Left and right are shooting blanks

Hayes Brown over at ThinkProgress suggests five ways the US can respond to Russia invading Ukraine without going to war.

It’s a brave attempt.  But nothing he cites will suffice to get the Russians out of Crimea:

  1. Suspending Russia’s membership in the G-8 would be a pinprick to Moscow.  It has never cared as much about the G-8 as we would have like it to.  In any event, the G-8 has yielded economic leadership to the G-20 and hasn’t produced much in the 8 years since it first met in Russia.  President Putin boycotted the 2012 meeting at Camp David.  He cares that much.
  2. Placing travel bans on Putin and his family is symbolic, not substantial.  The Europeans likely won’t go along.  The man doesn’t vacation a lot in the US.
  3. Trade (and I would say financial) sanctions are a serious proposition, but there are real limits to what we are permitted to do by our World Trade Organization obligations and by our concern about damage to the global financial structure.  Trade and financial sanctions won’t have much impact unless a good part of the rest of the world goes along with them, which isn’t likely.
  4. Suspension of NATO cooperation and participation.  The Russians have never much appreciated their post-Cold War relationship with NATO.  Few in Moscow would cry over this spilled milk.
  5. Accelerate missile defense.  This would require a dramatic turnaround both in the US and Europe in favor of missile defenses few think are terribly important or will work.  And it would cost a bundle.

Marco Rubio offers an eight-step program, starting with:

  1. President Obama should speak unequivocally and call this what it is: a military invasion.  My guess is that by tomorrow the President will do this, but Rubio’s real point is this:  “only decisive action will deter their provocative moves.”  So let’s read further to figure out what the decisive action is.
  2. Dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Kiev to show U.S. support for Ukraine’s transitional government, and urge our allies in the European Union and NATO to send representatives there as well.  This would be the first step towards a package of security and economic assistance.  Not a bad idea, but still in the wimpy category and not likely to make Putin cry “uncle.”  How will Rubio propose to pay for the aid?  Repeal Obamacare?

The rest is mostly tilting at windmills:  boycott the G-8 and kick Russia out if it doesn’t leave Ukraine (see above), suspend all talks with Russia (that’ll get them, since obviously only they and not we were interested in the subjects we were discussing), propose a tough UN Security Council resolution (which Moscow will veto), expand travel bans (also see above), and don’t confirm Rose Gottemoeller to the arms control job at the State Department (the Russians will certainly squeal over that).  This, ladies and gentlemen, is what Marco Rubio calls “decisive action”?

The last is the one that really gets me:  push for Georgia to get into NATO.  This is a truly bad idea.  If there is one saving grace in Ukraine, it is that we don’t have a treaty obligation to go to war with Russia to defend Crimea.  But we should right away take on another country that can’t defend itself?

Left and right are shooting blanks so far.  Let’s see if the Administration comes up with anything better.

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2 thoughts on “Left and right are shooting blanks”

  1. Ok, let’s see: talk to Israel about cutting shipments of drones to the Russians (during the war with Georgia it came out that Russian commanders refused to use those Russia was attempting to build); ensure that the Ukrainians will have all they need. (The Western Ukrainians conducted a guerrilla war against the Soviet Union for 5 years after the end of WWII, with no outside help. What could they have done with actual weapons?) Threaten to parachute in Gay Battalions – you know, like the Spartans had. Psychological warfare at its finest. Offer to develop Ukraine’s shale gas reserves on an accelerated basis to offer Europe an alternative source of supply. Stop all this foolishness about the South Stream. Go to the General Assembly and get them to appeal to the ICJ for a ruling on legality of Russia’s actions after the Budapest Memorandum (as Serbia did over Kosovo). There are a lot of smallish countries for whom the idea of a neighboring state voting itself the right to help itself to a neighbor’s territory is a nightmare. Provide a boat from Syria to Russia for all those Chechens who would be interested in opening up a new flank to attack Russian troops outside of Russia. Encourage China to provide even more high-yuan scholarships for up-and-coming young citizens of Central Asian countries. (Or better yet, Japan. High-yen scholarships, then.) Oh, and don’t rush to crash the ruble – oil and gas are paid for in dollars, and this would just make the government’s life simpler, since pensions and salaries are paid in rubles. Go after the oligarchs where it hurts, in their European bank accounts. Arrange for their spy ship in Havana Harbor to sink for unknown reasons.

    Or just keep calm and carry on while the country’s demographics take care of the problem. Unfortunately for Ukraine, theirs may be even worse.

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