Monday, March 10, 2014

Transcript of my March 9-10 show on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine


This is the second week in a row this is my show’s feature story. My feature story last week on the Russian invasion of the Crimea region of Ukraine generated a lot of interest and inquiries. This week I want to concentrate on a couple of issues starting with the politics of the issue in the US but first, I want to play a part of an interview with Zbignew Brzezinski, who was United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter during such events as the SALT II treaties and the camp david accords, was on Eurovision discussing the crisis. This is what he said about Putin’s strategy and reasoning for invading:

            I Play a segment of Zbignew Brzezinski, opining on Putin Reasoning including his Putins alleged remarks that the fall of the Soviet Union was the worst disaster of the 20th century

Republicans continue to heap blame on President Barack Obama for the invasion. Most prominent Republicans were at CPAC at the end of last week, and used the occasion of the conference to push the meme that President Obama is weak and that is why Putin invaded.

JOHN BOLTON said : Vladimir Putin has a strategy and Obama has nothing. Where Putin has a growing defense budget and ours is shrinking.

DONALD TRUMP said : You look at what he is doing with President Obama. He's, like, toying with him. He's toying with him.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO said : We have a president who believes but by the sheer force of his personality he would be able to shape global events.

And finally, GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL said: As we see the president of Russia invade a neighboring country, while our president wants to downsize our military.

Now again, as I pointed out last week, it’s not as if we don’t have precedent of how a Republican would handle a crisis like this from the administration of George W. Bush. George W. Bush’s big move after the Russians invaded south Ossetia was to send humanitarian aid to Georgia. I guess the Bush administration felt that the best option was for Georgian citizens to cover themselves with blankets and eat gubmint cheese to make them feel better after losing South Ossetia to the Russians.

But that is supposedly a strong move compared to President Obama’s response. That response of humanitarian aid received no criticism from Republicans. In fact despite that history, Republicans think they have the right to criticize the President. President Obama has already done more about Ukraine and Crimea than Bush did about Georgia and South Ossetia and I will talk about that more in a minute.

If Republicans want to assert blame they can start by looking in the mirror. It has not escaped Putin’s attention that from the beginning of his administration, President Obama has faced harsh opposition from Republicans anytime he tries to do something. That kind of division probably emboldened Putin much more than any foreign policy actions of the Obama administration. The fact that it continues as the President is trying to deal with this difficult military and diplomatic crisis borders on a betrayal of the country.

That’s right, I said it. When the President is dealing with a crisis and threat like this that is wholly the doing of an external power, not supporting him borders on a betrayal of the country.

At least on this issue if no other, Republicans should be trying to support the President, not work to undermine him.

Most grass roots Americans across the political spectrum believe that this is an illegal war of aggression and that the Russian’s should pull their forces out of all of Ukraine including the Crimea. Perhaps 5-10% of Liberals and Progressives are trying to justify the invasion using various dubious theories.

I’ve had arguments with some of these folks and some of my Russian friends. Many of these arguments center around the allegation that the US somehow fomented the protests in Ukraine that ousted former President Yanukovych. As far as those allegations are concerned, I repeat what I said last week, there are always excuses given when a country engages in an unprovoked war of aggression. That is what Russia’s invasion of Crimea is and will always be. It is a war crime to engage in an unprovoked war of conquest like this.

Also, directly to the pathetic arguments some are using to try to justify the Russian invasion, any country can have people talk to the people of any other country and try to convince them of things. We have PACs from other countries here in the US. They advocate for those countries interests. If those PACs succeed in, for instance, influencing an election or getting a President impeached, the remedy is to mount a campaign to vote in the folks you want at the next election. That’s how it works in a Democracy, you don’t invite a nearby military power to invade.

But that is giving that argument way too much credit folks. Countries have disputes with each other all the time and any of those disputes can be used as an excuse to invade. That is ridiculous. The fact is, Ukraine posed no threat to Russia at all, as we can see now with Ukraine not even being able to defend part of its territory. For Russia to invade without a threat posed to Russia according to international law is an unprovoked war of aggression and a war crime.

So I have talked or provided evidence about why Putin did this and whether it is illegal or not, so I’m coming to what the Obama administration is doing and what should it be doing, but I should make a few other points first.

One of the issues with getting anything done is that ascertaining the exact facts on the ground is difficult. The European OSCE or Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has tried to enter the Crimea four times, twice on Thursday and twice on Friday and they have been denied entry by what seems like Russian forces. Without an independent agency seeing what is happening, the only source of information is what Russia is putting out and of course the Russians are in the position of trying to justify a war of conquest so they aren’t going to be forthcoming about anything.

This lack of independent foreign observers is the final nail in the coffin of the legitimacy of the national referendum Russia intends to hold on March 16th in the Crimea on whether those citizens want to become part of Russia. Picture this:

The vote will be scrambled together in ten days, efforts to put it together started March 6th, so ten days for a large regional election,

The election will be held under military occupation with tanks and armored personnel carriers and troops with automatic weapons from the country which Crimean residents are being asked if they want to join,

And yes, eight days out foreign observers have not been allowed to enter the country.

My friends who are experts in conducting elections tell me that free and fair elections involving a region this size cannot be pulled together in ten days under the best conditions. So there is little doubt that whatever happens on March 16th will be a sham election.

The Washington Post reported that "President Obama on Thursday authorized the Treasury Department to impose sanctions against 'individuals and entities' who are responsible for Russia’s military takeover in Crimea or for 'stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people.'  The White House is pressing Congress to support a $1 billion aid package for Ukraine’s interim government. The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a financial aid package for Ukraine, authorizing up to $1 billion in loan guarantees. The 385-to 23 vote was the first congressional action on Ukraine, and the bill will now go to the Senate, where some members may propose a broader package of relief."

By the way, in case you are keeping score, that is already several times more aggressive than what George W. Bush did in response to Russia’s invasion of South Ossetia.

I played a part of Zbignew Brzezinski;s interview with Eurovision earlier. Here he is another part where he is discussing what the US should do to respond to the crisis:

            <Mr. Brzezinski gives his suggestions, including sanctions and a carrot/stick approach>

It is my hope that the US and Europe put a strong package of sanctions together. I am in favor of a complete embargo by the US and Europe of all Russian goods and services and the denial of entry visas and cancellation of existing visas for any Russians to enter into the US and Europe. We need to get serious about a country that has done what they have done. If you aren’t familiar with Russia, the entry visas might not sound like a big deal, but the oligarchs in Russia are the ones who control the country and they really like being able to travel around the Europe and the US and going to the expensive resorts like skiing in Courchevel and Chamonix in the winter, and shopping in France and enjoying Italian cities.

If they are cut off from that, it will have a surprisingly big impact in Russia. The former world champion chessmaster Garry Kasparov wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal where he advocated for the same thing. Kasparov said “Cut Off the Russian Oligarchs and They'll Dump Putin. Target their assets abroad, their mansions and IPOs in London, their yachts. Use banks, not tanks.”. 

I agree with Mister Kasparov.

Now in terms of a complete embargo like what I advocate, I know there are big challenges involved in this. Several European countries get a large amount of their oil and gas from Russia, but that doesn’t mean they HAVE to get their oil and gas from Russia. We should ask Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to step up production to supply some of the shortfall and I am even willing to change positions on the Keystone pipeline because of these exigent circumstances so we can export oil to Europe while the crisis continues.

Folks, allowing Putin to get away with this would be a huge mistake. You heard Zbignew Brezhinski earlier. Putin wants to re-establish the territorial holdings of the USSR. He is going to invade more territory if we let him get away with this.

That is why I am asking every person, every one of you hearing this should examine the places that you and any businesses you are affiliated with get products and services. Do not buy any Russian provided products or services and do not do business with any businesses that buy Russian provided products or services. Call and email your congressman, senator and the President. Spread the word to your friends to do the same. Support and insist on a complete embargo of Russian goods and services unless and until they leave the Crimea.

We’ll be right back.