Seven short days ago in this space, we exuberantly cheered Russia for its international hospitality and overall success in hosting a relatively flawless Winter Olympics. One week later, however, Russia merits nothing more than angry jeers and worldwide condemnation.
The hoped for foundation Russia had built at the Winter Games toward maturing into a more responsible player on the world stage has since crumbled to smithereens. It did so only days after the Feb. 23 Olympics closing ceremonies when Russian troops began their misguided occupation of the troubled Crimean region of the Ukraine.
As of early this week, Russia had dispatched planes, boats and helicopters to flood Crimea with 16,000 troops. Though they have not become militarily aggressive just yet, the troops’ illegitimate presence bodes ill for the stability of the shaky Ukraine government and for the security of its 50 million people.
This clear violation of the tenets of international law and of diplomatic decency threatens to further destabilize the Ukraine, a peace-loving independent country and former Soviet republic in the heart of Europe. As such, it demands a quick, forceful and concerted response from the United States and the international community, but that response must stop short of even the most remote hint of direct military intervention.
Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, on Tuesday enunciated the need for diplomacy and sanctions to defuse the crisis. Commander in Chief Barack Obama on Tuesday announced $1 billion in aid and loans to help prop up the struggling Ukrainian government and economy.
Closer to home, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, has condemned the invasion and has called on the U.S. and its allies to “intervene in a firm and pragmatic way.”
That response could include such powerful weapons as asset freezes, visa bans, a disruption of trade and a slowdown in business investments and a variety of other sanctions or punishments.
But the risks associated with putting boots on the ground in this troubled region are almost too ghastly to imagine. With a military force and arsenal more than six times the size of Ukraine’s, Russia’s potential damage and destruction to the Ukrainian people and their nation loom large.
Clearly it is a time for the American people and the U.S. Congress to rally around the no-nonsense strategies that Obama and Kerry propose. Shamefully, however, some Republicans on Capitol Hill cannot resist the sophomoric temptation to use the international crisis as a whipping post for the president.
Consider the obtuse thinking of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. He told CNN this week that Obama should “stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators.” Graham added that “every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression.”
Such caustic rhetoric is irresponsible. The administration’s measured response to the invasion represents the wisest course of action for a nation exhausted and tormented by such questionable military operations as the war in Iraq that killed or wounded 36,710 Americans over the past decade.
President Obama’s game plan of working in concert with the United Nations, NATO and the European Union to peacefully but painfully force Russia to retreat from its former province clearly stands as the most prudent path for the United States and the peace-loving world community to pursue.