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Obama’s Faceoffs with Putin and Netanyahu

Washington was the center of contretemps over Putin’s seizure of Crimea and widening public differences with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu

We recently interviewed Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute and reviewed of his new book Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes. (See The Peril of Engaging Rogue States: An Interview with Dr. Michael Rubin  and Engagement is Folly}.

Putin, according to Rubin is the consummate zero sum geo -politician. Diplomacy for the Kremlin thugocracy pales in comparison to unleashing military adventurism to recreate the former Soviet empire. Witness Georgia in 2008 with the severance of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and even the Kremlin support for Russian speaking breakaway state of Transnistria between the Ukraine and Moldavia. Remember Putin abhors NATO presence anywhere near the Russian sphere of influence. See the prescient title of a piece I wrote back in August 2008, Georgia: “Moscow Rules” and the West Wimps Out.  We had Bush and Condoleezza Rice back then.

The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) witnessed the transfer of nearly 2000 nuclear missiles to Russia followed by 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances by the UK, US and Russia that guaranteed Ukrainian sovereignty including the rights of Russian citizens who chose to live there.  Recently Russia negotiated the extension of the lease on the Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol from 2017 to 2042. The move was heavily criticized by the opposition forces now in power in Kiev.  By seizing the Crimea province from Ukraine, the Russian guarantee of Ukrainian sovereignty has been breached. Russian military exercises near Finland and the Ukraine are clear demonstrations of military force to send a message to the EU and the Obama White House West Wing not to dare send NATO forces to the Polish Ukrainian border. Thus, while there will be lots of economic sanctions and isolation rattling by Washington and Brussels, it is up to the G-8 and G-20 groups to consider ejection of Moscow, which will doubtless come up short.

Sochi may lose tourist revenues from the upcoming Paralympics, followed by the loss of the G-8 Summit in June and even the inaugural Russian Formula 1 race scheduled for August 2014.  Meanwhile the Moscow Stock Exchange and Ruble were punished in trading today. Whether that continues will be influenced by Putin’s contempt for the West and the threats by Obama that “there will be consequences”.  So, while Obama’s Russian reset strategy like his pivot to Asia and push for a Final Status agreement between Israel and the PA have been potential failures.

Just look at the interview with Obama by Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg about the President’s entreaties to Netanyahu to “seize the moment and make peace”. This included  a veiled no veto threat by the US should the PA, as suggested in the Oxford Union remarks of PA negotiator Saeb Erekat on Al Jazeera’s Head to Head program of last Friday,  might opt for accession to the UN Security Council for statehood.

This would let 5 million Palestinian UNWRA refugees file for compensation against Israel.  Further, the PA could file a case for crimes against humanity brought before the International Criminal Court at The Hague the day after the April 29 deadline is passed for an agreement set by Secretary of State Kerry.  Even the brief comments by Obama and Netanyahu in the Oval Office about “tough choices” versus non helpful Palestinian moves sent a chilling message.  (See this CBS news report, here).

Tomorrow, we shall see what happens when Netanyahu speaks to 14,000 delegates at the AIPAC Policy Conference following Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ)   speech. They would urge the delegates to scamper up Capitol Hill to convince their Senators and Representatives to pass the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act, S. 1881 co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Menendez. Problem is that Iran may already have its nukes given a decade long cooperative weapons development and ICBM program with North Korea. Read my article; Has Iran Developed Nuclear Weapons in North Korea?

As to Israel’s capabilities, realize that it already has ICBMs – the nuclear equipped Jericho III.  Yes, as the ancient Chinese curse goes, “may you live in interesting times”.

RELATED COLUMN: ‘Delusional’: Krauthammer Slams Obama Admin’s Belief that Putin has ‘Blinked’ on Ukraine

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.