WITH RUSSIA’S SEIZURE of Crimea (and who knows how much else of Ukraine) Vladimir Putin has made a strategic blunder that could rival the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Moscow, counting on Western weakness, may, in the short term, succeed in carving up the country or ending the 22-year existence of an independent Ukraine. But it has set in motion forces that will severely damage Russia, as well as Putin’s own reign.
Putin has grossly overplayed his hand, intoxicated as he has become by running circles around Barack Obama in Syria and Iran. The Russian “czar” accurately sized up Obama as having the backbone of an eclair, just as Soviet boss Leonid Brezhnev figured President Jimmy Carter was a pushover and wouldn’t react to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Brezhnev miscalculated terribly. The shock his invasion set off had Carter taking steps our hapless President couldn’t have imagined, from cutting off wheat sales to Moscow to leading a boycott of the impending Moscow Olympics (which was joined by scores of other countries) to beginning to rebuild our dangerously dilapidated military. Ronald Reagan went further by meaningfully arming anti-Soviet guerrillas and boldly ramping up our military on a scale Carter would never have considered.
The U.S.S.R. lost the Cold War and splintered.
While Obama is far more resolute in his weakness and amateurishness than Carter, he’s already had to agree to putting off the G8 economic summit meeting in Sochi.
Unless Putin stops now, Russia’s aggression will incur a higher and higher cost.