President Obama’s failed reset and his weak response to Putin’s War Against Ukraine stuck him with a reputation of indecisiveness and naïveté, reinforced by cumulating foreign policy failures. Obama, unlike Angela Merkel, members of Congress of both parties, and, lately, Hillary Clinton, still appears to be late to understand Putin’s global threat and his goal to destroy NATO. With one intense bill-of-particulars against Putin, Obama coukd outline his plan to stop Putin’s expansionism before it is too late. Such a move could save the last two years of Obama’s presidency. Here is what Obama should say.
Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation:
Almost 4,000 Ukrainian civilians and soldiers and Russian troops and mercenaries have died in the Ukraine conflict. I stand by my frank statement of August 28 that “Russia is responsible for the violence in east Ukraine. The violence is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia. They are armed by Russia. They are funded by Russia.” Dispensing with usual diplomatic language, I must declare that the blood of these people is on your hands, despite your efforts to blame others.
At the beginning of my term, I launched the “reset” with the aim of restoring good relations with Russia. I cancelled construction of the missile defense shield to the consternation of committed allies in Eastern Europe. We kept NATO forces out of countries that neighbor Russia, and we sought to involve Russia as a full partner in resolving threats in Syria, Iran, North Korea, and elsewhere. To my regret, the reset failed, and you interpreted my outstretched hand as a weakness of which to take advantage.
Your aggression in Ukraine has convinced me that you wish confrontation, not cooperation or compromise. Accordingly, I am ordering a fundamental reconfiguration of U.S. policy towards Russia for the following reasons:
Russia’s annexation of Crimea is illegal
We imposed a first set of sanctions on Russia in response to your illegal annexation of Crimea. You complain that these and later sanctions are blackmail, but they are fully justified by international law and precedent. In retrospect, they were a weak response to the first change of sovereign boundaries by force since World War II. We should have acted more decisively at the time.
Following the protocol of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which America and Russia guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution 68/262 on March 27, 2014. This resolution, supported by 100 member states, affirmed Crimea as part of Ukraine and declared invalid the March 2014 Crimean referendum conducted under Russian occupation.
Despite Kremlin claims that 80 percent of eligible Crimeans voted for annexation, your own Human Rights Council disclosed that only 22 percent of Crimeans voted in favor. That most Crimeans want to join Russia is a myth perpetuated by your propaganda machine. We stand with the United Nations and Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko in declaring that Crimea is Ukrainian territory.
Until Crimea is returned to Ukraine, we demand that you cease and desist the human rights abuses of Crimean Tartars and ethnic Ukrainians described in a series of reports by the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
Russia’s excuse for organizing and supporting separatist forces in Ukraine is without merit
Despite your pledges to recognize the May 25 Ukraine presidential election, you continue to the present day to characterize the Kiev government as an illegitimate, extremist, and neo-Nazi regime intent on genocide of ethnic Russians. (This criticism from a country that allows a Miss Hitler contest). Ukraine has no history of Ukrainian-on-Russian ethnic violence, and credible public opinion polls show that the residents of the rebellious Donbas, even to the present day, do not wish to secede from Ukraine. On the basis of your illegitimacy claims, you make the bizarre argument that the sovereign Ukrainian government has no right to deploy its forces in its own country. Using the same logic, Ukraine could argue that Russia has no right to station troops in break-away Chechnya.
Ukraine could just as easily decry the illegitimacy of your government, in which your electoral commission determines which candidates are allowed to compete against you – an electoral practice common in dictatorial regimes of the third world. Ordinary demonstrators risk prison sentences or extended house arrest for participating in normal political rallies, and dissident leaders are roughed up or brought before your courts on trumped up charges to keep them quiet.
Your false claims of illegitimacy and genocidal threat are your rationale for organizing, supporting, propagandizing, and supplying with advanced weaponry the so-called separatist forces in self-proclaimed people’s republics of eastern Ukraine, which until recently were headed by Russian nationals. Your doctrine that Russia has the right to protect Russians wherever they may be is no different from Hitler’s Anschluesse under the façade of protecting das Deutsche Volk.
Your claim that Ukraine is a part of Russia for historical reasons cannot be taken seriously. If we were to take this tack, virtually all national boundaries would have to be redrawn, and Russia might become a part of Ukraine insofar as Kiev Rus was the cradle of Russian civilization, not Moscow.
Russia is responsible for shooting down Malaysian Airline Flight 17
Despite your many public denials, we have proof that Russian forces supplied the BUK missile systems to shadowy terrorist forces in southeast Ukraine that they publicly bragged they used to down Ukrainian military aircraft. We have aerial imagery, voice intercepts, and even separatist social media boasting by the rebel supreme commander of downing an aircraft as MH17 disappeared from radar. We also have evidence tracking the guilty BUK system (with one missile missing) as it sneaked back across the border into Russia that night.
Instead of taking responsibility for the catastrophe, assisting the investigation, and compensating victims’ families, you have conducted a disinformation campaign peddling an improbable account of a Ukrainian fighter flying under the wing of MH17. Your allies denied access to the disaster area, robbed the bodies, and engaged in disgusting behavior in front of world television cameras.
Note that we did not impose tough sanctions until after the MH17 disaster and your reprehensible reaction to it. We presented evidence of your culpability to our allies, which unleashed sanctions from an outraged world community.
Russia invaded Southeast Ukraine with regular troops
You have characterized the battle for southeast Ukraine as a civil war between separatist and Ukrainian forces. Despite your threats, the Kiev government launched an Anti-terrorist Operation (ATO) in April to dislodge the separatists, who had taken control of an arc of cities and towns in eastern Ukraine. You fully supported these illegal forces with non-stop propaganda, supplies, and mercenary forces, crossing a border which your troops kept as open.
When Kiev’s ATO threatened to dislodge your separatist allies from the Donetsk and Luhansk areas, you faced failure of your declared plan for a Russian-dominated Novorossiya from eastern Ukraine to Moldova. The Russian-backed forces were losing despite shelling and air support by Russian troops from across the border and increasingly inside Ukraine.
At this critical juncture – mid to late August – you launched a full fledged invasion of southeast Ukraine with regular troops against a weak Ukrainian force, which culminated in the Ilovaisk massacre of August 29. Ukraine – understanding that it would receive no military assistance from NATO or the United States — had no choice but to withdraw its forces and sue for a ceasefire. You had achieved your first goal; namely, a frozen conflict that would destabilize Ukraine for years to come.
Let it be noted that we imposed the third round of sanctions as a consequence of your invading Ukraine with regular forces. You continue to deny their obvious presence with fantastic claims of regular troops on vacation or of elite paratroopers landing in Ukraine by mistake and despite a rebel leader’s admission that 3,000 to 4,000 Russian troops were fighting alongside them in east Ukraine.
Russia invaded Ukraine with regular forces in August – an unprovoked attack on a sovereign country. You profess to be confused why we imposed the latest round of sanctions, but you understand quite well.
Russia has engaged in a massive campaign of public lying
Throughout your war against Ukraine, you, your administration, and your state-controlled media have engaged in egregious public lying, which you do not bother to sugar coat with diplomatic language or hemming and hawing. You publicly pledged there were no Russian special forces behind the Crimean invasion and takeover of parliament only to admit later that, of course, Russian troops engineered it. You even filmed these events to use as a training film. You continue to deny that Russia is supplying your allies in eastern Ukraine with advanced equipment, tanks, and missile systems despite ample amateur and professional photographic evidence. You continue to conceal the deaths of Russian soldiers in Ukraine through the use of portable crematories and early morning burials in unmarked graves. You even declare societies of mothers of fallen solders as enemy agents to keep them quiet.
Throughout your war on Ukraine, you have argued that only a diplomatic solution is possible. We have tried this route with you in numerous negotiations, but you have violated every diplomatic peace initiative from the April Geneva agreements to the September Minsk cease fire. You apparently do not understand that there can be no diplomatic solution when your word cannot be trusted.
Russia saber-rattles with nuclear threats and the energy weapon
You engage in bellicose saber-rattling unbefitting a nation that seeks respect in the world community. You boast that you can defeat NATO through the use of tactical nuclear weapons. You retaliate with energy cutbacks against countries that volunteer to help Ukraine survive the cold winter. Your use of energy as a military and political weapon confirms that you do not conduct business, but economic warfare. And you wonder why Russia is the subject of sanctions and of downgrades on its debt.
Changes in U.S. policy towards Russia
As a consequence of the transgressions described above, I am hereby ordering the following actions to take place immediately:
First, I have instructed the Senate to take up and pass current House and Senate bills to supply Ukraine with lethal and defensive weapons. I urge individual NATO countries to pass similar measures to give Ukrainians the means to defend themselves. If Ukraine stops Russian aggression, they will be fighting on our behalf. Note that I am authorizing the transfer of weapons, not boots on the ground. These are two quite different things.
Second, despite earlier reservations, I have ordered the Department of State to approve the Keystone pipeline that carries crude oil between Canada and the United States. I assure my political supporters that the benefits of greater energy independence from the “political” Russian energy market outweigh any environmental costs. I have also ordered my administration to delay any regulations that would hamper the delivery of crude oil by rail.
Third, I am initiating with our European allies a Transatlantic Energy Alliance, similar in scope to the Manhattan Project, to insure reliable supplies of oil and natural gas to Europe from a wide variety of sources, including shale and tight gas produced within Europe and a worldwide system of LNG terminals and associated infrastructure.
Fourth, I have communicated to the Supreme NATO Command my desire to station regular NATO troops in countries bordering Russia and to conduct regular troop maneuvers in these countries and in Ukraine itself. In view of Russian threats to use nuclear weapons, I order the Pentagon to draw up plans to restart the missile defense shield to be located as planned in eastern Europe.
Fifth, I urge all parties to understand that sanctions have been imposed because of Russia’s violation of the Budapest Memorandum, its illegal military support of separatist forces, its failure to take responsibility for the downing of MH17, and its invasion of Ukraine with regular troops in August. These transgressions must be remedied before sanctions can be lifted. Tightening the so-called ceasefire or the resolution of natural gas deliveries are not sufficient to remove the sanctions, which we expect to be in effect for a long time given the weighty issues that must be resolved.
Sixth, we shall consult with the Ukrainian government concerning their satisfaction with Russian remedies before lifting the sanctions. For reasons of national sovereignty, Ukraine will not make the decision for us, but Ukraine’s voice will be an important input into our deliberations.
Seventh, we expect Russia to not interfere in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine, and we expect the self-proclaimed people’s republics to allow their residents to vote in the elections freely under the supervision of international observers. We will not recognize separate votes in these areas.
Eighth, we recognize that Ukraine has been decimated by your interventions and interferences. We are prepared to launch a Marshall Plan for Ukraine along with our allies which will build a prosperous, non-corrupt, rule of law Ukraine that can proudly join the world community.