by Ari Lieberman
As Putin moves to consolidate his hold on Crimea, concern grows that Russia’s expansionist appetite will not be satiated with conquest of the peninsula. Ukraine fears that Putin’s next move will entail seizure of eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian sentiment remains high. Some news outlets intimated that the tiny nation of Estonia, once part of the Soviet Union may be next on Russia’s wish list with reports about Russia’s concern over the treatment of ethnic Russians in the Baltic country.
Some, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (she later backtracked) and Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird have compared Russia’s actions in Crimea with those of Nazi Germany and its unlawful seizure of Sudetenland in 1938, suggesting correctly that aggression unchecked will simply lead to more aggression. While there are certainly similarities between the two scenarios in that the leaders of both nations feigned concern for their kinsmen as the impetus for invading the sovereign territory of another nation, the similarities stop there.
Hitler was a madman, prone to irrational and rash decisions. He was infamous for refusing advice offered by seasoned Prussian military officers infinitely more capable than his limited mental abilities. Putin, by contrast is cold, cunning and calculated. An ex-KGB officer, Putin is by definition a cautious, analytical man who does not embark on an endeavor without thinking it through. Hence, when his troops entered Crimea, they did not bear any insignias that would betray their nationality thus gaining a measure of plausible deniability. While a confused NATO was scrambling to react to rapid developments, Putin had already thought things through to the minutest detail.
Putin realizes that any further moves into Ukraine will likely invite biting sanctions and other political repercussions and any move on the Baltic countries will provoke direct confrontation with NATO. Thus, the Ukrainian crisis will end in Crimea and go no further. Putin recognizes that he’s pushed the Crimean envelope as far as it could go and he is satisfied with this result. The aggressor has attained its objective while at the same time exposing and highlighting a feckless American foreign policy.
Events in Crimea and the Obama administration’s impotence in dealing with aggression have also had far-reaching, negative global implications. There are two nations watching events unfold with keen interest. China and Iran, two dictatorial countries with imperialistic and expansionist agendas, can draw comfort from a pusillanimous American foreign policy.
In the South and East China seas, China is aggressively seeking to expand its maritime borders. It has made significant headway in both these areas with a muscular military approach designed to intimidate American regional allies like Japan and the Philippines. America’s feeble response to Putin’s aggression in Crimea will only serve to embolden a resurgent and aggressive China, making the likelihood of a regional war in that neglected theatre a real possibility.
The situation with respect to Iran is even more acute. Iran is arguably the greatest threat to world peace since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, providing financial and military support to groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Taliban, Iraqi insurgents and Hezbollah. Its terror tentacles have extended beyond the Mideast to Europe, South Asia, Africa and the Americas and its connection to narco-terrorism is well established.
Israel’s recent naval interception of the Klos-C, a terror bound cargo vessel laden with Iranian arms, including some forty, long-range M-302 rockets, only serves to underscore the scheming nature and menace posed by that pariah nation.
But it is Iran’s nuclear ambitions coupled with its aggressive ballistic missile program that are most worrisome, with implications far beyond the region. Iran is now cognizant of the fact that the Obama administration, exercising what John McCain so aptly described as a “feckless” foreign policy, will do nothing to thwart the Islamic Republic from achieving breakout capacity. Once that occurs, the free world will be at the mercy of an apocalyptic Islamic theocracy and that should be a source of concern for us all.
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