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One week ago I asked, if the Russians were prepared to spend $51 billion on a TV show, what might they spend for something truly valuable?  This weekend we see an answer.

The West faces the uncomfortable reality that acquiescing to a Russian theft of Crimea is no different than past surrenders to territorial bullies in Europe.  Fierce measures, short of war, are called for now, before worse measures are necessary later.  President Obama is student enough of history to know it.

http://davidkeithlaw.wordpress.com/...

A week ago I posed the question, if Russia was prepared to spend $ 51 billion on a TV show aimed largely at a domestic audience, what might it invest in something serious?   This weekend we are finding out that Vladimir Putin will bet rather a lot if the odds are in his favour.

Easy conquests are the hardest ones to resist, because they seem so inevitable.  When his Olympics ended, Hitler waited over a year before inhaling Austria and then the Sudetenland territory of Czechoslovakia (both areas with substantial German-speaking populations and with some strategic and economic value to the Third Reich).  Putin waited one week after Sochi before pouncing on the Crimean peninsula.

Crimea is a complicated place and complicated issue.  Its population is predominantly Russian in its ethnicity and home language; its territory has historically been part of Russia, now and then.  Russia’s only Mediterranean naval base sits at Sevastopol, on the southwest tip of the peninsula.   The Russians have a strong historical and geopolitical interest in preserving a presence in Crimea.  It is very likely that a majority of the people living in Crimea would accept either a local nation state dominated by ethnic Russians or absorption into the Motherland itself.

None of that justifies a Russian incursion across sovereign borders.  The ethnic Russians of Crimea were no more at risk than the ethnic Germans of the Sudetenland in 1938: it is transparently bogus for anyone to paint the Russian invasion as anything other than what it is: an invasion.   There are plenty of Mexicans in California but if the Mexican army crossed the border and seized San Diego, no-one would countenance it.  Ethnic affiliation is not a license to cross borders.

Just as important as the Ukraine’s boundaries are the world’s boundaries – if Putin can cross this line just because there are ethnic Russians and a naval base in Crimea, what limits (if any) exist?  The pretexts for going into the Crimea are far weaker than the reasons why it will succeed: because the Russians have more armaments.  That is why they will win there.  But we have some rules on this planet, including some which say that having more guns than your neighbour does not give you the right to take their land.  That rule is being violated this morning.

 Anyone who has studied history knows what it means when an aggressive, dominant military bully is permitted to push its way into neighbouring territories: small countries are like potato chips – you don’t eat just one.  This is not about the Crimea. Doubtless Putin originally expected to consolidate his grip on the Ukraine through a friendly regime.  The move into Crimea, which seems almost a fait accompli, should not be seen as an isolated action intended just to secure Russian interests on the peninsula.  It is what it is: a step towards Kiev and the installation of another Russophilic stooge like Yanukovich into control over all of the Ukraine.  And it is a message to countries within reach of Russia, that their autonomy is at risk.

So what?  Russia is a vastly wealthy and heavily-armed country rapidly sliding away from its own democracy into another kleptocratic autocracy. Putin already has boots on the ground in Crimea, boots he is prepared to seen blown off the sons of Russia as part of a geo-political gambit to secure a wider sphere of influence and economic hegemony.  Who is ready to stop him?  Is the EU or NATO or the USA supposed to step up militarily to push the Russian Army back?  Almost everyone will say “no” to that, just as I would if asked the question “are you prepared to send a Canadian soldier to defend the Crimea?”

The problem here, of course, is that we wouldn’t be defending Crimea (the people there see Putin as a liberator, not a conqueror).  Nor would we be simply defending the Ukraine.  We would be defending a string of vulnerable countries, primarily those which have opted out of the old Soviet orbit and by extension, defending ourselves and some principles which might be important.

One rule in life is that fights are won by the people who are prepared to get their noses bloodied and that fights are lost – always lost – by those who are not.  Indeed, if you aren’t willing to fight, you lose twice: by surrendering your ground quickly and by not weakening your adversary.  And there is a third risk: stepping backwards from a bully teaches that bully one thing: take another step forward.   This is what Putin is now testing.  If the nations of the west make soft mouthings about Ukrainian sovereignty while acquiescing to the Anschluss in the Crimea, valuable lessons will be learned in Moscow (we can take what we want) and in every country bordering Russia (we can be taken and no-one will save us).

I don’t think that anyone other-than the fragile Kiev government will mobilize soldiers to resist the Russian conquest of Crimea.  I don’t know if anyone else’s soldiers should be climbing onto trucks, ships and planes today in preparation for a stand-off.   I only know one thing: if someone doesn’t do something real now, we will be doing something real later, somewhere else. The Russian dictator needs to feel the heaviest slap in the face, short of war, that can be delivered, so that he and his coalition of Mafiosi, ex-KGB and nationalists understand that there is a real price to be paid for breaking the rules.

That is the only thing a bully ever understands.

 

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Comment Preferences

  •  Why? Americans don't do the "right" thing here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Deward Hastings, PhilK

    We are the worst kind of hypocrites. We need to leave people alone. We don't live there; we don't get it.

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:22:20 AM PST

  •  Excellent diary. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tekno2600, Joe Jackson, auapplemac

    I really like this part:

    Anyone who has studied history knows what it means when an aggressive, dominant military bully is permitted to push its way into neighbouring territories: small countries are like potato chips – you don’t eat just one.
  •  How many times (0+ / 0-)

    in recent years have American troops or proxy mercenaries "crossed the border" into other countries, with far less justification than Russians in Ukraine?

    The list is long . . . and once again the US is aligning with the wrong side . . .

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:34:24 AM PST

    •  We should be aligning with the Russians?? (0+ / 0-)
      •  Don't ask me . . . (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Duckmg, buddabelly

        ask the people in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine (who apparently do not want to be "ruled" by the EU or Nazi mobs in Kiev.

        Or by Americans . . .

        Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

        by Deward Hastings on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:52:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Nazi mobs" (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TomP, Lawrence, Timaeus, ApostleOfCarlin

          Yes, that is Putin's pretext for invading a sovereign nation.

          The opposite of "good" is "good intention" - Kurt Tucholsky

          by DowneastDem on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 09:06:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Those people you call Nazi mobs just overthrew a (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TomP, ApostleOfCarlin, auapplemac, Timaeus

          murderous dictator who has close ties to another murderous dictator in Russia. You have the gall to support that murderous dictator's actions and call the people that oppose him Nazi.

          Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

          by tekno2600 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 09:11:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, they just "overthrew" (0+ / 0-)

            a democratically elected government that they could have "legitimately" deposed in the next elections.

            Or not . . . that's how "democracy" works, not by mobs in the streets burning buildings and tossing Molotov cocktails at police . . .

            Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

            by Deward Hastings on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:32:37 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The guy was mowing people down in the streets (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Timaeus, ApostleOfCarlin

              hundreds were wounded, crippled, and killed. Documents now show that that was only step one. He was preparing to order a massive crackdown that would make that look like child's play. Just getting elected in one corrupt election doesn't mean anything you do after that is ok, including mass killings, torture, and even false imprisonment of the former President. What is your major malfunction in defending these people? If it is knee jerk pacifism about preventing US intervention, there is 0.00000% chance of that. So, stop defending these human pieces of shit.

              Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

              by tekno2600 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 11:47:17 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  You're doing a good job of standing against (0+ / 0-)

                the majority of appeasers on this site.

                If Putin wants war, he should get war.

                I'm in favor of maximum efforts by the EU, and NATO, and the United States, and other states especially Turkey, to issue an ultimatum demanding that Putin back down.

                Most recent U.S. wars have been illegal crap, but if we have to support Ukraine in a defensive war against Russia, it would be a righteous war.

                There is such a thing under international law, U.S. law, and Catholic canon law, FWIW.

                •  "Catholic canon law" ? ? ? (0+ / 0-)

                  Is that the one about priests banging alter boys in Kiev?

                  But seriously, I'm not the least interested in pursuing another Holy War in Europe (the Eastern sees vs. the papacy), and neither do I see "The Church" as any kind of "moral authority" on the matter of what's "righteous" in war or in peace (although it has certainly created many examples of what is not).

                  Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

                  by Deward Hastings on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 05:28:10 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

    •  We have annexed zero territory the way Putin (6+ / 0-)

      just did...but no misdeed in the American past excuses this shameful behavior by Putin now, or your shameful defense of it.

      And the suggestion that we are aligning with the wrong side is disgusting. Aligning with Putin is right? You are crazy.

      Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

      by tekno2600 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:58:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  aligning with the Ukranian version of StormFront (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, Deward Hastings, Duckmg, ferg

        is just dandy though?

        There is no winning position for us in this mess....similar to Syria.

        Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
        I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
        Emiliano Zapata

        by buddabelly on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 09:07:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You have no cause to call them StormFront. The (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ApostleOfCarlin

          only Nazis here are the Russian invaders.

          If all you're worried about is cowardice about military intervention, then you have nothing to worry about. The US couldn't intervene in Ukraine even if we wanted to...and we don't. So, you can save your idiotic, dishonest insults about Ukrainian freedom fighters. And this doesn't have a damn thing to do with Syria.

          Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

          by tekno2600 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:02:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Oh gimme a fucking break. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tekno2600, auapplemac

          Maybe 1% of Maidan, most likely Russian provocateurs, align with the neo-nazis.

          And don't tell me that the Russians are pure in this regard - Putin's Russia allows their neo-nazis to rampage on the GLBT community.

      •  Putin has "annexed" nothing . . . (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buddabelly, auapplemac

        at worst he is supporting an independent Kosovo and Kurdistan . . . (oh, wait, those weren't Putin's doing).

        Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

        by Deward Hastings on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 09:11:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  We'll see. It does look like an annexation, and (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          auapplemac, cfm

          that's exactly what Putin's rhetoric suggests, questioning the legitimacy of Ukrainian sovereignty in Crimea and trying to make this into an ethic struggle instead of what it is: Overthrowing a murderous dicatator.

          Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

          by tekno2600 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:06:34 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  "a real price to be paid for breaking the rules" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy

    Ya know, the US is really lucky that "the rules" only apply to bad guys.

  •  Well I can still be hopeful. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tekno2600

    So Putin says "We have to have that fucking port".
    Obama and the West says, "OK, lets work on that but you can't conquer Ukraine".
    What's so hard about that?

    We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.

    by PowWowPollock on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 09:03:35 AM PST

    •  Plus, nobody was threatening the naval base (0+ / 0-)

      in any way.

      Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

      by tekno2600 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:18:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not true. The former Ukrainian opposition (0+ / 0-)

        leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who was just released from prison, has said she would insist on cancelling the Russian lease on the Sevastopol bases in 2017, even though the current lease runs through 2042.

        That, of course, does not justify Putin's invasion.

        •  I was refering to physical threats to the base (0+ / 0-)

          that Putin used to justify his invasion. Who knows what will happen with future leases or who will end up running Ukraine.

          Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

          by tekno2600 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 11:37:20 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Are the ports the only thing Putin want? He is (0+ / 0-)

      former KGB and I believe he longs for the days of an all powerful USSR.

      It’s the Supreme Court, stupid! Followed by: It's always the Supreme Court! Progressives will win only when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

      by auapplemac on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 12:16:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh please ... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buddabelly, ferg, TomP, happymisanthropy

    Can we just be done with the silly Hitler analogies ? It doesn't help anyone's understanding of what is actually taking place.

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 09:10:20 AM PST

  •  Baloney (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buddabelly, Duckmg

    If the agreement reached last week between Yanukovich and the opposition had not been blown up by the "demonstrators," there would have been no crisis.  Driving the elected pro-Russian head of state out gave Russia the perfect pretext to act.  The west's obsession with expanding the EU and NATO further and further east needlessly provoked them.

    "When dealing with terrorism, civil and human rights are not applicable." Egyptian military spokesman.

    by Paleo on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 09:11:56 AM PST

    •  Right on (4+ / 0-)

      And, if that woman hadn't been dressed like that no way would the rapist have found her attractive!

      Clearly, the blame belongs to the Ukranian demonstrators whose views range from fascist to socialist liberal.  Democracy?  Simply not worth demonstrating over.

      I mean if they weren't such terrible people would the government have killed 80 of them with snipers? No way.

      •  Democracy (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        happymisanthropy

        You mean the elections that brought Yanukovich to power?

        I'm seem to remember when Mexican troops mowed down hundreds of demonstrators and there was not a peep from the U.S.  In fact the olympics were held there soon after, and the U.S. fully participated.  

        "When dealing with terrorism, civil and human rights are not applicable." Egyptian military spokesman.

        by Paleo on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:13:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Read a little; then speak. Yanukovich is a crook (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DowneastDem, auapplemac

          and a murdering psychopath. Just because he was elected in what passes for an election over there doesn't make all his behavior after that ok. His criminal behavior was certainly sufficient to remove him from office. Jesus effing Christ! I can't believe I have to hear so-called liberals actually defending a human piece of garbage like him. It's even more sickening to hear people act all wise about quoting some previous event in which they don't believe the US showed sufficient outrage, so therefore Putin now gets to do whatever he wants.

          Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

          by tekno2600 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 11:09:42 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  First of all, the protestors never signed the deal (0+ / 0-)

      and if Yanukovich intended to honor it, he could have stayed, just like the Parliament did, and carried it out.

      But, even if you were to get your fantasy and Putin now launches a bloody invasion to put a corrupt crony back in power in Kiev, it will not be Yanukovich. After he fled, they found enough evidence of his crimes to put him away for a long time. So, whatever deal he signed is over. It would be like trying to put Nixon back in power after Watergate. It's over. Quit crying about it.

      Putin would have to try to install another corrupt thug, because even former members of Yanukovich's party no longer support him. He is not even popular among Russians in the Crimea.

      Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

      by tekno2600 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 11:33:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, right. My fantasy (0+ / 0-)

        Whatever.

        I have no use for either, but elections are where you determine whether Ukraine would join the EU.  Not by the street.  But the west and the demonstrators could not wait for that.  So now they reap what they sowed.

        "When dealing with terrorism, civil and human rights are not applicable." Egyptian military spokesman.

        by Paleo on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 12:31:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The "demonstrators" didn't shoot >100 people. (0+ / 0-)

      You seem to really misunderstand the chronology here. The denouement here would have been much different if Yanukovych hadn't decided that killing protestors was a good way to go.

      The Russian invasion (and it is just that), is with even fewer pretexts than the US-lead international invasion of Iraq (it wasn't a US-only invasion, as folks here want to remember it).

  •  are American adventures really analogous? (0+ / 0-)

    This is a fair question.  We can list countries: Panama, Guyana, Nicaragua, Iraq which posed little or no threat to the United States but which were intruded-upon by the U.S. military.  Putin's army is arguable far more welcome in Sevastopol than Bush's was in Baghdad.

    Even if we were to see no distinction whatever between Putin's current actions and those of past U.S. administrations, this begs the question: so what?  If we are prepared to condemn, reasonably, U.S. actions then we should not less prepared to condemn similar transgressions when they emanate from somewhere else.

    Nor should we be cowed by our own sins: they are to be learned from, not used as an excuse to tolerate others' sins.  Not one person who has commented above, has lived an error-free life.  This does not seem to deter them from pointing out the errors of others - nor should it, if those errors warrant correction.  

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