The Soviets Are Back

Russia’s our number one geopolitical foe, he said; Putin will invade Ukraine, she warned. Did we listen? No. Instead, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin were derided as foreign policy fools, war-mongering Russia-haters tainted by “Cold War thinking.” Now that the Russian Parliament has blessed Putin’s invasion of the Crimea, I think it’s time we offer both Republicans a heartfelt apology.

Since coming to power in 2000, Vladimir Putin, more communist than Gorbachev, has worked tirelessly to restore the ‘prestige’ of the brutal Soviet dictatorship. As a former KGB agent who once called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [twentieth] century,” his intentions could not have been clearer.

Though blatant human rights violations stain Putin’s reign, nothing is more telling than his invasion of Georgia. For me, 2008 was a turning point. Russia’s blatantly illegal occupation of an ex-Soviet republic sent a clear message to the West: the Soviet Union had returned and there was nothing we could do about it.

At the time, Russia’s invasion seemed insignificant. The army pulled out several weeks later and two new ‘nations’ were created: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia, Venezuela, and the tiny Pacific island of Nauru are the only countries that recognize their sovereignty. Five years later, we see the conflict was much more than a small military engagement. Rather, it was a test, one we failed miserably. Our inability to defend Georgia must have made Putin smile; the world was his oyster and the United States wasn’t going to stop him from cracking it.

Today, the Kremlin authorized the invasion of the Crimea, the heart of Ukraine’s Black Sea power and a military stronghold Putin would die to control. If the U.S. doesn’t respond swiftly, Russian troops will enter Kiev, either this week or sometime in the future.

I wish President Obama would wake up. He seems content with talking tough and doing nothing to back up his words; unfortunately, words mean nothing to Mr. Putin.

I’m not a “war-monger.” Do I want U.S. troops trading volley’s with Putin’s army? No. That said, Russia cannot be allowed to invade sovereign nations without consequence. Weaker trade relations? That’ll have Putin shaking in his boots. On second thought, why go that far? Maybe all he needs are some stern words from our President. Considering today’s events, Obama’s speech clearly put the fear of God in the Kremlin. Can you imagine if he had threatened military intervention? Putin would have invaded Poland!

As you can see, my reaction to Russia’s illegal takeover drips with sarcasm. Putin could not be happier. Ukraine is destabilizing and this is his chance to take back the Soviet Union’s bread basket.

Will Obama respond with real action? Probably not. Ukraine will fall, just like Georgia, and large swaths of the country will become Russian once again. What should we do? Fight back. Hit Putin with every economic sanction we can think of, and if that doesn’t work, send in the army. If he is allowed to invade Ukraine without tangible consequences, he won’t stop. You don’t think he’d love to get the Baltic states back? Maybe a piece of Belarus, or heck, the whole thing? I certainly do, and if we don’t act now, he’ll go for it.

To clear, I don’t want to fight. Although I’m convinced ‘sanctions’ won’t work, we should certainly try ‘economic warfare’ before anything else. However, unlike many, I’m open to military action because I do not think isolation, frozen assets, and the like will convince Putin to leave. “Boots on the ground” is a last resort; nevertheless, it must be an option.

Russia’s invasion is a wake-up call. Either we respond today or allow the Soviet Union to rise tomorrow. Putin is testing us. We failed in 2008, allowing the Russian Army to occupy and split up a sovereign nation. We cannot make that mistake again. The Crimea belongs to Ukraine, not the Russian Federation. If the Ukrainian people want to split up, I won’t stop them, but it’s not for Russia to decide.

If Putin doesn’t pull his troops out of Ukraine soon, we must act. ‘Attack’ him with a full array of economic and international sanctions; if he doesn’t leave, the military should move in. Failing to stop Russia, and allowing Putin to take the Crimea without retribution, will cause us great pain in the future. I don’t want a war, but if we must fight one to prevent a bigger conflict years from now, so be it.