Open Letter to President Obama

Open Letter to President Obama: Secure Ukraine, Isolate Russia, and Strengthen NATO

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fifty former U.S. government officials and foreign policy experts have signed a bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama, urging a decisive response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.  The group recommends responsible steps “to strengthen Ukraine’s sovereignty and democratic transition, to impose real costs on the government of President Vladimir Putin, and to enhance the deterrence posture of NATO.”
 
The full text of the letter follows. The letter was organized by the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a non-profit and non-partisan 501(c)3 organization that promotes U.S. diplomatic, economic, and military engagement in the world.

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March 21, 2014

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As Russia moves ahead with its illegal annexation of Crimea, we share your determination to “isolate Russia for its actions and to reassure our allies and partners.”  America’s next steps should be designed to strengthen Ukraine’s sovereignty and democratic transition, to impose real costs on the government of President Vladimir Putin, and to enhance the deterrence posture of NATO.

Russia’s invasion of Crimea threatens the democracy that the Ukrainian people have sacrificed so much to achieve.  A critical test of Ukraine’s newfound freedom will be its presidential elections on May 25, which Russia may seek to disrupt.  As you have noted, Russia must recognize “the rights of all Ukrainians to determine their future as free individuals, and as a sovereign nation.”  In order to help Ukraine secure its democratic transition, the United States should:

  • Provide Ukraine’s transitional government with technical expertise, international monitors, and other assistance for the May presidential election.  The United States should also enhance support for the civil institutions that are necessary to consolidate Ukraine’s democratic gains.
  • Approve loan guarantees to help stabilize the Ukrainian economy, while working with the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and other partners to provide long-term support for economic reforms in Ukraine.
  • Conduct an assessment of Ukraine’s self-defense needs and expand the scope and scale of U.S. military assistance available to the government of Ukraine, including intelligence sharing, training, and other support for Ukrainian forces, in coordination with NATO and the European Union.

Washington and its international partners should also impose real costs on Vladimir Putin and his key supporters.  In this effort, we must distinguish between the corrupt regime surrounding Putin, and the Russian people who are the victims of his misrule.  In this regard, it is essential to fully utilize the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 and other legal authorities to sanction gross human rights violators in Russia.  The United States should:

  • Increase the number of Russian officials who are subject to sanctions, including President Putin and those closest to him, both for their role in the invasion of Ukraine and the gross violations of human rights described under the Magnitsky Act.
  • Expand the scope of sanctions in order to isolate Russian financial institutions and businesses that are either complicit in Russia’s invasion in Ukraine or support the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The designation of Bank Rossiya is an important first step in this effort.
  • Expose the extent of political and economic corruption among the senior leadership of the Russian Federation, including an unclassified report on the assets of President Putin and other senior Russian officials.
  • Suspend all civil nuclear cooperation pursuant to the “123” Agreement that was entered into force between the United States and the Russian Federation in December 2010.

Russia’s intervention in Ukraine poses a threat to all its neighbors, including our NATO allies among the Baltic States and Poland.  We believe that the United States and its NATO partners must reexamine commitments under the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act to refrain from deploying additional forces into former Warsaw Pact countries, as Russia’s recent actions demonstrate that the “current and foreseeable security environment” described in the Act has changed.  In this regard, the United States should:

  • Conduct an assessment on how to strengthen NATO’s deterrence posture vis-à-vis Russia, including the deployment of additional ground forces, missile defenses, or other assets to former Warsaw Pact members of NATO.  Your deployment of U.S. fighter aircraft to Poland and the Baltic States is an important first step in this regard.
  • Press America’s NATO allies to agree to a Membership Action Plan for Georgia at the NATO Summit scheduled for September 2014, while expanding U.S. military rotations to Georgia.  The United States should also support Ukraine, Sweden, Finland, and other European security partners, if they seek NATO membership.
  • Work to reduce European dependence on Russian natural gas, including by expanding liquefied natural gas exports from the United States, as well as supporting new pipelines into the Continent and other proposals to diversify Europe’s energy supplies, such as developing indigenous natural gas reserves.

We believe that these responsible steps will be essential to secure Ukraine’s future, to deter the Putin government from further acts of aggression, and to strengthen the NATO alliance and other security partnerships.  We thank you for your consideration, and look forward to supporting you in taking these measures.

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Michael Auslin

Craig Kennedy

 

Dan Blumenthal

James Kirchick

 

Ambassador John R. Bolton

David Kramer

 

Max Boot

William Kristol

 

Ambassador L. Paul Bremer

Dr. Robert J. Lieber

 

Senator Norm Coleman

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman

 

Ambassador William Courtney

Tod Lindberg

 

Seth Cropsey

Mary Beth Long

 

Jack David

Dr. Thomas G. Mahnken

 

Dr. Larry Diamond

Robert C. McFarlane

 

Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky

Thomas C. Moore

 

Thomas Donnelly

Dr. Joshua Muravchik

 

Dr. Colin Dueck

Governor Tim Pawlenty

 

Dr. Nicholas N. Eberstadt

Dr. Martin Peretz

 

Ambassador Eric S. Edelman

Danielle Pletka

 

Douglas J. Feith

Arch Puddington

 

Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin

Randy Scheunemann

 

Reuel Marc Gerecht

Dr. Gary J. Schmitt

 

Christopher J. Griffin

Dan Senor

 

General Michael Hayden

Vance Serchuk

 

Dr. William C. Inboden

Dr. Daniel Twining

 

Ash Jain

Ambassador Kurt Volker

 

Dr. Kenneth D. M. Jensen

Dr. Kenneth R. Weinstein

 

Ambassador Robert G. Joseph

Leon Wieseltier

 

Dr. Frederick W. Kagan

Robert Zarate

 

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Comments

Curmudgeon & 101st Ranger:

The guys who wrote this letter are pretty smart guys so I figure they are well aware of Russian nationalism as a motivation for all this. They probably considered every word of this letter carefully so there probably was a reason for constructing this sentence:

"In this effort, we must distinguish between the corrupt regime surrounding Putin, and the Russian people who are the victims of his misrule."

in the way it was constructed.

The reason I think is that there are an important number of Russians who don't like Putin at all. From what I've read one of the reasons Putin is so exercised about Ukraine is he is afraid the people who don't like him will take heart from events in Ukraine and become 'the street', the same 'street' that took down Putin's man in Ukraine. In order not to antagonize those people it is prudent to use the sentence structure used in the letter. Those people are a boon to the West and it would be unwise to antagonize them and possibly turn them against us by saying 'the Russians.'

It's true in any event, at least judging by the number of Russians Putin has had to kill and imprison.

Curmudgeon, to say something like this "Russians are an ethnic groups who are going through a revival of communal values and a nostalgia for their superpower past." is to judge over 100 million people as speaking with one voice not to mention all the other ethnic groups in that country. It is a little simplistic I think. Besides, it's a police state. Those are a bit tricky to judge.

Carl, to believe that a minority of people matter where there is a large ethnic group that is having a revival of identity is even more simplistic. You are embracing a Western fallacy, that deep down inside everyone has the same value system we do. "Its a police state" is the standard excuse. We explain away ethnic nationalism by claiming a repressive leadership. We do that because it fits with OUR belief system. It is not only simplistic, it is a dangerous delusion that should not be assumed in our planning ... lest we think we can create liberal democracies in tribal regions that can barely be described as states.

I am not being simplistic or prejudicial, I am being realistic.

Curmudgeon:

They don't matter? I think they do, especially since some of them have already taken to the streets in protest. That happened in Moscow I believe a few years ago. When you are tussling with another state a minority like that can be very important and that they are there and can help you should be incorporated into your planning. There is a minority like that on Iran also, we mostly ignored them when they took to the streets a few years ago. That was unwise.

The Communists made very great use of minorities like that in days of old. The North Vietnamese made brilliant use of sympathizers in the west as did the Soviets. They weren't stupid. If we ignore that minority, we will be.

You confuse me a little. In your first sentence you say that minority that appears to dislike Putin and seems to want to be more like the west doesn't matter. In your second sentence, you seem to be saying they don't exist because everyone doesn't embrace western values. Which is it? Do they exist or not? If they do then some Russians would like not to live in a police state kleptocracy. I don't know if that exactly reflects western values but it is encouraging and should be encouraged.

You know you sure are cavalier about dismissing the repressive soul crushing power of a police state. I don't know quite what to say about that except that you should read some accounts about the poor people who have to live in those places. Iron Curtain by Applebaum is a good one. Any number of books about North Korea will do the trick as well as accounts of life in Red China, Pol Pot's Cambodia and on and on. Talk like yours reminds of something an Air Force Sgt told me once. She grew up in East Germany and was in her late teens when the wall came down. She took part in the protests, drew the attention of the STASI and was pulled in for an interview. They completely terrified her, so bad she would have turned informer if they had made her. She wasn't a coward, just a normal person singled out by a police state. The really interesting thing about her though was the huge contempt she had for the West Germans who made brave talk about what they would have or would not have done if they had been in East Germany. She said they were fools. They didn't have a clue.

You know why the phrase "large ethnic group having a revival of identity" sounds like? It sounds like something the Nazis said to justify their actions foreign and domestic in the 30s. It also sound alike something from a graduate seminar. Russia never went away. We just managed to keep them from wrecking and raping their neighbors for awhile.

Carl, you are responding with passion, not logic. Let me provide a concrete example of the common perception of repressive leadership.

The US South in the late 50's to early 60's. African Americans were second class citizens at best. Excluded from lunch counters and rest rooms because of their color. Now, someone on the outside could argue that both the blacks and the whites were only acting this way because of a repressive regime of government and a secret police known as the KKK. That is one way to interpret events. But it would be wrong. The majority of white people in the south agreed with segregation. They embraced it. Whites were superior because they were white - based on their mutually shared identity.

In Egypt Morrissey was elected by the majority of Egyptians in large part based on his association with his preference to his religious identity. When he started to act on that preference, establishing a less secular government, a minority of the people rebelled and through him out. Now Egypt is going through "purges" with death sentences to over 500 Muslim Brotherhood members at a time. Which side of this fight you come down on depends on what you believe, either that secular democracy is the right way to govern (the individualist value system) or that religious rule is correct (identity based collectivist value systems).

You may not see a pattern forming here. I do.

Large scale cultural differences, and identity in particular, matters. Read a little on cross-cultural studies. Hofstede's "Culture and Organizations" or take a look at the World Values Survey web site (http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org). On that web site you will notice that Russia (in this case, Moscow) and the US fall on different ends of a particular value spectrum. That value spectrum runs from survival values (associated with collectivist leanings) and self-expression values (associated with individualist leanings). This is not my opinion, this is documented fact.

What I am saying is an assault on your value system (hence your need to compare me to the Nazi's). I am not advocating discrimination or prejudice. I am advocating understanding that cultural differences exist and if we do not take them into account we will make mistakes, like believing that we just don't know how to conduct small wars right yet.

Clausewitz' Remarkable Trinity has three legs. One of those was the passion of the people. It is worth a little effort to try to descern what that passion is rather than assume you already know because everyone must think just like you.

Curmudgeon:

Much of the repression suffered by black people in the South was de jure. It was the result of black codes and Jim Crow legislation that went back to just after the Civil War. During those times it would have been accurate to say the majority of the white population in the South would have embraced segregation, I don't think it at all accurate to say that in the 1950s and 1960s. Things changed over a 100 year period. If they hadn't, if the white population had been as it was in 1870, there would not have been the change their was. What happened at that time was only the culmination of things that had been going on for a very long time.

Please, spare me the bleating about how I compared you to the Nazis. I compared the nature of some of your beliefs to those held by the Nazis.

It is obvious that different cultures make for different behaviors. It is also obvious that those differences should be understood. What should also be understood is the differences that exist within certain polities and within cultures. Those need to be studied and understood so they can be taken advantage of. It is much easier to say they are all alike but it is more effective to see there are some that are different so you can use that.

I think Carl is overstating the case and the East German example is largely irrelevant because she was a German being oppressed by a foreign and internal communist system. Russian nationalism is alive and well in Russia as indicated by Putin's soaring popularity.

Interesting excerpt below from a Forbes article:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/markadomanis/2013/12/31/7-reasons-that-russi...

"2) The Russian federation is much more Russian than the Soviet Union - Westerners have a habit of substituting “Russian” and “Soviet,” as if they are one and the same. They weren’t. By the late 1980′s the Soviet Union’s population was a little more than 50% ethnically Russian. Before it fell apart, the pre-Soviet Russian empire had roughly the same percentage of ethnic Russians. The Russian Federation, on the other hand, is currently about 80% ethnically Russian. Minorities play an important (and growing!) role in Russia today, and make up a growing percentage of the population. Ethnic Russians, though, are simply far more culturally, religiously, linguistically, and numerically dominant in the Russian Federation than they were in the Soviet Union. That doesn’t magically solve all of Russia’s many problems with non-Russian minorities, but it does show that these conflicts are very different than those which characterized the USSR."

Bill M:

The point of the story about the woman who grew up East German was to highlight the repressive power, the ability to inspire terror wielded by a police state. It was not overstating the case at all. In fact it was understating it since the story was about the late 80s, early 90s, not about the 20s, 30s, or 40s and 50s in east Europe.

Now if you want to believe that Putin is popular and faces little political opposition because he is just such a nice guy, you go right ahead. I think it a huge mistake to discount the power of his police state to repress opposition and to ignore that opposition as a vulnerable point that can be exploited.

Bill---great point as it goes to the heart of the current Russian nationalism and explains a great deal of what Putin is saying between the lines when he talks about protecting the Russian language, culture and ethnicity.

My problem is it sounds too much like the Hitler "Heim ins Reich" program focused at the "German areas" in the countries bordering Germany prior to the beginning of WW2.

As someone who has worked with Russian officers during their own military decision planning process anything they plan still takes time. They do nothing that is ad hoc.

So if one reverses the timeline for the events leading to and during the Ukrainian Maidan and then reverse timelines the ramp up of the Russian Army prior to moving into the Crimea, and along the eastern/southern Ukrainian borders taken together with their Air Force exercises in NW Russia and their Bering Naval exercises taken together with the since fall AF air attack exercises on Lithuanian which crossed actually into their air space.

One comes to the conclusion that actually the events leading to and during the Maidan were in fact planned and instigated by Russia as a nationalist excuse to move on the Crimea, regain the title of a military superpower and to restore the 'greater Russia".

Especially if one understands the interplay between the Russian military, the Russian mob, the Russian oligarch's and the Russian Security Services---they interplay in ways we have never thought of. Overlay that on the Ukrainian events before and during Maidan---interesting to see the interplay.

And if one notices that although the Russian army units along the eastern and southern borders are fully equipped, manned and have sufficient supplies for an invasion BUT have not disbanded back to their barracks.

One then must come to the conclusion that this was long in preparation , they will continue to move on the Georgian, Moldavian enclaves and Russian portions of the Ukraine.

They are only taking a breather to see the Western reactions prior to making another decision.

Still maintain the neoons never had a strategy in the Cold War days nor now.

One comes to the conclusion that actually the events leading to and during the Maidan were in fact planned and instigated by Russia as a nationalist excuse to move on the Crimea, regain the title of a military superpower and to restore the 'greater Russia".

Does any evidence support that conclusion, other than the assumed planning horizon of the Russian military?

Dayuhan---here is an article that confirms what I was saying about the parallel planning and it is more specific than my open source analysis since the writer had direct knowledge.

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/observers-say-russia-had-crim...

Dayuhan---here is another comment out of the article that goes to what I was saying.

Kyiv Post, referring to a document allegedly produced by Russia's National Security Council, reported last week that Yanukovych was designated to play a major role in Russia's plan. According to the report, he was supposed to sign a document on Feb. 7 asking Russia to send troops to Ukraine to protect its constitutional order. The report also said that other Ukrainian territories, including Kiev, were supposed to be under Moscow's control in order to defend Russia's interests in the region.

Dayuhan---if one looks at the activities of the Ukrainian president who fled and those around him who literally raped and pillaged the Ukrainian economy to the tune of 70B over the last three years---look at their/the Ukrainian oligarch ties to the Russian mob---then look at the two trips to Russia to met with Putin prior to and during the Maidan events when Russia was pushing for a harder response to the demos, and look at the use of the Berkat riot police who really where based in the Crimea.

Then check the timing for the refusal of the EU offer and the timing of the Russian Customs Union offer together with 15B in aid.

He was hand picked by Putin as Putin assumed he could be influenced.

Then check the Russian military mobilization planning (comments in the open media)(ie field exercises) which matched (which means they started about the same time as the Maidan events).

At the height of the Maidan there were open source reports of Russian spatnaz in eastern and southern Ukraine before and this is critical before the Crimea.

What through off the Russian planning was their handpicked President fleeing shortly after the Feb 21 agreements and they had then a de factor new government to deal with.

Their response for him being in Russia and not in the Ukrainian was far from being supportive---actually they did not respond to his being there for a number of days and his move perplexed them---they actually needed him in the Ukraine in order to move legitimately Russian troops into the east and south Ukraine as well as the Crimea.

This was confirmed by the letter he sent to Putin asking for assistance in "restoring" him back to legitimate power as the democratically elected Ukrainian President. You hear Russia say that still today. By the way the Russia could still use that letter as a "legal" requested by a legally elected Ukrainian President who was thrown out in a "coup". Putin recently did refer once to that document as being valid.

By the way there is some credence to reports that he is trying to work his way back into the Ukraine under the Feb 21 agreements---now the interesting question is---will the written request from the deposed President be the key document Russia uses to enter the country instead of the "woo is us the poor Russians are being beaten up" as the cry is not being heard right now from the Ukrainian Russians---as the proRussia Ukrainian oligarch's have quietened down the Russian populations as they now see benefits in working with the EU.

If he had been in power after the Maidan there is some alluding to in several comments that he made that he was angling towards allowing/asking the Russian Army for assistance in "peacefully securing" the Russian portions of the Ukraine against terrorists, neo rightists and Nazi's since he did not trust his own army.

Regardless of what the Russians are still saying today that they are not moving into the Ukraine---has one seen any reported indication that those troops have in fact returned to their bases--absolutely none---they are still sitting there.

What is interesting is that even today Russian claims to hold to the Feb 21 agreements but their own Human Rights representative who was personally sent by Putin did not sign the agreements and to this day Russia has not signed them. But they quote them all the time.

While there is not hard evidence there is plenty of "parallel" open source materials that allude to the parallel planning.

Part of the problem for the WH is when they plan their responses which one of the four pillars of Russia do they address or do they address all pillars---Russian Security Services, Military, Russian oligarch's or the Russian mob as they are intertwined and support each other.

Dayuhan---check this particular article just shortly after the Crimea started that alludes to the existence of a long term plan concerning the Crimea---buried in the middle, just a single sentence and not gone into in any depth.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/world/europe/russias-move-into-ukraine...

From the cited article:

Some of Russia’s plans were clearly years in the making, including one to sever Crimea from Ukraine through Moscow’s political support for sovereignty and even reunification. Nevertheless, Mr. Putin’s strategy in the last two weeks has appeared ad hoc, influenced by events not always in his control.

“We shouldn’t assume there was a grand plan,” said Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia’s security forces from New York University who is in Moscow and regularly meets with security officials. “They seem to be making things up as they go along.”

Certainly there could have been a plan, but what's planned and what happens can be very different thing. I see no reason to suspect that the entire Ukrainian revolution was provoked to provide a pretext for Russian action. It looks more to me like a purely opportunistic move. In one sense it worked out: they have Crimea, and given the emotional and ego factors involved I don't see them giving it up. Whether that turns out to be a positive thing for them or not remains to be seen. They can still choke on it.

I don't think it's entirely realistic to think of "the WH" planning a response: any effective response has to be multilateral and has to involve Europe in a primary role. If the pillars are intertwined, you don't need to go for them all, just the most vulnerable spots. Hurt one badly enough and the edifice destabilizes, hurt two badly enough and it falls. Whether or not the political will to raise the hurt level high enough and sustain it long enough to accomplish anything is there remains to be seen.

Again, after re-reading the N.Y.T. article, I am left with all of the above. Military planners had most likely planned out the severing of Crimea under some war-game. All the military need do is pull the plan off the shelf, tweak it and do it. So, President Putin may have been acting on the spur of the moment to act out a well-planned scenario.

Watching the discussions on Ukraine here (SWC) and elsewhere it appears it is being driven in the US by local party political / ideological positions. This is regrettable but probably what Putin anticipated.

Those responding to the invasion of Crimea and its annexation by Russia would be forgiven for thinking was a pretty serious matter.

What to do about it?

From far away it appears that the 'left wing' of US politics - democrats and liberals - are happy to let Crimea go and the message to Russia is - take one small bite at a time with suitable periods in between - and we will let you do what you want as we don't care / don't have the stomach for a confrontation over this.

While the 'right wing' the Republicans are saying - we told you so (which they did, McCian, Palin, Romney) - and the leftists (Democrats and liberals) screwed it up now the US and the EU have a crisis to deal with.

It is intellectuallly immature to start pointing fingers those who are putting their hands up to provide a solution to a problem of the Obama administaration's making.

The Ukrainians (and others) are still to learn the sad truth that 'with a friend / ally like the US who needs enemies'.

In the meantime someone has to fix the mess created by the Obama administration... and it is not going to be the Obama / Biden circus.

Mark:

What you are seeing is a reprise of the positions adopted during the cold war. The positions of the respective sides are almost exactly the same except for one great and important difference. This time around there is nothing on the 'left' that I can see analogous to the strongly anti-communist Democrats and organizations of old. There are no equivalents to the Henry Jacksons or AFL-CIOs, people people and entities that were determinedly anti-communist. There aren't any Reagan Democrats who were the same way. That makes it easier for an adventurer like Putin to predict what we will do in a situation like this. If the one side is in office, we might do something, we might not. If the other side is in office, we absolutely won't do anything.

That in turn makes the next 3 years very dangerous for the West. Various countries know they have that much time to make a move they may be contemplating. If they wait longer than that the outlook of who is in office may change and it won't be so easy to predict reactions to provocations.

A lot of bad things can happen in 3 years.

In order for the policy detailed here, all of the undersigned must station themselves in Kiev or other appropriate Ukraine community to ensure proper compliance with the stated goals. Unless they are personally present, there is no expected chance of success.

cullifl:

The last bullet point had to do with developing natural gas infrastructure and the ability to ship it over the sea. What does that have to do with people standing around in Ukraine?

Hello, Foreign Policy Institute?

The Cold War called, and they want their strategy back.

Have come to appreciate Robert's dry humor---but did we even have a strategy (outside of containment if that was a strategy) in the Cold War days as we certainly did not have one after 9/11 from the same folks that took us to AFG and Iraq.

Robert C. Jones:

Huh?

Robert C. Jones:

I am a slow thinker so it took me awhile to figure out what you meant but I did it after a lot of frowning. You meant that a policy that bears resemblance to the one that won the Cold War, led to dissolution of the Soviet Union and liberated millions of people from the soul crushing boot of Soviet suzerainty without a shooting war is inappropriate when confronting a much weaker Russia that is led by a silovik intent on re-creating the old Soviet Union using methods that are Soviet in origin.

I don't think your apparent position is a strong one.

Carl,

I realize full well where you stand. I do not stand beside you. Never stand next to the guy who is yelling loudest to start a fight he does not understand and has no intention of participating in.

Our blind expansion of NATO to find partners for our misadventures un Afghanistan have compressed Russian influence in a way that Putin must respond to. Any counter move by us that does not account for our role in getting to where we are now is doomed to fail.

And we did not "win" the Cold War - rather the Soviet system/strategy collapsed first. We are hot on their heels toward our own comeuppance if we do not adjust to a strategy better designed to the current environment.

Robert C. Jones:

We'll take it from the top. None of the steps outlined in the letter constitute 'yelling the loudest to start a fight". They are all designed to strengthen the ability of NATO countries and Ukraine to resist and therefore deter Russian military aggression. That the possibility of that military aggression is real has very recently been demonstrated. To say that helping people with hands on the throat experience with Russian domination avoid feeling that domination again is yelling to start a fight is a bit curious in my view. It is more akin to helping people who have been beaten and robbed by the neighborhood thug not to get beaten and robbed again.

When you say we have compressed Russian influence that to me is arguing that the Russians can legitimately claim a 'sphere of influence'. That is a foul almost immoral argument, especially in this case. That argument completely disregards the wishes of the people in this 'sphere of influence', people who have photos of dead relatives on their mantelpiece, killed by Russians. It is an argument treats the aspirations and experience of those people as counting for nothing, the sort of argument that would be made by the grandees of feudal times as they made agreements to exchange peasants. If in the movie The Magnificent Seven when Caldera had said to Chris "If God didn't want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep", Chris had replied "Oh yeah. Hmm. You're right." instead of "Ride on.", it would not have been a good movie and besides it would have ended too soon. That sphere of influence argument is Chris saying "Oh yeah. Hmm. You're right."

I always find arguments that we force bad guys to be bad instead of recognizing they are bad because they are bad guys less than convincing. It is as if they have no minds of their own and only react to what we do, and always react by doing something aggressive if they are told they can't.

In my book if the guy you are tussling with gives up the tussle first because he collapses before you do, that's called winning. Even more so in the Cold War the collapse was caused by his reacting to things we did. That is called outdoing him.

Carl,

You are entitled to your opinions, bur I find them to typically be highly biased, overly superficial, emotional, short -sighted, lacking in empathy, and therefore usually unlikely to achieve our desired ends, and frankly dangerous. Not name calling, just describing what I perceive in most of your posts.

Robert C. Jones:

My Mom liked me though.

Carl, the colonel is becoming predictable in his responses. Kaplan in his book 'The Revenge of Geography' uses the term 'the prison of nations' for communism and the Warsaw Pact where what was Central Europe had become Eastern Europe and controlled from Moscow. When the Soviet Union collapsed observers could be forgiven for thinking that after all the years of the Cold War the US and Europe had an understanding of the Russian psyche. Alas not so. Instead of steadily dismembering the old Soviet Union until all that remained was the old Russian 'Heartland' where only ethnic Russians lived - no captive nations/ethnicities to act as a buffer for the 'Heartland' or included into a 'prison of nations' which Russia could call her empire. The second mistake was not to calculate the potential boost to the Russian economy that would come from oil and gas and take the necessary steps to in that regard.

The US and Europe are now reaping the rewards of having been magnanimous in victory. Russia now a criminal state fuelled by oil and gas money has to feed the monster of nationalism as a distraction for the growing domestic issues it faces as a nation. But the US and Europe had gone to sleep. The war in Georgia - which should have been a wake-up call - is responded to with a whimper. The annexation of Crimea by Russia receives merely a slap on the wrist. In an act of appeasement Russia is told 'you can have Crimea, but don't take anymore for the moment.'

This is the first step - the Anschluss - with more moves to follow. The US and Europe have experienced this before with Nazi Germany nearly 70 odd years ago but seem to have learned nothing.

You can't prevent military led nationalistic expansionism with appeasement. The prognosis is not good.

Mark:

On the money you are about 70 years ago. I happen to be listening to s book on tape about Hitler's foreign policy moves in the 30s and his 'protecting ethnic Germans' to justify naked conquest is exactly, exactly (!) the same bit Putin is using, as are some of the other arguments. It's eerie. It's scary.

That episode didn't end well.

The Neocons Discover (Re-Discover) Nato, eh?

From the NYT June 29, 1997 (Jeff Gerth and Tim Weiner):

At night, Bruce L. Jackson is president of the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, giving intimate dinners for Senators and foreign officials. By day, he is director of strategic planning for Lockheed Martin Corporation, the world's biggest weapons maker.

Mr. Jackson says he keeps his two identities separate, but his company and his lobbying group are fighting the same battle. Defense contractors are acting like globe-hopping diplomats to encourage the expansion of NATO, which will create a huge market for their wares.

Billions of dollars are at stake in the next global arms bazaar: weapons sales to Central European nations invited to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Admission to the Western fraternity will bring political prestige, but at a price: playing by NATO rules, which require Western weapons and equipment.

Don't listen to the barking dogs of American and Western punditry. Follow the money and follow the ideology and follow the power. Power, money, ideology.

So that's what motivates Putin, Lockheed Martin's corporate fortunes.