's all I see - Russia's not going into the Crimea to raze the cities.  They're securing one of their most important ports, and they're showing the cost of allying with the West instead of Russia.

      Please note I'm not saying what Russia is doing/did is right.  I'm just saying, we have to evaluate our own actions.

      And I'd like to point out that we're not acting as angels in this process, either.  Oh, what's that Ukraine?  You need financial assistance?  Sure, the IMF is happy to help - as long as you take the prescription the shock doctors are ordering.  

      •  The Charge of the Light Brigade (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        took place in the Crimea, as British and allied troops fought against a Russian takeover.

        That was middle of the 19th Century.

        Purity is for primaries; in the general, our worst are better than their best.

        by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:07:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hundred? Just barely. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Russia annexed the Crimean Khanate in 1783. They didn't actually deport the Crimean Tatars (and Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians,...) until 1944.

        The present ethnic composition of the Crimean peninsula is largely Stalin's handiwork.

        •  Generations? As old as the United States? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Perhaps I could have phrased it better.  

          Ethnic composition because of Stalin is a mess everywhere.  Populations were deported and resettled on a massive scale everywhere. So while your point is well taken, I don't know that it changes anything. In another twenty or so years, will there be anyone living that remembers the current cities under their old names and the people that used to live there?  

          This isn't just the Crimea - it's current Ukranian Lviv, former Polish Lvow.  It's former German Breslau, where in 1932 the Nazi's won 44% of the vote, today known as the Polish city of Wroclaw.   And of course it's even messier in areas directly controlled by the Soviet Union, where Stalin had a free hand to deport and exterminate people.  

          I don't know what we can or should do about these historic ethnic ties - but it seems like we have to proceed based on the way the world is today, not how it was in 1930.

          •  Morality (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            You were talking about the morality of criticising Russia's occupation of a region that was "associated with/part of Russia for hundreds of years." I would say, most strongly, that Stalin's ethnic cleansing does not convey moral rights to Russia.

            So no, I don't agree with your argument. I don't agree with your argument that facts on the ground conveys moral rights.

            •  Let me rephrase that point (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I'm not arguing Russia has a moral right to the Crimea.  I was examining potential moral justification for the United States going to war with Russia so that Crimea remains a Ukrainian territory.

              In other words - putting aside questions of legal borders - is Russia taking Crimea immoral?  There are lots of ways to answer that question - as my post suggested, I looked at it in the sense of both democratic self-governance and through historical tradition.    

              In 1992, the people of Crimea ditched the Soviet Union and joined Ukraine.  Now, it seems they want to join Russia.  Maybe they don't - we could have an election to find out!  But let's say they do - if democratic self-governance isn't our measurement of morality, how do we measure it?  

              Going back to the original question, is it moral to go to war with Russia to kick them out of Crimea, when the people of Crimea may be getting what they want?  I would say we'd have to figure out what those people want before we can make any moral case.  How would you measure the morality of going to war with Russia over keeping Crimea in Ukraine?

        •  Fate of the Crimean Tatars (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MPociask, native

          Mass Tatar emigration from Crimea began during the civil war under the last Khan, Shagin Girei, and intensified after the annexation of Crimea to the Russian Empire in 1783. The French diplomat Peysonnel estimated there were no more than 50,000 Tatar male souls left in Crimea in 1784. Over the next decades some Tatars migrated back to Crimea from other parts of the Ottoman Empire, but they remained a small percentage of the whole because of the huge scale of resettlement (of Russians, Greeks, Ukrainians, Moldovans, Gypsies, Jews, and Western Europeans) undertaken by the Russian Government.

          Most of the remaining Crimean Tatars were indeed deported by Stalin in 1944-1945, but the de-Tatarization of Crimea long predated him.

          Even at the peak of its power in the 16th-17th centuries the Tatars may have been a minority within Crimea, outnumbered by the Greek, Armenian, and Jewish millets and by the slaves they had taken from their raids into Poland-Lithuania, Ukraine, and Russia.

    •  Sure we do (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark, Yoshimi, schnecke21

      We can change things that we control. Access to our country. Access to our banks. Access to our financial markets.

      Block Russian businesses from using our banks, or buying our currency, or trading on our financial markets. Block us businesses from dealing with Russia, or having facilities there, or hiring or outsourcing there.

      That would hurt. Bad. Wouldn't be subject to anybody's approval.

      But I suspect Europe is more freaked out about this than we are, and would go along with similar restrictions on their end.

      Summer is coming. Not as much need for gas then. And Europe has a better alternative energy infrastructure than we do.

      •  that might be true if (10+ / 0-)

        "national borders" and "national economies" still meant something.

        They don't.  

        The lesson Russia is about to learn is that NO nation, no matter how big and mighty, is independent and sovereign anymore--EVERY nation is now utterly dependent upon a vast global economic network made up of corporations who have no countries.

        And if the US unilaterally imposes economic sanctions like that on Russian money, we will learn the same lesson, as the global economic network shits a brick over it--at us.

        We live in a global world now. Only global responses matter.

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:55:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I wish I could rec your comment a thousand times (6+ / 0-)

          This incident is a test of the world's ability to make collective decisions as a species. So far we're doing a shitty job.

          This is the era of global governance, as you said. There is nothing the US can do in isolation, unilaterally. There is nothing Russia can do in isolation, unilaterally. Obama cannot wave his hand and make this go away by himself, and neither can Putin. They're both stuck.

          If we can't handle this, no way we can handle climate change. Or reining in the power of global multinational finance. Or nuclear disarmament. Or disease control. Or dealing with the automation of the economy and advent of novel technologies like genetic engineering, which will reshape the human species.

          The future is not some distant, far-off thing. The future is now, here.

          "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

          by limpidglass on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:07:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  And what if Ukraine asks for our assistance? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Then what?

  •  President Obamas Options (5+ / 0-)

    1. Jack
    2. Squat

    In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry, and is generally considered to have been a bad move. -- Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    by boriscleto on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:37:54 AM PST

  •  Countries do not have moral authority (16+ / 0-)

    in reality. Countries have power, and either they employ it to moral ends or they do not. They always, of course, consider their own interests as well.

    Might does not make right, but it makes reality in times of conflict. Now, if that might (military or non-military) is applied morally, it may be more likely to find supporters, who add their might (military or non-military) and help the moral side win. That's how international relations works.

    •  And things get complicated if different nations (7+ / 0-)

      have different definitions of what constitutes "moral". Which is why the State Department and diplomats still matter.

      And why, again, a neo-conservative unipolar vision of the world where the US just creates reality by acting is one of the more profoundly stupid ideas of my lifetime.

      Purity is for primaries; in the general, our worst are better than their best.

      by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:12:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'd amend that to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They always consider their own interests first.  

      I mean just take a look at our own Constitution.  It's about us.  It's about our welfare.  It's about our defense.  What's it say about imposing morality abroad?  Crickets.

    •  From the Russian (Putin) point of view, as I've (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MPociask, Ian Reifowitz, native

      seen written in the media, protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine has been expressed in terms of being a moral rationale, in addition to all of the political, economic, and strategic arguements.
      Morality has more often than not been the rallying cry of nations, when the usual suspects, assertion of and desire of extension of power and wealth, are the true underlying reasons.  The U.S. and other countries are not without a history of the same.
      Preserving life, and finding resolution where the most defenseless are protected, is, to me, a far greater moral imperative than saving a country but decimating the population and reducing the infrastructure to useless, smoldering rubble.
      Cooler heads can chart a way.  That would leave out most of our elected representatives in Washington and across the country.  I'm glad that Obama is the one in the oval office; hate to think of the alternatives.  I reserve the right to disagree with what he does or doesn't do, just saying.  

  •  meanwhile, Lindsey Graham-Cracker (16+ / 0-)

    is calling Obama a wuss.

    Yes, mere HOURS after Russian troops entered the Crimea, A sitting United States Senator is blaming it on his president.

    "Legalizing pot won't make more pot-smokers. It will just make fewer criminals. - Me

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:38:39 AM PST

    •  Lindsey just needs to come out already (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      buffie, Darwinita, cskendrick, katiec
    •  Fair question (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You can't blame the President for Putin's actions.

      However, it is legitimate to raise the question - would Putin have been as likely to invade if a President who was "tougher" - e.g. Reagan or Dubya been in office.

      You can dislike the men I've mentioned, but they were certainly viewed as being more aggressive in facing down countries they perceived as being against American interests.

      Not saying that's a good thing or a bad thing. But, I'm going to guess that had one of them been in office Putin might not have been so willing to cross the border, because he would have been more concerned about a strong response.

      •  Bush was a "tough guy".... (11+ / 0-)

        ...and Putin still invaded Georgia.  I think it's a strawman argument.  Putin does what he wants.  I doubt he cares how strong the US is.  In fact, I think the US has been out of his calculus for years.

        Ukraine is a very big deal. They need our support.

        by LordMike on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:00:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Strong? strong enough to use the military threat? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          this is the nuke age, large powers cannot be confronted except with financial consequences

          "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

          by merrywidow on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:02:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Not in 2008 (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Subterranean, LordMike

          Bush had absolutely no support in 2008 for any military actions.. and the economy was in the crapper.

          One could actually argue that Putin waited for the perfect time, when Bush (and America in general) was at its weakest point and otherwise occupied with domestic woes.

          All that said.. I kinda agree that Putin does not consider President Obama a threat to his plans.  A President Romney would be facing the exact same scenario.

      •  Aside from nuclear weapons, what would a (6+ / 0-)

        "tough guy" do?

        Let me assure you that despite the fact that our naval fliers really are bad-ass, operating a carrier group in the Black Sea when the Russians don't want us to do so is a chancy thing.

        Once your carrier is within range of land-based aviation, the game is different. A carrier in the eastern Med is ruler of all it surveys. A carrier in the Black Sea a few hundred miles away is nervous.

        Purity is for primaries; in the general, our worst are better than their best.

        by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:14:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  What country did Reagan invade? (6+ / 0-)

        Granada. He only played a tough guy on TV.

        •  Sort of proves the point (0+ / 0-)

          Being Devil's advocate can be a lot of fun.

          Grenada is evidence that strength deters.

          Reagan was viewed as uber strong on defense and military issues.  The Russians were amazed he turned them down on missile reduction to keep Star Wars.

          No wanted to mess around with him because he would be willing to open up a can of US Air Force whoopass (e.g. Libya).

          Hence, he faced few military challenges because very few opponents to the US wanted to risk dealing with our likely military response - for example, when Reagan destroyed the Iranian navy in less than an hour after they put mines in shipping lanes (Fall, '87).

          •  Except for Beirut. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MPociask, highacidity

            He was a paper tiger - even Osama Bin Ladin thought so.

          •  Faced few military challenges? (0+ / 0-)

            Let's be precise with our language here. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was the last time a foreign government decided to mess with the United States with military force.  American military adventures since then have been mostly of our own doing.

            If you want to credit anyone as a tough guy, tip your hat to Harry Truman.  He's the only President who ever dropped the bomb on an enemy.  He also is the guy who showed the United States would intervene militarily, even against a Soviet supported state, when US interests were threatened, as in Korea.  

            What did Ronald Reagan ever do?  You think the Soviets were impressed by our invasion of Grenada, population 91,000?  

        •  And Bush invaded Panama (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          in order to sieze Noriega.

          The US only respects "territorial sovereignty" when it is convenient.

      •  OK, another question (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        If the neo-cons hadn't launched an UNPROVOKED INVASION of a sovereign nation thousands of miles from our borders based on lies and in defiance of Russian opposition and interests would Putin be so eager to push back in places where he has an interest in doing so?

        This may be in part his strong response to our flagrantly disregarding international law in Iraq.  Aggression is not a one way street.

        •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

          Yes, Putin would push back where he could.

          But, you also potentially invite more aggression by letting this slide.

          No easy answers out there.

          •  Consider how much the Russians have had to let (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MPociask, native

            slide over the last 25 years.  It's not surprising that there's some push back.  Russia has a legitimate interest in Crimea.  You have to choose your battles and understand where genuine interests and pride are at play.  That's how we avoided WWIII during the Cold War and the time we almost didn't was when the Soviets made the mistake of messing in Cuba which is a legitimate interest of the US being only 90 miles from our border.

      •  That is a legitimate question, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MPociask, highacidity, native

        but I'd suggest that the Bush administration's choice to invade Iraq, with all the dreadful consequences thereof for that country and for Afghanistan, made the U.S. military much less able than it would otherwise have been to do anything about this kind of invasion. As much as John McCain may have wanted us to intervene in Georgia, there was no practical way for us to do it at the time. Putin knew it and didn't hesitate to take South Ossetia despite Bush's phony aesthetic of toughness. Putin evidently thinks this business with Crimea will be the same thing all over again, and frankly I doubt there's much appetite among U.S. elites for a war with Russia, even if Graham's shooting his mouth off. Protracted wars in third-world countries are good for certain business interests, but NATO vs. Russia, well, not so much, no matter who the POTUS is.

    •  Graham is a drooling idiot. His "solution" (0+ / 0-)

      is for the US to deploy nuclear missiles on the Polish and Ukrainian borders with Russia.

  •  How about we NOT get involve in this? (6+ / 0-)

    It's only the other side of the world, and right on Russia's border. How about we mind our own business?

  •  When the fox (Putin) is circling the chicken coop (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the best option is to put a dog in the coop.

    That dog is Kerry. Would Putin invade a country while a high ranking US Official is visiting? I highly doubt it.

    •  yes he would (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      riprof, LordMike, eastsidedemocrat

      Everything in Putin's character and history says he will call the United States' bluff when it comes to the former Soviet Union.

    •  I think he would. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark, MPociask

      Kerry won't stop Russian tanks. I think Putin is looking to bask in the glory of a short victorious war to "liberate" the Russian citizens of Ukraine. He is driven by his own over-sized ego. If he is smart, he will annex Crimea and leave it at that, but I don't know if his ego will allow him to stop.  

      •  "Short Victorious Wars" are very dangerous things (0+ / 0-)

        For example, I'm not at all certain Poland will sit idly by if Russia invades Ukraine proper.  They have very good reason to hate Russia and fear her aggressive expansion.

        "It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said." "The War Prayer" by Mark Twain

        by Quanta on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:47:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Oh boy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, MPociask, native

      Prior to WWI, there was a conversation between British and French diplomats that went something like this:

      Brit: "What aid can Britain offer France in the event of war with Germany?"
      French: "One British soldier - and we will see to it he is killed immediately".

      If you want to guarantee that the US goes after Russia to the bitter end, put John Kerry in the Ukraine and have the Russians kill him. It turns your argument around; once the fox kills the guard dog, there's not much to do but unleash the dogs of war.

      Purity is for primaries; in the general, our worst are better than their best.

      by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:18:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is more of an EU problem (9+ / 0-)

    As far as Obama is concerned, less is more.

    This is not President Obama's problem.

    As I have said before, the Ukrainians elected a crook who robbed them blind (I'm being polite; he's also slaughtered a bunch of people).  His fleecing led to huge economic problems in the Ukraine about which the European Union did absolutely nothing to help float the Ukrainian economy. Viktor Yanukovych was then toppled, not by an election, but by far-right Ukrainian neo-Nazi thugs who hate Russian-speaking people (cuz, ya know, neo-Nazis are xenophobic and all that). Which has given the despot-like Putin to run to aid the despot-like Viktor Yanukovych and his supporters. And even the Yanukovych-Putin honeymoon is over.

    Putin looks tough to the locals there (and he is), but he has gotten himself into an ugly, messy quagmire.  The Russian rouble has it all time lows.

    All of which has nothing to do with President Obama.

    The Russian government did little but watch as the United States stupidly and illegally invaded and destroyed Iraq. Which was smart on Russia's part. Our Iraqi invasion cost the United States dearly in many, many ways. Now it's our turn to watch as Putin walks into the quicksand of Ukrainian politics.

    Failure to Publicize Acts of Hatred Only Allows Them to Fester and Metastasize.

    by BoxerDave on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:40:43 AM PST

    •  You're reading too much propoganda... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence, Hesiod, anonevent, Yoshimi, MPociask

      this "neo-nazi" BS has to stop.  There are neo-nazis in Ukraine as there are all over Europe, but they did not topple the president.  He was impeached by unanimous vote for embezzlement and firing at his own people.

      Ukraine is a very big deal. They need our support.

      by LordMike on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:55:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yep, neo-Nazis are in Europe... (0+ / 0-)

        ...and not just the Ukraine.  

        But I don't dismiss the reporting of The Telegraph (, The Daily Beast (, Max Blumenthal, or Libcom ( as being bullshit propoganda.  That's what the fascists want: the truth being seen as propoganda.

        Failure to Publicize Acts of Hatred Only Allows Them to Fester and Metastasize.

        by BoxerDave on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:15:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I must also point out that Putin is a Nationalist (0+ / 0-)

          One of the main opposition parties in Ukraine is indeed Nationalist but they aren't the majority and Putin is just as much a rightist as they are.

          "It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said." "The War Prayer" by Mark Twain

          by Quanta on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:52:10 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yep, that's a good point. (0+ / 0-)

            Putin certainly is a nationalist.  

            And you are referring to Ukraine's Svodoba party (, but don't let anyone try to dismiss them as consituting a small fraction of the Ukrainian political power.  Far from it:

            "In May 2013 "Svoboda", "Fatherland" and UDAR vowed to coordinate their actions during the 2015 Ukrainian presidential election.  In an opinion poll conducted on December 7–17, 2013, respondents showed that in a presidential election between Viktor Yanukovych and Svoboda leader Tyahnybok, results found that Tyahnybok would win with 28.8% of the popular vote, versus Yanukovych's 27.1%."

            In the Ternopil oblast council (in Western Ukraine), the Svoboda party has over one-third of the council seats.

            Svoboda's name was originally "The Social-National Party of Ukraine" and it was (according to wiki) "was an intentional reference to the Nazi Party in Germany," (see its original symbol at the wiki link). They also love Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.

            At present the Svoboda party's platform includes the publication of lists of all Soviet KGB agents that served or continue to serve in Ukraine, something that Putin will certainly not want (or tolerate if he has his way), and having a person's ethnic origin on passports and on birth certificates.

            So, yeah, two nationalist forces (Putin and the far-right Svoboda) is not at all going to be a smooth relationship. Not at all.

            Failure to Publicize Acts of Hatred Only Allows Them to Fester and Metastasize.

            by BoxerDave on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 12:46:19 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Well, the US elected Bush II--twice. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Does that mean the rest of us were responsible and should suffer for it?

      Otherwise, what you have to say makes sense.

    •  the parallels between Bush's Iraq are fascinating (0+ / 0-)

      A war of choice, a war of convenience, done more for political benefit back home than for any territorial or strategic gain.

      It will be interesting to see if Putin is satisfied with Crimea. Or if he decides to take more of Ukraine. In which case it will be interesting to see if the UN can respond to ensure that Russia doesn't try to reconstitute the USSR by military force.

    •  We also watched them walk into Afghanistan (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, mmacdDE

      That, in the long run, didn't work out so well for us.

      Purity is for primaries; in the general, our worst are better than their best.

      by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:19:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Putin hasn't walked into Ukrainian quicksand (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MPociask, native

      All he has to do is reinforce the Russian military presence in Crimea and defend Crimea against a possible Ukrainian invasion (very unlikely to happen).

      Its the US and the EU who have now walked into Ukrainian quicksand. They're now being expected to back up a Ukrainian government the composition and ideology of which is completely unclear; cough up the $35-70 billion needed to stabilize Ukraine's economy; arrange some kind of subsidy so Ukraine can still purchase Russian gas; come up with some kind of credible security guarantee, while shelving their agenda for dragging Ukraine into NATO (still opposed by a majority of Ukrainians, and likely to provoke a partition between western and eastern Ukraine).

      As long as Putin continues to act with restraint, limiting his actions to the defense of Crimea, he holds all the good cards.

      •  Uh, Crimea is Ukrainian territory (0+ / 0-)

        And Russia has done far more than just reinforce its bases.  They have seized control of the region and are threatening Ukrainian military forces on their own bases to surrender or be attacked.

        "It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said." "The War Prayer" by Mark Twain

        by Quanta on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:57:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, Russia has not done this. (0+ / 0-)

          That was an Interfax report quoting an un-named Ukrainian Defense official. It was not accurate and has been forcefully denied by the Russian Defense Ministry.

          •  .... and we believe the Russian Defense Ministry? (0+ / 0-)

            Gosh, who knew!

            I don't know whether they did or didn't but the fact is that I certainly wouldn't believe them.


            202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

            by cany on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 09:42:16 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  option 1: shit (3+ / 0-)

    option 2: shittier.

    "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

    by limpidglass on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:41:14 AM PST

  •  No Options (9+ / 0-)

    Some history is important here: Crimea, in particular, Sevastopol, represents the traditional, long-standing, warm water port for Russia. They will not let this go. Moreover, most of eastern "Ukraine" aligns to Slavic interests, while the western portion has traditionally been pro-germanic/austrian (evidenced by their willingness to temporarily side with the Germans in WWII to try to break free of Russian/Soviet influence). "Ukraine" as a country is more invention than not in the modern age.

    In short, this is not an American matter in the least and the best course is to urge Russian leadership to consider letting the natural division of peoples to split, retaining Russian control over their coveted warm-water port and eastern portion while allowing the western Ukrainians to follow their long standing hope of European alignment. Win-win.

    Any "military" thoughts should be put away by the west.

    •  I get tired of people saying... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...that it's not an American matter.  For Russia this is completely an American matter.  Ukraine is merely a proxy.  Now, we can ignore Russia's declaration of war against the US for awhile, but it will only get worse.  The Russians have involved us, whether we like it or not.

      Ukraine is a very big deal. They need our support.

      by LordMike on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:57:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  military thoughts should be put away period (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't see what purpose Russian troops are serving except to increase the likelihood of a war. Russia's interest in Crimea was never threatened.

      •  Well, there was some Russian intelligence (0+ / 0-)

        (not sure how accurate) of Pravy Sektor forming a secret alliance with Tatars, to the end of stockpiling weapons in Crimea. True or not, such a thing is well within the realm of possibility.

        •  There was some US intelligence about WMDs (0+ / 0-)

          Also "within the realm of possibility"

          But even if that rumor were true, a Russian invasion of Ukraine is quite a bit out of proportion?

          By all accounts the military and police in Crimea are very sympathetic to Russia. Why not just tip them off to this dastardly "stockpiling" and let them handle it?

          •  People keep saying "A Russian invasion (0+ / 0-)

            of Ukraine" when what has actually occurred is a Russian occupation of Crimea. And not really much of an "invasion" either, with most of the population sympathetic to the "invaders".

            Technically and legally, yes, perhaps Russia has invaded Ukraine. Or part of it anyway. But repeated use of that phrase distorts what is really happening, by making it seem more violent and aggressive than it actually is. It's inflammatory rhetoric, sort of like calling Putin a "thug".

            •  they will be greated as liberators (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              You'd prefer it be called an "Occupation"? This is like the Iraq War's greatest hits.

              Soldiers moved into a foreign country without permission and seized territory, buildings and infrastructure by dint of military arms.

              And not really much of an "invasion" either, with most of the population sympathetic to the "invaders".
              This is great. We should have a vote. "Is it OK if the guys with guns and tanks stay? Yes or no." I am sure the guys with guns and tanks can be trusted to administer that vote as well.

              I am assured there is a substantial population in Crimea that thinks of themselves as Russian. But I am not sure if they particularly like having Russian soldiers tromping around, seizing their airports and government buildings.

  •  EU then - Back off USA, Ukraine is our baby (5+ / 0-)

    EU now - Hey USA! What are you going to do about Ukraine!?

  •  The limits to American power (8+ / 0-)

    It is difficult to take a hard line when it is also difficult to operate a carrier fleet (or 5) in the Black Sea. Especially without Turkish cooperation, which may not be forthcoming.

    So if we can't just bomb them, now we have to think. And use soft power. And have allies. In other words, we have to hope that Obama has repaired enough of the damage done by the arrogant Bush / Cheney administration that we can build an actual effective coalition.

    I am curious what China's role in this will be. They don't usually want to follow our lead, but I am certain the idea of Russia seizing strategic terrain concerns them, given the length of the common border.

    Purity is for primaries; in the general, our worst are better than their best.

    by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:51:25 AM PST

  •  There are no good options... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue aardvark, greenbell

    Putin is a thug but I want to remind folks that---Ukraine is on Russia's doorstep and will always mean more to them than to us.

  •  Resist the War-Mongers! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ChuckChuckerson, native

    What goes on in Crimea is none of our business!
    If they have a civil war, let it be.  We need to keep our own big noses out of it!
    Mr. Kerry and Ms. Merkel are drumming the drums of war way too much.  They need to get a hold of themselves.

  •  Putin's elites don't want to be told they can't go (6+ / 0-)

    to their apartments in Paris or NYC.

    His rich people really run things, like they do here and maybe that is ultimately good

    "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

    by merrywidow on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:00:26 AM PST

  •  We can always say... (0+ / 0-)

    Hey - we were stupid and didn't learn from your debacle in Afghanistan. We should never have gone there.... or Iraq. But then you didn't learn from our debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan either. So THIS time - go right ahead and screw yourselves. Not a shot fired and you now have a new country to run, spend money on and try to rule. Hey! It might work. Good luck.  Don't call us... we'll call you - maybe. Russia has nothing the US needs or wants. It is foolish to even think we can bankrupt Russia again. We are now the ones who are militarily spendthrifts of the world. And Russia is not in a position of clout except with the Nukes it has.

  •  Russia conducting live fire exercises... (0+ / 0-) the Baltic.  You may not want a world war, but Russia may drag you in anyways.

    Hopefully, the NATO alliance holds or much of europe will simply be gone.

    Some are speculating that Putin has a brain tumor, which is why he's acting this way.

    Ukraine is a very big deal. They need our support.

    by LordMike on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:07:13 AM PST

  •  Whose "General Consensus" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    are you referring to here?

    But the general consensus is that Obama must do something, however weak American moral authority may be on this front.

    This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

    by lunachickie on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:10:20 AM PST

  •  If only the NSA had some way to spy on Putin (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike, blue aardvark, for example, intercepting his communications with commanders in the field. Or, intercepting communications in the Kremlin or the Duma.

    That sure would be handy right about now.

  •  Stay out of it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    stay out.  Not one more American child needs to die on overseas shores.  Let the Ukrainians and Russians sort it out one way or another.

  •  Liberals sound like the isolationists pre-WWII (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Let Hitler have France or Poland. It's none of our business. Why are we fighting Britain's war? It's their problem. Remember what happened last time we got involved? That was horrendous."

    And that was BEFORE knowledge of Hitler's mass atrocities became widespread.

  •  End sanctions on Iranian gas (4+ / 0-)

    Ship it to Europe through Turkey.   That what Putin fears most....

    A lot of world politics can be understood by realizing that while Russia has the world's largest gas reserves, Iran has the second largest.  

  •  Putin's chess game (4+ / 0-)

    Some members of the new Ukrainian government want Russia out of Crimea by 2017. What strategy could Putin use to secure the Russian Black Sea bases indefinitely?


    1) Ramp up troops in Crimea.

    2) Invade eastern Ukraine, ostensibly to protect Russian citizens there.

    3) Scare everybody into thinking Putin wants to take the whole of Ukraine.

    4) Then start talking about a reasonable compromise: a partition of Ukraine.

    5) When the world balks at a partition of Ukraine imposed by Russian military force, agree to a referendum process to decide the matter.

    6) As an act of good will, withdraw troops to Crimea, which is now universally recognized as under Russian control.

    7) No more talk of Russians out of Crimea by 2017. Black Sea bases secure indefinitely.

    American Presidents: 43 men, 0 women. Ready for Hillary

    by atana on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:15:24 AM PST

    •  Plausible (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fou, Subterranean

      Now since you've thought of this, so have various leaders in the EU, Ukraine, Turkey, and so on.

      Counter-moves are being readied, maybe even made.

      Putin is of course trying to anticipate and counter those counters.

      It may just come down to brute force, which the Russian army is pretty good at.

      Purity is for primaries; in the general, our worst are better than their best.

      by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:36:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  On the freezing of assets (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue aardvark, highacidity

    What's the legal bases for freezing the assets of private citizens (as opposed to the Russian government.)

    Other than that, I'm fine with what is described. All that said, I think the markets will have more influence than the US per se.

  •  Another option -- with moral authority. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue aardvark

    "We've been there, done that, and it didn't come out well. We learned a lot along the way. We have learned a lot from our mistakes and are willing to use that knowledge to help you out with the current situation"

    It is a face-saving way out for Putin AND one of the few ways we can actually exert moral authority here.

    Plus -- it doesn't require sanctions or anything else that could escalate the situation.

    Big weakness?

    It depends on Putin being reasonable. With so many Hitler parallels, I can't tell if he is or is not a reasonable man.

    George W. Bush thought so, but his opinion doesn't carry much weight in these parts.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:26:45 AM PST

  •  If there was (0+ / 0-)

    a way he already found out about it since he has they guy that will tell him how it was done.

  •  A thought (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Ukraine is stilling on top of vast shale gas reserves. Frack Ukraine, and you might have NATO independence from Russian natural gas.

    American Presidents: 43 men, 0 women. Ready for Hillary

    by atana on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:31:21 AM PST

  •  If Bush and Cheney were still in charge, (10+ / 0-)

    they would solve this problem by re-invading Iraq, cutting taxes on the rich, and telling the rest of us to go shopping.

    Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfu*king snows on this motherfu*king plain!

    by shoeless on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:34:38 AM PST

  •  Wesley Clark... (4+ / 0-)

    He actually ordered an attack on the Russian troops that took control of the Pristina, Kosovo airport in 1999, after they drove down from Bosnia. Lt. General Sir Michael Jackson refused the orders and told him, "I'm not going to start WW3 for you."

    Cooler heads prevailed, BUT...

    It took an underling to defy the order of the Supreme Commander of NATO for cooler heads to prevail.

    There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

    by upstate NY on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:36:42 AM PST

  •  Everyone should calm down and listen to Einstein. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wolf10, native, jessical
    I don't know how man will fight World War III, but I do know how they will fight World War IV; with sticks and stones.

    Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfu*king snows on this motherfu*king plain!

    by shoeless on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:41:18 AM PST

  •  Putin's has the better hand (5+ / 0-)

    in this conflict, and my guess is that Obama and the rest of the NATO leaders know this and are just trying to bluff, knowing that in the end this isn't going to end our way.

    Russia is too big and not very dependent on trade for its economic well being to feel threatened by diplomatic and economic isolation from the West.  And even if there is some bad economic outcomes for some in the import sectors and the financial sectors -- the Russian rich -- Putin will enjoy increased political support and increased nationalistic feelings at home if the West attempts to isolate Russia diplomatically or economically, so he wins politically either way, which is all that matters when making geopolitical strategy.  

    I think this was an ill conceived strategy to try to separate the Ukraine from Russia, and that, at best, the Crimean regions will end up being separated from the rest of the Ukraine, or a pro-Russian political leadership returns to power in the Ukraine.  The Russians had us with the intercepted "fuck the EU" phone call when, it exposed our strategy to separate the Ukraine from Russia, and we should have backed off and supported their lead in the Ukraine at that time, because at that time everyone knew what cards were in each other's hands.

  •  I think I am getting an ulcer (5+ / 0-)

    watching the news.

    Heck, if I see anymore Hitler stuff, I might just as well get my ulcer here.

    Anything Barack Obama wants to do, the House GOP is going to want to do the opposite. If Obama sounds like a dove, they will want to set fires, if Obama wants to take a tough line, they will be militantly isolationist. "We are all Un-krain-a-delphians!" to "Fuck 'em!" in a 24 hour newscycle depending on what Obama wants to do.

    Considering how badly the CIA and NSA have whiffed on reading the tea leaves in the past, considering that having no good options has never really been an obstacle to neocons and foreign policy hawks in the past, and considering that a lot of folks who have been wrong about everything in the prediction business have to be trusted to make a read on Putin, the region, and the possible pathways this could escalate out of control, I'm going to be emergency room bound grabbing my gut on fire at this rate. Let's just add the House GOP to this stew.

    Can't wait for Chuck Todd to turn the floor over to the most foamy mouthed Obama Derangement Syndrome addled House GOPer, and for the second coming of Bill Kristol ("Hey, bitches! Can't call it a comeback if I never left!")

    I've got a bad feeling about all this. "Bring out the cult of the professionally wrong about virtually everything to school us lay people!"  

    There was a point in the early 1990's when it became clear that if Saddam Hussein just stole Kuwait's oil fields, and stopped with the annexing of that territory, nobody was going to be happy about it, but really the international community was going to do jack shit beyond hitting them in the wallets and howling. No Kuwaiti royals would be sitting in front of Congress on live TV pretending to be common folk talking about babies being thrown out of incubators on every channel. None of it. Iraq would be bigger, hated, and have a financial burden to bear. The problem was, Saddam Hussein didn't have a direct link to the Dick Cheney OverMind of the hawkish foreign policy establishment. Maybe he was too egotistical, too stupid, too greedy, or too committed going the full monty because he was afraid of looking weak or dictated to if he didn't grasp the obvious cold-blooded 'we can live with a, b, and c, but not x, y, and z' nobody was exactly hiding from him.

    Just one problem, the so-called experts didn't have a fucking clue about who Saddam Hussein was and what he would do next.

    I can't help but notice the beltway is full of people who think that they can read Putin like poker players at the World Series of Poker. That hasn't worked out well for us in the past.

    The problem for the cynical old rich white men of the soon-to-be post-Cold War world was that Saddam wasn't really a member of their club. Be it because he believed his own myths or not. They missed that about him. The same CIA and NSA that completely missed the coming fall of the Soviet Union were busy whiffing on reading the tea leaves in the sand before it.

    I bet every motherfucker who was wrong about everything in the last two decades is already booked and has a ebook ready on getting hip deep in shit of fire being what Jesus would do.

    I just keep remembering those Kuwaiti oil fields and how badly the Karnak crowd misread the whole thing.

    I'm not saying the situations are the same, or that Saddam and Putin are comparable beyond the cold-blooded politics sitting on the table staring at them.

    I just don't trust the so-called smartest people in the room. Not after the track record they have piled up institutionally over last few decades.

    I'm just wondering if Putin sees the obvious, or cares to see the obvious. Or if his ego or plans or his believing his own hype has taken over. If he stops at the Crimea, he will get punched in the wallet, but nobody is cutting off the gas lines to Europe, let alone going to war to re-take the area. It's not going to happen. A lot of very powerful people around the world are not going to be happy, are going to be laying the rhetorical acid on Russia and specifically Putin personally for a long time to come, but they can cold-bloodedly live with 'stop here, and we can move on'.

    Anybody running around going Godwin on us needs to realize that. Letting the Russians keep the Crimea is probably the least awful awful end game of choice of the planet's best and brightest. Shouting about Poland in the 30's is an exercise in wankery because it's not blog commentators that is driving that train. It's the most powerful people on Earth who want this resolved.

    If Putin just stops at seizing the Crimea? Then the rotting animated corpse of Henry Kissinger can open a hundred year old bottle of Cognac and toast the ghosts of long forgotten Cold Warriors and war mongers past.  

    The question becomes... what if they seize more? Or the occupiers go apeshit and slaughter the people in those military bases they have surrounded?

    It could happen. Especially if somebody inside one of those bases gets spooked at lets off a round during some how of alpha male showcase thug theater at the gate. Some of the people in those surrounded bases where the Russians are coming up to the gate getting their tough guy vogue on are basically kids. Baby faces.

    Shit could go so wrong here.

    Why not add a dash of McCain and Graham being helpful? I'm sure the next few weeks will be a treat of bad faith and tap dancing on a minefield bellicosity.

    I'm also waiting for the basic cable news ticker to start screaming at me like Sarah Palin in Searchlight Nevada about the XL Pipeline being needed to be pimped out and served up on a silver platter like a boss, pronto, due to the crisis.

    I don't see a good resolution to this mess.

    What a great time to be crippled as a nation by bad faith Movement Conservative hacks, a useless news media that thinks it's a high school slam book, and an offyear election staring us right in the face.

    Nothing like a 'no good options' Kobayashi Maru test for a US President who has been bad faithed from day one by the people who are going to be screaming at him the most to 'be like the St. Reagan Who Did Not Really Exist But We Pretend He Did So We Can Dream About Putting Him on the Money.'

    Good luck, Mr. President. I wouldn't wish this shit on my worst enemy with the people you have to work with in Congress. Please bar anybody from the American Enterprise Institute or the old-school Heritage Foundation from your person at all times.

    “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” — Auric Goldfinger

    by LeftHandedMan on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 09:14:05 AM PST

  •  It is a bit ironic... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MPociask, Subterranean

    That liberals see drones flying into those who reside on kill lists while the mainstream media calls him weak. Osama would be alive today if Obama had respected Pakistans boarders, but this is lost on these frauds.

  •  It is a bit ironic... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe from Lowell, Subterranean

    That liberals see drones flying into those who reside on kill lists while the mainstream media calls him weak. Osama would be alive today if Obama had respected Pakistans boarders, but this is lost on these frauds.

  •  I want to see some kleptocrat assets seized. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    How many stolen billions have Putin and his cronies stashed away in American and Western European accounts?

    Art is the handmaid of human good.

    by joe from Lowell on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:15:30 AM PST

    •  Ukraine has been plagued with kleptocrats (0+ / 0-)

      from all points on its political spectrum. Yanukovych might not even have been the worst of them. I have my doubts whether "Yats", as Ms Nuland calls him, will be much better. I'm kinda liking this Vitali Klitchko though.

  •  And what if the Putin retaliates? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Arm the Sunni in Iraq?

    Give the Taliban their own SAMs?

    Given the Iranians enough firepower to stop all Gulf oil exports?

    Putin has options to hit back that the Iranians don't have.

    What is ironic about this whole situation is that Russia has backtracked from getting into conflicts in the West over Iraq, Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation, the incursion of NATO to its borders, the attack of Georgians on Russian troops, being aced out of Iraq oil development.  

    From all appearances, the US acted to de-stablize Ukraine in some grand strategy of neocon politics.  Now the bear bites back and the West is swooning and pounding its chest.

    The neocons since the fall  of the Soviet Union have tried to re-ignite the Cold War.  Or as Yeltsin said after he realized he was getting screwed by the West, a "cold peace".  

    Americans and Western European elites are not used to being punched back.  Only I fear that when the Russians punch back, the response by the West will escalate to match the damage.

  •  walk out of winter paralympics ... (0+ / 0-)

    why are we adding weight to a regime that has turned to 19th century colonialism ideas in the 21st century? USA & Western world withdrawing from the event will be a major embarrassment to Putin.

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