- - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong.

That’s why President Obama should own up to the fact that he was wrong when he chastised Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential debates about Russia remaining a U.S. “geopolitical foe.”

The president beamed, “You said Russia, not al Qaeda … . The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Mr. Romney responded, “Russia, I indicated, is a geopolitical foe . Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin .”

The issue is not that Mr. Obama was wrong about Russian President Vladimir Putin. It’s that the president’s only goal now should be to discourage future Russian military incursions without having to worry that doing so will embarrass him. Admitting that he misread the Russians would allow him to focus his sights on the Kremlin, where they belong.

In a Georgetown-based interview with former Financial Times Moscow correspondent David Satter, who was expelled from Russia in January, Mr. Satter told The Washington Times, “Ukraine is broke. They need help from the West, and we don’t know what Putin is going to do to try and discourage them from their future, and that’s the imponderable. I don’t think the crisis in the Crimea or Ukraine is over. Russia could be forced back, but it would take serious and united actions by Western countries to do so.”

Before Russia flew a fighter jet over the USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea to test the U.S. Navy, intelligence reports indicated that Russian forces were amassing tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border.

The reports indicated that U.S. officials believed “it is more likely than previously thought” that Russian forces are planning an invasion.

That incursion is now a reality, and not even the presence on the ground of Secretary of State John F. Kerry or Vice President Joe Biden has deterred Moscow from moving forward.

Russian forces have mobilized motorized units, airborne troops, air transport, tanks and other units that could easily stage a Ukrainian invasion, and recent sanctions have done little to deter the Kremlin.

Pro-Russian militants are storming Ukrainian cities and attempting political assassinations. Moscow has also been accused of creating so-called “civil war” within Ukraine so it will have a fig leaf of legal justification to invade under the auspices of peacekeeping.

Mr. Satter says the incursion serves an alternative purpose: Intimidating the Ukrainian people also chills resistance in Russia.

“Now we are seeing an attempt to rally the [Putin] regime by promoting Russian chauvinism and creating chaos in the Ukraine to discredit the new government there and some of this is to actually deliver an implicit warning to the Russian people not to try and free themselves from the criminal oligarchy that runs the country, because if they do, it will lead to nothing good,” he said.

It is not an overstatement to assume that Kiev may be facing a “red dawn” very soon.

When the original intelligence reports first came in, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee found the Russian troop advances pressing enough to send a classified letter to the White House expressing “urgency and alarm based on new information .”

Members of Congress may worry that if the United States does not stop Mr. Putin from seizing lands for “ethnic interests,” other superpowers could do the same.

Mr. Satter explained, “This could very well be a defining moment for Putin, because he has revealed himself as someone who does not respect international rules. We saw that in the Georgia case, but in this case it has threatening implications for state sovereignty. What if the Chinese decide to defend ethnic interests in the Far East?”

It is a great twist of irony that Mr. Obama made the alarmist comment that he did about al Qaeda detonating a nuclear device in Manhattan, considering his administration’s own public relations war against the war on terrorism.

“Ring, ring,” Mr. Obama. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.

“We really face a situation now in Russia and Ukraine, countries that were not our focus here in the U.S. before that are now very, very important and actually a threat to world stability and European stability,” Mr. Satter said.

Everyone makes mistakes.

Although Mr. Obama has already been proved wrong about Russia, it would be better for him to reset his own perspective on Mr. Putin and focus U.S. foreign-policy concerns where it currently belongs — on the Kremlin.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a legal analyst for The Washington Times.

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