Idle Threats Redux?

Idle Threats Redux?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

President Obama is rapidly losing more credibility in the world community as he continues to respond to assorted international crises with threats of strong handed action of a diplomatic, economic, and even military nature but does not follow through. Lines in the sand in Syria, threats against Iran, and now pushing Putin to stop his aggression in the Crimea or the U.S. and its allies are preparing a set of sanctions, are falling on deaf ears.  This is not to suggest that the U.S. has many options, but idle threats will solve nothing.

It is clear that what is evolving in the Ukraine clearly resembles shades of the ugliest days of the Cold War. The struggle between Russia and the Ukraine has a very long history and the Black Sea port of Sebastopol has always been the cherished design of Mother Russia. Ukraine’s agricultural base as well as its natural resources always posed a threat to Russia’s dominance, except when they were part of the U.S.S.R.  Now this is even more exacerbated by the Ukraine’s clear trending toward democracy, the West, and the E.U.  This is occurring at the expense of any attention being paid to Putin’s needs and designs for a powerful Russian force remerging in the East.

So as the European Ministers, the U.N., and Secretary Kerry scurry about in an effort to try to hold up the Ukraine’s temporary regime, the type of relief that the Ukraine’s economy needs cannot possibly be fulfilled in the current climate. Putin and the Russian military can rush into the vacuum and assert their aggressive authority over the Crimea and East Ukraine, making the rest of the country cringe at their projected connecting with the West.

Does the President actually believe that banning Russia from a European summit will force Putin from abandoning his determination to keep the Ukraine in his orbit?  U.N. Security Council resolutions cannot invoke sanctions as Russia will simply veto them; so all the angry rhetoric against Moscow is just so much noise. Abhorrent though it may appear to be, there is very little the West can do baring a willingness to engage in a military confrontation with Russia.

Kerry apparently still will address the AIPAC conference on Tuesday morning as his plane warms up on the tarmac. He will begin by explaining to the pro-Israel delegates that the U.S.‘s agenda is now critically focused first and foremost on the latest eruption in the Balkans; at the same time he will report on the status of the Iran negotiations and the matter of Iranian sanctions; as well as the U.S. plan for Israel-Palestinian negotiations—including an extension of the talks for the balance of the year. Then Kerry will join his fellow foreign ministers in Kiev to show solidarity with the Ukraine; but to what end and how?

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