President Barack Obama has made a series of significant missteps in managing America's relationship with Russia, which has directly contributed to Ukraine's vulnerability to a Russian takeover, and the best way to protect the country is to push for it to be accepted into NATO, says former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.
"Obama left Ukraine and Georgia to fend for themselves, ignoring the politico-military reality that Russia instinctively understood," Bolton wrote in a column for The Weekly Standard.
"In the long term, joining the [NATO] alliance is the only strategy that can realistically secure Georgian and Ukrainian sovereignty and keep alive the option of joining the West more broadly."
Bolton makes the case that Obama should have renewed the 2008 effort by former President George W. Bush to secure Ukraine and Georgia's place within NATO. Instead, as a candidate, Obama demonstrated "blindness and moral equivalence" to Russia's actions in Georgia when he called for "restraint," signaling to Russia a weakness that would continue to define his approach once in office.
Obama "entered office in 2009 on a wave of domestic and international popularity, shortly thereafter winning the Nobel Peace Prize for no apparent reason. He might well have contemplated the long-term significance of Georgia and Ukraine, but he did not. Instead, intent on blaming Bush for problems in the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship, Obama unveiled the 'reset' button, exemplifying his new policy direction," Bolton wrote.
"Modest NATO force redeployments to nearby countries, signing near-meaningless political declarations, and multiyear commitments to strengthen economic ties with the West will do little to shift today's economic, political, or military advantage away from Russia and toward Ukraine and Georgia."
Bolton contends that failure to take appropriate action in Ukraine could also signal to China that it, too, can pursue its territorial ambitions without American resistance.
Bolton concludes by saying, "U.S. political operatives tell us endlessly that our fellow citizens do not care about national security issues. Ukraine, however, has been one of many wake-up calls under Obama, signaling Americans that protecting our country is critically important in its own right, whatever the politics.
"And skilled politicians, whether Hillary Clinton for the Democrats or Candidate X for the Republicans, will soon realize that what is good for the country is also good for their electoral prospects."
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