U.S. underestimates Putin [Letter]

Western governments and specifically the Obama administration have been laughably naive about Russian President Vladimir Putin's reactions and intentions in Crimea and the Ukraine ("Obama must take stronger measures to confront Putin," March 20).

Mr. Putin's empire-building aspirations have now become transparent to the world. A dictator with an occasional perfunctory nod toward reform, one who grew up and came to power in the KGB during the Cold War, he has been unmoved by sanctions and diplomacy. Through the virtual annexation of Crimea and the maneuvers of Russian troops along Ukraine's border, he has now deftly managed to give Russia a springboard to occupation of the balance of Ukraine. Because of the sizable minority of Russians in greater Ukraine, Mr. Putin could speciously argue, as did Adolf Hitler when invading the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, that the speakers of the mother tongue are being oppressed there.

The alarming thing about the Western reaction is its lack of teeth. Although Russians may feel hardships from U.S. and European sanctions, with a strong nationalist movement behind him, Mr. Putin knows he will weather that discomfort. Furthermore, with the U.S. (and to a lesser extent its European allies) exhausted from a decade of fruitless conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a frustrated President Barack Obama clearly outmaneuvered by Russia-backed Syria's Barshar Assad in continuing the slaughter there, Mr. Putin sees we have no resolve toward coalition-building toward any real war at this time.

It would have been gratifying to see the Ukrainians in Crimea stand up to the Russians — even if it meant much loss of life — and give resounding evidence of Ukrainian patriotism. Instead, defenders of the Ukrainian naval headquarters in Sebastopol "were overwhelmed without a shot fired," and "demoralized" officers began leaving the base, according to The Sun.

The interim government in Kiev has repeatedly vowed resistance to any Russian incursion. In view of the sad showing in Crimea, let us hope President Putin stops with Crimea. If he does not, Ukraine needs to ready itself for aggression not seen since the Red Army fought to get that nation back in the Soviet Union after the Nazis left. Is Ukraine up to this challenge?

Bruce Knauff, Towson

To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad