Soft power’s amazing resuscitation – The Ukraine deal

Not much hope was attached to the meeting of the US, EU, Ukraine, and Russia over the crisis between the latter two countries. Again, the usual suspects were saying that the West had no leverage over Russia, Ukraine was in chaos, and Vladimir Putin held all the cards.

Then a deal was struck.

The particulars are these:

* Illegal military formations must be dissolved
* Occupied buildings must be vacated and their occupiers disarmed
* Ukraine would grant an amnesty to pro-Russian protesters
* The Ukrainian political discussion would touch on “inclusivity”, another word for decentralization
* All steps are to be overseen by the OSCE, to which both the US and Russia belong

From the Right, President Obama has been castigated for “appeasement” and a “lack of resolve”. From the louder segments of the Left, he’s been upbraided for daring to intervene when after Iraq the US had no moral authority.

Pres. Obama didn’t give in to the hawks who wanted US warships moved into the Black Sea en masse and a buildup of NATO troops on the western borders of Ukraine. And he dismissed the idea that because of the Iraqi misadventure the US had lost all right to speak on the violation of another country’s territorial sovereignty.

He made it clear from the outset that military force against Russia was not an option. And he made it clear that the US would stand up for Ukraine’s rights, in spite of recent history.

Russia, for all its bluster, is a failed Potemkin state. Its economy is vulnerable to outside pressure, as an exporter of energy and raw materials. And the world’s banking system dances to the tune set by the US.

Thus, when the first sanctions put forth by Pres. Obama were the freezing of accounts of Putin’s close cronies and the banks they used, the banks—Rossiya and SMP—almost overnight were unable to do business with the world financial system; Mastercard and Visa refused to process credit card payments, which are the lifeblood of any modern economy. And that was just the first, relatively minor warning shot.

Russia was already cutting its economic growth forecast as early as autumn of 2013. Now a zero percent growth rate due to the fallout from Ukraine is possible. All this as the US and its Western allies—brought along by the moral standing which Pres. Obama has worked hard to re-establish after the Iraq fiasco—kept hinting at stronger measures against Moscow.

Vladimir Putin, scion of the KGB, believed that changing the facts on the ground would present the West with a fait accompli which it was too decadent and timorous to reverse.

What he found instead was that Barack Obama understood where true power lay in the 21st century. It wasn’t with a glorified warlord pushing around soldiers on a battlefield map. It lays in finance, trade, economic strength. In that arena, he knew Russia couldn’t compete, for all its bravado. Militarily, Russia can threaten neighbors; but it doesn’t have the economic weight to maintain that posture for very long, and certainly not if it’s cut off from the world economy.

It’s no coincidence that the Ukraine deal was agreed to just as the US and the West were ready to impose stiffer sanctions, ratcheting up the damage to the Russian economy even further. The deal will put off those sanctions for the moment, until Putin’s full faith and credit can be assessed. But sanctions are like a spigot, unlike military action. Once a country builds up a military force to attack, it either has to use it or disband it back to its bases. Sanctions can be turned on when events warrant. Pres. Putin would be well advised to not think he’s just buying time. Any hint that he’s not acting as an honest broker will bring sanctions back. Europe is united behind Pres. Obama, as it sees 60 years of peace threatened by a revanchist Russia. It will keep the threat of sanctions on the table if Russia reneges on its commitments.

This is what Pres. Obama, more than any other current world leader, understands. In a world as interconnected as ours, you don’t have to let missiles fly at the hint of any crisis. There are tools more effective and more crushing than military strength. The military should be a last resort; once unleashed, the consequences are difficult to predict. Putin underestimated the West’s resolve, and Pres. Obama’s character. In the 21st century the strengths of a community organizer serve international relations better than those of a former spymaster. It’s fortunate for Russia that staring at it across the table was Barack Obama; almost anyone else would have unleashed a war by now.

88 Responses to “Soft power’s amazing resuscitation – The Ukraine deal”

  1. 1 MightyPamela
    April 17, 2014 at 8:39 pm


  2. April 17, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Wow, I wasn’t expecting this to drop tonight. Thanks Chips/Nerdy.

    • 3 MightyPamela
      April 17, 2014 at 8:45 pm

      Very nice for all of us that it did, LL! Wordmaster. Thank you for your clarity.

    • 4 hopefruit2
      April 17, 2014 at 8:57 pm

      Thanks for this fine essay. I notice that the “Obama is weak” crowd considerably more quiet this evening…not sure why.

  3. April 17, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    • April 17, 2014 at 8:52 pm


      Though it’s been awhile since we’ve “talked,” wanted to let you know I appreciate your posts here, and missed you when you had your nose to the study wheel.

      Did you tweet the ACA coverage by the network news (tailend of the previous thread)?

      Would make an excellent tweet to share with the social media world.

      I looked at your TL, but I’m with everyone else, absolutely hate the new profiles. But how much can you really complain about a free service?

      • April 17, 2014 at 9:05 pm

        Hello, Arapaho! Long time no *see* 🙂

        Thanks for the compliment & everyone appreciates the wonderful info you bring here….I’m just trying to keep up w/ your gold standard posts!

        I think the ACA TV coveragae is more than 140 characters, but I will re-post:

        Just went through my 6PM DVR newscast’s

        CNN ….ACA blackout
        FOX ….don’t watch (afraid to record: may destroy my receiver)
        MSNBC ….Rev. was on it
        CBS …. 20 sec mention
        ABC …. 30 sec mention
        NBC …. ACA blackout

        Everyone covered Chelsea Clinton *in depth*

        As for twitter……don’t get me started *#(&%*(#)%(#* just got some hot food delivered…. lets catch some more this weekend…Take care!

        • April 17, 2014 at 9:13 pm

          You’re such a sweetie.

          And we’re grateful that you took the time to wade through the network news coverage.

          The MSM’s goose is cooked, they can get away with lying to the American public for only so long.

          All Dems running for national office need a full court press on the truth this campaign season, and the voters will elect a Dem Congress and Senate, regardless of what comes out of the MSM/Koch talking heads.

          The GOP ain’t got nuthin’, despite the wholesale blackout of any news about Dems that isn’t some sort of scandal.

          #Benghazi will only convince the 24% of the electorate who believe the earth is flat.

        • 9 hopefruit2
          April 17, 2014 at 9:26 pm

          I don’t even mind them mentioning the Clinton baby news – it’s just that you can almost sense an exaggerated focus from the media and you know it’s for a specific reason. Didn’t one of GBW’s daughters have a kid recently? I don’t recall them using that to pre-empt any GOP news… In other words the media’s focus on the Clintons is not sincere, and doesn’t seem to flow naturally – it seems scripted and underhanded, and specifically geared towards tearing down the current President – which is why she needs to be careful how and how much she allows the media to “cover” her if she plans on running in 2016.

          • April 17, 2014 at 9:43 pm

            I’m old enough to remember the children from WH adminstrations going back to Nixon (Trisha and Julie).

            Nearly all WH children have been girls. The only boys living in the WH were during the Ford adm, and of course he wasn’t elected.

            I’ve seen people theorize that boys are just too hard for candidates to handle while campaigning, so that’s why politicians with young daughters do better in their race to the WH.

            Couldn’t tell you how many of those WH daughters had children, so the press seizing on the Chelsea news is obviously because even RWNJs have tired of #Benghazi.

            Those Clintons are a sneaky bunch, aren’t they? I have no idea when Chelsea is due, but her pregnancy announcement DID NOT have to made today — any time between now and when she’s obviously showing would have made sense.

            Kind of reminds me of the vindictive ways of Palin (not comparing HRC to the half-term Gov — no comparison at all) when she stepped all over R-money’s announcement of a WH bid by showing up in NH when he made that announcement.

          • 14 Puddin"
            April 17, 2014 at 10:03 pm

            I and hope she doesn’t run, ever!!!!

        • 15 Vicki
          April 17, 2014 at 9:40 pm

          I responded to you on the last thread. So sad that our Media is happy to ignore the good news for the US population.

  4. 17 Dudette
    April 17, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    I love My President!

  5. 18 Dudette
    April 17, 2014 at 8:47 pm

  6. April 17, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    I still have not gotten over last Sunday’s Game of Thrones

    ….but I saw this prior to President Obama, walking into the briefing room 😎 (I think this is a pick from the UBL raid or Mubarak press conference)

  7. 20 Dudette
    April 17, 2014 at 8:50 pm

  8. 21 desertflower
    April 17, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    More brilliance once again, LL! So succinctly stated. They are lucky indeed that Barack Obama was across the table….more than they know. They best do the right thing and not screw this good deal up..PBO WILL tighten the screws exponentially higher if Putin even THINKS he can bluff his way out of this.

    • 22 Mary
      April 17, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      Well said, desertflower. And thanks so much for your post, LL. Beautifully expressed. Whenever a sticky international situation threatens to become unhinged, I relax knowing that PBO is in charge. Our wise leader with the calm energy. Or, as Doris Kearns Goodwin described him, a genial fighter.

    • April 17, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      For the Win:
      In the 21st century the strengths of a community organizer serve international relations better than those of a former spymaster. It’s fortunate for Russia that staring at it across the table was Barack Obama; almost anyone else would have unleashed a war by now.


      Another great essay!

  9. 24 Dudette
    April 17, 2014 at 8:52 pm

  10. 25 amk for obama
    April 17, 2014 at 8:52 pm

  11. 26 Dudette
    April 17, 2014 at 8:53 pm

  12. 27 donna dem 4 obama
    April 17, 2014 at 8:54 pm

  13. 29 amk for obama
    April 17, 2014 at 8:55 pm

  14. April 17, 2014 at 8:56 pm

  15. April 17, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Old news, I know.

    I was completely baffled about #Snowden’s interview by Putin — didn’t see any links in TOD’s discussion of this in the previous threads, so am still pretty clueless about that event.

    Commenters on this tweet mentioned the Hunger Games. Is this what the judging panel looked like in that movie (which I didn’t see)?

  16. 43 Dudette
    April 17, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    All kinds of WIN!

  17. 45 hopefruit2
    April 17, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Hi, this is Tzar Vlad coming out of lurking to say hello to TOD. All I’m asking is that President Obama give me some attention – maybe I might get an invite to the WH with a statesman reception. Like what French President Hollande got. I could also get a selfie with President Obama and VP Biden – with my shirt off, on a horse on the WH lawn. That would be, as they say in America, “awesome.”

    Then I could make the rounds on late night TV, Fallon, Meyers, Kimmel, Colbert, Stewart, you name it…Then like Piers Morgan, they would ask me if I’m disappointed in Obama, and I would reply yes of course. Then I could participate in FLOTUS’ “Let’s move” program – showing how I horseback ride with my shirt off. Then I could write a book about all the tensions between Obama and me. That book would fly off the shelves in no time.

    But thanks LL for thinking of me in your honorary tribute here to the Mighty Tzar Vlad who is me. People say I’m delusional but you can see from my writing, that I am very much a reality-based leader. I aim to be real, and because of that I AM real. Have a nice evening TOD, and give my love & kisses to Glen Greenwald and all the Snowdenistas out there.

    P.S. I *heart* Eddie Snowden.

  18. April 17, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    from bottom of previous thread ….

    • April 17, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      Thanks for posting!

      Methinks the MSM was wrong about PBO’s “victory lap” happening the week of Apr 1.

      So glad that the WHPC was the audience for the true “victory lap.”

      Every narrative the MSM/Koch media have tried to spin has turned out to be WRONG, and of course they won’t admit it.

      Let’s see how Americans feel about ACA after they’ve had their Fourth of July picnics and Labor Day BBQ’s with family and friends they rarely see in the winter.

      And we know that Obama-Biden are just going to tighten the screws to GOP/MSM between now and November.

  19. 59 Nena20409
    April 17, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    LL thanks for this post.

  20. 60 MightyPamela
    April 17, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks for this Bobfr. The live stream kept dropping out when I tried to view earlier.

  21. April 17, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    California drought update:

    I found this alarming:

    “In California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, where runoff from the spring snowpack provides much-needed water supplies during the dry season, half of the snowpack’s liquid water equivalent melted in just the past week in some areas, due to temperatures that soared as high as 12 degrees Fahrenheit above average of early April, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.”

  22. 63 Dudette
    April 17, 2014 at 9:08 pm

  23. 65 anniebella
    April 17, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    I did not watch the evening news because I knew how they would be with the coverage of the good ACA news and the Clinton grandparents news.I knew which one would get the most attention.

  24. April 17, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Horrifyingly true …

    “It’s fortunate for Russia that staring at it across the table was Barack Obama; almost anyone else would have unleashed a war by now.”

    Tzar Vlad will never say it, but I will. Thank you to every person who worked their butts off and voted for President Obama on 6 Nov 2012.

  25. April 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Working it ….

  26. 74 amk for obama
    April 17, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    those annoying pop-up twitter notifications? smack’em down here.


    • 75 amk for obama
      April 17, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      of course, anyone accessing that page will get 100 bucks automatically taken off from their CC.

  27. April 17, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    “Putin has now stepped into the astral plane. We shouldn’t expect his return.

    Today his “straight line” – is a protocol of feverish delirium. Just take his story about eastern Ukraine as “New Russia with roots related to Russia” as an example.”

    Urge all of you to read his entire report …

  28. 80 Alycee (@jazziz2)
    April 17, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    When I read of innovations elsewhere, I always ask “Why can’t we have nice things?”. Heard these trees can also act as high speed wi-fi antennas.

  29. 82 amk for obama
    April 17, 2014 at 9:36 pm

  30. 83 amk for obama
    April 17, 2014 at 9:37 pm

  31. 84 99ts
    April 17, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    So is WP eating my posts? I just turned of Rachel – boss getting to her – wants to get her ratings down to the level of the rest of MSNBC – she had Nicole Wallace on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • April 17, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      So I gathered from Twitter. When Maddow has on Nickie Wallace, time to wrap up that particular business concern.

      • 86 99ts
        April 17, 2014 at 10:03 pm

        Thanks for your post LL, I will ALWAYS trust PBO on his foreign policy – also, too – I have been intrigued by your patrons as described today – at school I was somewhat in fear of the librarian due to my parents allowing me to read books that he thought were not suitable for “young ladies”! – ever since – they are the help mates of the world

  32. April 18, 2014 at 1:41 am

    This is a wonderful and insightful write up into the mind of Vladimir Putin and the real situation on the ground in Russia. Not many Americans realize how fragile the Russian economy is, or how little power beyond military power, Putin has at his disposal. I place the blame on their refusal to study history and their refusal to keep up with issues in foreign nations. They’re too busy screaming, “America is an exceptional nation!” to be bothered about learning what is happening in other countries and to contemplate how it impacts us. I think this ignorant and shortsighted view of the world is what causes them to be so easily impressed by a foreign leader’s false bravado, which leads them to choose him over their own president. Pres. Obama ends up making them look like the asses they are every frigging time. While they appear to be capable of only one dimensional thinking, he’s a multidimensional strategist and thinker. Hitting Putin’s buddies, the Russian oligarchs, was the right thing to do. The oligarchs put on a public display of unity with Putin, but I can well imagine that they were giving him hell behind the scenes because they value their money and assets way more than they value old soviet-style expansionism and nation-building.

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