Sunday, April 26, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Is Putin outsmarting Obama in Ukraine crisis?

President Obama is facing perhaps the most difficult foreign policy challenge of his administration with the confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine and disputed territory in the Crimean peninsula.

Obama last week said the United States would “stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

“If we use force,” Putin responded this week, “we have received a request from a legitimate president.” He also warned that Europe and the United States would pay a price of their own in the event of economic sanctions.

How should Obama respond to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine? Has the president met his match or is he out of his depth? Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, the Red-Blue America columnists, weigh in.

Ben Boychuk

It should go without saying, but we live in an unsubtle age: Nothing that happens in Ukraine – nothing at all – justifies putting the lives of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines on the line.

Encouraging pro-democracy protesters to oust a corrupt government is one thing. Who wasn’t thrilled to see Ukrainians stand up to police and armed forces, and cheered when President (and Vladimir Putin puppet) Viktor Yanukovich fled Kiev for Moscow? Using American military might to ensure Yanukovich stays out would be sheer folly.

With that in mind, what exactly does President Obama mean when he says we “stand with the international community” against Russia and presumably in favor of a free and independent Ukraine?

The “international community,” after all, isn’t what it used to be – if it was ever much. The United Nations is powerless here. The U.N. Security Council could issue a sternly worded rebuke, which permanent member Russia would promptly veto.

The European Union doesn’t appear too eager to punish Russia economically. Europe – and Germany in particular – relies heavily on Russian gas for heat and electricity. Even our closest ally, Great Britain, has taken steps to protect the assets of Russian oligarchs who live large in London.

As with Syria, which used poison gas against civilians last year in defiance of U.S. warnings, it looks and sounds as if President Obama has drawn another “red line” that he has neither the will nor the wherewithal to enforce.

The other day, German chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly told Obama that Putin is “in another world.” Yes, he is. He’s in the real world, where real threats are met with real force, where power politics are a zero-sum game, and where “red lines” are not so easily mocked.

By making empty threats and foolish promises, Obama squanders American power and prestige. That makes war more likely, not less.

But surely “standing with the international community” offers some hope? Only for the ignorant and the naive. “Are you quite sure? It would be a pity to be wrong,” Winston Churchill wrote in his masterful history of World War I. “Such a mistake could only be made once – once for all.”

Joel Mathis

There’s not much President Obama can do in the Ukraine.

Oh, you’ll hear conservatives suggest that if only the president would demonstrate real toughness, Vladimir Putin might be dissuaded from meddling in the affairs of his neighbor nation – a country that, for most of the last century, was part of his nation.

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, of course, has led the way, suggesting that the president should move toward a “security relationship” with Ukraine. Madness, of course. Vladimir Putin is not a noble man, and one sympathizes with Ukrainians who wish to pull their country out from under Russia’s thumb. But the United States spent 50 years of the Cold War avoiding a direct armed confrontation with the Soviet Union, because nobody knew if that showdown might lead to a nuclear exchange – and the end of life on earth.

Russia still has a lot of nukes, though, which makes it a dangerous rival. Even if it both countries relied entirely on conventional forces, there’s no way the United States would militarily challenge that country just across the border from its home turf, where Russia would necessarily hold the geographic and logistical advantages. Besides: Do you want to sacrifice your child to the cause of Ukrainian sovereignty?

Alternatively, it is suggested the president lead the way in imposing international sanctions against Russia. That ignores that many European nations have deep economic ties to Russia that they’ll be reluctant to break.

To urge the president to get tougher in in any meaningful way, then, means ignoring that other nations – including Russia – have their own interests, or will drop those interests if only Mr. Obama shows a little more steel than he has. Nonsense.

In fact, the conflict in the Ukraine has pretty much nothing to do with the United States and everything to do with regional power games in a region where the United States has limited power over affairs. Message to American hawks: It’s not about us. Let’s keep it that way.

Ben Boychuk ([email protected]) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis ([email protected]) is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. Website: www.facebook.com/benandjoel.

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 10 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • DanielMarch 07, 2014 - 7:09 am

    The teleprompter can't figure out what to tell the empty suit, this scenario in a liberal world doesn't exist. Appeasement is supposed to solve everything.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Robert FederowiczMarch 07, 2014 - 9:55 am

    And the teaching moment here is- never give up your nukes.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Salty DogMarch 07, 2014 - 9:56 am

    Well Well Well it looks like Sarah Palin was right about the Ukraine. She told you so.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksMarch 07, 2014 - 6:49 pm

    Salty Dog, looks like nobody cares what you have to say. Bonus...nobody cares what Palin has to say either.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • HistorianMarch 07, 2014 - 7:10 pm

    Et tu, CD.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • ArtimusMarch 07, 2014 - 11:47 pm

    The truth hurts, C.D.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • patrickMarch 07, 2014 - 2:22 pm

    I seem to remember Obama received the Nobel peace prize shortly after he became president. can anyone remember why?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • HistorianMarch 07, 2014 - 7:14 pm

    Why? Because it made a bunch of Swedish and Norrwegian dingdongs feel warm and fuzzy.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895March 08, 2014 - 2:26 am

    There may not be much the US can do in Ukraine and Crimea, but there is much we can do in Syria. Assad is missing deadlines and Russia can no longer be relied upon to change that. Diplomacy has failed. Let the bombing begin. If a show of force against Russia is needed, let it be there.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895March 08, 2014 - 2:28 am

    Oh, and better get out of the stock market and buy gold;-).

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Children enjoy day of fishing at Fairfield pond

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Solano cities celebrate Earth Day

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Hard-fought battle ends in victory

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
Those addictive, terrible, wonderful smartphones

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

 
Expo shows Kroc Center fun for whole Framily

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Supervisors consider changes in various county fees

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

Suisun police execute tobacco sting

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A4

 
Edibles in your landscape

By Daily Republic | From Page: C4

CHP offers free class for senior drivers

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

 
Patrons raise a glass to toast a good cause

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Walk MS hits stride along Suisun waterfront

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Covered California offers Solano enrollment events

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

Weather for Sunday, April 26, 2015

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B6

 
Pay close attention to investment costs

By Mark Sievers | From Page: B7, 1 Comment

Be wary of next ‘big’ thing

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: B7

 
.

US / World

With legalization, lawyers turn to business of pot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

 
Spring storm delivers late rain, snow to Northern California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Remains of dismembered newborn found in South Los Angeles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Nearly 17 million watch Jenner interview

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

‘Operation Babylift’ kids, soldiers reunite 40 years later

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Starbucks stores reopen Saturday after computer glitch

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Aden hit by coalition airstrikes amid fierce street battles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Mother in custody dispute freed after 8 years behind bars

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

A dozen arrested as Freddie Gray protests turn violent

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Italy marks 70th anniversary of anti-Nazi uprising

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

European authorities stop illegal horse meat network

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Italian navy rescues 274 from migrant ship off Libyan coast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Army shutting down wounded warrior transition care units

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
Warrior pose: Yoga catching on as therapy for veterans’ PTSD

By The Washington Post | From Page: B10

Toll climbs after powerful quake hits Nepal: Things to Know

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
.

Opinion

How can we give them more?

By Brian Thiemer | From Page: A8, 3 Comments

 
Primary challenge could force Harris’ hand

By Dan Walters | From Page: A8

Sound off for April 26, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
Corruption tarnishes values of our ancestors

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
Obama sides with enemy

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

Who’s asleep at the switch?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
.

Living

Brides show short wedding gowns more of the love

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
Community Calendar: April 26, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Today in history: Sunday, April 26

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Vatican goes on offensive to defend US-Spanish saint

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

 
You get what you need with Jesus

By Noel Reese | From Page: C3, 1 Comment

How can I trust my husband after he texted a younger woman behind my back?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

 
Horoscope: April 26, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

 
Veterinarians are too expensive, and it puts pets at risk

By The Washington Post | From Page: C5

Old standby body-weight training still has moves

By The Washington Post | From Page: C7

 
Milan spiffs up for Expo 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: C7

.

Entertainment

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
More copies of Laura Ingalls Wilder memoir being printed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Amber Tamblyn writes book of poetry about dead actresses

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

Giants beat Rockies 5-4 in 11 innings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Warriors complete sweep with 109-98 win over Pelicans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Athletics drop 3rd straight game, 9-3 to Astros

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Rain postpones NASCAR race at Richmond until Sunday

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Klitschko outpoints Jennings to defend heavyweight titles

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Michael Schumacher’s son makes strong Formula 4 debut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
US routs Canada 7-2 in semifinal at under-18 hockey worlds

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Watford back in Premier League after 8-year absence

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Several Kentucky Derby hopefuls get workouts in before rain

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Levy falters at Volvo China Open; 4 tied for lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Former Expos executive Jim Fanning dies at 87

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam team to lead Legends of Golf

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Compton, Day top leaderboard in rain-plagued Zurich Classic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Suzuki breaks Oh’s record for runs by a Japanese player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bulldogs get 10-0 baseball win over Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Canadian teen Henderson has 1-shot lead in LPGA Tour event

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
A’s place Ben Zobrist on disabled list with knee injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

7 players from Royals, White Sox punished by MLB for brawl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Bowling report for April 26, 2015

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B4

Bayless’ layup at buzzer gives Bucks 92-90 win over Bulls

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

 
Nets beat Hawks 91-83, pull within 2-1 in series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

Grizzlies hold off a late Trail Blazers rally to go up 3-0

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Hometown report: Bicycle racing, youth track

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B4

Sports on TV for Sunday, April 26, 2015

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B5

 
This date in sports history for April 26

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Business

What’s in a hotel name? Guests try to decipher the mystery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Veggies take center plate as healthy fast food chains expand

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7, 1 Comment | Gallery

Is ice cream safe? Federal health officials say yes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
 
Don’t panic, college seniors: Jobs for grads likely to grow

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

.

Obituaries

Elizabeth Cepeda

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Janis Ruth (Sefzik) Skinner

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Nicole Herdia Spann

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Reginald Morris Davis

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Kirk Noonan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Sandra King

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics