America’s schizophrenic approach to the new war in Europe

posted at 10:01 am on July 28, 2014 by Noah Rothman

The nearly 300 mostly European civilians who lost their lives when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was blown out of the sky by pro-Moscow militants using a sophisticated Russian anti-aircraft battery died almost instantly.

That is the likely conclusion of a recent investigation into the attack on MH17. Officials who are digging into the data contained within that flight’s black box determined that the plane suffered a “massive explosive decompression” when the fuselage was impacted by hundreds of shrapnel fragments emanating from a detonating surface-to-air missile.

“It did what it was designed to do,” a European air safety official, speaking to CBS news, said of the missile investigators believe to have been fired from a Russian SA-11, “bring down airplanes.”

Since that civilian transport was destroyed on July 17, the United States has alleged that Russia has only escalated the conflict in Ukraine.

Without using that inflammatory and legally binding term, U.S. officials with the State Department accused the Kremlin last week of committing acts of war in Europe.

“We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatists forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Wednesday.

The Defense Department echoed State on Thursday. “For several days the Russians have been firing artillery into Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said. “This is clearly a military escalation.”

On Saturday, American officials backed up this claim with evidence which they claim indicates that the Russian military has continued to supply rebels in Ukraine with heavy weaponry and has targeted on Ukrainian military positions with artillery fired from inside Russian territory.

These satellite images, via CBS Radio reporter Cami McCormick, make the case:

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With American defense and foreign affairs officials speaking so clearly on the situation in Europe — a situation which is indistinguishable from a low intensity war — the silence out of the White House on this matter is even more jarring.

America’s lack of a clear policy to address Russian aggression is understandable; there is no easy way to force Moscow to back down. This is not the Cold War. Russia’s economy is not closed, and any sanctions regime robust enough to force the Kremlin to recalculate would necessarily take a toll on fragile Western economies as well.

“Silence has been forced on them because to speak openly would risk accusations of disloyalty,” Forbes contributor Eamonn Fingleton wrote on Sunday. “But they know in their heart of hearts that Obama’s sanctions policy will play out as a double whammy for the American economy.”

For a start the sanctions will deprive America of badly needed immediate export opportunities. But a much more troubling problem in the long run is that East Asian and European rivals will succeed to the place of U.S. corporations in the Russian market.

Officially, of course, this shouldn’t happen. After all, corporate America’s foreign rivals are based mainly in nations that support Obama’s sanctions. Such nations notably include Japan, South Korea, and Germany. They also include France, Italy, and the UK.

The problem is that, with few exceptions, these nations are not nearly as committed to punishing Russia as the United States. This applies in spades to Japan, which happens to be by far America’s most formidable rival in high-technology goods.

Even with a global, uniform sanctions regime on Russia in place, itself a highly unlikely prospect, there is no guarantee that Russian President Vladimir Putin would abandon his gambit in Ukraine. The Russian leader has made it clear for all those who are listening that his government views the conflict in Ukraine as central to Russia’s place in the geopolitical order. For the West, the stakes in Ukraine are much lower.

Moreover, the proposition that the Russian people would revolt against Putin if they were confronted with deprivation is a shaky one. The Russian character was forged in economic and military conflicts with Western powers, and Putin’s popularity has skyrocketed while claiming that his actions are taken only in defense of his country’s interests in the face of Western aggression.

These practical considerations are, however, no excuse for the lack of moral clarity from the president on the state of the present conflict in Russia. Numerous commentators have noticed that United Nations Amb. Samantha Power spoke with more refreshing precision about the source of the present conflict in Europe and the threat it poses to the global order than has President Barack Obama.

It costs Obama nothing to state clearly who is to blame for the crisis in Europe. So why is he leaving it to his subordinates to make that case while he treats it as a secondary concern?


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Start exporting LNG to Europe to break their dependence on Russian gas.

JoeHanson on July 28, 2014 at 10:05 AM

When Obama sets a red line it’s a speak-o.

ConstantineXI on July 28, 2014 at 10:05 AM

I think Israel should help Ukraine, they are the only country left that has any balls.

redguy on July 28, 2014 at 10:06 AM

https://twitter.com/maxseddon

max seddon @maxseddon · 3h

The area near the #MH17 crash site is now the hot front in east Ukraine. Inspectors had to turn back again today.

https://twitter.com/maxseddon/status/493705194497404928/photo/1

canopfor on July 28, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Putin has threatened Obama with another atomic wedgie if he does anything Putin doesn’t like.

hip shot on July 28, 2014 at 10:07 AM

InComing Galore:

max seddon @maxseddon · 22h

Just when it looked like the #MH17 crash site would finally be secured, this happened: http://www.buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/experts-barred-from-malaysian-airlines-crash-site-as-fightinhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wL4In-hSJmY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wL4In-hSJmY

canopfor on July 28, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Hand me that five-iron Boehner… Brian Williams will cover for me…

viking01 on July 28, 2014 at 10:09 AM

It costs Obama nothing to state clearly who is to blame for the crisis in Europe.

Yes, it does. Obama will side with whichever regime shows the greatest animosity toward Isreal.

locomotivebreath1901 on July 28, 2014 at 10:09 AM

If Obama gets directly involved he then would not be able to blame someone else!

Old Dog on July 28, 2014 at 10:09 AM

So why is he leaving it to his subordinates to make that case while he treats it as a secondary concern?

Golf…

PatriotRider on July 28, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Putin has threatened Obama with another atomic wedgie if he does anything Putin doesn’t like.

hip shot on July 28, 2014 at 10:07 AM

hip shot: Correction, that wedgie target is the WH/Pentagon:)

i24news_EN @i24news_EN · 4h

N. Korea threatens nuclear strike on White House ►► http://i24ne.ws/zEpxB
========

https://twitter.com/i24news_EN

canopfor on July 28, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Don’t attack the well being of the Russian people, such as it is. Attack the personal, ill gotten wealth of Putin and his Oligarch cronies (as opposed to O’ and his Oligarch cronies). Openly and often advertise their hidden wealth (in the West)so it is no longer ‘hidden’. As best as can be done, indicate from where the wealth was obtained and who else benefits. Let the chips fall where they may. Then, freeze all of their wealth in the accounts located where they can be found.

vnvet on July 28, 2014 at 10:12 AM

Golf…

PatriotRider on July 28, 2014 at 10:10 AM

PatriotRider: Yup:)

https://twitter.com/markknoller

Mark Knoller @markknoller · Jul 26

Pres Obama played about 5 hrs of golf at Congressional and then returned to the WH.

canopfor on July 28, 2014 at 10:12 AM

Hopeys on it (sarc)

https://twitter.com/markknoller

Mark Knoller @markknoller · 53s

Deputy NSA @rhodes44 says Pres Obama conferring this morning about Ukraine with leaders of Germany, France, UK and Italy.

canopfor on July 28, 2014 at 10:14 AM

“We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatists forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions,”

Impossible.

Man, obama kicked putin’s ass.

What a whuppin’.

Putin’s talk was cheap, obama’s sanctions were expensive.

everdiso on June 13, 2014 at 1:11 PM

That renders this question moot:

It costs Obama nothing to state clearly who is to blame for the crisis in Europe. So why is he leaving it to his subordinates to make that case while he treats it as a secondary concern?

Obama has already put Putin in his place.

/

mankai on July 28, 2014 at 10:15 AM

The problem is that, with few exceptions, these nations are not nearly as committed to punishing Russia as the United States.

Translation: While just as amoral, these nations are not nearly as committed to destroying themselves as Obama is committed to destroying the United States.

Fenris on July 28, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Deputy NSA @rhodes44 says Pres Obama conferring this morning about Ukraine with leaders of Germany, France, UK and Italy.

canopfor on July 28, 2014 at 10:14 AM

There’s no way Barky is up before the crack of noon…

viking01 on July 28, 2014 at 10:18 AM

What the hell can Italy do? Cut off the supply of cannolis?

mankai on July 28, 2014 at 10:21 AM

So why is he leaving it to his subordinates to make that case while he treats it as a secondary concern?

Because he doesn’t have the nerve to tie his own shoes in the morning.

Walter L. Newton on July 28, 2014 at 10:22 AM

America’s schizophrenic approach to… [fill in the blank with just about anything]

mankai on July 28, 2014 at 10:24 AM

It is the same schizophrenic approach that we took to WWII and to the runnup to 9/11. A large number of Americans are isolationist — the kind of people who think that if we don’t bother anyone else, if we don’t take sides, they won’t bother us. The other side recognizes that the earth is now very small; the commerce we have with the rest of the world, and which improves our lives, comes at the cost of interacting militarily with the rest of the world.

One side has already been proven wrong, over and over, but that doesn’t stop them from thinking that they might be right the next time around.

unclesmrgol on July 28, 2014 at 10:24 AM

What the hell can Italy do? Cut off the supply of cannolis?

mankai on July 28, 2014 at 10:21 AM

They can send Luigi and Bruno to fit uncooperative diplomats for concrete Bruno Magli’s.

viking01 on July 28, 2014 at 10:25 AM

The One is “ambivalent” because he believes, or at least dreams, that if Putin is successful enough in his Mussolini-like attempts to rebuild the Soviet Empire, he will “do a Castro” and reveal himself as the dyed-in-the-wool, true-believing Communist The One yearns to see in power over there.

Remember, to The One, Communism is a “mystical, Eastern” belief, and thus infinitely superior to evil Western materialism. Its chronic inability to deliver even rudimentary…anything… to the people it ruled is seen as a sterling merit by The One; it’s “ecologically pristine”.

(No, he doesn’t know what an ecological disaster area the former USSR is. Nor does he want to know. That would conflict with his dogmas.)

At the same time, he wants to appear to be a “peacemaker”, to ensure his “legacy”. And probably because his ego cannot tolerate people just ignoring him.

So yes, our policy there is schizophrenic. Just like the person responsible for said policy.

clear ether

eon

eon on July 28, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Preznit Cakeboy will sashay over to his red line, put his hands on his hips, and say “OH NO YOU DI-INT GIRFREN!”

Walter Sobchak on July 28, 2014 at 10:37 AM

Hey, they’re just white people.

formwiz on July 28, 2014 at 10:38 AM

One side has already been proven wrong, over and over, but that doesn’t stop them from thinking that they might be right the next time around.

unclesmrgol on July 28, 2014 at 10:24 AM

Yea… Another TruPatriot voting for starting a war with a Nuclear Power. What could possibly go wrong.

oscarwilde on July 28, 2014 at 10:41 AM

No offense Noah……is Ed on vacation?

Cindy Munford on July 28, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Cindy Munford on July 28, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Never mind.

Cindy Munford on July 28, 2014 at 10:42 AM

If Obama gets directly involved he then would not be able to blame someone else!

Old Dog on July 28, 2014 at 10:09 AM

This. It is just like the Southern Border Crisis. Obama can’t be seen anywhere near the border because then he would have to do something about it. If there were pics of him and Perry at the border Obama would own the crisis. By staying comfortably away and constantly blaming Republicans, he distances himself from the problem he helped create.

It is the same deal with Ukraine, if he gets directly involved, he owns it. He refuses to take ownership because he doesn’t want to tarnish his legacy.

Johnnyreb on July 28, 2014 at 10:46 AM

I think Israel should help Ukraine, they are the only country left that has any balls.

redguy on July 28, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Bibi has met Putin a few times since the conflict started. He refused to condemn the annexation on Crimea and refused to condemn Putin. Israel will never help the Ukraine the way it helped Serbia.

lexhamfox on July 28, 2014 at 10:48 AM

How is going golfing schizophrenic?

Oh. Nevermind.

Fallon on July 28, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Don’t attack the well being of the Russian people, such as it is. Attack the personal, ill gotten wealth of Putin and his Oligarch cronies (as opposed to O’ and his Oligarch cronies). Openly and often advertise their hidden wealth (in the West)so it is no longer ‘hidden’. As best as can be done, indicate from where the wealth was obtained and who else benefits. Let the chips fall where they may. Then, freeze all of their wealth in the accounts located where they can be found.

vnvet on July 28, 2014 at 10:12 AM

While noble, I think there are a few problems with this approach – and why it hasn’t been done.

I am pretty sure Russian folks know who is wealthy and where their wealth originates – and they either don’t care, or they heavy hand of wealth in Russia would smack down any dissenters.

As to the Western accounts – their is hundreds of millions in play for financial companies in fees alone to keep these accounts running. They aren’t going to sacrifice that revenue through a freeze, or worse – losing those accounts to other vehicles. Regardless of the “anti Wall ST” hype from the left – Wall Street still dictates policy, or a lack of a freeze policy.

Odie1941 on July 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Bidens on it too:

https://twitter.com/Reuters

Ukraine, Russia political crisis
3m
White House says Vice President Joe Biden to meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on Monday – @Reuters

canopfor on July 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

As long as Italy’s military is kept out of it…

Nobody is scared of a Jew in a smart suit… Put an Italian guy is the same suit and he looks ominous.

Take them both and put a military uniform on them and the reaction is reversed.

mankai on July 28, 2014 at 11:06 AM

So why is he leaving it to his subordinates to make that case while he treats it as a secondary concern?

Because Obama is occupied with his Nr. 1 goal during his remaining time in office and that is bringing about the destruction of the US from within?

albill on July 28, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Obama’s current inaction is the flexibility he promised.

AtTheRubicon on July 28, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Putin delivers, King Barack dithers.

GarandFan on July 28, 2014 at 11:41 AM

Obama: “Whatever.”

Ward Cleaver on July 28, 2014 at 11:43 AM

How is going golfing schizophrenic?

Oh. Nevermind.

Fallon on July 28, 2014 at 10:48 AM

He is of two minds – use the seven iron, or the nine iron?

Ward Cleaver on July 28, 2014 at 11:44 AM

https://twitter.com/Reuters

Ukraine, Russia political crisis
5m
France, US, Germany, Britain, Italy to take further measures against Russia over Ukraine crisis, according to French presidency – @Reuters
End of alert

canopfor on July 28, 2014 at 11:46 AM

I wonder what the Russian people would do in the face of deprivation. In the 80s I thought Ronald Reagan, Casey, Schultz, and Weinberger were nuts in trying to beat the USSR by military spending them into bankruptcy. These were people who lost 30 million dead to Hitler and still won. I was hugely wrong. The Russian people had gotten tired of lines for shoes and toilet paper when the rest of the world had color TVs and microwaves. I think the Russian people would be less agreeable today to suffering deprivation than they were in the 80s. The criminal oligarchs and even the legal ones like the guy who owns the Nets would be very upset to find their billions denied to them. Yes, universal and wide ranging economic sanctions are the way to go.

xkaydet65 on July 28, 2014 at 11:54 AM

Obama will not talk with clarity because he has no answer to a simple and natural follow-up question: “What are you going to do about it?”

PBH on July 28, 2014 at 12:26 PM

This. It is just like the Southern Border Crisis. Obama can’t be seen anywhere near the border because then he would have to do something about it. If there were pics of him and Perry at the border Obama would own the crisis. By staying comfortably away and constantly blaming Republicans, he distances himself from the problem he helped create.

It is the same deal with Ukraine, if he gets directly involved, he owns it. He refuses to take ownership because he doesn’t want to tarnish his legacy.

Johnnyreb on July 28, 2014 at 10:46 AM

A mountain of crap doesn’t have a shine to tarnish.

slickwillie2001 on July 28, 2014 at 12:52 PM

First I would like to state the obvious: Because Obama is a weak-kneed ninny, terrorists and tyrants world-wide (China, Russia, Al Qaeda) have grown stronger and more emboldened and the Crimea crisis is a direct result of that weakness.

As stated, the cause of the crisis is clear but the solution is ambiguous to say the least. Firstly, despite “conquering” the Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine I don’t remember hearing of a single Russian military casualty (and precious few Ukrainians, too, for that matter.) That’s not a war, it’s a debate.

This brings up a cogent question, viz: Do the Ukrainians even want independence or do they want to rejoin Russia? And, even if they truly want independence, are they another useless drag on American lives and material–the Eastern European equivalent of France, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, Norway etc.–countries willing to take our money but snipe at us in the UN and refuse to defend themselves?

American boots on the ground on Russia.s doorstep is unthinkable–especially Obama’s weakened, gay-oriented, “sensitive” Army. Any money we send to Ukraine is lost forever and any military equipment could well wind up in enemy hands.

With coordination with Europe (if possible) and a strong America leading the way (NOT with the current leadership) Putin could be damaged economically but not militarily.

MaiDee on July 28, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Noah, schizophrenia does not mean what you think it means.

fossten on July 28, 2014 at 7:48 PM