Tag Archives: ukraine

Karsten Erzinger: Where is America?

As I continue to read about the various crises that have recently erupted around the world, two questions keep popping into my head: “Where is the United States? What will their response be?” The answers to those questions seem to be “nowhereandnothing.” While Barack Obama has gone to great lengths to soften America’s foreign policy since becoming President, Obama’s response to recent events have taken this approach to a new extreme. This does not bode well for American allies and for the international community at large. Power abhors a vacuum and if the United States continues to remove itself from international conflicts and shrink its influence around the world, the vacuum left will likely be filled by unfriendly regimes and other bad actors.

Surveying the current landscape it’s not hard to see that the bad actors of the world have become emboldened. The examples are numerous; the Ukraine-Russia conflict, where Russian-backed rebels seem to have shot down a passenger plane, ISIS in Iraq, Israel-Hamas conflict, Iran steadily progressing towards a nuclear bomb, the endless killings in Syria, Boko-Haram, the turmoil in Libya – the list goes on. The United States, under President Obama’s leadership, has been content to outsource and minimize their role in these conflicts by “leading from behind”, calling on vague “international responses”, using “hashtag diplomacy,” or by flat out ignoring the problems. Most recently, American efforts to intervene in the Hamas-Israel crisis has been so ineffective that even liberal-leaning media outlets are mocking the efforts.

As shocking as some of these events have been, they are likely to become the new normal if the United States continues its passive and reluctant approach to foreign affairs. Everyone knows the US wields a large stick, but if they are unwilling to even threaten the use of it, it serves no purpose. The world’s problems cannot be solved solely by economic sanctions or by carefully worded statements delivered via a teleprompter, despite what the President seems to think. The continued reluctance of the United States to engage in a serious manner on these issues presents major problems for those reliant upon them for protection and support.

President Obama’s foreign policy approach has largely failed. He has alienated allies, emboldened enemies and lessened America’s power and influence throughout the world. One can only hope that President Obama has ability to recognize this and implement some badly needed course correction.

The Hustings

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Tom Stringham: Response to Henry Srebrnik

Henry Srebrnik might just take the cake for this week’s most Putin-friendly account of the downing of civilian flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine. Outside Russia, that is—mainstream Russian news outlets have claimed the attack was a failed assassination attempt on Putin’s life, or alternatively a US conspiracy to make Russia look bad (the conspiracy must be working). Video, audio and physical evidence have implicated pro-Russian rebels, but Srebrnik, in his narration, was unable to admit this without a quadruple qualification (“presumably”, “so-called” and two sets of scare quotes).

This was, to his credit, a harsher treatment of Putin than the rest of his piece, where he alerted us to “truly alarming” rhetoric from the West. Apparently the Washington Post was so bold as to call Russia a rogue state, and the Daily Telegraph said that Putin was a pariah. Actually, the Post’s op-ed was on the verge of forgiving the Russians for supplying incompetent rebels with advanced anti-aircraft missiles. The rogue state comment was saved until after recounting that the Russian defense ministry actually tried to implicate a Ukrainian warplane in shooting down flight MH17, in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary. No one brought it up but you but yes, Professor Srebrnik, this behavior is a little North Korea-ish.

Now, any good Westerner will admit the media’s foreign policy bias toward the Ukrainians. Geopolitics aside, I admit my own sympathy to those who would rather have a European standard of living than a Russian one, despite acknowledging the brutality of the conflict. And as Srebrnik charges, the newspapers certainly led the rallying cry for the home team during the Iraq War and the bombing of Serbia.

But if we’re identifying double standards as he suggests, then saying “I don’t recall any American newspapers calling the U.S. a rogue state” is a little rich, at least while Russian newspapers are making false accusations about American involvement in their own blunders to avoid incriminating Putin.

If we really insist on drawing a moral equivalence between Putinist Russia and the West, then let’s do it right and test Russia against the liberal democratic Western standard. I’ll even offer a challenge (but not really). I’ll go to Russia and denounce Putin and the Russian media, and Henry can continue to denounce the West here at home. Whoever stays out of jail longest loses.

The Hustings

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Henry Srebrnik: Is it really necessary to explain why Putin isn’t Hitler?

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday asked for the revocation of a parliamentary authorization that gave him the power to invade Russia’s neighbor.

Ever since the crisis in Ukraine began, with the overthrow of the legally elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, war drums have been beating in the West. They have defined as “aggression” Putin’s attempts to make certain Russian-speakers and ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine don’t get trampled by the nationalist Ukrainians in the west – the heirs of those who fought alongside Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union in World War II.

To add to the insult, people like Hillary Clinton and Prince Charles have glibly compared Putin to – wait for it – Adolf Hitler! I guess even a lesser tyrant like Mussolini or Syria’s Assad won’t do. CNN for weeks ran almost daily “breaking news” alarmist clips warning of Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border – as if there was something illegal about a country moving its forces around within its own territory.

In fact, it’s the outgunned “rebels” in the east, not the Ukrainian army, that have been suffering most of the casualties, and have begged Putin to intervene. Unlike Hitler, he hasn’t sent forces across the border, though there has been enough provocation for him to invoke an international norm like R2P (“responsibility to protect”) to do so. Instead, he keeps calling for negotiations between the Russians in Ukraine and the new president, the oligarch Petro Poroshenko – who was elected with virtually no ethnic Russian support.

If only Hitler had been more like Putin! World War II might never have occurred.

The Hustings

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