Blog No. 71 The Annals of Leading from Behind, Part II.

Part II. Ukraine and the Search for a Strategy

Back on June 4, we posted Part I, “The Islamic State and the Search for a Strategy” and promised that Part II would deal with Ukraine and Eastern Europe. After a somewhat longer interval than anticipated, we turn now to Part II. As it happens, little appears to have changed with respect to Ukraine and Eastern Europe since our previous post. Ukraine, and more broadly Eastern Europe, seems to have slid largely out of political and public consciousness. Yet that part of the world continues, in our view, to represent a highly dangerous situation that is almost certain to appear as a new crisis at some point. […]

Blog No. 51. Eastern Europe and ISIS: While America Sleeps

On November 13, The New York Times published an article reporting on the hundreds of career Army officers being forced into early retirement as a result of the drastic reduction in the size of the Army:

For the first time since the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, the Army is shrinking. Faced with declining budgets, the Army, the largest of the services, cut its force this year to 508,000 soldiers from 530,000, with plans to trim an additional 20,000 troops next year. If funding cuts mandated by Congress continue, the Army could have fewer than 450,000 soldiers by 2019 — the smallest force since World War II.

The focus of the article was the personal hardships imposed on the soldiers and their families, hardships especially stinging in light of the many sacrifices made by the soldiers, often including multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. A further irony lay in the timing of the article, coming on the heels of Veterans Day on which Vice-President had expounded on our “sacred obligation” to veterans. […]

Blog No. 43. American Foreign Policy Part I: The ISIS Crisis

As readers of RINOcracy.com are doubtless aware, much has been written about President Obama’s approach to foreign policy and what appears to many, both here and abroad, to have been a projection of weakness. President Obama’s approach to foreign policy—reliance on allies with minimal direct intervention by the United States—is just that, an approach. In the abstract, there is something to be said for Obama’s approach (just as there was to the approach George W. Bush’s in the 2000 campaign when he promised humility in a foreign policy unburdened by nation building.) But an approach to policy is not a policy itself, much less a strategy (a plan to achieve specific goals), and it must be flexible enough to respond to changing threats. Does Obama’s approach have that flexibility? Back on March 16, David Sanger wrote a perceptive analysis in The New York Times, “Global Crises Put Obama’s Strategy of Caution to the Test.” Since that time, as the crises have grown more urgent, the tests have only gotten tougher and it is far from clear that Obama’s “strategy” (more accurately, approach or instinct) is passing them.

At the moment, events in Ukraine have forced the President into engagement and leadership. Considerably aided by the tragic downing of the Malaysian airliner with its many Dutch passengers, he has been successful in persuading European countries to adopt stronger sanctions against Russia than many had thought possible. Nevertheless, effectiveness of the sanctions remains to be seen, and the extent of the Europeans’ commitment, the President’s–and ours–remains uncertain. Equally uncertain are the outlines of an overall strategy for Ukraine and more broadly, Europe. What will Europe and the United States do if the sanctions fail to have the desired result or, worse yet, if Russia takes even more aggressive actions. Is providing Ukraine with arms and other military support a good idea or bad idea? If Putin persists in his apparent attempt to revise the post Cold War map of Europe, do the EU and NATO have the resources and the will to resist? These and related questions will be addressed in a subsequent post, but here we will focus on a crisis that, for the moment, has lost prime attention from the media: ISIS.BLog 43 Iraq_ISIS_Abu_Wahe_2941936b

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Blog No. 33 Update – A Postscript Directly From Ukraine

Nita Hanson, the writer of the letter below, is the founder of God’s Hidden Treasures (www.godshiddentreasures.org). The organization is an American, faith-based, mission that has been serving the poor, the afflicted and the orphaned of Ukraine since 1997. I received a copy of Nita’s letter from the missions committee of our local church, which is one of the supporters of GHT and Nita’s work. I felt that the letter provided a valuable insight on the plight of Ukraine previously discussed in Blog No. 33, “Putin, Ukraine and Echoes of Munich.” Feeling that the letter would be of interest to followers of RINOcracy.com. I asked Nita’s permission to share it with you, and she graciously agreed. Too often, discussions of issues in the media and here are conducted at a somewhat abstract level that may seem disconnected from the actual people who are affected by those issues. I hope that Nita’s letter will help to supply that connection for the grave problems faced by Ukraine.

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Blog No. 33. Putin, Ukraine and Echoes of Munich

After Britain and France approved Germany’s annexation of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in the Munich Agreement of 1938, it became a symbol of appeasement that still reverberates.  Indeed, Vladimir Putin’s telephone call to Barack Obama on March 28, offering a resumption of diplomatic discussions, raised the question of whether he may be seeking a 21st century version of the Munich Agreement. Russia’s incursion into Crimea, on the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians, reminded many observers of Hitler’s purported grounds for annexing the Sudetenland.  A few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton observed:

“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s,” she said. “All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

Putin and Obama shake hands […]

Blog No. 32. After Crimea: A Different World?

RINOcracy.com has been reluctant to add its voice to the cacophony of comment and opinion on the Ukraine crisis, much of it from sources far more knowledgeable than we. Yet it seemed there might be a point to putting down in one place what seem to be the principal issues:

1. Is the annexation of Crimea reversible?

2. Does the occupation and subsequent annexation of Crimea foreshadow a similar incursion into, and possible annexation of, eastern Ukraine?

3. Does Ukraine have the military capacity to resist a Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine or beyond? Should the United States and NATO provide military assistance to Ukraine and, if so, what kind?

4. How serious a threat do the Russian actions in Ukraine represent to other nations of eastern Europe?

5. What is the purpose of economic sanctions and what effect will they have?

6. What is the likelihood of our being drawn into direct involvement in an armed conflict in Europe? If that should occur, are we sufficiently prepared militarily and politically?

The ultimate question is suggested by the statement of NATO Secretary Rasmussen, in Washington on March 19. Calling the Ukraine crisis a wake-up call for NATO, he observed that, “We live in a different world than we did less than a month ago.”  The question is whether we are prepared to deal with that different world.

2014. Russia annexes the Ukrainian region of Crimea, after Russian troops invade and the area votes to secede from Ukraine. The vote and annexation is condemned internationally. The Economist, Mar 20th 2014, K.N.C., P.K. and A.C.M.

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