Facebook pixel Dr. Robert Kaufman on Consequences for Russia | Newsroom | School of Public Policy Newsroom Skip to main content
Pepperdine | School of Public Policy

Dr. Robert Kaufman on Consequences for Russia

Robert G. Kaufman: Conflict in Crimea

By ROBERT G. KAUFMAN / Contributing Writer / Orange County Register

Published: March 14, 2014 Updated: 2:32 p.m.

After Putin defied his warning against Russian military intervention in Ukraine, President Barack Obama has reprised his typical policy of vacillation and inaction. The president and his secretary of state have expressed deep concern, threatened unspecified “costs” and then made Russia pay no significant price for aggression.

Obama refuses to admit his error of envisaging Putin as a partner for peace rather than an adversary seeking illegitimately to impose a Russian empire across east central Europe. According to Peter Baker reporting in the New York Times, the administration considers the Russian invasion of Crimea, intensifying the crisis in Ukraine, merely an example of Putin’s miscalculation, “a problem to be managed, ideally with a minimum of violence or geopolitical upheaval.”

The president’s passivity arises from his unquenchable but groundless faith in the desirability and possibility of obtaining Putin’s cooperation for curbing war in Syria and the nuclear ambitions of Iran.

Putin’s implacable determination to subvert Ukraine’s independence demonstrates the fallacy of the President Obama’s world view and the danger it brings. Putin’s aggression will not stop at dismembering Ukraine. All of Europe has much to fear until the West rouses itself to resist Putin’s insatiable expansionism decisively and comprehensively. Putin aims to humiliate NATO and convince Russia’s neighbors that the Russian army can intervene anywhere in the region without fear of reprisal.

Putin has also duped the Obama administration in the Middle East. He has facilitated the administration’s hopeless negotiations with Syria and Iran as a means of undermining American influence rather than achieving stability. As even Secretary of State John Kerry has admitted, the administration’s policy toward Syria has failed. The murderous Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has consolidated his hold on power, reneged on his promise to give up chemical weapons and begun using deadly cluster munitions weapons. Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president, has boasted that the U.S. “surrendered to Iranian national will” by agreeing to negotiate, by lifting the sanctions and by leaving Iran on the threshold of nuclear weapons capability.

An arrogant, authoritarian China has drawn ominous conclusions from the administration’s irresolution toward Putin and his clients in the Middle East. The erosion of American military power and resolution has redoubled the already powerful inclination of China to intimidate its neighbors and seek dominance rather than stability in East Asia.

Though the U.S. should refrain from taking military action in Ukraine, Russia should incur swift, sure, sustained and painful consequences for outrageous aggression that imperils the United States and its democratic allies.

One, suspend Russian membership in the G-8 until Putin withdraws all Russian troops from any part of that nation, including Crimea.

Two, impose extensive and stiff sanctions, including denying Russia access to the West’s banking system – measures that could cripple Russia’s corrupt and fragile economy.

Three, reassure Eastern European allies about America’s reliability by deploying missile defense in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Four, abrogate the unwise and disadvantageous Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, a nuclear arms control agreement between Russia and the United States.

Five, cease negotiations that Putin and the ayatollahs hope will tranquilize the West to the gathering danger of a nuclear Iran.

Six, re-impose strong sanctions on the revolutionary Iranian regime.

Seven, stop conciliating and counting on the cooperation of authoritarian enemies of the United States.

Eight, spend enough on defense with a generous margin to spare so that America retains its military preeminence.

The United States cannot hide from the terrible consequences of serially abandoning friends, such as the brave Ukrainian fighters, to the clutches of foes such as the Stalin-worshiping Putin. The courageous anti-Nazi German theologian Martin Niemoller warned of the grim fate of people and nations craven and foolish enough to bury their heads in the sand with a powerful and ruthless tyrant on the loose.

The U.S. and its friends will require a ‘Reaganite’ Republican president to restore moral and strategic sanity to American foreign policy.

Robert G. Kaufman is a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University.