Obama’s theory here is simple: Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one, so Russia will always be able to maintain escalatory dominance there.
“The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-NATO country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do,” he said.
I asked Obama whether his position on Ukraine was realistic or fatalistic.
“It’s realistic,” he said. “But this is an example of where we have to be very clear about what our core interests are and what we are willing to go to war for. And at the end of the day, there’s always going to be some ambiguity.” He then offered up a critique he had heard directed against him, in order to knock it down. “I think that the best argument you can make on the side of those who are critics of my foreign policy is that the president doesn’t exploit ambiguity enough. He doesn’t maybe react in ways that might cause people to think, Wow, this guy might be a little crazy
“The ‘crazy Nixon’ approach,” I said: Confuse and frighten your enemies by making them think you’re capable of committing irrational acts.
“But let’s examine the Nixon theory,” he said. “So we dropped more ordnance on Cambodia and Laos than on Europe in World War II, and yet, ultimately, Nixon withdrew, Kissinger went to Paris, and all we left behind was chaos, slaughter, and authoritarian governments that finally, over time, have emerged from that hell. When I go to visit those countries, I’m going to be trying to figure out how we can, today, help them remove bombs that are still blowing off the legs of little kids. In what way did that strategy promote our interests?”
But what if Putin were threatening to move against, say, Moldova—another vulnerable post-Soviet state? Wouldn’t it be helpful for Putin to believe that Obama might get angry and irrational about that?
“There is no evidence in modern American foreign policy that that’s how people respond. People respond based on what their imperatives are, and if it’s really important to somebody, and it’s not that important to us, they know that, and we know that,” he said. “There are ways to deter, but it requires you to be very clear ahead of time about what is worth going to war for and what is not. Now, if there is somebody in this town that would claim that we would consider going to war with Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, they should speak up and be very clear about it. The idea that talking tough or engaging in some military action that is tangential to that particular area is somehow going to influence the decision making of Russia or China is contrary to all the evidence we have seen over the last 50 years.”
Pretty sensible assessment of the situation.
I love how the keyword being repeated on this forum (and the mainstream media) changes in every conflict to suit the objective of the US in the conflict. So in Afghanistan and Iraq it was 'terrorism' that was repeated over and over again, but in Libya and Syria since the US was clearly on the side of the terrorists, the keyword suddenly became 'democracy' that was repeated over and over again, and in both cases nobody cared about the words 'international law'. But now it appears that the keyword for this conflict will be... 'international law'.
International law does not exist, for a simple reason, a law needs a force to protect it and apply it, and since the forces are not equal in the world, the 'law' of the world will never be an international one, but rather the law of the biggest force or forces.
In the last 30 years or so you think there was an 'international law' (which you
liked) because everything went the way you
liked, because the world was unipolar after the fall of the Soviet Union and the US could do everything it wanted, invade, assassinate, sanction, bomb, ... without any real resistance, so everything went smoothly for you.
But not everybody liked it, and in many areas in the world there wasn't a sense of a real 'law' being followed, but rather one major force doing what it likes with the world. And when you ask the same "international law supporters" about their
invasions or their
support of dictatorships or terrorists they just shrug their shoulders and say "meh, we're the strongest and this is how life goes". So the US has the right to use false-flag tactics to justify the invasion of Iraq, has the right to bomb Libya and topple its government in the name of 'helping the people', has the right to occupy the oil-rich areas in Syria ("to take the oil!"), has the right to unilaterally withdraw from an international deal (like the Iran nuclear deal), and Israel has the right displace Palestinians and occupy their land, or bomb Syria in 'pre-emptive strikes' because it feels endangered by the presence of Iranian forces on their border, and all of that while maintaining and actually strengthening the relations with a government that (literally) butchered a journalist in a foreign consulate (not mentioning their well-known support for terrorism)... International law my a@@. And don't sell me the 'whataboutism' excuse, you can't call a law 'a law' if it's not followed by everybody, that's not whataboutism, that's the essence of any law, ask Australia and Djokovic.
The only difference now is that some nations are tired of this 'US law', and with the emergence of China as a major power they think they have enough resources to withstand the bullying of the US, and defend their nations like the US does. The US, of course doesn't accept that, and want every country in the world to revolve in its orbit, or else, regime change, bombs, invasions, sanctions... So here we are.
Everybody is entitled to look for their own interests, of course, and if you think it's the best interest for you and your country to go into war (economic or military) with Russia or China then best of luck to you, nobody is suggesting you should put your interests behind because of some moral obligations towards the people you screwed in the past or the present, just get down your 'international law' high horse and call the things the way they are.