Secretary of State John F. Kerry put the U.S. under a microscope ripping Russian President Vladimir Putin for seizing Crimea March 1. Calling Russia’s actions an “incredible act of aggression,” Kerry didn’t see the supreme hypocrisy with the U.S. lighting up Baghdad March 20, 2003, in what became known as former President George W. Bush’s act of “preemptive war.” Without Cruise missiles or smart bombs decimating Baghdad, Putin rolled in tanks without firing one shot or sustaining any casualties. Thousands of Iraqi civilians were slaughtered when smart-bombs and Cruise missiles struck Baghdad at the beginning of the Iraq War. “You don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext,” Kerry told Bob Schieffer on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Whatever Putin’s excuse, he operated within Bush’s preemptive doctrine.
Putin bit his tongue during the Sochi Olympics while NBC’s 61-year-old pink-eyed-bespeckled anchor Bob Costas blasted Russia for threatening the Ukraine. Costas never said anything about reports that the U.S. embassy supplied arms, cash and other support to anti-Yanukovich rebels in Kiev. Kerry said Russia had “a right set of choices,” implying Putin should have gone to the U.N. Security Council for resolution. Bush never considered U.N. approval when he invaded Iraq, because Russia, China and others would have vetoed any war resolution. Kerry’s hypercriticism of Putin mirrors his boss, President Barack Obama, who flat-out warned the Russian about draconic “costs” should Putin move Russian tanks into Crimea. Kerry insisted that Barack “has all options on the table,” yet the U.S. would be hard-pressed to get even one European Union country to join in.
No one believes that Obama would commit the U.S. military to a war with Russia. Having spent the last 13 years in useless foreign wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama’s still trying to meet his 2008 campaign promise of ending Bush’s preemptive wars. “The hope of the United States and everybody in the world is not to see this escalate into a military confrontation. That will not serve the world well, and I think everybody understands that,” said Kerry, raising the specter of a war with Russia. When you look at the geopolitics of the Ukraine, the U.S. has no business backing a pro-EU movement among Ukrainians. If Obama and the State Department believe in linkage, backing Ukrainian rebels against the pro-Russian government of Vitkor Yanukovich was bound to harm relations with Russia. Many members of the Kremlin believe that the Ukrainian revolt was sponsored by the CIA.
Speaking on CNN’s “GPS” with Fared Zakaria, Bill Clinton’s former Secretary Madeleine Albright and Jimmy Carter’s former National Security Advisor Zbibniew Brzezinski both said more pressure must be placed on Moscow to end Putin’s adventure in Crimea. Both point to NATO but neither say exactly what can be done other that threatening to isolate Putin. “It’s an incredible act of aggression. It is really stunning, willful choice by President [Vladimir] Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia is in violation of its international obligations,” insisted Kerry, not seeing the cosmic hypocrisy of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Whatever the U.S. justification at the time, it’s no different than Putin’s decision to take preemptive action in Crimea. Calling Ukraine’s new government “legitimate” also lacks logic.
Brzezinski told Zakaria that the Kremlin must recognize the “legitimate” government of newly minted Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov. Chasing out the elected Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich hardly makes Ukraine’s new revolutionary leader “legitimate.” It took almost nine years before the U.S. pulled out of Iraq, after what the Bush administration described as a “legitmate” invasion. Kerry and the State Department can’t have it both ways: Excuse the U.S. invasion and war in Iraq and, simultaneously, condemn Putin’s bloodless takeover of Crimea. With Russia supplying about 60% of the EU’s natural gas, it’s not going to be easy to get consensus on sanctions, including a boycott of the G8 summit in Sochi scheduled in July. Threatening toothless sanctions against Russia could backfire, especially if NATO isn’t prepared to back them with force.
U.S. and EU officials are now scrambling to figure out how to deal with Putin’s latest military adventure in Crimea. If the CIA backed the current revolution in Kiev, it’s understandable why Putin would take defensive measures in Crimea to protect his military assets and 58% Russian population. Kerry’s public remarks about how unprecedented in the 21st century Russia’s brazen actions need to look no further that Afghanistan and Iraq. Ukraine’s new revolutionary government needs to put-up-or-shut-up when it comes to defending the so-called “legitimacy” of their regime. Dragging the U.S. or NATO into its current spat with Russia serves no one in the West. While there’s no U.S. national security interest in the Ukraine, there is one for Russia. If Putin acted to defend Russia’s national security, then it’s a matter of Ukraine’s new revolutionary government to resolve it with Moscow.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’d editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.