Concern will be expressed, disappointment will be felt, and a grim air of deja vu will pervade the scene. You know how this goes. How many of these has he done since Putin started playing his “those aren’t our guys, those are ‘separatists'” game earlier this year? If there are any Russian billionaires left to sanction, I take it by the end of the week a-sanctioned they will be.
Samantha Power minced no words today at the UN in describing what Russia’s up to. Well, almost no words: The word “invasion” has suddenly vanished from her vocabulary, as it has for every other major U.S. diplomat. The impulse there, I suppose, is that the White House feels obliged to poke the bear a little as a matter of American prestige but they’re terrified of how far the new czar might go in Ukraine if he gets poked too hard. “Incursion” and “escalation” are less ominous, and less permanent, than ‘invasion.” Putin has bet so much of his own domestic prestige now on dominating Ukraine that he may have decided that he simply can’t afford to be seen as having lost there. If that means an invasion by inches until there are tens of thousands of Russia troops in the field and the country’s east is secure, then that’s what it means.
No one knows yet which other topics are on O’s agenda. Could be he’ll have an update on ISIS too. There’s news breaking as I write this that James Foley and three other hostages were waterboarded by ISIS while in captivity. I’m expecting some very smart commentary from some very important thinkfluencers on how people known for literally crucifying some of their prisoners never would have done that if the U.S. hadn’t done it to Khaled Sheikh Mohammed first. Or maybe the smart take will be that using waterboarding to try to obtain intelligence from a guy who masterminded flying planes into the Twin Towers is morally indistinguishable from doing it to an infidel journalist for funsies. We’ll see. Hope O takes questions so he can be asked about it.
Update: A smart point, via Noah:
Update: Don’t poke the bear. He might poke back harder.
Obama refers to Russian forces in Ukraine as an “ongoing incursion”
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) August 28, 2014
Update: Everyone knew this already but I didn’t expect quite so much candor:
Obama on ISIS: "We don't have a strategy yet."
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) August 28, 2014
Update: He’s hitting some long home runs today.