Obama seems to be having a hard time with Putin over the very complicated Ukrainian issue. The traditional brute force of power politics approach heavily favors neighboring Russia, and the obvious preference of some Ukrainian citizens for Moscow over Kiev only strengthens Putin’s hand. The U.S. has historically played the strong card of principle, but Washington has, over the last 15 years, so abused and scorned the whole concept of basing international behavior upon principles that for Obama now to cite principle simply invites a degree of laughter that would only further weaken his position.
Almost everyone sees the attraction and morality of self-determination as an ideal; claiming to support it almost automatically strengthens one’s case. But how can Washington cite self-determination when it covers Israeli rejection of self-determination for Palestinians, rejects the Taliban right to have a say in Afghanistan’s future, invades and manipulates Iraq, supports military coups in Latin America, and publicly dreams of regime change in Iran while drawing only the most delicate of veils over all manner of illegal and aggressive efforts to provoke such regime change? Of course, there is nothing new in international relations about hypocrisy, but the point is that in rejecting principle when it had saw the chance for a quick short-term gain, Washington has caused itself considerable harm over the long term, and thus now Obama finds himself playing a needlessly weak hand on an issue with significant long-term national security implications.
So NATO sends jet fighters to Poland, virtually compelling Russia to respond, which it did by moving not just jets but a whole invasion force to its border with Ukraine. But it is hard to criticize Putin for deploying forces as he sees fit within his own borders, especially when the situation across the border is undeniably falling apart. Now that Obama’s effort to bluff with a weak hand has come a cropper, leaving the U.S. position significantly weaker than before he tried the bizarrely idiotic idea of promoting the militarization of the crisis, what is Obama going to do next? Ban Putin from visiting Texas any more?