Monday, February 23, 2015

Paralyzed By Ukraine, Dumbfounded by Russia

As the cease-fire collapses, Obama cannot commit to the next course of action to counter Moscow. And he’s running out of time.

By James Oliphant, National Journal

The sluggish disintegration of a weak peace deal in Ukraine has come as nothing less than a blessing for President Obama. It has helped mask his administration's inability to determine the best response to the crisis, and to Russia.

But this respite will not last. Given the events on the ground, Obama will soon have to decide whether to send weapons and trainers to the Ukrainian government and risk turning what has been largely a border skirmish into a major conflict by proxy with serious implications for the United States, Europe, and American interests worldwide.

Certainly, Obama has faced overseas challenges before—most notably in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. But he has never had to stare down a nuclear power bent on reestablishing its sphere of influence. And he's never faced an adversary with the swagger and smarts of Vladimir Putin, who hails from a throwback era of global power politics that predates Obama's experience on foreign policy, and one that the American president can't quite wrap his head around.

From all indications, the president and his aides are downright torn over how to proceed, mindful of the consequences of both action and inaction. Meanwhile, Putin-backed rebels consolidate their gains.

That's making hawks impatient. As separatists last week secured control of the strategically critical town of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham excoriated Obama. At times, they accused him of "hiding" behind the increasingly rickety cease-fire agreement and clinging to "any available excuse" to not provide arms and equipment to the embattled nation.

(More here.)

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