Charles Krauthammer: Putin's Ukraine gambit
Use the 2008 war with Georgia to detach two of its provinces, returning them to the bosom of mother Russia (by way of Potemkin independence). Then late last year, pressure Ukraine to reject a long-negotiated deal for association with the European Union, to draw Ukraine into Putin's planned "Eurasian Union" as the core of a new Russian mini-empire.
Russia does. Moscow denounces the overthrow as the illegal work of fascist bandits, refuses to recognize the new government created by parliament, withholds all economic assistance and, in a highly provocative escalation, mobilizes its military forces on the Ukrainian border.
Obama wants stability, The New York Times reports, quoting internal sources. He sees Ukraine as merely a crisis to be managed rather than an opportunity to alter the increasingly autocratic trajectory of the region, allow Ukrainians to join their destiny to the West and block Russian neo-imperialism.
But Ukraine is never on its own. Not with a bear next door. American neutrality doesn't allow an authentic Ukrainian polity to emerge. It leaves Ukraine naked to Russian pressure.
This is no dietary hygiene campaign. This is a message to Kiev: We can shut down your agricultural exports today, your natural gas supplies tomorrow. We can make you broke and we can make you freeze.
Alas, any such declaration from this administration carries the weight of a feather. But better that than nothing. Better still would be backing these words with a naval flotilla in the Black Sea.
Yes, $15 billion is a lot of money. But it's less than one-half of one-tenth of 1 percent of the combined EU and U.S. GDP.
Putin knows that. Which is why he keeps ratcheting up the pressure. The question is, can this administration muster the counterpressure to give Ukraine a chance to breathe?
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