Tags: Russia

It’s a Lot Easier to Brag When You’re Willing to Lie.


President Obama, last night:

Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.

The actual news:

After days of intense fighting, Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine claimed Monday they had seized control of Donetsk airport once again. The Ukrainian military denied this but acknowledged that the fighting for the rubble-strewn trophy had been fierce.

Three Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 66 wounded in the previous 24 hours, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters in Kiev, but he would not say how many of those casualties occurred at the airport.

Donetsk airport, reduced to rubble in the fighting since May, is of limited strategic importance in the short term but has great symbolic value. In the longer term, the government fears the separatists could use the airport, located north of the main rebel-held city, to expand their control over eastern Ukraine and create an air supply route with Russia…

Russia has shown “no political will, no movement on the ground, so no reason to change policy,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Antanas Linkevicius said.

The U.N. estimates more than 4,700 people have been killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine since April. Ukraine accuses Russia of arming the rebels. Russia denies the charge, but acknowledges that Russians are among those fighting the government in Kiev.

As for the Russian economy being in tatters, that has a lot more to do with the rapid decline in oil prices than any U.S. or Western sanctions. OPEC hit Vladimir Putin a lot harder than we did.

Elsewhere, NBC News’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, declared:

It seems that the rose-colored glasses through which [President Obama] was viewing the foreign policy were so rose-colored that they don’t even reflect the world that we’re living in,” and that the U.S. is not winning in the fight against ISIS.

Fred Fleitz points out that contrary to the president’s assertion, the Iranian nuclear program has not been halted.

It’s very easy to make it sound like the administration’s foreign policy is succeeding when you’re willing to just lie.

Tags: Barack Obama , Ukraine , ISIS , Iran , Russia

Codevilla for Clarity in Foreign Policy


“While the Storm Clouds Gather” is another long foreign policy essay by Angelo Codevilla, probably the best of his I’ve read.  It’s in the latest Claremont Review of Books, and is provided here at Powerline’s request.  There’s a lot to it, but I particularly like its advocacy of public clarity as opposed to the “creative ambiguity” which Codevilla ties to Henry Kissinger.  Here’s how he applies this to our relations with China:

Not least of the perversions of statecraft that compose Henry Kissinger’s legacy is the concept of “creative ambiguity.” The current generation of officials has accustomed themselves to imprecision in policymaking and diplomacy, believing that they thereby “preserve their options.” No, they create options for others. A new generation of statesmen, reversing Kissinger’s baleful legacy, should strive for the utmost clarity in our relations with China. Serious, clear, unambiguous policy that communicates clearly to all what the United States is ready, willing, and able to do is the key to such peace as may be possible.

Let us follow the example of John Quincy Adams’s relations with Russia, the despotism par excellence of his day, which had proclaimed the supremacy of monarchical over republican ways and had signaled its intention to expand its settlements in North America. Adams, wanting peace and friendship with the tsar while keeping more of his settlements out of America and asserting our own identity, left no doubt in Russia’s mind about where America stood on these matters. Today’s America has far more sticks and carrots than Adams did. But these are valid only insofar as they answer, precisely and satisfactorily, the questions in the minds of the governments with which we deal. What plans and means do we have to defeat what possible Chinese military moves? Does China understand what our limits are? Does everyone else? Does China, and do others, understand what our objectives in the Pacific are and that our means match our ends? Do we have in mind and can we sustain a relationship with Japan that satisfies its concerns? Just as Adams left no doubt about where America stood, neither should any statesmen today leave any doubt in Chinese minds. 

I agree with that entirely.  I hate the way most American administrations in my lifetime, but especially Obama’s, constantly talk in vague terms that hint at further process. We need more “you do this, we will do that” talk these days.  It would help in the global situation of general uncertainty about U.S. commitment, and in the national one of partisan divide on foreign policy.

Here’s my own example of the kind of clarity I’d like to see.  Unlike many conservatives, I oppose our issuing any defense pledges to the Ukraine.  In fact, unlike Codevilla himself, I’m pretty sure we ought to refrain from even sending them arms.  So I’m with Obama on both those points.  I think.  And that’s the problem–I don’t really know where he stands.  Obama and many of our allies talk as if there will be all these impossible-to-live-with consequences for Russia further seizing Ukrainian territory, but then the policy is de facto revealed to be one of no military help. There’s no clear statement that, “With Ukraine, we will be forced to sit by and watch Russia do very unjust things if it chooses to, given the realities of our capabilities, interests, and alliances; Russia will pay substantial economic and diplomatic costs, and we do think it will regret the way it chose to pursue its objectives, but those costs might well not deter it; however, we warn Russia that if sends so much as a single soldier against one of our NATO allies, including the Baltic republics, we will retaliate militarily, and we will go to whatever level of warfare is necessary to expel all Russian forces.”  Instead, we’re just assured that invading Ukraine any more than it already has would so bad for Russia’s own interests that it surely won’t do it, and we and the EU have people “working on” the issue, which is in “process,” which blah, blah, blah, let it fade from the news cycle already…and so who really knows what the policy is, and whether or not the same mush would be applied by Obama to the Baltics?  

If anyone wants to pipe in to defend Kissinger and “creative ambiguity,” I’d appreciate learning more, but here’s one more good Codevilla statement regarding China:

Our post-1945 commitments in the region remain, even as our power to fulfill them declines in absolute terms and especially in relation to China’s. Without exception, the region’s governments fear China. Many have territorial contentions with it and racial animosities toward it. The decline of American power is leading Japan ever closer to building military forces to rival China’s. The Philippines scramble to hold onto what remains of U.S. power there. Taiwan and Singapore worry. South Korea, for its part, is listening to China’s increasingly unsubtle offer to broker the Korean peninsula’s unification if South Korea will exchange its security alliance with the U.S. for one with China, oriented against Japan.

If Codevilla is right about what present or future South Koreans will be willing to consider, that’s a grave danger to keep an eye on.  Korean-Japanese relations have been rather strained for the last half-decade, and if China were to get either South Korea, or a unified Korea, to step onto its side foreign-policy wise, or even just to pledge neutrality in any military conflict it has with Japan and/or the U.S., it might become much bolder and more aggressive.  A real pivot to Asia means doing all we can to encourage and facilitate friendship between Japan and South Korea .  It also means doing some work to prepare American opinion, Democrat and Republican, for the slim-but-real possibility of our having to fight alongside Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and perhaps in defense of disputed island territories.  This also means some public spelling out of what we are not willing to do, lest anti-China leaders in those nations become tempted to force our hand. 

Codevilla’s piece begins with a history of American foreign-policy failure throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, usually involving the sins of overextension, or of not seeking victory aggressively enough when we do get engaged.  Some of his calls there are pretty wild–here’s the three I find most questionable: a) he implies that had TR won the election in 1912, he would have taken us into WWI a couple years sooner, on basically preemptive strategic grounds, which would have been for the better, b) he sides in some way, not precisely clear, with General McArthur’s take-it-to-China-if-necessary way of fighting the Korean War, and c) seems to think JFK bargained away too much in the Cuban Missile Crisis deal.  That last call is particularly scary, but Codevilla mentions only in a couple sentences, so it’s hard to know precisely what he had in mind.  In general, I wouldn’t want a GOP president who chose Codevilla as his or her top foreign policy or defense adviser, but I still think this is a fine and important essay, and think Codevilla’s view is one that must be heeded, i.e., in some way represented in future White House councils.  

Tags: China , Russia , Ukraine , Angelo Codevilla , Foreign Policy

President Obama Is Always Telling Us to Not Worry.


From the first post-Labor Day edition of the Morning Jolt:

President Obama Is Always Telling Us to Not Worry.

The “unfortunate contrasts” for the White House are piling up like planes waiting on the tarmac at Dallas Fort Worth Friday afternoon. We have a president keeping a summer 2008 schedule while a high-profile American enemy speaks like it’s autumn 2001:

President Obama flies to Europe on Tuesday ahead of talks with NATO allies over the crisis in Ukraine. But they will also discuss the growing threat posed by ISIS, the Islamic extremists who have seized control of large sections of Iraq and Syria.

While Mr. Obama was touting an improving economy in Wisconsin, the terror group released the third issue of its English language online magazine, complete with pictures of the group executing Syrian soldiers and blowing up the homes of those who cooperated with police.

It’s no longer some crazy right-wing notion to wonder if the president is in denial about the seriousness of the threats building overseas. The editorial board of the Washington Post openly wonders if President Obama is ignoring what his cabinet is telling him about Russia’s aggression and ISIS:

One can only imagine the whiplash that foreign leaders must be suffering. They heard U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power denounce Russia as “today . . . they open a new front . . . Russia’s force along the border is the largest it has been . . . the mask is coming off.” An hour later, Mr. Obama implicitly contradicted her: “I consider the actions that we’ve seen in the last week a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now . . . it’s not really a shift.”

Similarly, his senior advisers uniformly have warned of the unprecedented threat to America and Americans represented by Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq. But Mr. Obama didn’t seem to agree. “Now, ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and to people throughout the region,” he said. “My priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL made in Iraq are rolled back.” Contrast that ambition with this vow from Secretary of State John F. Kerry: “And make no mistake: We will continue to confront ISIL wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred. The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil.”

His advisers are only stating the obvious: Russia has invaded Ukraine. The Islamic State and the Americans it is training are a danger to the United States. When Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. says the threat they pose is “in some ways . . . more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as attorney general,” it’s not because he is a warmonger or an alarmist. He’s describing the world as he sees it. When Mr. Obama refuses to acknowledge the reality, allies naturally wonder whether he will also refuse to respond to it.

NBC News’ Richard Engel Sunday: “I speak to military commanders, I speak to former officials, and they are apoplectic. They think that this is a clear and present danger. They think something needs to be done. One official said that this was a Freudian slip, that it shows how the United States does not have a policy to deal with Syria, even when you have ISIS, which has effectively become a terrorist army, roughly 20,000 strong.”

One quick note: The United States military is the best in the world, and while fighting terrorists is always difficult, the Pentagon is pretty spectacular and thorough when it comes to defeating opposing armies. House-to-house urban warfare, determining friend from foe in densely-packed chaotic environments full of civilians – everybody struggles at that. But once an American enemy gets big enough to have groups of guys standing around in one place, and lots of vehicles, and permanent structures – well, then it’s just a matter of establishing air superiority and then targeting and bombing them to oblivion. Ask the Iraqi army, either the 1991 edition or the 2003 edition.

What makes ISIS different – its ability to openly hold and control territory with heavier weapons – also makes it much more vulnerable from the West’s preferred style of combat.

Back to our resolutely oblivious president.  Obama at a DNC event, late last week: “I promise you, things are much less dangerous now than they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago or 30 years ago.” He said this the day UK Prime Minister David Cameron declared that his country faced “the greatest and deepest terror threat in its history.”

Ace of Spades, articulating an increasingly common fear:

For some time I have had concerns about Obama. And not all of these concerns are political.

I have wondered if he simply snapped.

He continues to make me wonder.

The less menacing possibility is that he is determined to create a happy, false reality for his LIV supporters.

The more frightening possibility is that he was so successful in creating that Happy Place, he decided to move in, and now lives in his own delusions as well.

I don’t know if this will make Ace feel any better, but what we’re seeing now is an old and steady Obama habit, more pronounced against horrific events. “It’s not as bad as it seems!” is an Obama trademark.

Remember, the Benghazi terror attack was a “bump in the road.” ISIS is the JV squad.  “Because Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival.”

If you were worried about Putin in 2012, “the 80s called, they want their foreign policy back.” All that U.S.-Russia relations needed was “more flexibility.” In May, he spoke about the invasion and occupation of Crimea as if it had been properly resolved: “Our ability to mobilize international opinion rapidly has changed the balance and the equation in Ukraine.”

The private sector is “doing fine.” People who already have health insurance “don’t have to worry.” Increases in the unemployment rate are, similarly, just “bumps in the road.”

Relax, America. This pair is on the case!


Tags: Barack Obama , ISIS , Russia

Strange, Obama Never Seems Disengaged from Partisan Politics


The last Morning Jolt of the week notes worsening developments with Russia, as the president visits fundraisers and a deli in Los Angeles.

This morning Charles Krauthammer tries to explain what’s going on with our president:

The preferred explanation for the president’s detachment is psychological. He’s checked out. Given up. Let down and disappointed by the world, he is in withdrawal.

Perhaps. But I’d propose an alternate theory that gives him more credit: Obama’s passivity stems from an idea. When Obama says Putin has placed himself on the wrong side of history in Ukraine, he actually believes it. He disdains realpolitik because he believes that, in the end, such primitive 19th-century notions as conquest are self-defeating. History sees to their defeat.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” is one of Obama’s favorite sayings. Ultimately, injustice and aggression don’t pay. The Soviets saw their 20th-century empire dissolve. More proximally, U.S. gains in Iraq and Afghanistan were, in time, liquidated. Ozymandias lies forever buried and forgotten in desert sands.

That’s probably a piece of the puzzle; Obama, like most of us, gravitates towards a perceived solution that doesn’t require him to do anything difficult. But notice Obama doesn’t rely on “the arc of the moral universe” in the domestic sphere or dealing with his opponents in the United States. He’s not relying on karma, fate, or the law of unintended consequences in his push for a domestic agenda.

Tags: Barack Obama , Russia

In Sum, the Morning’s News Is Bad. Bad, Bad, Bad.


No getting around it; the roundup in today’s Morning Jolt is grim.

Today’s News: Bad. Bad, Bad, Bad.

Let me save you a bunch of time: All the news overseas is bad this morning. Bad, bad, bad.

Breaking news out of Algeria:

An Air Algeria-operated MD83 carrying 116 passengers and crew disappeared en route from Burkina Faso in Africa to Algiers, the aircraft’s owner said.

The plane, which took off in the west African country shortly after midnight, was supposed to land at 05:10 a.m. local time, Swiftair, a charter company based in Spain said in a statement today. The plane carried 110 passengers and six crew.

“There has been no contact with the plane until now,” Swiftair said. “Emergency teams and the company’s personnel are working to figure out what happened and will notify people as further information is available.”


While Kiev made significant advances against rebels in the country’s east in recent days, Ukrainian and U.S. officials say Russian weapons are continuing to pour over the border. The escalation in fighting suggests Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of dialing back his support for the separatists, denting Western hopes that international attention from the airliner crash would force him to change course.


On almost any other issue you can think of, Russian views differ radically from the consensus here in America. Russians have extremely different opinions about the conflict in Syria, viewing the war in that unlucky country not as a brave struggle for freedom but as a chaotic war of all against all. They have different views about the war in Libya, where they see the overthrow of Gaddafi not as a new beginning but as the start of chaos and disorder. They have different views about 9/11, with shockingly large numbers of Russians supporting “alternate” explanations of one of history’s most carefully studied and well-documented terrorist attacks. (I was recently asked what “theory” of the attacks I supported only to be told that it was “my opinion” after I noted that al-Qaeda was clearly and obviously responsible.) Even something as seemingly straightforward and non-political as a meteor strike attracted a range of bizarre theories and pseudo-scientific “explanations” like the onset of an alien invasion or the testing of a new American super weapon. These wacky ideas (“the aliens are attacking Siberia!” “The grand masons are responsible for 9/11!”) would be extremely funny if they didn’t represent such a tragic deficit of reason.

A tiny bit of good news in Israel:

Israel Defense Forces said it hit 35 terror targets overnight. A day earlier, the number was 187.

The Israeli military also reported a sharp fall in the number of rockets fired from Gaza in the early hours of Thursday, although as the day wore on, more rockets were lofted toward Israel, some in the direction of the international airport in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli military said it captured 150 “terrorist suspects” in Gaza Wednesday.

Another tiny bit of good news:

Under pressure from Israeli and American officials, the Federal Aviation Administration lifted a temporary ban on flights by American carriers to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport late on Wednesday night.

The European airlines are reinstating flights.

Now back onto the bad news . . . 


Unable to reach the Grand Synagogues of Sarcelles, some of the rioters smashed shop windows in this poor suburb where tens of thousands of Jews live amid many Muslims. They torched two cars and threw a firebomb at a nearby, smaller synagogue, which was only lightly damaged. It was the ninth synagogue attack in France since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in Gaza two weeks ago.


Police removed a sign from a Belgian cafe saying that Jews were not allowed following a complaint by an anti-Semitism watchdog.


The German government reassured Jews living in Germany that they should feel safe in the face of anti-semitic chants and threats heard at some of the protests against Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza, and said such behavior would not be tolerated.

From now on, no Europeans are allowed to brag about how sophisticated they are.

Tags: Israel , Europe , Russia

Obama Pledges to Dutch, ‘We Will Not Rest,’ Heads to Fundraisers


Of course:

Obama’s schedule for the rest of the day:

President Obama’s fundraising swing through the Seattle area Tuesday will include a high-priced dinner event benefiting a Democratic super PAC. The event is at the Hunts Point home of former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal and his wife, Jan, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by The Seattle Times. The price tag for the event is $25,000 per person, with proceeds going to the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group that accepts unlimited donations . . . 

The event at Sinegal’s home is in addition to an earlier scheduled fundraiser at the Seattle waterfront home of Bruce and Ann Blume, who were fundraising “bundlers” for Obama’s 2012 campaign. The afternoon event will benefit the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The man has a busy schedule to keep.

Tags: Barack Obama , DNC , Russia , Dutch

Traditionally, Loose Bears Are Not Good News.


The White House, July 8:

Indeed, the Bear is loose, and that’s the problem.

Tags: Barack Obama , Russia

Somebody Has to Pay for This Massacre in the Sky


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Somebody Has to Pay For This.

By the time you read this, it’s possible the world will know more about what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. But some of the pieces are starting to come together.

1. Pro-Russian separatists have been shooting down Ukranian planes with increasing frequency in recent months — up until now, military transports and cargo planes.

2. Thursday the Russian separatists bragged about shooting down a non-passenger plane shortly before the Malaysian flight disappeared: “In the vicinity of Torez, we just downed a plane, an AN-26. It is lying somewhere in the Progress Mine. We have issued warnings not to fly in our airspace.”

3. The Russian separatists have the kind of advanced surface-to-air missiles and launching system needed to hit an airliner traveling at this high altitude.

4. The Ukrainian government’s security agency released audio of an intercepted phone call, allegedly showing Russian separatists and Russian intelligence officers discussing the shoot-down:

Igor Bezler: We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo (Donetsk Oblast).

Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots? . . . 

“Greek”: Is there anything left of the weapon?

“Major”: Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.

“Greek”: Are there documents?

“Major”: Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson.

Militant: Regarding the plane shot down in the area of Snizhne-Torez. It’s a civilian one. Fell down near Grabove. There are lots of corpses of women and children. The Cossacks are out there looking at all this.

They say on TV it’s AN-26 transport plane, but they say it’s written Malaysia Airlines on the plane. What was it doing on Ukraine’s territory?

Nikolay Kozitsin: That means they were carrying spies. They shouldn’t be f…cking flying. There is a war going on.

Could this audio be doctored or falsified in some way? Yes, although it would represent an enormous risk on the part of the Ukrainian government.

Barring some other piece of evidence, Occam’s Razor suggests that Russian separatists thought they were firing their missiles at another Ukrainian plane that wasn’t a passenger airliner . . . and promptly killed 298 people. Reports continue to suggest 23 of the passengers were Americans.*

This is not something random and terrible happening to strangers, citizens of other countries, living lives far from here. This was murder of 23 Americans, guilty of nothing worse than booking a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, who had nothing to do with the dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Every one of the passengers’ deaths is an outrage; the deaths may also have far-reaching consequences:

About 100 of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash were heading to Melbourne for a major AIDS conference, conference attendees have been told.

Delegates at a pre-conference in Sydney were told on Friday morning that around 100 medical researchers, health workers and activists were on the plane that went down near the Russia-Ukraine border, including former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange.

Russian president Vladimir Putin didn’t order the separatists to shoot down the airliner. But his intelligence agencies and military have provided all kinds of support to these separatists. To borrow P. J. O’Rourke’s metaphor, Putin gave whiskey and car keys — and powerful explosives — to teenage boys. The disastrous consequences were not hard to foresee. You can see it in the absurd, nonsensical, instant justification by one of the speakers that if the plane is labeled “Malaysia Airlines,” it must be a disguise for a spy plane. Putin didn’t commit murder; just reckless endangerment.

There will be a lot of debates and discussions about what the United States can or should do in response to this reckless, deadly decision. But let’s begin by asking, if we had the opportunity to reach out and strike 23 Russian separatists involved in the decision to launch this missile, would we do it? I’d like to think so. Fighting a war is not inherently evil, nor is stupidity, but the combination of the two is a fertile ground for evil. These guys need to be taught a lesson, and it’s not clear who can teach them.

Commercial airliners fly — usually quite high — over dangerous or not-so-friendly parts of the world all the time. Right now commercial jets are avoiding Eastern Ukraine. Should they avoid Syria, too? Iran? Iraq? Afghanistan? If so, you’ve just cut off India and a big chunk of Asia from Europe.

These guys need to pay — and Putin needs to see consequences of his reckless support of these dumb, brutal goons.

Moe Lane:

I never thought that I’d see the day that the US government would just shrug off a no-fooling war crime committed against our citizens.

* UPDATE: As of Friday afternoon, the report is that “at least one”, not 23 Americans were killed in the attack on the plane. The magazine of Stephen Glass and Zach Scott Thomas Beauchamp seems to think citing a report from Reuters constitutes dishonesty. 

Tags: Russia , Ukraine , Malaysian Airlines 17

What’s the Consequence for Killing American Citizens?


While we don’t know every detail yet, the preponderance of what we know so far indicates that separatists in Ukraine, backed by Russia, shot a missile, destroying a Malaysian Airlines jetliner. Our Patrick Brennan summarizes:

A Malaysia Airlines flight crashed in eastern Ukraine today, killing all 285 passengers aboard, and the Ukrainian government has accused pro-Russian separatists in the area of shooting it down. A representative of the Ukrainian government claims that it was downed by a ground-to-air missile of the type that Russia has been supplying to separatists in eastern Ukraine, where the Ukrainian government has been trying to suppress militants over the past few months. The militants have denied shooting it down.

The Ukrainian government reports that 23 Americans were aboard the plane, and that more than 300 people were killed in the crash.

The Americans on the plane had no connection to Russia or Ukraine, and took no risks other than booking a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Now they’re dead. It’s quite possible pro-Russian separatists killed our fellow citizens.* What will the consequence be?

* UPDATE: As of Friday afternoon, the report is that “at least one”, not 23 Americans were killed in the attack on the plane. The magazine of Stephen Glass and Zach Scott Thomas Beauchamp seems to think citing a report from Reuters constitutes dishonesty. 

Tags: Ukraine , Russia

Two French ‘Pomocons’ on EU Debility


As far as I understand it, little about the Euro-crisis has fundamentally changed since it began five years ago. So I suppose that, as not a few economists affirm, we should still say that the Eurozone EU is “in crisis,” however much that seems to have become the new normal. However we should speak of that, there is a real EU crisis. It is related to the diminishing confidence in the workability of the EMU (Economic Monetary Union), but it is not solely about it. Considered more broadly, it consists of a slow but inexorable rot of once-vibrant societies into a “post-political Europe.” Aspects of this growing debility are occasionally revealed by headline-making events. 

Two such events happened recently. First, Euro-sceptic parties recently triumphed in certain EU and national elections, as George Will briefly discussed. Second, the EU response to Putin’s actions in the Ukraine has been uniquely pathetic. Sure, European leaders made the now-standard announcement that those actions are “unacceptable,” but who bothers to even mentally register such statements anymore? This effectual non-response is discussed in an important new (subscriber only) essay by Jeremy Rabkin in The Claremont Review of Books, titled “The Crimean Job.” If events now seem to be pushing the EU a bit further, the resultant headlines, such as “EU Leaders May Consider Further Russian Sanctions,” are hardly confidence-inspiring. And this is to say nothing of the larger EU policy drift regarding its undefined Eastern borderlands that in fact contributed to Ukraine’s internal divisions and Russia’s aggressiveness. 

These reminders of the EU’s ineffectiveness and growing unpopularity provide an occasion to briefly introduce the relevant thinking of two French political theorists that American conservatives should definitely be more familiar with: Pierre Manent and Philippe Bénéton. Another post, continuing where I left off on John Lennon’s “Imagine,” will also bring Chantal Delsol’s work into the discussion, to address the more general question of whether mankind can move beyond having nations. 

Pierre Manent is the most powerful critic of the EU.  here was a period when he argued that the EU could be a good choice for Europeans, if they chose to really make it a union. The danger was Europe’s dithering between being a common market and an actual United States of Europe. It had to choose, lest the confusion passed actual governance over to bureaucrats. By the mid-aughts, however, Manent seemed to have arrived at the conclusion that it was impossible for contemporary Europeans to bring themselves to choose a real union. While he did not present himself as an opponent to further French integration into the EU, his thought increasingly pointed in that direction, and in any case involved a full-scale rehabilitation of the idea of the nation for democracy and political life generally. In Europe, that idea was greatly discredited by the two world wars. For Manent, the nation is one of three basic political forms available to humanity, the other two being the city-state and the empire. 

In 1996, in the early days of the EU when Manent was still somewhat open to its union-building prospects, he penned his unforgettable essay “Democracy without Nations?” now available in an expanded book of the same title. In it he said the following:

Modern democracy, which is founded on the will, wants to be self-sufficient, but it cannot do without a body. Yet how can it give itself a new body, a body that would not be the . . . arbitrary legacy of the predemocratic age, a body of which democracy would be the sole author? Therefore, democracy has put on this abstract body called “Europe.”  But in order for this body to become real, and to be able to produce and circumscribe an awareness of itself, it must have height, length, depth, and dimensions — that is, limits. But since every limit would be arbitrary from the point of view of the democratic principle, democracy gives itself a body without limits, a Europe of indefinite extension. . . . How many nations, in fact, belong to it? Twelve? Twenty? Thirty? Does Turkey, for example, belong? Why not?  Or why?  The European political class has not even seriously begun to ask these questions, let alone answer them. 

It certainly did not seriously ask these questions with respect to the Ukraine and Russia, leaving EU membership at least a possibility for both, and very much a live option for the former. While it has not been much discussed, this is part of the reason for the current Ukraine conflict.

Such questions lead not simply to the practical need EU domestic and foreign policy has for stability and self-limitation, but to a consideration of Europe’s formation by Christianity, to the fact that some political body, i.e., political form, is always necessary, and to the question of whether the EU’s emerging form is more like an empire or more like a confederation of nations.

Manent’s thought always takes you to the root. And virtually every deep insight of his takes you into others. Paradoxes abound, and the intellectual riches can begin to overwhelm and daze. To grasp the contested relation between nation and democracy in contemporary Europe, for example, it turns out one must understand Aristotle, the death penalty, the Church, The Intellectual History of Liberalism, Tocqueville, Israel, and much else. I nonetheless heartily recommend Democracy without Nations? as an accessible entryway into the thought of one of the greatest living political philosophers.

A more deliberately limited thinker, and one whom I know American conservatives would greatly benefit from, is Philippe Bénéton. His 2004 book Equality by Default, translated by our Ralph Hancock, gives you a very orderly, and yet appropriately artful, presentation of how modernity looks from a perspective informed by Catholic, Tocquevillian, and Strauss-influenced political philosophy. A better philosophical handbook to understanding what is wrong with our contemporary societies cannot be imagined. Procedural and instrumental rationality have come to rule everything for us — i.e., it’s “Rawls” on one hand, and the unbounded market on the other — at the expense of everything we really cherish, the things only apprehended by what Bénéton calls substantive reason. 

The primary example of what substantive reason must be used to capture is human nature itself. If one does not permit oneself to discern the essential human nature we all share, misled by the “scientistic” rejection of all non-quantitative and mathematical-like modes of reasoning, and by the usual interpretations of Darwin and Rousseau, one will not really be able to affirm the proposition of equality that liberal democracy rests upon.  (Unless, of course, one accepts it on Biblical authority alone.) If one still affirms equality, then, it will be due to seeing the human as “pure indeterminacy” only characterized by the exercise arbitrary will.  In this rejection of substantive equality, we will not be seen as equal due to what we are, but rather as due to an absence of essential being. We will be equal, but only by default, and by assertion/construction.

Bénéton recently wrote a fine essay on the EU’s larger crisis, “Europe and the New Democracy,” for The Hedgehog Review, and you should go read the whole thing right now. Here are a couple of key passages, in which you can see how he applies his main insights to the EU:

In some ways, the new Europe neutralizes politics and reduces society to a conglomerate of individuals who agree only on respecting the rules. Europe “depoliticizes” the common life. It reduces the sphere of politics to make greater room for the imperatives of human rights and a market economy. It exempts from political debate all rules deriving from individual rights and free market competition. It creates a supranational and suprapolitical law. Consequently, more and more issues have been removed from genuine democratic discussion. The democracy “Eurocrats” speak of in Brussels is not the democracy of citizens; it is the democracy of rights holders and consumers. The new Europe is working to build a society of individuals. 

That’s part of what he means by calling this a “postpolitical Europe.” But he also ties this to the “procedural democracy” idea he has formulated more clearly than anyone else:

The regime in place in Europe is a procedural democracy. It is defined exclusively by formal rules: human rights, a free market, majority rule in the political arena. Liberal democracy is a machine in working order as long as everyone respects the rules of the game. The qualities of the participants matter little. 

One can see how that applies not simply to France and Europe, but to the way many lawyer-loving liberals and libertarians think American democracy ought to function, and to the way they typically overinterpret The Federalist Papers’ various statements that good government cannot solely rely upon citizen virtue and enlightened statesmanship.

Bénéton and Manent do not really map the way forward for Europe, let alone predict how the EU might unravel or not, but they do show us that resistance to the EU in the name of the nation and democracy by no means needs to consist of a reactionary clinging to hoary symbols and pat formulas, but at its best stands for substantive reasoning, cultivation of genuine citizenship, and mediation between the claims of the particular and the universal. I’ve been able to provide only the smallest taste here of how they show all that, and of their overall wisdom. 

P.S. I don’t know whether these guys would welcome the “postmodern conservative” tag, but our affinities with them are apparent enough. The Eiffel Tower in our masthead icon is there partly as an expression of that, but if you want to say more or ask about those affinities, comment away, or meet me over at the Waffle House.

Tags: EU , Pierre Manent , Philippe Bénéton , Ukraine , Russia , nation

Administration Sources to John Kerry:
Give It Up, Man.


From the final Morning Jolt of the week:

Administration Sources to John Kerry: Give It Up, Man.

When something like this ends up on the front page of the Washington Post, it’s a sign somebody is trying to send a signal to our secretary of state:

When his aides get discouraged about the prospects for Middle East peace, Secretary of State John F. Kerry often bucks them up with a phrase: “Don’t be afraid to be caught trying.”

But as his tireless efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian negotiations hit bottom Thursday, with Israel’s cancellation of prisoner releases that were considered crucial to keeping the talks alive, there are some around Kerry — including on his senior staff and inside the White House — who believe the time is approaching for him to say, “Enough.”

Kerry risks being seen as trying too hard at the expense of a range of other pressing international issues, and perhaps even his reputation, according to several senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity about sensitive internal and diplomatic matters.

“A point will come where he has to go out and own the failure,” an official said. For now, the official said, Kerry needs to “lower the volume and see how things unfold.”

As I noted, we somehow reached a point in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations where we, the United States, needed to make concessions just to keep them talking. Many have argued, accurately, that no peace deal will ever work if we want it to succeed more than the Israelis and Palestinians do. The primary stumbling block to a negotiated settlement is that a big chunk of the Palestinian population wants Israel to cease to exist, and the Israelis, unsurprisingly, refuse to go along with that. Yes, the Israelis periodically build settlements in places that the Palestinians don’t like, and that always turns into the Middle East version of kicking a hornet’s nest.

Jeffrey Goldberg offers a very kind and generous interpretation of Kerry’s entire grandiose, quixotic effort:

President Barack Obama’s administration, and specifically its secretary of state, deserve credit for maintaining the belief — in a very American, very solutionist sort of way — that the application of logic and good sense and creative thinking could bring about, over time, a two-state solution to the 100-year Arab-Jewish war . . . 

This week, we saw the administration float the idea of releasing Jonathan Pollard, the ex-U.S. Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel, in exchange for some Israeli movement on the peace process. As I wrote on Monday, this was both a dubious idea generally and extremely unlikely to bring about advances in negotiations. If anything, it was a sign of desperation. As Andrew Exum and others have noted, why would the mediator in a dispute make concessions to one of the parties seeking mediation? It’s up to the parties to make concessions to each other. Obama has argued that the U.S. can’t want a peaceful compromise between Israelis and Palestinians more than the parties want it themselves. The Pollard balloon (now punctured, presumably) suggests Kerry wants a negotiated settlement just a bit too much.

Goldberg concludes by asking, “really, how can we blame a man for seeking peace?”

American foreign policy can’t just be based upon noble goals — or idealistic visions, grand dreams, noble ambitions, utopian goals and a serious lust for a Nobel Peace Prize. A secretary of state has to have some judgment on what’s possible, a realistic sense of what our allies, enemies, and states in between want, what they’re willing to accept, and what they’re willing to kill and die for.

To use an example our friends on the Left will appreciate, the Bush administration had very noble goals when it went into Iraq. It had an inspiring vision of a free, democratic, pluralistic, modernized Arab state in the middle of a turbulent region, at peace with its neighbors and providing a role model for the rest of the region. Obviously, things didn’t turn out the way we hoped. Very bright people in the Bush administration misjudged how the various factions within Iraq would respond to life without the brutality of Saddam Hussein.

Foreign leaders’ worldviews, philosophies, perspectives and desires matter a lot.

Which is why it’s a little unnerving to hear President Obama say something like this:

With respect to President Putin’s motivation, I think there’s been a lot of speculation. I’m less interested in motivation and more interested in the facts and the principles that not only the United States but the entire international community are looking to uphold.

If we knew and understood his motivation — perhaps to reverse the humiliation of losing the Cold War, and leave a world-altering legacy of a restored de facto Russian empire, with satellite or client states all over Eastern Europe? — it would be easier to deter him and predict his next moves, wouldn’t it?

Ron Fournier:

Taken at face value, it’s a disturbing response from a world leader who should lie awake at night concerned about the motivation of U.S. adversaries, whose first meeting of every day involves an intelligence briefing on the motivations of global actors . . . 

I take him at his word: He doesn’t care.

First, his handling of leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, China and most recently Russia exposes a lack of empathy and sophistication…

. . . Caring little about the motivation of his rivals seems to be a trait of Obama’s leadership that has hurt him in Congress, where the opposition party is stubbornly opposed to his agenda . . . 

Putin knows his enemies. Obama dismisses his.

A painfully accurate assessment there, that almost everyone in the administration will tune out.

Tags: John Kerry , Barack Obama , Israel , Russia , Vladimir Putin

Obama: I’m ‘More Concerned’ about a ‘Nuclear Weapon Going Off in Manhattan’



President Obama, speaking in the Netherlands, moments ago:

The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more. And so my response, then, continues to be what I believe today, which is that Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.

Tags: Barack Obama , Russia , nuclear weapons

The President’s Busy Morning: Russia Announcement, ESPN Radio


This morning President Obama announced new sanctions on Russia for that country’s aggression in Crimea and threatening gestures toward Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

Then the president did an interview with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd.

This is the home page of right now:

“View the President’s Backet” is at the top of the page.

Elsewhere on, visitors are encouraged to provide their e-mail addresses so they can “Sign up to get the First Lady’s blog posts, videos of events and photos delivered right to your inbox” dealing with first lady Michelle Obama’s trip to China.

This is really the only way for the American public to learn much about the first lady’s six-day taxpayer-funded trip to China with her daughters and mother, as “First lady Michelle Obama will not take questions from reporters or give interviews during her tour of China that begins today, and members of the press corps who usually follows [sic] the first family everywhere can’t travel with her entourage.”

Back in November, news organizations filed a formal complaint with the White House about the administration’s habit of “bypassing them to release ‘official’ photos of presidential meetings and events,” contending “visual press releases” have displaced independent coverage.

Tags: Barack Obama , Michelle Obama , White House , Russia , Basketball

Why Russia’s Recent Aggression Really Is Our Problem


The Thursday Morning Jolt features all kinds of ominous news in Eastern Europe, Rand Paul getting a warm reception before an unexpected audience, and then this:

Why Is This Our Problem?

I’m going to take the isolationists and noninterventionists seriously. They ask, why is this our problem? Over at the Washington Post, Georgetown’s Erik Voeten writes:

There is no reason to think that existing borders are somehow morally the right ones or that they are socially or economically efficient…

Who is to say that the people of a small Central American country are necessarily better off with the United States constantly mingling in their affairs than they would have been if the United States had annexed the territory? Or indeed, if the people of Crimea are worse off if they join Russia than they would be with their powerful neighbor constantly prying into their affairs? (Although we would certainly prefer if they could express this themselves in a fair way). It is not right to pretend that an absence of annexation equals an absence of great power interference.

We don’t actually care about the particulars of the borders of foreign states. We’re perfectly fine with two states redrawing the lines of their borders, provided they do it in a manner acceptable to both parties. Russia and Estonia actually recently worked out some disputes about their border at the negotiating table. Nobody in the American government really cared. We don’t care about where the borders are, but we sure as heck care about how the disputes get resolved.

There’s an argument to be made that America has no national interest in whose flag flies over the Crimean peninsula. There’s also an argument to be made that because Ukraine’s government since the end of the Cold War has alternated between corrupt, incompetent pro-Western leaders and corrupt, incompetent pro-Russian leaders, we don’t have a terribly compelling interest in who’s running the show in Kiev.

But we sure as heck have a compelling interest in the behavior of Russia. And when somebody sends over a whole bunch of troops and weapons, with or without masks, claims that territory for themselves and then more or less dares the opposing country to do something about it, that interest ratchets up dramatically. This is how wars start.

Joshua Keating:

In an ideal world, governments might be more open to negotiating border changes along more rational lines, but in the actually existing world, such changes more often than not involve creating disenfranchised minorities (the Ukrainians and Tatars who woke up in a foreign country today) or in the worst cases, war and ethnic cleansing.

Defending the territorial integrity of states as they currently exist may involve a good deal of hypocrisy, but for the most part, governments and international institutions embrace that hypocrisy because the alternative is seen as far worse.

This morning, Senator Marco Rubio pens an op-ed in the Washington Post:

Some have suggested that Crimea is not worth triggering tensions with Russia, given other interests that are more important. While it is best to avoid conflict whenever possible, history shows that illegitimate aggressions that go unchallenged are a virtual guarantee of even more dangerous conflict in the future.

I welcome the fact that Vice President Biden is in the region this week to bring a message of reassurance to our allies and partners. I hope those assurances include a specific and clear response to requests by Georgia and Ukraine for lethal military support from the United States. It is shameful that even as Russia attempts to carve up Ukrainian territory, Ukraine’s request for weapons, intelligence sharing and other assistance has been turned down by the Obama administration.

Of course, most of our serious options remain unused — dramatically expanding our natural-gas and oil exports to Europe, deploying more U.S. naval assets, rescinding the announced Pentagon cuts, shutting down the Russian mission to NATO in Brussels, commencing military exercises with all of our NATO allies, redeploying missile defense interceptors in Europe . . . 

What kind of weapons would be most useful to the Ukrainians and our unnerved Eastern European allies? Anti-tank weapons? Sniper rifles? (Sure would be nice to have some land mines right about now, don’t you think?)

Right now the Air Force’s entire fleet of 350 A-10s is slated be retired in order to save $3.5 billion over five years (some argue the F-35 isn’t an adequate replacement). The Canadians are already talking about buying some of ours. Why not offer them to our Eastern European allies at fire-sale prices?

Any plane that’s good enough against SkyNet is good enough to deter the Red Army.

Tags: Russia , Ukraine , Crimea , Vladimir Putin , Marco Rubio

Obama’s Schedule for This Week: Three Fundraisers


This morning Vladimir Putin announced that Crimea had always been a part of Russia, prepared papers for the territory to formally rejoin Russia, and claimed that no Russian military forces had been deployed on the peninsula. Also the Duma, the Russian parliament, dared the United States to put sanctions on all of its members.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, tonight President Obama will attend a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, his first fundraiser for the DNC since Tuesday, March 11.

On Thursday, President Obama plans to travel to Orlando, Fla. for an event on the economy followed by fundraisers in Miami for the DNC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Barack Obama, seen here conducting an interview with Ryan Seacrest Friday, March 14, holds an elected position that many once called “the leader of the free world.” 


Tags: Barack Obama , Crimea , Russia

No One Could Have Predicted This! Except Tom Clancy Did.


From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

The Chaos in Crimea Continues

Hey, guess what Barack Obama was doing back in August of 2005, as Larry O’Connor discovered?

DONETSK, Ukraine – U.S. Senators Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Barack Obama (D-IL) called for the immediate destruction of 15,000 tons of ammunition, 400,000 small arms and light weapons, and 1,000 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) or shoulder missile launchers that are often sought by terrorists. 

Lugar and Obama toured the Donetsk State Chemical Production Plant, a conventional weapons destruction facility where the U.S. has taken the lead in a three-year NATO program to destroy the weapons. Another 117,000 tons of ammunition and 1.1 million small arms and light weapons are slated for destruction within 12 years. 

Heck, it’s not like Ukraine will need lots of weapons in the next decade, right?

Fast forward nine years…

CNN: “Turning to the troop buildup in the Russian-dominated autonomous region of Crimea, Putin said Ukraine is a brotherly neighbor of Russia — and that the troops there have much in common. He also said Russian forces have not fired a shot since they crossed into Crimea.”

And here’s video of Russian troops firing shots over the head of marching Ukranian Air Force airmen.

Raise your hands if you foresaw Zbigniew Brzezinski calling for deployment of U.S. airborne troops to NATO bases near Ukraine:

Russia’s unilateral and menacing acts mean the West should promptly recognize the current government of Ukraine as legitimate. Uncertainty regarding its legal status could tempt Putin to repeat his Crimean charade. Second, the West should convey — privately at this stage, so as not to humiliate Russia — that the Ukrainian army can count on immediate and direct Western aid so as to enhance its defensive capabilities. There should be no doubt left in Putin’s mind that an attack on Ukraine would precipitate a prolonged and costly engagement, and Ukrainians should not fear that they would be left in the lurch.

Meanwhile, NATO forces, consistent with the organization’s contingency planning, should be put on alert. High readiness for some immediate airlift to Europe of U.S. airborne units would be politically and militarily meaningful. If the West wants to avoid a conflict, there should be no ambiguity in the Kremlin as to what might be preciptated by further adventurist use of force in the middle of Europe.

NATO member countries that border Ukraine are Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Turkey’s on the other side of the Black Sea.

Did you catch this headline from Time magazine’s correspondent in Kiev a week ago? “No, Russia Will Not Intervene in Ukraine.” 

…Meanwhile, Morning Jolt reader Doug points out that no one could have predicted Russia’s move on Ukraine… except Tom Clancy, who died in October:

The last Tom Clancy book, Command Authority, published last year, is all about Russian aggression against its former satellites. Dialogue on p. 70:

Golovko added, “Volodin has his eyes on the Crimea, in Southern Ukraine, and he knows once Ukraine joins NATO, that will be difficult for him to achieve.  The way he sees it, he has to move soon.”

Ryan said, “He is right that there is no treaty between Ukraine and NATO.  And if he does invade, getting Europe on board to fight for the Crimea is a nonstarter.” 

It’s like he’s psychic. The only good news in this revelation is that if Clancy’s right about this, it means he’s right about everything else, and that means the U.S. Navy got their hands on a Russian submarine with a caterpillar drive back in 1984.

UPDATE: Separately from Clancy’s last novel, the author lent his name to a line of computer games. The first Ghost Recon game depicted U.S. special forces secretly going into T’bilisi, Georgia to deal with Russian invasion forces backed by ultra-nationalist hard-liners. The “future date” of the 2001 game was… April 2008. In real life, Russian forces crossed into Georgia a few months later. Ghost Recon also featured Russia taking over… Ukraine. The trailer is below:  


Tags: Ukraine , Crimea , Barack Obama , Vladimir Putin , Russia

Why Is Russian Mobile Artillery Rolling In Crimea?


From this morning’s Jolt:

A sample of John Kerry’s keen eye for foreign policy:

“Russia chose this brazen act of aggression and moved in with its forces on a completely trumped up set of pretext, claiming that people were threatened. And the fact is that that’s not the act of somebody who is strong, that’s the act of somebody who is acting out of weakness and out of certain kind of desperation.”

Above: What Kerry calls ‘weak.’


Kurt Schlichter points out that despite CNN’s chryon, those aren’t tanks, they’re mobile artillery. Sharper eyes and minds than me may correct me, but it looks like Kurtis Marsh may be right, that these are 2S1 Gvozdika, or some variation of it. Presuming the Wikipedia entry is correct, these artillery have a range of 10 to 14 miles.

In other words, this is a tool for projecting destructive power a significant distance away, not just occupying a territory full of ethnic Russians eager to politically rejoin their motherland. This isn’t proof that Russia intends to take a bigger bite out of Ukraine, but if they wanted to… they have some of the tools they would need in place. 

Tags: Russia , Crimea , Ukraine

The Infamous ‘Reset’ Button: Stolen From a Hotel Pool or Jacuzzi


From Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’s new book about Hillary Clinton’s years at the U.S. State Department, HRC, p.136-137:

[Hillary Clinton's senior adviser] Philippe Reines, a lover of both gimmickry and iconic imagery, had come up with a plan to show the world a symbol of the “reset” mantra. Hillary would give [Russian foreign minister Sergei] Lavrov a gift-wrapped button emblazoned with the English and Russian words for “reset.” It seemed like a clever way to draw attention to the message, one sure to be bounced across the globe on television and in newspaper pictures. But Reines had sidestepped traditional protocol by not asking State’s team of translators to help with the project from the start. He later said he was unaware such resources were available to him.

One of Hillary’s top aides didn’t know the State Department had professional translators? Really?  

[Reines] had asked NSC Russia director Mike McFaul for the word and both McFaul and State Russia expert Bill Burns signed off on the spelling…

Lavrov pointed out that peregruzka – printed not in Cyrillic but in Latin script – means “overcharge.” …


Reines tried to correct the error, asking Russia’s ambassador to Switzerland to give the gift back temporarily so that a new label – with the right word – could be printed and affixed to it.

“This is a gift from the United States. I don’t think I can give it back to you,” the ambassador replied with a smile. “If I did, my minister would be very upset.” 

“If your minister doesn’t give that back, my minister,” Reines said, referring to Hillary, “is going to send me to Siberia.”

Reines pleaded his case in good humor, even suggesting they bring a label-maker into the room so that the Russian ambassador didn’t have to let the gift – an emergency stop button that had been hastily pilfered from a swimming pool or Jacuzzi at the hotel – out of his sight. Nyet, the ambassador said. 

We’re in the very best of hands. 

Somewhere in Geneva, there’s a hotel maintenance guy who’s wondering where the button went.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Russia

The U.S. Has Plenty of Options for a Response to Russia.


A great deal of talk about Russia, Crimea, Ukraine, and our wise leaders in the first Morning Jolt of the week. Let’s fast forward to the “what are our options?” part:

So What to Do?

You’re going to hear a lot of “well, there’s not much we can do” in the coming days and weeks, a preemptive excuse for administration dithering, indecision, and empty gestures.

John Fund:

The U.S. should immediately move to expand its existing Magnitsky Act, which prohibits Russians engaged in illegal activity from entering the U.S. If it were extended to the regulation of bank accounts and property ownership in the U.S., we’d hear howls of outrage from many Russian officials and oligarchs. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), for one, supports this kind of restriction: “Living in Miami, I have seen in recent years the wave of Russian tourists coming to our city and state to spend money and buy property. Many are government officials or allies whose wealth stems from allegiance to Putin, and we should limit their ability to travel here.”

The editors of the Wall Street Journal:

Russia today is not the isolated Soviet Union, and its leaders and oligarchs need access to Western markets and capital. All trade and banking relationships with Russia ought to be reconsidered, and the U.S. should restrict the access of Russian banks to the global financial system. Aggressive investigations and leaks about the money the oligarchs and Mr. Putin hold in Western banks might raise the pressure in the Kremlin. The U.S. should also expand the list of Russian officials on the Magnitsky Act’s American visa ban and financial assets freeze, including Mr. Putin.

The U.S. can also deploy ships from the Europe-based Sixth Fleet into the Black Sea, and send the newly commissioned George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean. NATO has a “distinctive partnership” with Kiev and in 2008 promised Ukraine that it could eventually join. It’s impractical and risky to bring Ukraine in now. But the alliance should do what it can to help Ukraine and certainly boot the Russian mission, a well-known den of spies, from NATO headquarters in Brussels and shut down the useless Russia-NATO Council.

Tom Rogan:

Were the president to unleash America’s energy boom into the export sector, fast-tracking energy supplies to Europe, he’d pull the rug out from under Putin’s feet. No longer subject to Putin’s energy protection racket, Europe would be free to take a tougher stand against his intimidation. More important, removed of the foreign capital flows born of his own energy exports, Putin would be unable to support his increasing military expenditures and continuing support for Assad’s rampages in Syria.

So will we use any of these options? Or will the administration reject all of them as being too “provocative” — as if the invasion of a country we wanted to bring into NATO wasn’t provocative enough?

“Don’t worry, world! We’ve got this one!”

Tags: Russia , Ukraine , NATO , Crimea , Barack Obama

Do NBC Sports Anchors Know Anything About Communism?


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Communism Was the Worst Mistake in Human History. Do NBC Sports Anchors Know This?

What you think depends upon what you know.

You’re a smart, well-read, well-educated audience. (And handsome, too!) When I say “Communism,” or more specifically, the “Soviet Union,” a lot probably comes to mind.

You may think of the occupation of Eastern Europe. Or the massive internal forced migrations. Or the Ukrainian famine, which killed 7 to 11 million people in a two-year period. Or the system of several hundred gulags and labor colonies, which imprisoned and in many cases killed 14 million people. Or the extensive, brutal, far-reaching and ruthless secret police, the KGB, the NKVD and others. Or the Katyn Massacre, killing about 22,000. The treatment of German civilians after World War Two. The deployment of nuclear missiles to Cuba, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear conflict in 1963. The KGB’s active support of terror groups around the world. The unprovoked invasion of Afghanistan. Or the shooting down of KAL 007. Or their callous attempt to cover up the catastrophic disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, not mentioning anything to the public for nearly three days.

I’m sure you can think of other glaring examples of the Soviet Union’s epic, unparalleled, brutal reign of terror over a large chunk of the globe for decades. The point is that a LOT comes immediately to mind.

Friday night’s opening ceremony of the Olympics in Sochi offered a ludicrously rewritten version of Russian history, in which some of humanity’s most bloody chapters were reimagined as Mardi Gras in Candyland.

I remember Red Square being more . . . red.

After a lot of agriculture and farming in a stage full of red representing what we usually think of as the Cold War, the program came to the late 1980s. At that moment, a little girl let go of a red balloon, symbolizing the end of the Soviet Union:

“A bittersweet moment,” declared NBC anchor Meredith Vieira.

And I lost it, needing to break character on Twitter from my persona of a staunchly loyal Russian apparatchik.

Can it really be that Vieira genuinely believes the end of the Soviet Union was a “bittersweet” moment? If one of Putin’s goons was in the booth with her, glaring at her menacingly with his hand on the grip of his silenced pistol, I’ll forgive her. Otherwise, this is may be the dumbest statement ever uttered on television, and mind you, this is the network that employs Chris Collinsworth.

Was she so sucked into the imagery — a girl is losing her balloon! — that she forgot what the whole thing was supposed to symbolize? If so, mission accomplished, Vladimir Putin. The end of the Soviet Union — which Putin called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” — has now been transmogrified into a sad passing of a simpler, happier era.

A lot of folks jumped on Bob Costas for an unidentified NBC narrator referring to communism as “one of modern history’s pivotal experiments,” and that deserves its own rebuke. But the problem with that is that it’s a bloodless, anodyne phrase, designed to avoid offending the hosts. Vieira’s comment was worse because it suggested there was something sad about the greatest retreat of oppression in modern history. The phrase “pivotal experiments” is cowardly in its unwillingness to judge, but “bittersweet” is worse because it’s the inverse, saluting the oppressor and lamenting his departure.

Costas is currently suffering from pinko-eye — er, excuse me, pinkeye — and Vieira apparently fell in a toilet, so maybe the poor choice of words represented some sort of health-related mental lapse. I can’t be surprised that the Russians are airbrushing their history with wind-tunnel force, trying to persuade themselves that the years of the A-bomb, the Korean War, Soviet troops crushing the uprising in Hungary, etc., mostly looked like Mad Men with a different color palette.

That’s Putin’s Russia being Putin’s Russia, and we’re naïve if we expected otherwise. But NBC, the first “N” in your name is “National.” As in “Nation.” You’re ours, not theirs, and that means you’re free to call them as you see them. Just because they put on ludicrously inaccurate propaganda in amongst some genuinely impressive singing, dancing, and floor projections doesn’t mean you have to nod in agreement to the propaganda.

Tags: Olympics , Russia , Communism


Subscribe to National Review