Crimean Loss: Obama’s Weakness?

Ukraine Dec 8 New York TimesGetting to the nub of the matter the loss of Crimea had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with Obama. That’s not to say Obama’s foreign policy is doing much to deter such actions but given the event in Ukraine since November no matter who was president of the United States the Russian boss would have taken the same steps. So please don’t fall into the mire being spread by people with a hatred of Obama as Charles Krauthammer that but for Obama’s blunders Putin would not have moved on Crimea.

The majority in Crimea was always interested in returning it to Russia. As recently as the 2002 elections to Ukraine’s parliament (called the Rada) in Crimea the Communist Party of Ukraine which sought to be part of Russia received 34% of the vote; the party representing a pro-Russian anti-western stance about 12 1/2% of the vote; and the pro-Western vote was 9.77%. The rest of the vote was divided among various other groups.

The ethnic breakdown of its residents is estimated at 58% ethnic Russians, 24% Ethnic Ukrainians, 12% Tatars and 6% others.

Putin could have taken Crimea at any time he wanted during his 16 years in power but always preferred that it stay with Ukraine. It is estimated to cost Ukraine a billion dollars a year to keep it afloat.  Then with its large Russian population, it was always a heavy vote, usually 75%  or higher, in favor of a pro-Russian Party of the Regions led by people like Victor Yanukovych. Aside from that Russia has its Black Sea Fleet stationed there.

Why then did he take this on this burden which made the Western world take off its blinders and gained him very little. The simple reason is that someone said “NO” to him. When that happens Putin has a fit of pique.

Well maybe that is over simplifying it. What caused it was that Ukraine said no. Those familiar with Putin’s history knows this is not his first fit of pique when it comes to Ukraine. Back in 2006 some were mystified by Putin’s actions when he cut off fuel supplies to Ukraine on January 1 in the middle of the winter. Of course, doing this also cut off supplies to other countries in Europe.

It was noted: “There are two possible explanations for Putin’s actions. One is that he has allowed his broad strategic vision to be blurred by irritation at the rebelliousness of a former Soviet republic. That has been the case before with Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine at the time of its regime change 12 months ago. The Kremlin finds it very hard to shed its old imperial attitudes.” (my emphasis)

That explanation is the true reason for his irrational act of cutting off oil supplies. At the time Ukraine had a pro-Western president who had not been rolling over and giving in to his every Putin diktat. The other explanation was Putin wanted to take a shot across the bow of the Europe to remind it how much it depends on Russia’s gas.

It was noted: “Although there is real nervousness in Brussels about Yushchenko’s desire to join the union, there is great sympathy for Kiev’s determination to be more independent of Moscow.”

I’d suggest that after the 2006 action caused by Ukraine’s disobedience, Putin entered into a tacit understanding with the European Union (EU), perhaps mostly with Germany, that the EU would keep Ukraine at arm’s length. Then in 2010 with the election in Ukraine of pro-Russian president Yanukovich (who may be dead), Putin felt he could relax. The Putin Olympics became his obsession and with the planning for that event he became otherwise occupied.

Putin knew, of course, that Yanukovych was playing around with the EU. He figured he could pull him back with a jerk of the rope any time he wanted. Last November he learned that the EU was about to make some type of offer to Ukraine for closer association. He ordered Yanukovych to reject it. He also told him that he had to come into closer alliance with Russia.

A EU spokesperson said:The times of limited sovereignty are over in Europe”. Another that “We may not give in to external pressure, not the least from Russia.”

Such back talk and disrespect from the EU was nothing something Putin could abide. But his hands were tied because of his investment in the Putin Olympics which were in the offing so he dared not remind the EU that his hands are on the levers controlling their gas supplies.

Then to top it off the protests began. Putin put pressure on Yanukovych to shut them down with heavy measures, Yanukovych had laws passed banning protests but after seeing the huge and overwhelming response of the Ukrainians after his forces murdered four protestors in January, protests grew into the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian standing in Maidan crying to be free from Putin’s tyrannical ways, he hesitated. Putin was feeling the sting of his rejection by the Ukrainian masses.

Anyone with a smidgen of knowledge knew Putin would respond as soon as the Olympics ended. As the Olympics were coming to an end , they ended on February 23, the violence at the behest of Putin by the pro-Russian Yanukovych forces increased. On February 20 snipers began to open fire on the demonstrators. Yanukovich was ready to use the army to crush the uprising. But the deputy head of the Ukrainian Army resigned in protest. Yanukovich seeing the anger at the horror his snipers had brought about and unable to depend on the army, fled Kiev for Eastern Ukraine and then to Moscow. On February 28 the Russian troops entered Crimea.

Nothing Obama or anyone else did could have stopped this. This was simply the acting out by a piqued autocrat trying to save face. Whether this mollified his hurt feelings remains to be seen. He is expecting the West will do nothing about this but that remains to be seen. Obama’s weakness did not cause it; but the question remains as what he will do about it.


  1. Elmer:

    Is the government of Ukraine keeping up on its pension payments to retired workers?

    Will Svoboda, and, Pravy Sektor, split the right-wing vote in the coming elections, or, will the two group join together to present a united front?

  2. How can you possibly say that, as you have correctly labelled him, the “feckless Obama” is in no way responsible for the bold and outrageous actions of Comrade Putin??? Under Obama, the US influence on all matters foreign has ceased to exist. Where to look for examples — Syria, Egypt,Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Pakistan, N.Korea, China, Libya …??? Name a nation that “shivers in its boots” at the thought of offending our Manchurian President. Upon reflection, I consider “feckless” a compliment !!! All the best ! Keep up this great blog !!!!!! Louie.

    • Louie:

      I really can’t disagree with your suggestion that “US influence on all matters foreign has ceased.” It’s even getting worse when one sees that the president of the United States calling a leader of an aggressor nation three times and to put it kindly to beg him not to do what he is doing. I don’t think though that no matter who was president that Putin having been disrespected by the people of Ukraine would have not taken some steps to make them play. Even Reagan would not go into military conflict with them but I assume he would have at least had severe sanctions imposed.

      Now, if Putin goes further, which seems likely, then I tend to agree with you that it is Obama’s weakness that is prompting that action. He invaded on the 28th of February and sat back and waited. Nothing has happened except the Western nations have ditered and fretted. NC says Putin accomplished something no Soviet leader was able to do which is to split the Western powers. Unfortunately for us, Obama’s perceived weakness will just prompt more boldness by other nations. It was through the weakness of the European countries that WWII started; what will happen now is anyone’s guess.

  3. Hotel California was one of a few songs that was on the “approved” list during the sovok union. They played it over and over and over and over for tourists and foreign guests.

    To this day, I hate the song for having heard it so many times.

    Duke Ellington was also on the “approved” list – for a concert.

    Today, Pussy Riot is not on Putler’s approved list. Neither is dissent or opposition. Democracy is definitely not on Putler’s approved list.

    Putler and his cohorts have done their rabid best to flood the media with allegations that the protests in Ukraine consist of “fascists, nazis and banderovtsi and gays” who are on their way to take over the Rasha, and are feeding people with the message that the “homeland must be protected, just like during the Great Patriotic War”.

    Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.

    dezinformatsiya, provokatsiya, maskerovka and agitprop

    KGB techniques which Putler knows very, very well and is using now.

  4. A couple of things

    Ukraine, almost since 1991, gives corruption a bad name.

    In that sewer, Yanukonvikt himself never had the slightest intention of moving towards democracy and away from a sovok mafia regime, never had any intention of signing the association agreement. We have all seen vivid pictures of the results of brutal corruption in Ukraine.

    During that time period, and especially during the last few years, the “political elite” had a great old time participating in corruption – and in neglecting the military.

    That was because of corruption – no money for the military when you are buying Airbuses and a total of $70 billion worth of mansions and yachts.

    And it was because of the sentiment that noone in Ukraine expected a “brotherly nation” to invade Ukraine.

    Plus there is something to be said for the Budapest Memorandum, which the US and the Roosha signed, which was supposed to assure Ukraine’s sovereignty in return for Ukraine giving up the 3rd largest nuclear arsenal in the world.

    Turned out to be not worth whatever paper it was signed on.

    Ukraine itself could have prevented the invasion.

    Sadly, Ukraine has a long, long history of traitors. And the zek Yanukonvikt and his coterie is just the latest example.

    As far as the protests – the brutal killing of protesters was a huge shock.

    It was like the first time that a bobby was shot in England – it was unthinkable, especially because bobbies were not armed.

    And you are right – Putler did not count on the protesters. The protesters were not being led by or controlled by the opposition, as became abundantly clear when Klitchko was sprayed with a fire extinguisher.

    Putler is not “protecting the Rasha.” Putler is protecting himself and his own brutally corruption regime.

    And as this blogger makes clear, once you check into the Rasha, it’s like the Hotel California – you can’t check out.

    Just in case there are any readers from within the Russian Federation considering a unilateral referendum to secede the Russian Federation following the Crimean example, yesterday the Russian Criminal Code was amended (Article 280-1) making any such attempt an offence punishable by 5 years in prison for any and all involved.

    • Elmer:

      Thanks for making those points. I’m tired of people trying to turn this into a Western sponsored event as if the Ukrainian people are automatons who only can act if someone else spurs them on. That concept puts the Ukrainian people out of the picture and we are told to look at the West or Putrid’s Russia as the source of what is happening. This was a pure Ukrainian event inspired by the betrayal of the Ukrainian people by their leader Yanukovych. They knew having spent centuries under the Russian thumb; more recently under the Soviet leadership, that once Yanukovych turned them over to Russia they’d really have been enslaved. As we see once caught in its a criminal offense to consider leaving so it is for all to see another Hotel California. I supppose the Putridites don’t see the irony that it is a criminal offense to try to leave the Russian Federation while it isn’t to leave another nation to join the Russian Federation.