Despite all the rhetoric about American weakness when it comes to Crimea, Russia has been paying a steep price for its behavior.
After Russia’s occupation and annexation of the Crimean portion of Ukraine a lot of American politicians decided to make some political hay by claiming that the whole thing was the product of presidential “weakness” or that the whole thing was caused by Obama’s decision not to bomb Syria last year.
Some of this is probably just good old fashioned Washington partisanship, something went wrong so it must be the President’s fault and if the party not in the White House loves to point this out. And then some of it just seems to be a product of American hubris. Lots of pundits seem to assume that everything in the world revolves around the United States, so any foreign development that is less than optimal must, in the end, have been caused by the President. Sometimes this is true; the disaster that was the Iraq War very much was President Bush’s fault, but sometimes it’s just isn’t. An airplane in Asia disappearing is pretty sad, but it’s not like it was President Obama’s fault. The same thing could be said for a lot of things that presidents get the credit, or blame, for.
In fact, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine can be blamed on many things that don’t have much to do with The United States at all. For eample the legacy of various wars and revolutions in the 20th Century, European nationalism, or the general tendency of all great powers to use force in areas they consider their own “back yards.” But the idea that “weakness” somehow caused the most recent developments in Ukraine is just down right absurd. Since no administration in their right mind would threaten war with Russia over the Crimea, and nobody in the mainstream of American politics is calling for such a war, then any idea that more “toughness” or “resolve” would have stopped Russian actions in Crimea is almost self-refuting. Or to think about it another way, if “resolve” and “toughness” work so well, why wasn’t the tougher Bush administration able to stop Russia from invading Georgia in 2008?
But doesn’t that mean that Putin is still getting away with murder when it comes to Ukraine? Well he’s not facing nuclear war, but problems are starting to mount. While President Obama might not be bombing Moscow or sending Marines into Crimea the sanctions program instituted by the US and European Union is having a pretty measurable effect. As The Los Angeles Times recently reported the Russian economy (never very good to begin with) has suffered a pretty significant blow:
Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region last month and the instability it created in Russian financial markets were cited by government officials for record capital flight and sharply downgraded growth forecasts for the country. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that instead of projected 2.5% growth this year, Russia’s economy might show no growth at all…
U.S. and European sanctions to punish Russia for occupying and annexing Crimea have so far targeted only a few dozen officials and businessmen. But the prospect of broader penalties, such as a Western boycott of Russian oil and gas, have scared investors into cashing out their ruble-denominated assets for hard currency and taking their money abroad.
That doesn’t automatically translate into Putin reversing himself over Crimea anytime soon. After all autocrats are very good and surviving bad economic times compared to democratically elected leaders, and times have been a lot worse economically speaking in Russia’s recent past. But the Obama Administrations policies are having a measurable and large effect, certainly one bigger than giving another warmed over version of that “Evil Empire” speech.
Like The Good Men Project On Facebook
Photo by Jan Egil Kristiansen/Flickr