Key words: Obama, Putin, europe, Geneva, Ukraine, World War III, Russia
Less we forget, World War I began along the same lines. Tangled foreign relations were used by aggressive violent partisans to trigger a crisis. A radical nationalist Serbian organization called the “Black Hand” orchestrated a murder that would devolve into the “War to end all Wars.” They assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophia.
Result: Austria attacked Serbia, Russia warned Austria, Germany warned Russia, Russia mobilized its military and warned Germany, France warned Germany, Germany moved against France first going through Belgium and Holland, England declared war on Germany because of Belgium and Holland, Germany invaded France then attacked Russia, Europe was aflame when the United States started to get involved by supplying material to England and France, Germany torpedoed American ships, America declared war… it all fell like a house of cards and millions died!
A very similar situation exists today. The world is a house of cards. It is critical that the United States stops threatening Russia. Russia must calm it nationalist jingoism. Europe would appreciate calm because they have been down this road before, twice the last century, and it did not turn out well
The bottom line is that the United States and Europe made a critical tactical error. They never should have recognized the rioters who overthrew the elected Ukrainian government as legitimate. That slanted perspective is why the Geneva Agreement failed. Moscow argues that “Kiev does not have a government” only a group of protesters who occupied the parliament. The West says the same about the pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine. Both views are correct.
From Putin’s perspective, the Geneva Agreement called on both sides to back-off. Point of fact, the document does indeed imply that.
For Obama to blame Putin for the failure of the Geneva Agreement because Pro-Russians refuse to unilaterally step back and recognize the Kiev government demonstrates his inability to comprehend foreign policy and treaties. The document called for the disarming of all illegal groups and to end the occupation of all public buildings. Not just on one side! That was a sound agreement. Did Obama not know what he signed?
Pro-Russian activists refused to vacate their possessions until the Kiev “government” vacated its possessions that was what Geneva specified. The agreement fell apart when there was no mutual disengagement. That is not solely Putin’s fault. To say otherwise is to either misrepresent the facts or not know the facts.
To make matters worse, both sides have now upped the ante. The Pro-Russians took more territory and the Kiev government decided to deploy its army. Bad decisions on both counts have now resulted in bloodshed. Civil war pends.
The key is that the pro-Russians and the Kiev “government” have to stand down. Neither extreme will accept the other. The United States, Russia, and Europe have to behave maturely and generate a coordinated approach to finding a government of reconciliation. This will take time, but it must be done. Only the most radical elements on both sides want a civil war and that is what is coming unless moderate Ukrainians are given an opportunity to form a government.
The world cannot afford to have the United States, Russia, and Europe grasping at one another’s throats. It is too dangerous and unnecessary. Nor is this the time to flash one’s playground masculinity.
It would help if President Obama and Secretary Kerry would cool the rhetoric, threats, and sanctions. Those serve to drive a deeper wedge between Russia and any hope of achieving peace based upon trust. Likely, this would even make the Europeans happy. They have too much to lose if war breaks out.
It is also necessary to hear something strong from Putin to the Pro-Russians encouraging them to accept mediation. Putin is an ex-KGB thug and he may indeed be working behind the scenes. But Russia also fears a civil war on its border. He may be looking for a way out.
Given the circumstances, it appears that Europe must step into the void to act as intermediary. Putin and Obama despise one another and sadly cannot work together. So much for “reset”. It never should have gotten to this point.
Is working with Putin taking a chance? Most certainly. Could this be a “Munich Moment”? Perhaps. The alternative, however, is to “let loose the dogs of war!”
Ron Chapman is an award-winning Louisiana columnist, a businessman and college instructor.