Friday, March 21, 2014

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia: Debating Obama’s Weakness Only Makes Our Entire Country Weak - Time

...The record is clear and consistent. Whether Democrat or Republican, no U.S. president has ever succeeded in deterring Soviet military intervention in Eastern Europe over the last 70 years. American responses to intervention, however, did vary radically. President Reagan pursued a much more coercive and robust response to martial law in Poland in 1981 compared to President Johnson’s feeble response to Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
It is on this debate — how to make Putin pay for his actions — that our national leaders should focus. Debating the extent of sanctions against Russian officials, arguing over the size of the economic assistance package to the new Ukrainian government, debating greater military assistance to the Ukrainian army, considering how large the increase should be of scholarships for Ukrainians to study in the U.S. over the next decade, or jousting over how large the plus up should be for the Freedom Support Act should be in next year’s budgets — these are the important policy questions of our moment. Debating Obama’s weakness only makes our entire country weak.
Michael McFaul is professor of political science and Hoover senior fellow at Stanford University. He served for five years in the Obama administration including as U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, from Jan. 2012 to Feb. 2014.

-bth: an editorial by former Ambassador McFaul worth reading in full.

Tensions high on Ukraine's first line of defence against Russia

The Ukrainian troops are ill equipped to hold back the Russians.

Putin’s ‘envoy’ seeks India deals to counter Western sanctions - Indian Express

President Vladimir Putin’s most trusted lieutenant is headed to India as part of Moscow’s move to push business ties with Asian nations and counter moves by the US and Europe to isolate Russia for signing a treaty to absorb Crimea from Ukraine.

Igor Sechin sent word Wednesday that he would be arriving in New Delhi on March 24 for talks with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily.

The request from Sechin, who heads Russia’s biggest oil company Rosneft, did not outline the issues he planned to discuss, but officials said energy contracts could be dangled to wean New Delhi away from the US — just as he did in Tokyo Wednesday, seeking a broader connect with Japan....

-bth; Putin is rewarding his collaborators and shifting Russia to the east - China, Japan, India as his moves in Ukraine and Crimea will alienate Russia's relations in the near term with the West.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nightwatch: Creation of a Polish, Ukranian and Lithuanian military brigade

Poland: Poland's defense ministry announced it will re-launch plans to establish a joint Polish, Ukrainian and Lithuanian military brigade. The announcement said defense ministers will meet this week to discuss the formation of the brigade that would straddle NATO's eastern border.

Comment: This is arguably the strongest action taken by any European NATO member thus far. It is the only action that shows a deep appreciation of the implications of Russian state behavior. It is something the Russian leaders will understand and monitor, though they will dismiss it. This military unit -- assuming the three states actually raise a new formation -- would seem to commit two NATO members to the defense of Ukraine should the brigade ever go into action....

-bth: Putin has to anticipate that NATO will harden, at least on the east, to Russia's actions in Crimea.  Are NATO security guarantees creeping into the Ukraine with the formation of this brigade and all that that entails?