A Tutorial on How Not to Do It on Ukraine: Secretary Kerry Takes Charge

By Robbin Laird

Recently, The Hill provided this wonderful overview on John Kerry’s approach to the 21st century.

It is a virtual tutorial in how not to deal with Russia and leverage anything from the Ukrainian crisis.

Let us start first with the key requirement for strategist:  Assert your values and when others do not comply, argue they are out of sync with history and “globalization” or whatever Hegelian law of history you project as the proper one for everyone else.

As a classic liberal democratic, Kerry fits the bill perfectly for there are “21st century rules” versus those old power rules of early centuries.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “stunning, willful” choice to invade Ukrainian territory and warned of possible sanctions.

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country,” Kerry said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” one of several appearances on network interview shows.

Ok John let us see – Iraq did what towards the end of the 20th?  And Iran is doing what with regard to Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

You see territory does not matter in the geography free world of 21st century globalization and everyone who is “non-willful” believes that.

The good news is that there is a “modern manner” in which to resolve problems.

Just like Syria, Iran, China and Russia (normally) do.

“It’s serious in terms of the modern manner in which countries resolve problems,” Kerry said.

Even The Washington Post, yes you read that right, The Washington Post gets it.

The Editorial Board of The Washington Post commented on March 3, 2014:

Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st-century behavior.

Neither has China’s president, Xi Jinping, who is engaging in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and the weaker nations of Southeast Asia.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is waging a very 20th-century war against his own people, sending helicopters to drop exploding barrels full of screws, nails and other shrapnel onto apartment buildings where families cower in basements.

These men will not be deterred by the disapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or even disinvestment by Silicon Valley companies.

They are concerned primarily with maintaining their holds on power.

Putin has been rolling back NATO and the EU’s reach into his neighborhood since 2008 and has seen the recovery of the Russian role in the Mediterranean from Cyprus to Iran.

This might look like strength but no it is not for the 21st century global thinker.

“That’s not the act of somebody who’s strong, “ Kerry added, saying Putin is acting out of “weakness” and “desperation.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” Kerry called Putin’s move a “brazen act of aggression” and raised the possibility that allied nations would move to kick Russia out of the Group of 8 in addition to boycotting the G8 summit in Sochi this summer.

“It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century that really puts into question Russia’s capacity to be in the G8,” Kerry said.

OK last time I looked the G8 is not run by the United States so before tossing out the Russians who have many of the G-8 members by the balls on energy issues, let us see what happens?

He called on Congress to put together an economic aid package for Ukraine and said the U.S. would be prepared to impose economic sanctions on Russia.

“It may well come that we have to engage in that kind of activity, absolutely. I think all options are on the table,” he said.

OK, here we go: all options are on the table.  Remember Syria and the Red Line and I am sure Putin is quaking in his boots.

Putin is a chess player; Kerry is clearly not; so exactly what are the US options?

And a small aside, to JK: so you are going to Kiev: Did you discuss that with NATO and most significantly with Poland, the ally that your President went after at the beginning of his Administration to take away their missile defense toys, largely on the grounds that the Russians objected to their presence in Poland?

Kerry said specifically Russia is “inviting the possibility of very serious repercussions, on trade, on investment, on assets — asset freeze, visa bans, on the potential of actions by the global community against this unilateral step.”

Ok, here we go, John Kerry represents the “global community” not just the State Department in the Obama Administration.  I guess this is so 21st century for in the past states used to guard their sovereignty jealously but now, they apparently have deferred to the Vietnam War hero their role on the chessboard.

When Putin sent Russian troops into Georgia in 2008, then-President George W. Bush dispatched warships to the region and distributed humanitarian aid on military aircraft.

Asked if Obama was prepared to take similar actions, Kerry replied: “The hope of the United States and everyone in the world is not to see this escalate into military confrontation. That does not serve the world well, and I think everybody understands that. The president has all options on the table.”

Hope is a good thought, but given that the President had no military options in Benghazi nor Syria (based on his actions), just what has the rhetorical leader of the White House have in mind for the “global community?”

Kerry said if Putin rolled back the military intervention, the U.S. would work with Russia to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine and “stand up to any hooligans, any thuggery” there.

Now this is really rich.

Obviously, Kerry has never been to the Ukraine.  I would be interested in how the US would be working with Russia to “protect ethnic Russians” in the Ukraine.  A bit like the French working with the Germans to protect the Germans living in the Danzig corridor I would guess.

Appearing after Kerry on the same program, GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the House would be “very cooperative with the administration” on preparing an aid package for Ukraine and potential sanctions on Russia.

Let us be blunt. The Russians are the ENERGY supplier to Ukraine and it is winter. So the US de facto will pay the Russians more money to keep the energy flowing to the Ukraine “reformers” I would guess.

“First off, we have to accept that the reset with Russia is over,” Kinzinger said.

When asked on CBS if a 90-minute call between President Obama and Putin on Saturday had any impact, Kerry said “we’re going to have to wait and see.”

Ok so the reset is now over and how about a little 19th century realism in the fantasy world of a 21st century strategist.

Obama made it clear during the call that Russia’s military intervention is “absolutely unacceptable,” Kerry said. “President Obama wants to emphasize to the Russians that there are a right set of choices that can still be made to address any concerns they have about Crimea, about their citizens, but you don’t choose to invade a country in order to do that,” Kerry added.

OK here we have it: the preacher is telling the “weak” black belt President of Russia to get calm, do meditation and get right with the 21st century universe.  Zen rather than chess is the President’s fortay.

“There are all kinds of other options still available to Russia. There still are.”

This is the epitaph for the Obama Administration with regard to the world.

“There are many options out there: it is just tough to choose and actually do something.”




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