But as Ioffe points out, that idea that the “red line” in Syria mattered a great deal to Russian decision-making appears to be news to actual Russians who make decisions. Instead of carefully calibrating their foreign policy based on close analysis of Obama’s rhetoric, Russian policymakers appear to have scrutinized their own national interests and capabilities. In short, Ioffe finds no evidence whatsoever that Russia viewed Obama’s Syria decisions as a green light for invading Ukraine. This finding accords with nearly all the relevant researchon the topic in the field of international relations.
But did Obama’s refusal to bomb Syria in 2013 really give Putin the green light in Ukraine? It is a question Jeffrey Goldberg poses to Obama, who, of course, swats it away. “Look, this theory is so easily disposed of that I’m always puzzled by how people make the argument,” Obama says. “I don’t think anybody thought that George W. Bush was overly rational or cautious in his use of military force. And as I recall, because apparently nobody in this town does, Putin went into Georgia [in 2008] on Bush’s watch, right smack dab in the middle of us having over 100,000 troops deployed in Iraq.” Obama repudiates the “crazy Nixon” thesis, which says, essentially: Be crazy, be unpredictably harsh, and geopolitics are your oyster.
Goldberg’s exploration of the Red Line Moment made me curious about how the Russians see this common and unexamined refrain: Obama showed weakness on Syria so Putin exploited it in Ukraine.
“Wow, it’s kind of a revelation what you just said,” said a very surprised source from the Russian Foreign Ministry, who was not authorized to speak on the record, on hearing the question. “It’s not tied to any kind of reality. These things are not connected to each other in any way.”
“It is absolutely made up,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, the equally surprised editor ofRussia in Global Affairs, who has a reputation for channeling the Kremlin view. “You shouldn’t think of Putin as such a primitive guy. It’s totally clear that the Syrian and Ukrainian crises had nothing to do with one another.” For Lukyanov, it’s almost insulting to suggest a connection. “Technically, it was possible then for Obama to hit Syria and destroy Damascus,” Lukyanov said. “Then Syria would have been yet another government that would’ve paid for doing something wrong. But Russia is a nuclear superpower, and this kind of rationale vis-a-vis Russia is senseless.”
I cannot recommend strongly enough reading the Syria section of Goldberg’s article. Obama essentially, on his own, rejected the broad (but utterly evidence free) Washington consensus on the importance of “credibility” in American foreign policy.
Long story short, both the Chinese military and Chinese defense industry depend on Western and Russian technology, perhaps half a generation old. China’s central achievements have been architectural; reconfiguring systems and components to produce more lethal weapons. China’s formidable cruise and ballistic missile arsenals testify to the success of this approach.
Complaining about Trump is pretty goddamn rich, given how reprehensible GOP foreign policy advice has been over the past fifteen years or so. Many of the contributors to this letter are deeply implicated in the most incompetent and immoral foreign policy decisions of the Bush administration; describing Trump as some kind of unique danger is, in this context, absurd.
There’s no effort among these folks to grapple with how the arguments they’ve made have laid the foundations for the Trump. These are people who, by and large, have argued that vaguely coherent bluster is the best kind of foreign policy. The central critique of the Obama administration from this quarter has been that he doesn’t do enough bluster; a “bluster gap” has opened that enables Putin to steal Crimea, etc. Trump just drops the “vaguely coherent” part and keeps the bluster.
There are components of Trump’s foreign policy ejaculations that are abjectly sane compared to what the Establishment GOP is just fine with. Yglesias alerted me to this one this morning; how do you watch this and NOT conclude that Donald Trump is the most reasonable guy in the room?
More broadly, I’m of various minds regarding the future of the #nevertrump movement. I strongly believe that Trump is a weaker general election candidate that Rubio; Cruz might be a special case, but I think that even he would have less trouble drawing the disparate elements of the GOP together than Trump. But then, the quality of my prognostication skills is in deep question [ed- is Farley finally admitting that he was brutally, hopelessly wrong about Trump winning the nomination? Not yet!!!]. I also strongly concur with Scott that the practical difference between the evil done by a Trump presidency and a Rubio presidency is small-too-non-existent; this is one reason the Establishment types dislike Trump so much.
I think that it will be fun to watch as many of the #nevertrump folks determine that Hillary. Has. Just. Gone. Too. Far. after some milquetoast statement of policy and decide that they need to vote for Trump after all. At the same time, I think it will be extremely difficult for people like Rubio, Bush, and Romney to walk back what they’ve been saying about Trump in time for the general. What Marco has said so far, and what Mitt is apparently primed to say this afternoon, should provide nice fodder for a long series of attack ads against Trump.
“BatDiv9 Arrival 1” by Unknown – Originally appeared in a book created for the crew of the USS Wyoming as a memento of their service with the Grand Fleet, copyright 1919. Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia.
Even as the guns fell silent along the Western Front in 1918, the United States and the United Kingdom began jockeying for position. Washington and London bitterly disagreed on the nature of the settlements in Europe and Asia, as well as the shape of the postwar naval balance. In late 1920 and early 1921,these tensions reached panic levels in Washington, London and especially Ottawa.
The general exhaustion of war, combined with the Washington Naval Treaty, succeeded in quelling these questions and setting the foundation for the great Anglo-American partnership of the twentieth century. But what if that hadn’t happened? What if the United States and United Kingdom had instead gone to war in the spring of 1921?
Canberra is headed to Fiji in the wake of Cyclone Winston, which has reportedly killed dozens, done tremendous property and infrastructure damage, and left up to 30,000 homeless. The United Nations has suggested that Winston is the most devastating cyclone ever to hit the island.
“Mui Ne4” by MikeRussia – MikeRussia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
I spoke with CBC Radio this morning about the South China Sea. Transcript here, listen here. Long story short, the US should worry about China’s assertiveness in the SCS, but it shouldn’t worry too much.
A recent RAND wargame on a potential Russian offensive into the Baltics brought talk of a “new Cold War” into sharp focus. The game made clear that NATO would struggle to prevent Russian forces from occupying the Baltics if it relied on the conventional forces now available.
These wargames have great value in demonstrating tactical and operational reality, which then informs broader strategic thinking. In this case, however,the headlines generated by the game have obscured more about the NATO-Russian relationship than they have revealed. In short, the NATO deterrent promise has never revolved around a commitment to defeat Soviet/Russian forces on NATO’s borders. Instead, NATO has backed its political commitment with the threat to broaden any conflict beyond the war that the Soviets wanted to fight. Today, as in 1949, NATO offers deterrence through the promise of escalation.