Charles Krauthammer: The wages of weakness
He takes Crimea, and President Obama says it's not in Russia's interest, not even strategically clever. Indeed, it's a sign of weakness.
This must mean that seeking national power, territory, dominion - the driving impulse of nations since Thucydides - is obsolete. As if a calendar change caused a revolution in human nature that transformed the international arena from a Hobbesian struggle for power into a gentleman's club where violations of territorial integrity just don't happen.
How to figure out Obama's foreign policy? In his first U.N. speech, he says: "No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation."
Putin's more cynical advisers might have thought such adolescent universalism to be a ruse. But Obama coupled these amazing words with even more amazing actions.
A huge concession to Putin's threats - while again asking nothing in return. And sending a message that, while Eastern Europe may think it achieved post-Cold War independence, in reality it remains in play, subject to Russian influence and interests.
(4) The Syria debacle. Obama painted himself into a corner on chemical weapons - threatening to bomb and then backing down - and allowed Putin to rescue him with a promise to get rid of Syria's stockpiles. Obama hailed this as a great win-win, when both knew - or did Obama really not know? - that he had just conferred priceless legitimacy on Bashar al-Assad and made Russia the major regional arbiter for the first time in 40 years.
Can Putin be faulted for believing that if he bites off Crimea and threatens Kiev, Obama's response will be minimal and his ability to lead the Europeans even less so?
Russia will get kicked out of the G-8 - if Obama can get Angela Merkel to go along.
The coming Crimean referendum will ask if it should be returned to Mother Russia. Can Putin refuse? He can already see the history textbooks: Catherine the Great conquered Crimea, Vlad (the Great?) won it back. Not bad for a 19th-century man.
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