Saturday, March 8, 2014

Obama's reward and punishment strategy for resolving the Ukraine crisis

David Ignatius, associate editor and columnist at the Washington Post, offers an excellent analysis of Obama's strategy in response to Vladimir Putin's precipitation of the crisis in Ukraine. Reading Ignatius's commentary, however, must cause any rational adult to wonder at the necessity for the reward and punishment routine that seems required  to resolve international conflicts without resorting to all out war. And we're forced to ask ourselves, why can't prominent world leaders in the 21st century engage in mutually respectful communication to promote peace and justice throughout our shared planet?

That would require a level of maturity and wisdom the leaders of the world's superpowers have evidently not as yet reached.

Ignatius writes:

Since the Ukraine crisis began, Obama administration officials have talked about pushing Russia toward the "offramp" and de-escalation. That's the best diplomatic outcome, but it will require an unlikely public reversal by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The premise of the administration's approach is that Putin will decide that he made a mistake by seizing the Crimean region of Ukraine and, as he faces ever-greater costs, will negotiate a face-saving compromise, concluding that Russia's interests are better served by a return to the status quo

The exit path, as envisioned by the White House, seeks to address Russian concerns without undermining the new Ukrainian government. To answer Putin's complaints about the supposed mistreatment of Russian-speakers, international monitors have arrived in Crimea. But Russia must now work with the transitional government in Kiev and support elections to choose a successor to President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled last month. Finally, the Russians must return to their military bases in Crimea
It's a lot for Putin to swallow and so far, he has refused. Russian troops remain in control in Crimea, and Moscow appears to back the upcoming Crimean referendum to break away from Ukraine and join Russia. But even Putin, with his ex-KGB man's bravado, doesn't appear eager for all-out war in Ukraine
Obama on Thursday added pressure for Putin to stand down. The White House announced visa restrictions and a structure for targeted sanctions against Russians and their allies who are threatening Ukraine's sovereignty. Since no individuals or companies are yet named, the sanctions gun is unloaded, for now. The message to Putin was that the further he moves to annex Crimea, the more he risks economic damage to himself and friends, and to Russia itself.

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