By LTC Allen West, USA (Ret.)
As we watch the events unfolding in Ukraine there is one theme I continue to hear presented by the pundits in the news media – the United States has no options. It is unconscionable that we find ourselves in a foreign policy situation where there are no viable courses of action to be implemented. What is even more disturbing is that Russian President Vladimir Putin was fully aware of this going into his standoff.
America, the erstwhile superpower, finds itself outmaneuvered in a resurging Cold War-type showdown. It seems former GOP presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney was right after all. I just wish he had defended his assertion with a tad more vigor.
Thanks to the announcement by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, I do not see us committing any military forces in support of Ukraine. And Pentagon officials confirm they are not working on any contingency plans in that regard. Hagel’s force reduction announcement was made the beginning of last week – it didn’t take the Russian president long to see a gap to exploit.
We telegraphed our intent starting in 2008 allowing Putin to make his incursion into the former Soviet state of Georgia.
History has an incredible way of repeating itself and teaching lessons. Consider in the late 1930s with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his expansion under the guise of caring for ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland. An appeasing world under the faux leadership of Sir Neville Chamberlain gave him a green light – not much later Czechoslovakia fell under the blitzkrieg, the lightning war.
Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, has opined that the greatest strategic failure of the 20th century was the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Should there have been any question about what Putin’s true strategic objectives would be?
The failure to support new democracies in Eastern Europe has had a chilling effect, especially the cancellation of the missile defense shield by President Obama.
My recommendation would have been to conduct more military-to-military exchanges and training deployments with these new countries. We should have looked at developing power projection platforms from these respective countries as we collapsed the old Cold War forward deployed posture in the countries of the old Europe.
We should have brought Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) some time ago as a protective measure.
We have an American economy that is grossly in debt and disarray reflecting a lack of an economic strategy that contributes to a diminished military strategy. It was former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen who stated that the greatest national security threat for America was our growing national debt.
If America were in a better economic position — and the excuse of Bush’s fault is empty — perhaps we could provide economic relief to Ukraine. There is no doubt the country needs a boost, and where there is a vacuum it will be filled by someone. This is what Putin is banking on. The European Union is also hard pressed economically and the strongest financial state, Germany, has been depleted by supporting financial bailouts of other EU member states.
Putin also has vast natural gas resources to use as part of his regional extortion. Here in America we have the opportunity to produce, consume, and export great amounts of energy resources. As a matter of fact, America is staring a great opportunity in the eye with the Keystone XL pipeline. If we had the support of the Obama administration to open up more federal lands to natural gas production and stop the insidious war on coal, America could provide energy security relief to Ukraine and others.
And energy security enables our economic security, which overall strengthens our national security. The bottom line is it creates options. Energy security makes a nation a superpower.
Over the past five years, President Barack Obama and his administration have worked tirelessly to reduce the options available to the United States. The objective to restore the reputation of the United States globally has resulted in our being irrelevant and disregarded. Consider the little reported fact that a country in the Middle East that was once a strong ally of America has completely flipped allegiance. Egyptian Field Marshal, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and a military delegation went to Moscow to establish a security agreement with Russia – so much for being liked.
So much for having options in the Middle East. I presume Obama’s decision to support the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt did not settle well.
Perhaps we could offer the Ukrainian people food stamps and EBT (Electronic Benefits Cards) as it seems to be the most successful endeavor of the Obama administration. Another option would be to provide healthcare coverage for the Ukrainians under Obamacare. Something tells me they wouldn’t see that as a viable option for support.
The United States has been reduced to a nation of empty rhetorical threats — redlines and severe consequences. President Theodore Roosevelt talked about speaking softly and carrying a big stick. President Barack Obama speaks loudly and often, but brandishes a “HurryCane.”