Tahlequah Daily Press

Editorials

March 5, 2014

Putin should be put in his place with isolation

TAHLEQUAH — While America’s leaders inside the Beltway enjoy massages, manicures, petty partisan politics and fattening their own wallets, the situation in Ukraine has been going to Hades in a handbasket.

In 2001, President George Bush said he looked into Putin’s eyes, got a “sense of his soul,” and found the Russian president “straight-forward and trustworthy.” Perhaps Bush was giving the old KGB operative the benefit of the doubt, but the recent actions of his regime toward the Ukraine rebellion have again brought the old “Cold War” soldier to the forefront.

Many Americans – especially in rural areas like Cherokee County – may shake their heads and comment on how these tensions half a world away can’t be good, but they don’t typically apply the potential consequences to their everyday lives. Yet the affects of Putin’s clampdown in the former Soviet country have already come home to roost.

On Monday, global stocks took a nasty plunge in the face Putin’s threatened Russian military incursion into the Ukraine. This means many of our 401(K) accounts are worth less than they were at the start of the weekend. Investors, looking for safer assets, bought into treauries and gold, which sent prices spiraling upward.

If that’s tough to apply to everyday life in Oklahoma, check out the rising price of crude oil, as traders worldwide fret over the possible disruption of Russian exports. That opens the door to another excuse for jacking up prices at the pump. None of us in this country – or anywhere else – can escape the consequences of that reality.

Wholesale war is not an option, with Putin’s finger still planted firmly on the buttons attached to those aging nukes Russia continues to stockpile. But Russia, despite its iron grip on the liberties of its own citizens, nevertheless has a capitalist bent to it these days, so sanctions should send a clear message.

Lame blustering won’t work. Putin’s played that game for years, and he knows a bluff when he sees one. That’s why President Obama’s coy warning about consequences for military action in the Ukraine predictably fell on deaf ears. A tiger with no teeth is not a threat, and neither is an administration or Congress too preoccupied with personal gain and partisan sniping to follow through on its promises.

Obama and Congress need to spell out the consequences if Putin presses ahead in his attempts to regroup his old Soviet glory days.

We have plenty that Russia wants, and so does Europe. Our leaders should make it clear Putin and his war-mongering cronies will not have access. Visas of Russian officials can be denied, and their myriad assets in this country frozen.

But the best tool in the U.S. arsenal is our banking system. Without access to it, Russia’s economic base could founder. That country depends on us now, more than in when it was the mother state of the Soviet bloc.

As as far as the rebels who have the temerity to oppose Putin’s grandious dreams of a re-emergent empire? The U.S. and the EU could find much worse causes to provide various types of aid that would ultimately help isolate Russia – if that’s the only thing that will rock Putin’s boat.

Putin has to  know we mean business. Talk is cheap; action isn’t, but it works.

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