Condoleezza Rice: Ukraine Shows Need for US to Be World Leader

Friday, 07 Mar 2014 10:43 PM

By Cathy Burke

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The unrest in Ukraine should be "a wake-up call" for those who think America doesn't need to assume the responsibilities of being a world leader, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice warned Friday.

In a Washington Post opinion piece, Rice, who served from 2005-2009 in the administration of President George W. Bush, said the United States can't "step back, lower its voice about democracy and human rights and let others lead" because "dictators and extremists across the globe will be emboldened."

Rice said the problem in Ukraine "has been brewing for some time between the West and Russia," and in the near future, Russia must be shown "that further moves will not be tolerated and that Ukraine’s territorial integrity is sacrosanct."

"The longer-term task is to answer Putin’s statement about Europe’s post-Cold War future," she said. "He is saying that Ukraine will never be free to make its own choices — a message meant to reverberate in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states — and that Russia has special interests it will pursue at all costs.... He will turn the clock back as far as intimidation through military power, economic leverage and Western inaction will allow."

After Russian's invasion of Georgia in 2008, modest steps taken by the United States — including sending ships into the Black Sea and humanitarian aid — "did not hold."

"And then the Obama administration’s 'reset' led to an abrupt revision of plans to deploy missile defense components in the Czech Republic and Poland," she wrote. "Talk of Ukraine and Georgia’s future in NATO ceased. Moscow cheered."

This time, Rice wrote, things have to be different.

"Putin is playing for the long haul, cleverly exploiting every opening he sees," she wrote.

"So must we, practicing strategic patience if he is to be stopped. Moscow is not immune from pressure," including "authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline and championing natural gas exports," and reaching out to Russian youth to let the know America supports "their ambitions."

"Most important, the United States must restore its standing in the international community, which has been eroded by too many extended hands of friendship to our adversaries, sometimes at the expense of our friends," she wrote.

"Inaction" in Syria, "signs that we are desperate for a nuclear agreement with Iran," the declining U.S. defense budget and a possible withdrawal from Afghanistan "signal that we no longer have the will or intention to sustain global order," she wrote.

Abandoning our leadership role, Rice wrote, will open a vacuum that will be filled by extremists like al-Qaeda, dictators like Bashar al-Assad and "the likes of Vladimir Putin, who understands that hard power still matters."

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