U.S. must do better job of reading Putin

  • Jamie Stiehm

    Jamie Stiehm

Posted1/27/2022 1:00 AM

Now is not a good time to go to war with Russia. The United States just ended a 20-year lost war in Afghanistan five months ago, returning the ragged country to the Taliban's control. Still suffering from the pandemic and rocky politics, we need to get our own house in order.

Ukraine is just not worth it, I'm not sorry to say. It does not belong to the European alliance, NATO, and has a shady reputation for corruption, as President Joe Biden declared bluntly when he was vice president.


I might add that we need a major course correction in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who understands America a lot better than we understand him. This is how he outplays us every time. Seizing on a weakened president and divided moment for American democracy, Putin has heightened tensions by building up military exercises encircling the Ukrainian border. This is unnerving, to be sure. Is this Putin's revenge, a long time coming?

Fears of a Russian land invasion are rising, as it's well-known Putin deeply resents the loss of Ukraine when the Soviet Union fell apart. We can and must do everything possible to reach a diplomatic solution. Better yet, take it to the United Nations. Isn't that what it's for, peacekeeping and justice in an unruly world? Let Russia defend itself in an international court or forum.

It's not like America hasn't helped Ukraine. Under former President Donald Trump, we recently sent Ukraine a staggering $400 million in military aid for its ongoing shadow war with Russia. That's a good chunk of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

Ukraine's brash leader, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, is acting as if his nation is entitled to the protection of the transatlantic alliance. No, it's not, and there should be no vague promises about entering NATO's "open door" someday soon. Zelenskiy was on the world stage during Trump's first impeachment for bribery, way back in 2019. Speaking on the phone, Trump demanded "a favor though." He wanted Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into his likely opponent, Biden, and his son Hunter, in return for the $400 million. Zelenskiy was apparently willing to go along, as he desperately wanted a White House visit. I remember the hearings all too well. Trump also trashed the distinguished American ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, for being too tough on Ukrainian corruption. He drove her out of the country.

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Great Britain is champing for a showdown with Russia over Ukraine. If they want to fight that battle, let our best ally do it. But the United States should be on the side of seeking peace.

Oh, there are larger concerns at stake. The national security establishment -- including pundits -- is searching for something to do without a war. Ukraine could be just the beginning of Russia reclaiming its old sovereignty and land mass, so they say. Here's something for the experts: rethink NATO enlargement. We made a strategic error back in the 1990s, by crowing that America "won" the Cold War. Enlarging NATO with Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic (former Soviet bloc nations) was seen as taunting and threatening the humbled Russia.

We didn't need that. Then-President Bill Clinton's top diplomats could have simply stated the Cold War "ended," and what a blessing that was, writ large, for the world.

Gloating and expanding East was rubbing salt in a young Putin's wound -- which hasn't healed yet.

© 2022, Creators

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