Our Foreign Policy, like “Seinfeld,” is about NOTHING !
Here’s a safe bet: When President Vladimir Putincompletes the Ukraine stage of his plan to widen the empire he now calls “New Russia,” Americans by and large will be relieved that we didn’t get too involved.
We’ll be relieved because President Obama never made the case for serious involvement. His national-security philosophy, in a nutshell, is to thoroughly debate and deliberate until reaching the inevitable conclusion: We have no good options.
And so we do very little around the globe beyond diplomatic negotiations that go nowhere. Our foreign policy, like “Seinfeld,” is about nothing.
Take Ukraine. Please.
By Thursday, when Secretary of State John Kerry got to Geneva to negotiate with colleagues from Russia, Ukraine and the European Union, the Russian assault was in full swing, so little was left to negotiate about.
The government in Kiev, which had earlier committed the cardinal sin of trying to ally Ukraine with Europe and the West, was losing ground to President Putin’s troops in the eastern part of the country, where most Ukrainian industry is concentrated.
Sure, Russia agreed in Geneva Thursday that the time has come to “de-escalate” in eastern Ukraine. But even Obama acknowledged that, while he hoped Moscow would abide by that agreement, Putin’s past practice makes it doubtful.
As in Crimea, until recently part of Ukraine, now part of Russia.
In Wednesday’s UN Security Council debate on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, somebody actually mentioned Crimea — prompting Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin to warn he’d no longer tolerate such talk. Crimea, he made clear, no longer has anything to do with Ukraine.
Judging by fast-moving events, it’s likely that soon eastern Ukraine won’t, either.
This week Kiev sent a few tanks and armored cars to confront Russian troops that, thinly disguised as non-uniformed local “militias,” had taken control of key facilities in east Ukraine. Oops: As soon as they got there, some of the Ukrainian vehicles switched to Russian flags.
Ukraine clearly is no match for Russia. So what did we do to help tilt the balance of power in favor of our would-be allies in Kiev?
“We ought to at least, for God’s sake, give them some light weapons with which to defend themselves,” Sen. John McCain told CBS last Sunday. “So far,” McCain said, “this administration [has] not only not done that, but they won’t even share some intelligence with the Ukrainian government.”
The CIA reportedly wouldn’t share real-time satellite images and other intel with Kiev because it suspects that (as the flag-flipping APCs suggest) the Russians have heavily infiltrated Ukraine’s military.
Nevertheless, as the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reported this week, CIA Director John Brennan finally went to Kiev over the weekend to meet with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to arrange some limited form of intel sharing.
By then, of course, Russian forces were already in the east, taking over local government buildings and military camps. Our half-hearted attempt to help came a day late and dollar short.
Oh, sure, our UN ambassador, Samantha Power, exchanged insults with Churkin during a Security Council “emergency” session on Saturday and the Wednesday humanitarian debate. And yes, Vice President Joe Biden is set to fly to Kiev next Tuesday, where he’ll surely condemn Putin’s unruly behavior.
But as Putin mobilized his military to invade a neighbor this week, Obama was mainly focused on rallying his political troops and donors for the fall US political campaign.
So: Now that it’s here, what to do about this pesky crisis?
Toughened sanctions? Well, maybe — but many European countries rely on Russia for their energy needs. Banking restrictions? Well, maybe — but Russian oligarchs might pull their cash out of Cypriot banks, and Germany doesn’t want to bail out Cyprus again.
Increase our oil and natural gas exports to Europe? Gee, by the time we make the necessary decisions and sign the treaties, Putin will have finished his own pipeline across his newly acquired European territories, making his gas cheaper and more available than ours.
The United States has spent five years doing as little as possible in nearly every world crisis. Without our leadership, the post-Cold War order crumbled. Everyone, from the most obscure Syrian jihadist to Putin, rushed to fill the void we left behind.
Once it became too obvious to ignore — once it was no longer about China taking over some obscure Asian island or about some Arab yearning for freedom, but about the revival of the Soviet empire — America, t.he world’s wealthiest nation with the world’s strongest army, had no good options left.
So we did nothing. (Sigh of relief).
Benny Avni is columnist at New York Post.