Could Crimea have been prevented?

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By Jonathan S. Tobin,

from The American Spectator,
May, 2014:

The question of whether anything could have been done to prevent the Russian seizure of Crimea is more than the usual tiresome counter-factual debate that follows any historical event. Ukraine’s dismemberment was a fait accompli the moment Vladimir Putin gave the order to move his troops. But the “what ifs” about the prelude to that order are important—and not just because it is by no means clear how far Putin means to go, either with the rump of Ukraine or with the other nations that were once part of the Tsarist/Soviet empire he seems intent on reassembling. At a time when the United States seems to be undergoing a sea change in opinion about the direction of its foreign policy, with isolationism on the rise, it is worth examining whether American decisions played a role in creating this crisis.

To assert a direct and indisputable connections between the situation in Crimea and anything the US or it’s European allies have done is difficult.

Yet to admit that the west was powerless to prevent the invasion is not the same thing as to claim that decisions made by the US played no role in Putin’s thinking.

President Obama came into office in 2009 determined to change America’s image. The US would no longer be a unilateral cowboy besotted with its own exceptionalism, but instead a multilateral conciliator.

The Obama Administration ‘s appeasement of Putin as he sought to reassert Russian power doubtless helped to convince him he could do as he liked without fear of serious repercussions.

The principal argument against this thesis rests on the fact that Putin invaded Georgia in 2008 … and George Bush couldn’t stop [him]. The difference is this was already a shooting war between Tbilisi government and Pro-Russian separatists in a land geographically far removed from the West.

The administration made a point of casting Russia … [as a lynchpin in the Iranian nuclear negotiations.]

But that was nothing compared to the way Russia profited from Obama’s precipitate retreat from his “redline” on the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons.

Russia is no longer a superpower, but exactly the kind of dictatorship that is always encouraged by Western weakness. The consequences of an America in retreat will be felt around the world, as rogue regimes in Iran and North Korea have already demonstrated.

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