Mitt Romney, bolstered by the recent praise from the Right on his prescience in identifying Russia as “our primary geo-politcal foe,” thought he’d weigh in on, well, everything. He did it in the Wall Street Journal here. As someone interested in Ukraine before it was cool and as self-appointed liberal liason to the Right, I’ve read a lot of conservative commentary on Ukraine. And this is not the dumbest, but it’s up there. Mitt, to his credit, doesn’t spend a lot of time, as others have, extolling Putin’s acumen in out-maneuvering Obama. This is an ignorant point of view. In fact, what Russia has done is further de-legitimized the UN Security Council–one of the last remnants of a world in which Russia could diplomatically influence other nations. What’s more, there are legitimate legal challenges to Russia’s permanent membership on the council. I’m neither an international law nor diplomacy wonk, but the idea of a formal challenge to Russia’s permanent membership would have more sticking power now than at any time. Those with a sense of irony, might propose that the permanent seat of the dissolved USSR (which seat Russia now occupies) should be rotated among the former Soviet Republics–Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic states, for example. There’s a certain delicious parallel between this and Putin’s abandonment of the Budapest memorandum on the grounds that it was signed by a different Ukrainian government.
Further, if 4 of the 5 nations on the Security Council (the US, Britain, China and Russia) feel justified in waging wars over the objections of the majority of the security council membership, then a diplomatically and economically isolated Russia can do very little for its allies out of the immediate reach of it’s tanks and bombs.
And we haven’t even begun to discuss the economic costs to Russia, estimated at $400bn this year. That’s 20% of GDP or $2800 from every Russian (whose average salaries are just $800/month). And that’s before figuring losses due to any sanctions. I’m with (gulp) Ted Cruz on the idea of expanding natural gas shipments to Europe to increase these costs. Contrary to popular belief, Putin is no king. He has political rivals and has a parliament to wrangle. Anyone paying attention understands that this is a big tragedy for Vladimir Putin at home and abroad. Last November, he had an ally on his huge southern border and some semblance of legitimacy in the world.
But we were talking about Mitt Romney. His piece did have one thing in common with the rest of the neo-con idiocy out there. Mitt asks the question
Why are America’s hands so tied?
which ought to be rhetorical to anyone not in a coma last decade, and yet Mitt weaves some yarn about how, if we’d just been more willing to arm Middle Eastern freedom fighters, things would have been fine.
The 80’s called, Mitt. They want their foreign policy back.