Resolution in Ukraine


The Ukrainian landscape diminishes further into the grasp of the Russian bear in the absence of a solid United States foreign policy response and an American President unable or unwilling to project utilitarian reprisal and trepidation in the prey of the soaring eagle.

It took but only a single conversion in an American Administration to brusquely witness the failed leadership of the President of the United States and the transformed state of the world. President Obama plugged a kinder and gentler America while traveling abroad during his first term. This tacit demeanor was far different than his predecessor’s Texan gunslinger stature of conviction and inclination to employ the world’s greatest and proven military force in a time of national security. Unfortunately, the softer and kinder appearance is a sign of weakness to the Putin-type bravado leaders who smirk and nod with gratitude during the photo-op handshake only to be followed by symbolic sputum of disrespect in the weakness of the leader opposing them. One must presume that Obama is nursing a reality check on standing soft in his past attempts to whisper words of capitulation to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In such a high stakes global event that has the fervent likelihood of additional Ukrainian land being swallowed up, the Administration has led with the boisterous swingman, Secretary of State John Kerry, hurling out predictable text book sound bites that are simply being unheeded. The sanctions have amounted to the freezing of assets and a travel bans on a number of Russian notables. The limited actions have not deterred pro-Russian aggression; and may actually accelerate further expansion of the motherland.

Let us understand the first salvo was the American support to overthrow the democratically elected Ukrainian regime with its close ties to Russia; however corrupt it may have been. President Yanukovich, the ousted leader in Ukraine, later criticized the U.S for its $1 billion pledge to Ukraine which he claims may violate a U.S policy restricting aid to governments that take power after a coup.

When playing in the big boy’s club that results in the replacement or killing of political leaders for new ones, there is a high risk of the unknown geo-political fallout such as Egypt’s elected Muslim Brotherhood befriending the Iranian regime and unruly segments in the Gaza Strip only to witness the Egyptian military seize the country back in exchange of locking up the elected officials and befriending the American military chiefs that previously stood by and watched their demise in an uprising only a number of months before.

Putin was primarily a backseat driver in the high risk government exchange game until the domino fell on the Russian border and a decisive move was made in its national interest knowing the American reaction under Obama would be muted and ineffective as in previous crisis such as the Syrian chemical weapon red-line. Putin euchred the West by snatching Crimea and its strategic tongue lapping the Black Sea after the U.S. showed their hand in supporting the removal of pro-Russian regime in Ukraine.

Where are we today in solving the crisis in Ukraine? Ukraine’s loss of Crimea is certainly a foregone conclusion and no longer a measure of international dialogue with the optics cleverly shifted to the Russian military forces readied along the border to intimidate its neighbor and strengthen its strategic leverage in the region. There is the repeated verbiage claiming every unruly deed on either side to be an act of terrorism or the commencement of world war three. The tightening economic sanctions on the Russian economy is having some effect and the European Community is wisely unwilling to engage knowing their reliance on Russian oil and natural gas is key to their struggling economies. There is further seizing of local municipalities in Ukraine by Russian mobs and a populace unsure of their future alliance, and an American President aborting direct talks with his Russian counterpart.

What will happen with no immediate resolution? Well, no one can say for sure; however we can surmise that Russia will hold its position or engage militarily into Ukraine if the population of Russian descent is threatened or killed by Ukraine’s undermanned military; and subsequently result in additional land lost to Russia as they extend their border to shield Russian Nationals seeking salvation from motherland. Otherwise, the stalemate continues with further bloodshed, fears in the economy and uncertainty in stock markets around the world, and skirmishes developing into something much larger if the conflict were to spread to American/Russian proxies in the Middle East.

What is the resolution? There are three options. Option one would be the endless and mounting economic sanctions that will have little immediate impact as long as the $460 billion in trade between Russia and Europe remains intact and no guarantee of a marginal outcome other than dragging out the crisis over several months and possibly years or until Russia decides to culminate the crisis on their terms.

Option two would be to provide Ukraine with military resources and indirect U.S. or NATO support to stand up against the Russian military well prepared to embarrass whatever force the West has to offer Ukraine. This option is essentially futile under the current American Administration; and with little to no backing and appetite from its European allies waging a conflict close to home and spilling blood for Ukraine.

This leaves Option Three as the answer to the crisis. President Obama and President Putin will need to negotiate an agreement through direct talks that will end the crisis, offend and shakeup Ukraine for the short term, and result in a safer and rearranged world at large. First, they need to leave the swagger and bravado outside the room and come together as equals knowing they both own responsibility for the crisis and the resolution.

Obama, knowing he does not hold the trump cards other than all out war, is duty-bound to ask Putin what the Russians hope for in the final outcome –the starting point. On the other hand, Putin will be required to deliver something big in return to save face in the West that America expended its leverage to craft substantial gains elsewhere in the world. The assumption would be to divide up more land near the border where a Russian dominated populace is insistent upon leaving Ukraine just as western parts of Ukraine and Kiev were similarly provocative during their uprising to leave Moscow’s grip for the West. The lifting of economic sanctions would be an obvious act to relieve the pressure on the Russian economy and upgrade the credit rating.

In return, Russia must clearly support ending the brutal Syrian conflict that has seen millions of civilians displaced or killed under the leadership of President Bashar Al-Assad; resulting in fair and open democratic elections and likely granting asylum for the Syrian dictator in Russia. The second win for Obama and the West would be Russia’s cooperation and concrete actions in dismantling Iran’s nuclear program and their state sponsored terrorism initiatives; specifically the entrenched dogma opposing Middle East peace with the state of Israel. There may be a few other peripheral agreements but these two major accomplishments in Syria and Iran would rid the world of much suffering, killing, war and rumors of impending war; while seeing the Obama’s failed foreign policy reputation instantly revolutionize overnight and quite possibly rank amongst former President’s FDR, Truman, and Reagan –the crisis in Ukraine, Russia, and its neighbors thwarted and a major shift in the Middle East amid cooperation from the Russians.

Ukraine; initially upset over the direction and bellicose that America abandoned her, will likely be surreptitiously pleased that they no longer have to face the Russian military and can move headlong towards nation building and a robust economy. They toppled their elected government without fully grasping the outcome; not to mention they are truly in no position to currently determine their demands.

President Putin, for his part, will be a national hero in the motherland, seen as world statesmen among his countrymen on the equal with the American President, re-join his position in the G8 group of world powers, and avert economic calamity which would have been his eventual downfall. President Obama’s failure to take advantage of the situation and leverage an agreement with something in return would see this crisis continue under his leadership on the world’s stage; and in all likelihood see a block of Ukrainian land seized and the spread of war in the region with innocent lives lost, and further escalations of war crimes in Syria and a nuclear Iran with Putin’s discreet and underlying support.

Who has offered a better option? If the boys need a hand at their meeting, I will break away.

Rich Berdan
Windsor, Ontario, Canada

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Rich Berdan