History not only bites
You might say it also regurgitates. All of us following events in Ukraine (including Crimea) and surroundings now know far more about its georgraphy, history, languages, etc., than we did a week ago. We may not know all that much about how matters have come to this pass, but it has a certain familiarity.
The U.S. media is big on the events of recent days and, in some cases, the perfidy of Vladmir Putin. But nothing's simple, including Ukraine. This post by former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, (19887-1991) Jack Matlock steps back from the fray, offering a cool assessment of what is going on. Here is his take on Obama's "you will pay a price."
"Obama’s 'warning' to Putin was ill-advised. Whatever slim hope that Moscow might avoid overt military intervention in Ukraine disappeared when Obama in effect threw down a gauntlet and challenged him. This was not just a mistake of political judgment—it was a failure to understand human psychology—unless, of course, he actually wanted a Russian intervention, which is hard for me to believe." Matlock's whole post is here.
In the same vein, news that SOS John Kerry will go to Kiev seems ill-advised. A drawback to big shows of support by the U.S. is that it encourages people to do provactive things (case in point, the Syrian Opposition when Obama said Assad must go), and then we pull back.
Here is Professor Stephen F. Cohen, another Russian expert, on U.S. media coverage.
Professor Charles King of Georgetown: "The Crimean affair is a grand experiment in Mr.
Putin’s strategy of equivalence: countering every criticism of his government’s behavior with a page from the West’s own playbook. If his government has a guiding ideology, it is not the concept of restoring the old Soviet Union. It is rather his commitment to exposing what Russian politicians routinely call the “double standards” of American and European foreign policy and revealing the hidden workings of raison d’état — the hardnosed and pragmatic calculation of interests that average citizens from Moscow to Beijing to New Delhi actually believe drives the policies of all great powers." New York Times, March 3.
Here is a dyspeptic look at the economic consequences of Putin's moves in Ukraine: None! Salon, "Why Russia No Longer Fears the West."
The BBC reports the decline of the ruble and exchange rate issues with the euro and the dollar (currency exchanges are running out). The Russian stock market is down, then so is the Dow, etc.
Here is the most hardline view I've read today that can also claim a rational basis (thus I exclude Lindsay Graham and Co.): "Yes, Crimea may already be gone. But we have to make absolutely clear – and in the most credible way possible – that Russian military intervention in other regions of Ukraine is a red line that will mean war with Ukrainian and NATO military forces if it is crossed. U.S. and NATO naval forces need to be deployed to the Black Sea in close proximity to the Ukrainian Coast. Military forces of neighboring NATO member countries, meanwhile, should be deployed closer to the Ukrainian border." From the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Andrew Kuchins.
About the Author
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.