“When you were asked what is the biggest geo-political threat
facing America, you said Russia. Not Al Qaeda. You said Russia. The
1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the
Cold War has been over for 20 years.”
- President Obama
speaking in a presidential debate on October 22, 2012, about opponent
Mitt Romney’s assessment of worldwide geo-political threats
If this was a high stakes game of Texas Hold ‘Em, Russian President Vladimir Putin just called President Obama’s bluff.
weekend, Russian troops rolled into the Crimean area of the Ukraine and
took control. To be clear, this move was done without so much as a shot
being fired, even though some reports said Ukrainian naval personnel
were besieged inside of barracks and Army locations were surrendered as
well. From the Ukrainian side, all of this was possible because of the
vast confusion in their government due to the departure of Russian
friend, deposed President Viktor Tanukovych.
There are no such
excuses for how the U.S. government and the rest of the world were
unprepared for the possible move given Putin’s aggressive actions and
talk in the past.
But then again, maybe not. President Obama has
repeatedly shown he never understood the Russian leader’s ambitions or
will to resurrect the old Soviet Union. Only 18 months ago Obama mocked
Mitt Romney during a presidential debate, likening Romney’s assessment
of Russia as a geo-political threat to a return to 1980s Cold War
But that was not the first time the President showed a
lack of understanding about Putin’s motives. In 2008,
then-Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin said in a blog post on the
campaign trail that Senator Obama’s “indecision” about Russia’s invasion
of Georgia would encourage Putin to invade the Ukraine next if he was
elected. Actually, she was only echoing what Obama’s running mate,
then-Sen. Joe Biden had said as well.
The Ukraine, and in
particular the Crimea, has been a thorn of contention to the Russians
for decades. Putin claims the soldiers were only sent in to protect
Russian citizens and Ukrainians of Russian descent from persecution.
While there has been no evidence presented about any ethnic or racial
issues, he is correct, there are a lot of Crimean residents of Russian
descent. But how did they originally get into the Ukraine? In 1944,
Russian leader Joseph Stalin ordered the removal of tens of thousands of
the native Tatars from the Ukraine so Russian citizens could move into
the area. It is estimated as much as 45 percent of the entire Tatar race
died in the deportation process.
Now the onus is on President
Obama to act. It is unlikely the U.S. and its allies will attempt to
remove Putin from Crimea by force, and for that, we are glad. The best
NATO and western European countries can hope for now is to show enough
strength to hold him in place while the real battle will begin. And the
battlefield will be over money.
Because in the end, this move by
Putin had a great deal to do with dollars and cents - or in this case,
rubles. Russia controls nearly 20 percent of the world’s supply of
natural gas and as recently as 2006 almost 80 percent of that supply
made it to Europe through pipelines running in the Ukraine.
what Putin has said publicly and despite the show he just put on with
the Winter Olympics, the Russian economy is flailing. They need to keep
the cash they were earning with gas sales flowing and with their friend
Tanukovych no longer in office, they were desperately afraid
anti-Russian elements within the new Ukrainian government would cut off
that supply line.
And therein lies the world’s answer. Putin and
Russia’s Achilles heel is their need for money. If the U.S. would change
its own regulations so it could sell regular natural gas overseas and
not just liquefied natural gas, they would be able to put pressure on
the Russians in the European market. Norway has already passed Russia to
become the leading gas supplier to western Europe so they could also
attempt to grab more market share as well. In the meantime, the ruble
has crashed on the world market and the Russian stock market has dipped
We encourage the Obama administration and our
country’s allies to continue this economic pressure because, in the end,
it was economic factors that led to the break up of the Soviet Union in
December of 1991. Perhaps President Obama should have paid a little
more attention to history rather than making fun of it.