Sunday, March 2, 2014 7:21
By Josey Wales
The Ukraine is mobilizing for war this Sunday morning, after Putin declared he had the right to invade, creating the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the cold war.
President Barack Obama is a little dazed and confused. It took US President Barack Obama 90 minutes of intense dialogue with the Russian President Vladimir Putin to grasp that Putin is unshakably fixed on the course he has set for Ukraine and has no intention of withdrawing the Russian troops he has positioned in the Crimean peninsula.
In fact, behind the diplomatic verbiage, Russian President Putin was clearly on the offensive. He let it be understood that unless the US and Europe rid Kiev of the “fascist gangs,” which had taken over, Moscow would move forces into additional parts of Ukraine to uphold its interests and “protect the Russian citizens and compatriots living there” for as long as the interim regime remained in Kiev.
Vladimir Putin was not impressed at all by Obama’s accusation of being in ”clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Neither was Putin deterred by the US president’s threat of “international political and diplomatic isolation” – or even a Western boycott of the G8 summer summit in Sochi.
After all, Putin did stand alone at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Winter Games – unattended by a single Western leader. After that experience, he is not afraid to stand alone on Ukraine as well, regardless of US and EU efforts to force him to abandon what he views as an imminent strategic threat on Russia’s doorstep.
They may be said to share four significant conclusions.
1. President Obama was seen backing off a commitment to US allies for the second time in eight months. They remember his U-turn last August on US military intervention for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons. They also see Washington shying off from Russia’s use of military force and therefore not a reliable partner for safeguarding their national security.
2. The Middle East governments which opted to range with Vladimir Putin - Damascus, Tehran, Hizballah and, up to an initial point, Egypt, are ending up on the strong side of the regional equation.
The pro-American camp keeps falling back.
3. American weakness on the global front has strengthened the Iranian-Syrian bloc and its ties with Hizballah.
4. Putin standing foursquare behind Iran is an insurmountable obstacle to a negotiated and acceptable comprehensive agreement with Iran – just as the international bid for a political resolution of the Syrian conflict foundered last month.
With the Ukraine crisis looming ever larger, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s scheduled meeting Monday with President Obama at the White House is unlikely to be more than an exchange of polite platitudes.
Ukraine’s security council ordered the general staff to immediately put all armed forces on highest alert, the council’s secretary Andriy Parubiy announced. The Defense Ministry was ordered to conduct the call-up, potentially of all men up to 40 in a country that still has universal male conscription.
Russian forces who have already bloodlessly seized Crimea – an isolated Black Sea peninsula where most of the population are ethnic Russian and Moscow has a naval base – tried to disarm the small Ukrainian contingents there on Sunday. Some Ukrainian commanders refused to give up weapons and bases were surrounded.
Of potentially even greater concern are eastern swathes of the country, where most of the ethnic Ukrainians speak Russian as a native language. Those areas saw violent protests on Saturday, with pro-Moscow demonstrators hoisting flags at government buildings and calling for Russia to defend them.
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