The Sunday Leader

Can The West Bring Russia To Heel?

Russia’s annexation of Crimea resulted at the beginning in political rhetoric of the deaf with both America and its Western allies refusing to hear each other and each insisting on being right.

To Russia’s President Vladimir Putin what happened was a coup d’état where a legally elected President Victor Yanukovych was ousted by rightist strongmen leading demonstrations of pro-European Ukrainians forming a pro-American government which wanted to join with NATO.

The USA President Barack Obama and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin

To Americans including President Obama Russia clearly violated international law with the annexation of Crimea, seizure of Ukraine’s defence bases and conducting an illegal referendum.

Ukraine’s conundrum

The Obama and American allies ignored the fact that the displaced Yanukovych was freely elected by the people. It was a popular revolution by the people, against a corrupt regime, the West claimed. The present Acting President Oleksander Turchynov was a well-known Baptist pastor. Elections are due soon in Ukraine and former Prime Minister (twice) Julia Tymoshenko who was thrown out and sentenced to six years in jail by Yanukovych for abuse of power has announced her candidature for the next Presidential election on May 23.

Egypt

This of course was nothing new to recent American foreign policy. The arrest of the freely elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi – the first ever elected president of Egypt – by the military, banning of his Muslim Brotherhood government appeared to be fair game to America and its Western allies because there were massive violent protests demanding ouster of Morsi.

On Thursday the military coup leader who threw out Mohamed Morsi from power, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, announced his candidature for a presidential election before June.

Obama rhetoric

President Obama who commenced his European visit in Belgium had strong words for Russia, promising tougher sanctions if Russia continued to expand into Ukraine’s Eastern regions. Earlier he had sent American fighter jets—Six F-`5C Eagles to Lithuania and twelve F- 16 jets to Poland.

His strategy appeared to be to threaten escalating sanctions with the objective of getting Russia to withdraw ‘tens of thousands’ of troops near Ukraine’s borders and get Russia to negotiate with Ukraine on territorial issues while considering rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

In Belgium Obama slighted Russia saying that ‘Russia is no more a regional power whose actions in Ukraine are an expression of weakness rather than strength’. Speaking at the European Nuclear Summit in The Hague he rejected the contention of Mitt Romney (who was his Republican rival in the presidential election) who had suggested that ‘Russia was the principal geopolitical foe of America’. If Putin went to great length to escalate the crisis in Ukraine, much bigger sanctions would be applied he threatened.

However, as he ended his tour in Rome, Obama’s rhetoric was mellower. He conceded that expanding sanctions to target Russia’s financial services, energy, mining, defence and engineering industries would impact on American and European companies that do business with Russia in the global economy. He had also hinted at difficulties in getting agreements with European allies on tougher measures, some reports said.

The American president had hoped that: ‘Russia walks through the door of diplomacy and works with all of us to resolve this issue peacefully’.

Obama’s contention of Russia being a regional power was contradicted by his former Defence Secretary Robert Gates in a talk show last week. “A country the size of Russia, stretching from Europe to Asia and with a nuclear capability comparable to our own, with global reach is not a regional power’, the former Defence Secretary had said.

Another punitive measure imposed on Russia has been its exclusion from the G-8 Summit – the club of rich Western Nations and Japan. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had laughed off this imposition on Russia: The G-8 is an informal club, no one gives out membership cards and no one can expel members. If our western partners believe that this format has been exhausted it, let it be. We are not clinging to it’.
Whether American led Western sanctions can bring Russia to heel is to be seen.

1 Comment for “Can The West Bring Russia To Heel?”

  1. Shaik Anwar Ahamath

    Resolutions alone cannot hurt Russia any more than they would hurt the proponents. The US and her allies cannot seem to see or don’t want to see the parallel when the former USSR began arming Cuba in the 60′s and quite rightly USA objected to the sophisticated arms in their backyard and after some acrimonious negotiations USSR withdrew. The West, (and NATO) with glaring impunity arms the states of the now independent former USSR states. What kept Ukraine out of this coven was the freely elected pro Russian leaders in their government, which the West soon engineered to ouster and install a pro-West puppet. Obama appears to see some sense but if he escalates the conflict as the hawks in his government wants, it could lead to a far more serious situation with nuclear arsenal and more that will most certainly destroy all of us.

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