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Crimea Crisis and Leaden Footed Uncle Sam

March 29, 2014

The recent annexation of Crimea by Putin’s Russia has taken us back to times when kings would invade and win territories. This is so unlike anything the world thought we would see in the 21st century. President Obama was right in his wonderment at what Putin had done. But the question is not what Putin did but how Obama let him do it. Ukrainians are calling it a theft. But it was not even that. Remember, Crimea had a referendum and the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to join Russia. For the western democracies to call the annexation ‘illegal’ makes them look silly.

For Obama this has been a decisive defeat. Strategically this has been a disaster. Annexation of Crimea is not only an oil bonanza, it means that Russian shores are deeper down south to the strategically important Black Sea. Russia being the largest exporter of oil now can claim the Black Sea oilfields. Europe will hum and haw but they cannot do without Russian oil and gas. Putin had been working on Crimea for sometime it seems. His inking of oil deals with China show that he was looking at markets beyond Europe and North America. Shale gas may have given the US some respite but they still import almost 35-40% of their oil. Russia exported oil to the US till yesterday.

Now, some may turn around and ask what could Obama have done? It was clear that Crimean’s would vote overwhelmingly for joining Russia. US has done this before in Iraq and Afghanistan and they could have done it again – entered Crimea this time. Had the Americans landed a couple of dozen fighter jets from the nearest base both in Kiev and in Sevastopol before the referendum Russians would have stopped in their tracks! But Obama did not act. He decided to let the issue drift. Putin read the American president’s mind correctly. He knew that the referendum would give him the legitimacy to move his tanks and take over the peninsula. It was a bloodless takeover. It could not have been any easier.

US has some 700 bases around the world since last reported, unless Obama has closed down some of them or just withdrew as he did from Iraq and is going to exit Afghanistan. The American president is out of depths when it comes to foreign policy. Chinese invariably get their way with him. Now Putin has done what he wanted. World is not Cinderella land. Slapping of sanctions against individual Russians is more of a joke than a serious rebuke. Putin carried on with the joke and issued a list of Americans against whom Russia had slapped sanctions. One name in the Russian list was that of one Mr John McCain. I heard many fell from their chairs laughing at this charade that is the sanctions. You can’t blame Obama if he carries on with the joke – one must concede the guy has sense of humour. Obama has promised more sanctions against Russia! It is unending laughter all around. The comedy is that the Europeans have it in their genes to follow Americans. So they try to look busy and with a stiff upper lip support the sanctions and further sanctions.

The US was stupid enough to go to the UN and try and pass a resolution calling the annexation of Crimea ‘illegal’. China abstained and Russia vetoed. That was the end of the matter.

Putin called Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when the ‘heat’ was on Russia soon after the Sevastopol raid by Russian forces. Manmohan Singh assured Russians of support. That was pragmatic of the Indian PM. We have close defence ties with Russia. The two heads of states may have also talked about more import of Russian oil by India. Russia needs market for its oil. India is a net importer. There should be no surprise if we do end up buying more from Russia.

Does the NATO really provide security to member nations – that is the question that is uppermost in the minds of most nations. Under Obama they are not too sure. While it is true that the American President is Noble Peace Prize winner, but even so, gifting Crimea was being just a tad too generous.

To make up for the blooper that was Crimea the guy chooses to meet the Pope in the hopes that it would be flashed around the globe and Crimea would be forgotten. It didn’t quite work that way.

Bibi Netanyahu must be a worried man. The way Obama has handled Crimea and the way he has given a long rope to Iran, things look ominous. Washington seems oblivious to the Iranian threat. I understand that US is not within Iranian missiles range but Tel Aviv is and Iranians have vowed to obliterate Israel. Does this register in DC? Evidently it does not. Bibi is not a fool. He has travelled to DC regularly trying to convince those who matter on the Capitol Hill the dangers that lie ahead. Some 100 Senators did give the president a petition of a possible proliferation by Iran but it seems the effort was a waste.

When the Iranians inked the deal with the US their president and his team were welcomed as war heroes in Tehran. If Putin understands Obama then so do the Iranians. As I write Obama is in Saudi Arabia trying to convince them about their security concerns. Saudis are clear in that the moment Iranians test a nuclear device they would get nukes from Pakistan. The Iranian question will be upper most on the agenda between the Saudis and the Americans. The region is in a fix over the Iranian question and not just Israel. Wonder whether another coloured man will get a shot at the White House were the Iranians able to test a nuclear device during Obama’s tenure?

Update: Russia is amassing troops in Eastern Ukraine. Obama is talking of further ‘sanctions’. Earlier Obama had dismissed Russia as a ‘regional power’. Putin has achieved a lot with obsolete tanks and artillery. What use A1-Abrams if they are never going to be used? Putin calling Obama could be a ruse to buy time before an incursion into Ukraine. Putin had earlier talked of a Union of Russian speaking regions. Reports are that Russia may invade Moldova next. Obama can quote the scriptures but the fact is that Russian expansionism is a reality that cannot be wished away.

Related Article:
Kiev says Russia provoking trouble in eastern Ukraine: Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/kiev-says-russia-provokes-trouble-in-eastern-ukraine-just-as-in-crimea/2014/04/07/8242ee71-465b-4113-91be-93f8bfa67ff1_story.html?hpid=z1

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