The Ukrainian crisis has the potential to become a major embarrassment for Obama and the US. Here is why.
1. Russia is not nearly as weak as it was in the 1990’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Oil money has buffered Moscow and strengthened Putin’s grip on power.
2. America is not nearly as strong as it was in the 1990’s. The debacle in Iraq and the economic meltdown have damaged America’s standing in the world and its ability to act. Add to this the recent Obama administration’s drastic military cuts and it makes it clear that America should not be feared.
3. This is in Russia’s backyard and they deem the Crimea (which has a heavily Russian population) as Russian territory even though technically it is a part of the Ukraine.
4. The Ukrainian president that was just forced from office was elected democratically to office although I am sure that it was corrupt. This, along with the fact that the Crimea is heavily Russian provides Putin with the justification to intervene militarily.
5. The West encouraged the demonstrators in the Ukraine but nobody should be fooled here. There is no chance of the US or Europe putting boots on the ground to protect the Ukraine.
6. The only thing the US and the West can do is talk tough and hope the Russians don’t call their bluff. Putin knows this and he will call the bluff humiliating Obama and America by default.
7. Obama’s much hyped “Russian reset” has been a total failure. A pattern has developed here with Russia playing a major role in problems around the world. Syria, Iran, and the Ukraine all have one thing in common, Russian interference.
Today Russia has alerted over 150,000 soldiers to test their readiness to invade the Ukraine, the Syrian Civil War rages on supported by Russia killing tens of thousands. Iran , once again supported by Russia, is racing to build nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel from the map. The US is committed by treaty to defend South Korea against the nuclear armed North Korea, which just so happen to share the world’s most heavily armed border in the world with over 1.2 million on either side of the border ready to kill each other. The US is also obligated by treaty to defend Japan and all its territory. Recently the Chinese have begun laying claim to Japanese territory. To intimidate the Japanese and America the Chinese have routinely in the last year sent ships and planes to continuously provoke the Japanese. The exact same has happened with the Philippines, which just so happens to have a treaty with the US.
None of the above even mentions the ongoing battle with islamic extremists around the globe. On top of all this current Sec. Def. Hagel has admitted that the US stands to lose military dominance if investments aren’t made to ensure continued US technological advantages. However in spite of everything I just listed, what can only be described as a world spinning out of control, this administration has decided to make drastic cuts to the American military. In essence we are communicating are lack of resolve and weakness to our many adversaries around the globe. Unfortunately for us and the world as a whole they are listening.
The cover of the report that gives the reader a glimpse of how the US intelligence community see the world and America in 2030.
“The US most likely will remain “frst among equals”among the other great powers in 2030 because of its preeminence across a range of power dimensions and legacies of its leadership role. More important than just its economic weight, the United States’dominant role in international politics has derived from its preponderance across the board in both hard and soft power.”
So I spent much of the day yesterday reading over the National Intelligence Council’s new work Global Trends 2030. It’s a fairly long and in-depth piece so I know many of you will not have a chance to read over it so I just wanted to touch on some brief high lights from it that deal specifically with America.
“Although the United States’ (and the West’s) relative decline vis-a-vis the rising states is inevitable, its future role in the international system is much harder to project: the degree to which the US continues to dominate the international system could vary widely.”
The article as the quote above illustrates does address the reality that the US is being challenged by the rise of nations like China and so forth. It also admits that the days of America acting by itself to impose its will on the international system is coming to an end. I would probably argue that it is not coming to an end but rather that it has already ended. That very brief window that allowed America to stride the global stage nearly unchallenged began with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and probably ended (at least in my estimation) with the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 has now closed. Evidence to support this can be easily found in Syria today. Had this situation in Syria erupted during America’s singular moment mentioned above I think it is quite realistic that the situation would have been resolved. The Russians would have been either unable or unwilling to challenge America and prop up the regime in Syria. Things are different now and the world is not better off for it but it is the way things are now.
” Nevertheless, with the rapid rise of other countries, the “unipolar moment” is over and Pax Americana—the era of American ascendancy in international politics that began in 1945—is fast winding down.”
It is interesting to see the consequences of globalization taking place all around the world today. People so often in the 90’s talked about how globalization would improve people’s lives across the globe. To be fair to some degree that has happened in places like China where several hundred million people have been lifted out of poverty by moving from the countryside to the urban manufacturing centers of China. Other nations like Germany have also benefited greatly from globalization in the form of the EU. With the barriers to trade removed from the internal European market German companies have proceeded to destroy their fellow European competition and reap the rewards. Unfortunately these two examples of countries benefiting from globalization have also cast a dark shadow across many other countries who have suffered while China and Germany have benefited. In China’s case many of the jobs in manufacturing that now power the Chinese economy were once based in America. The fallout from this in America has been significant because many of the jobs lost to China were some of the best paying jobs a non skilled worker could find in America. Recently in the last several years there has been a small glimmer of hope in the American manufacturing sector where instead of losing jobs they have actually begun adding some. It remains to be seen if this is just part of the economy coming back from the lows of the economic meltdown in 2008 or if this is part of a new trend of increased American industrial production over the long term.
The situation in Europe seems more straight forward where there is little doubt that the Euro has made life much more difficult for countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain to compete with Germany since they can no longer devalue their own currency to become more competitive. The result has been that much of southern Europe chose to use debt to fuel economic growth (much like America has done) instead of trying to make their economies more competitive. The consequences of this have been tragic for those countries with some like Greece in what can only be described as a economci depression. One thing is for certain, you don’t seem to hear nearly as many world leaders talking up the benefits of globalization because the real long term consequences have now manifested themselves and it is not a very pretty picture.
Recently word came out of North Korea that said the regime was planning on using EMP (electro magnetic pulse) weapons in any future war with South Korea. EMP blasts have the ability to knock out most if not all electronic circuitry in the blast radius. Some of you may recall that this blog has done several stories about the effects of EMP blasts. Recently Newt Gingrich compared the power outages around the 4th of July as similar to what a small EMP blast would do. To sum it up an EMP blast can send the target area back to the stone age. North Korea already has nuclear weapons ( which when detonated produce a massive EMP blast wave) so the threat has to be taken seriously. However, for now it does not seem clear if they have a safe, effective way to deliver the nuclear warhead to the upper atmosphere to detonate it where it could cause the most damage to the south. This is because of their recent missile test failure, which has done real damage to the credibility to the North’s threats. The fact that China neighbors North Korea might actually keep them from using this until they can accurately fire the missile, can you imagine the Chinese reaction if the missile veered off course and detonated above their country sending half of China back to the dark ages? Having said that the North has had successful missile launches in the past so this is cause for concern.