C.J. Marshall: Significa: It's never as easy as it seems
The geo-political situation between Russia and the Ukraine over the Crimea reminds me of a political cartoon I saw many years ago, during the administration of then-President Jimmy Carter.
The cartoon showed the Russian Bear running unhindered across the African continent. At the time, the presence of Russian troops in many African nations was a cause of concern in the U.S. as well as many other Western nations. Carter was in the cartoon on the left, dressed in a sheepskin, smiling, but waving a disapproving finger at the bear. Underneath the caption read: "Baaaad bear! How do I get you to listen to my polite reprimands?"
I admit that today's political situation with Russia sounds like deja vu all over again with President Obama's administration. It's extremely frustrating as we watch Russian President Vladimir Putin waltz in and take important territory from the Ukraine - a U.S. ally - without so much as a finger seemingly raised to prevent the act.
The actions between Russia and the Ukraine have proved a low-point in President Obama's opinion poll because of his perceived inability to do anything serious about the situation. At this point the president has ordered some Russian assets frozen in the U.S., but this effort has been miniscule at best, and shrugged off by the Russians as well as other countries involved the situation.
Many political columnists have also been sharply critical of Obama during the situation as well, taking him to task for not taking a firmer hand with Russia, and not offering more support of the Ukraine. And yet, through it all, one thing that strikes me most about the situation is that the naysayers are not offering any alternative solutions to the problem.
It's always easy for someone to criticize the actions of another, because they themselves do not have to take the consequences for those actions. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Obama offers extensive military and economic aid to the Ukraine in an attempt to help it defy Russia's efforts to take over the Crimea. Such actions would demonstrate a much stronger stand on the part of the U.S., and show the Russians we would not tolerate their encroachment into the Crimea.
That might satisfy a lot of folks at home, and it would probably bolster the Ukraine, but you can bet the rent it would not please Putin or the rest of the Russian government. Our European allies - although in the Ukraine's corner - would also not be happy with such actions. Remember, this is not a small nation of limited resources we're talking about here. This is Russia, which has continually rivaled the U.S. on the world stage since the end of the Second World War, and has full military capabilities - including nuclear weapons - to back up its actions. While it galls me to think that Putin has gained such a political victory on the world stage by successfully annexing the Crimea, you have to ask yourself "Is it worth the risk of a major war - which could easily escalate into a nuclear confrontation - in an attempt to prevent it?"
There have concerns raised that Putin and Russia may try to grab more territory as a result of the annexation of the Crimea. That's a legitimate concern, mind you, and one that we will have to be on guard against. But my sympathies are with Obama and the rest of the Western alliance on this one. Once before, when the president attempted to draw the line with Syria, he ended up in a very embarrassing situation when the Syrian president defied him and crossed it. This time, with Russia, I believe Obama knows he'd better be prepared to back up what he says in the event Putin decides to call his bluff. So although Obama may appear to be moving too cautiously and ineffectively at this time, doing so is much better than behaving in a reckless and dangerous manner simply to satisfy those who think we aren't doing enough about the situation. Because let's face it, if things were to eventually evolve into a nuclear conflagration, there probably won't be anyone left afterward to say "I told you so."
C.J. Marshall is a writer and columist for The Daily Review. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.