Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing a game of chicken with President Obama, and should the U.S. commander in chief back down, global unrest is at stake, according to a Wall Street Journal
"When the leader of the world's only superpower issues a military ultimatum and then blinks, others notice," it says. "Adversaries and allies in Asia and the Middle East will be watching President Obama's response now. China has its eyes on Japanese islands. Iran is counting on U.S. weakness in nuclear talks."
Obama's wavering posture on the world stage — in particular, his failure to enforce his "red line" in Syria — has diminished the United States' reputation, the Journal opines, and a pitiful "condemnation" of "the Crimean takeover … as a breach of international law" is nothing more than a further show of weakness.
"That will have the Kremlin quaking," the column chides. "The only concrete U.S. action was to suspend participation in preparations for June's G-8 summit in Sochi? Seriously?"
Instead, the paper suggests deploying ships into the Black Sea. Sending the newly commissioned George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean would signal austerity.
"Mr. Obama and the West must act, rather than merely threaten, because it's clear Mr. Putin believes the American president's words can't be taken seriously," the scathing editorial states, pointing out that after Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia, "President Obama pretended the problem was Dick Cheney and tried to 'reset' relations with Moscow. Mr. Putin has defied the civilized world on Syria, and Mr. Obama rewarded him by making Russia a partner in phony peace talks. Mr. Putin gave NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum over U.S. objections, and he got away with that, too."
After more than two decades of Ukrainian independence, the Russians over the weekend occupied the Crimean peninsula and are preparing to seize the rest of the country. When the country ceded its nuclear weapons to Russia in 1994, they, along with the United States and Great Britain, agreed in the Budapest Memorandum to "assure Ukraine's territorial integrity."
During a phone conversation Saturday, Putin flatly told Obama that Russia plans to "protect its interests" in Ukraine's Russian-speaking population. Moscow has approved a declaration of war, and in two industrial cities in eastern Ukraine, armed forces stormed government buildings and replaced Ukrainian flags with Russian ones.
In addition to deploying ships, the Journal champions restricting access of Russian banks to the global financial system in addition to expanding the list of Russian officials — including Putin — on the Magnitsky Act's American visa ban and financial assets freeze.
At all costs, the United States must assist Ukraine in remaining an independent state.
"The world is full of revisionist powers and bad actors looking to exploit the opening created by Mr. Obama's retreat form global leadership, and Mr. Putin is the leading edge of what could quickly become a new world disorder," the Journal said.
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