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Russia's invasion and annexation of Crimea has overtly challenged the familiar contours of the post-Cold War world. The inadequacies of the Obama doctrine and lack of strategic thought have brought Europe to the most dangerous point since the end of the Cold War. Critics of American power have found in Barack Obama the leader they have clamoured for since President Carter — and the results are calamitous.
Turning inward? Obama has shaped his strategy around the world as he wishes it to be
At the time of writing, shortly after the Russia's overwhelming victory in the Crimean referendum, Obama is still not acting strategically. Instead his response has focused on short-term economic punishment of the Russians and the joyless task of trying to agree sanctions with both his divided European counterparts and Congress. His limited military response is even less coherent and appears to be leading to escalation with Russia, despite being too small to have any material effect on the situation. Obama met Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, four days before the referendum in Crimea, in which voters had no real choice but to join Russia. Although Ukraine announced that 80,000 Russian troops were massed on the border, Obama's response has been extremely low key. His natural instinct has been a reversion to "leading from behind", evidenced by the length of time it has taken for a coordinated response to emerge from the G7, his astonishing disappearance for a weekend break to Florida and his highly publicised appearance in an inappropriate, satirical interview. Obama has avoided sanctions with real financial bite, both to give diplomacy a chance and to avoid unintended blowback to the US economy. The effect is that he has yet to send a powerful message to Russia about the potential consequences of reshaping Europe's borders. If this is not the moment for an American-led reaffirmation of European security, it is hard to imagine what would be.

Even as the West agrees a low level sanctions regime, President Putin has annexed Crimea with the agreement of its leaders and the Duma. As in the case of Iran, it is not clear what these extremely narrowly focused sanctions are meant to achieve: to ward off escalation of the conflict, result in Russian regime change or secure a return of the Crimea? Of these, only the avoidance of escalation seems likely. The sanctions certainly won't bring security or stability to Europe, they are politically symbolic rather than targeting Russia's economically crucial energy sector. Sanctions with bite would hurt the still fragile US and European economies. The weakness of the sanctions further highlights the deep divisions between America and the EU and between the EU member states themselves. They have been unable to agree on the targets of the sanctions and they missed the vast capital outflows of Russian assets that occurred before the referendum. Obama has let America's relationship with Germany reach a new low, particularly in the key area of security. It also remains far from clear what outcome Obama or the EU would like to see, certainly a return to the previous status quo is not realistic. As a result the sanctions are purely punitive.

The unsuitability of the EU to the type of task at hand is clear, it is not able to agree the communality of strategic purpose that Nato maintained. As EU officials now admit, the drafting of the association agreement with Ukraine, which was the proximate trigger for the current crisis, was largely left to technocrats. It illustrates  the complete lack of systematic, strategic thought about the fundamental security issues confronting Europe and Nato and the danger of American outsourcing its Nato security commitment to the EU.

Attempts to cast Russia from the international community permits behaviour hitherto unacceptable. Indeed, Russia's response the day before the Crimean Referendum was to escalate the conflict with further military actions in East Ukraine and ominously the Nato website was subject to a serious cyber attack. The only real winner is Beijing, as Obama is forced to take his eye off South East Asia and fully engage with China's other serious competitor, Moscow. This is the instant when the rules of 21st-century diplomacy, look set to be codified. As a result, the failure to publicly pronounce on Nato solidarity is actually more damaging than Putin's actions themselves.

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Jack Jones
April 13th, 2014
7:04 PM
It seems that Alexander Woolfson is the 'Grand Old Party' rep on Standpoint Mag!! 'Come on Obama Boy, get Putin' a typical soundbyte of the Republican Party. And why not go into Syria, and bash Iran's nuclear aspirations (to do Israel's dirty work)? And when Obamaa has finished his term, they got Obama to blame "for another fine mess he's got us into"! While here in Europe all we have had so far is rhetoric and hot air from the likes of William Hague. And Germany, the economic leader of Western Europe, decides to take a more cautious approach. One question to Alexander: WHERE IS OBAMA GOING TO GET THE FUNDS TO OPEN ANOTHER WAR FRONT - AFTER IRAQ AND AFGANISTAN? And the US cannot afford to have a decent health care for it's own citizens (some thing the EU and UK take for granted) - Answer please, Mr Woolfson or Editor of Standpoint

April 3rd, 2014
12:04 PM
Thank you for your polemic.Sounds like it was written by the Rumsfields of the world. You very well may be right but you haven't looked at the big picture. First of all when you refer to Obama, you are referring also to the foreign service and military industrial complex of the US. Is it possible they have game played Putin,knowing hey were encroaching on his flank with promises to potentially accept Ukraine into the EU and eventually NATO.Is it possible when Putin realized this, he installed his own de facto government,the West's best option being we can have western Ukraine which is better than no Ukraine at all. If so, the west has succeeded in further land grabs of the former Soviet Union. In addition, is it possible the West has paralyzed Western Investment in Russia to the degree it will add to the debilitation of the Russian economy which has no positive outcomes for Putin accept to adopt the nationalistic fervor of all despots prior to their potential fall from power. When you make an argument,it makes sense to offer the other side's reasoning,then refute it as opposed to just writing this polemic.

hegel`s advocate
March 31st, 2014
1:03 AM
`The Society of the Spectacle` by situationist Guy Debord is now available in a new annotated english translation by Ken Knab at Bureau of Public Secrets website. The leaders of the world will lead it into disasters and catastrophic horrors-the how and why it`s getting worse accurately defined ? First published in 1968 along with Raoul Vaneigem`s `The Revolution of Everyday Life` (pre-internet!) , which is also now available in a new English translation by Donald Nicholson Smith,the radical potential and dangers for the world are concisely explained. Today Zizek claims these leaders and so-called experts have lost all decisional capability. But not so in Uruguay! The decisional capability of its people and leaders surely making it the first 21st century civilisation voted into existence and a role model for other countries. Putin is Russia`s Thatcher. His own cronies could get rid of him soon. He rents himself out to them as a personality cult on an industrial scale. For people with no personality of their own he is their personality infantilising them and making them talk childish nonsense about the West attacking their fort (Alamo fantasy) The giant inflatable duck that was the Sochi Olympics being a prelude to his political Disneyfication of Russia as a theme park of 20th century market Leninism. Nobody will want to `buy into` it culturally . America hasn`t retreated or not done enough. It welcomed Pussy Riot artists in New York! Let`s see Moscow welcome young artist Akiane Kramarik from Idaho,USA.

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