WaPo: 'Obama doesn’t grasp Putin’s Eurasian ambitions'

An editorial in the Washington Post exposes the Obama administration as the naive claque they appear to be.

Western officials seem to be betting that Mr. Putin won’t dare to extend his aggression beyond Crimea. But then, just last week they were saying they did not expect Moscow to move quickly on Crimean annexation. The Obama administration and its European allies have been too slow to grasp that Mr. Putin is bent on upending the post-Cold War order in Europe and reversing Russia’s loss of dominion over Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Worse, some in and outside of Western governments may be feeding Mr. Putin’s imperialism by rushing to concede “Russian interests” in Eurasia. President Obama and Mr. Kerry are among those who have said they recognize such “interests” in Ukraine. But the fact that there are ethnic Russians in a country should not give Mr. Putin’s regime a privileged say in its affairs. The idea that areas populated by Russians must be ruled or protected by Moscow is less the ideology of the 19th century, as Mr. Kerry would have it, than of the 1930s.

Mr. Putin’s claim that Russia should have a say in the political orientation of its neighbors, and whether they join alliances such as the European Union or NATO, is equally unacceptable. (Mr. Kerry recently renounced, gratuitously, any such U.S. claim on Latin American states, several of which have close military ties with Russia.) Perversely, some in the West are echoing Mr. Putin’s argument that his aggression is an understandable response to Western encouragement of the former Soviet Bloc states that embraced democracy and free markets and sought NATO and European Union membership.

The two countries that Mr. Putin has invaded since 2008, Ukraine and Georgia, were rejected for NATO membership action plans that year. Can it be argued seriously that Estonia and Latvia, with their large Russian minorities, now would be less vulnerable to Russian aggression had they had not joined NATO? The crisis in Europe has come about not because Western institutions expanded, but because they did not fulfill their post-Cold War promise of “a Europe whole and free.”

Don't look now but Estonia may be next on the chopping block:

Russia signaled concern on Wednesday at Estonia's treatment of its large ethnic Russian minority, comparing language policy in the Baltic state with what it said was a call in Ukraine to prevent the use of Russian.

Russia has defended its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula by arguing it has the right to protect Russian-speakers outside its borders, so the reference to linguistic tensions in another former Soviet republic comes at a highly sensitive moment.

Russia fully supported the protection of the rights of linguistic minorities, a Moscow diplomat told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, according to a summary of the session issued by the U.N.'s information department.

"Language should not be used to segregate and isolate groups," the diplomat was reported as saying. Russia was "concerned by steps taken in this regard in Estonia as well as in Ukraine," the Moscow envoy was said to have added.

The text of the Russian remarks, echoing long-standing complaints over Estonia's insistence that the large Russian minority in the east of the country should be able to speak Estonian, was not immediately available.

But amid the growing Crimea crisis, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - which like Ukraine were all parts of the old Soviet Union - have expressed growing apprehension over Moscow's intentions.

As well they should. Poland is feeling the heat as well, as they have been one of the more outspoken NATO countries in this crisis. Somehow, US assurances about NATO ring hollow when we acknowledge Russian "interests" in the territory of a sovereign country.

The parallels to the 1930's continue to mount. If Putin is interested in "protecting" Russian speakers all over Eurasia, his army is going to be very busy over the next few years.


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