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Tensions mounting in Crimea prior to Sunday's vote for independence

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It is believed by sources closest to the crisis in Crimea that Russia has positioned nearly 20,000 unidentified armed troops in the region with an additional 80,000 troops along Russia's western border with east Ukraine.

Steven Lee Myers and Alison Smale of The New York Times reported today that Russia is continuing to amass troops along its border with Ukraine:

MOSCOW — Russia’s Defense Ministry announced new military operations in several regions near the Ukrainian border on Thursday, even as Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany warned the Kremlin to abandon the politics of the 19th and 20th centuries or face diplomatic and economic retaliation from a united Europe.

In Moscow, the military acknowledged significant operations involving armored and airborne troops in the Belgorod, Kursk and Rostov regions abutting eastern Ukraine, where many ethnic Russians have protested against the new interim government in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, and appealed to Moscow for protection.

In "How to Defeat Putin," posted on NRO earlier this morning, Robert Zubrin claims that of the three options available for stopping Putin, (military, economic and political), that the best one may very well be the political option. Regarding the Putin regime, Zubrin unapologetically states that:

Putin has a very serious political weakness, and it is this: His government stinks. It is a regime based on theft and extortion, reinforced by lies and murder. Putin himself made his original fortune in the early 1990s, when he stole the funds that had been entrusted to him to buy food in Europe to relieve the starvation in Leningrad that occurred during the economic collapse following the fall of the Soviet Union. In what was called the second siege of Leningrad, thousands died, but Putin and his partners in crime got rich. Then Putin killed even more Russians when he had the FSB explode bombs in apartment buildings in Moscow in 1999 to give himself the pretext to seize dictatorial powers. Those who exposed these crimes, such as former FSB operative Alexander Litvinenko, he had murdered. But those are just some of the most notorious examples of the regime’s corruption.

The reality is that the regime is corruption. It is not a government that exists to protect the lives and property of its citizens. It is a protection racket that exists to prey on and extort wealth from those under its power. This is true at every level, from Putin and others at the top making themselves fantastically rich by expropriating state assets, corporations, and the property of wealthy individuals at will, down to small-town police who demand and get payoffs from local businesses.

Regardless of its lack of originality in this respect, Putin’s regime does, in fact, stink. How do we make use of that defect to defeat him?

The answer is that we don’t. The Ukrainians must — by rising to the occasion and, for the first time since the imposition of the Mongol yoke 750 years ago, creating a decent government in that part of the world.

In the meantime, after the vast majority of Ukrainians rejected Putin's monetary underwriting of their country and the associated stipulations of allegiance to Russia, the US Congressional body was unable to advance a paltry $1 billion dollars in loan guarantees for Ukraine. As reported by The Hill, Congress could not advance and pass a clean bill due to provisions that were intended to reform the International Monetary Fund and extend further cuts to the US Department of Defense.

Speaking of the impasse, Senator Marco Rubio (Florida) said, "This legislation is supposed to be about assisting Ukraine and punishing Russia, and the IMF measure completely undercuts both of these goals by giving Putin’s Russia something it wants."

The US Congress needs to come up with the money and provide it to Ukraine with no strings attached. The government of the United States has wasted trillions of dollars on worthless projects and meaningless programs; it could finally purchase something of lasting value with an investment in the future of Ukraine.

As Zubrin stated in his posting today,

....the new Ukrainian government should have our full-hearted support. That means not acting like skinflints and offering them an IMF loan package in exchange for austerity measures, which would guarantee gas-price riots followed by ethnic riots and then Russian occupation. Rather — provided, again, that the Ukrainian government takes the path of democratic revolution rather than the suicidal course of ethnic nationalism — we should treat Ukraine as a vital ally needing help and generously revive and rebuild it with all the economic and political aid of a full-bore Marshall Plan.

If it costs $15 billion, it will be worth it. If its costs $50 billion, it will be worth it. If it costs $100 billion, it will be worth it. We currently spend over $500 billion per year on our military budget. A new Cold War with a resurgent Eurasianist superpower would cost us trillions, with concomitant accelerated cancerous growth of the national-security state at home, millions of lives lost in endless brushfire wars abroad, and a revived threat of thermonuclear war hanging overhead for decades to come. In contrast, a successful free Ukraine means the liberation of Russia and the welcoming of that potentially great nation with all of its talent, inventiveness, and force into the family of the free.

There is a lot more at stake than photo ops with phony reset buttons. It's time for the people of the United States to re ante on their commitments to freedom and to reaffirm a strong foreign policy vision.

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