The United States response has been little more than a flurry of denouncements of the action over the past few days, including the President’s statement he is “watching” the situation and claiming the “costs” will be high for Russia. The United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, remarked on Sunday Russia’s action was an, “incredible act of aggression.” Mr. Kerry remarked that Mr. Putin “was acting in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumpet-up pretext.” As a result of his actions, Mr. Kerry further suggested the West could impose a set of economic sanctions, asset freezes and perhaps some Russian business disruption in the Western countries. Mr. Putin has wanted to host the G8 Summit at Sochi, where the Olympics were held, sometime in June. But Mr. Kerry suggested that not only may those meetings not be held in Russia, but Russia might even be expelled from the G8 for the current actions. Mr. Kerry further suggested that visas might be banned for high-ranking Russian leaders in the future.
For sure the invasion of another country is an egregious offence and Russia should be held accountable in some way. But that accountability is not going to come from the United States or any other European state from the West. Perhaps some of those things the Secretary of State mentioned on Meet the Press will come to pass and it may be enough to at least start some negotiation, but the consensus is that Mr. Putin is resolved in his decision to maintain control of the ports in Crimea. When he looked out across the world and listened to the world leaders, he was likely more emboldened to continue with his venture than turn away. His actions seemingly have reinforced that thought.
Really, what can the United States do about it anyway? The Russian fleet is stationed on the Black Sea in Crimea. Does anyone think that Vladimir Putin is going to willingly back down from the West when he knows our current President has no stomach for anything other than diplomatic negotiation? Mr. Putin knows as most bullies know, it is easier to receive forgiveness than it is to receive permission. Of course, in his case, he is seeking neither. We need to realize that Mr. Putin does not think like the Western diplomat. The West uses a logic that assumes the world morality is going to judge the Russian actions in such a way as to move Mr. Putin from his position so the world leaders will like him. He doesn’t care if the world leaders like him. He only cares that they fear him. What better way for leaders who are at best squeamish about entering a fight than to start a fight and crush the opponent with superior power? No, Mr. Putin will assume control of Crimea, and if that doesn’t satisfy him he will move eastward toward Kiev.
Let’s go back and examine the historical activities unfolding on October 22, 1962. The Soviet Union had placed missiles in Cuba ninety miles off the US border. President Kennedy decided it was in the best interest of the United States to ban the missiles from Cuba and ordered them out and for the Soviet Union to stop brining them to the tiny Southern Island. He ordered a blockade around Cuba and warned the Soviets not to cross that line. Mr. Kennedy’s “red line” was much heavier that the current President’s red line. We all know what happened; the Soviet Union blinked and turned their ships around and did not penetrate the blockage President Kennedy had established. Even then, the Soviets recognized they had crossed a line that could not be defended. They were putting nuclear weapons and a missile delivery system ninety miles off the shore of the United States and to protect that they would have to fight a battle from half-way around the world. It made no sense then, and it makes no sense now.
Someone says, “That is not the same as now; those missiles were just off our shore. But think about it from Russia’s current perspective. Ukraine has moved toward wanting to be a democracy. When it broke from the old Soviet Union they began to court the Western European way of life, perhaps even looking toward the United States. In fact, the United States started sending missionaries into that country by the hundreds, flooding it with Bibles and other Christian literature. Revivals broke out and churches began to flourish. What had once been forbidden territory became fertile ground for conversions moving from totalitarianism to a form of democratic freedom. More recently, the people in Ukraine have moved to gain acceptance from the European Organizations to identify with them. Russia is sitting there with the two land masses touching each other, with the Russian fleet in the Black Sea off Crimea, and the Ukrainian move has brought with it a chance there might be Western-style military squatting within a few miles of the Russian Federation. Is it any wonder that a former KGB operator who is now the Leader of Russia would take actions to prevent such a thing?