I don’t pretend to be a foreign policy expert, but I do believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken the measure of President Obama, and determined there is little risk in invading Ukraine.
When President Obama ran for president back in 2008, one of the criticisms of the George Bush presidency is that many of our long-term allies no longer “liked” the United States.
I think the way the world works is that it is of little importance if nations “like” each other. What is important instead is whether they “respect” one another. Nations that get respect are those that unapologetically assert their own interests. Nations are disrespected when they don’t. Putin is a leader who, like him or not, everyone “respects,” because he makes Russia’s interests clear and stands up for them.
In contrast, it seems likely that the U.S. and its European allies aren’t going to do anything significant to help the Ukrainians. Given how war-weary we Americans are after 12 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, maybe that’s the right decision, but don’t expect Putin to become less bold if that’s the case.
If I were Obama, I would be assuring the Ukrainians that we will do everything we can, short of putting troops on the ground, to help them maintain their independence. If Putin threatens to cut off their foreign aid as well as gas and oil to both them and Europe, I’d also figure out a way to make sure that they get the capital and fuel they need to remain our allies, not become Putin’s.
Tom West is the general manager of the Peach. Reach him by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.