News / Europe

    Ukraine Crisis Reminiscent of US Cold War Challenges

    Ukraine Crisis Reminiscent of US Cold War Challengesi
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    Kane Farabaugh
    April 03, 2014 11:12 PM
    When Russian-speaking troops marched through the Crimean peninsula in February, it marked a dramatic change in relations between the United States and its one-time Cold War adversary. Some compare the situation to what President Jimmy Carter faced in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, plunging the already contentious U.S.-Soviet relationship into a deep freeze. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, while the situation in Ukraine is reminiscent of the foreign policy challenges confronting President Carter and other American presidents during the Cold War, experts say there are important differences.
    When Russian-speaking troops marched through the Crimean peninsula in February, it marked a dramatic change in relations between the United States and its one-time Cold War adversary.

    Some compare the situation to what President Jimmy Carter faced in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, plunging the already contentious U.S.-Soviet relationship into a deep freeze.

    But while the situation in Ukraine is reminiscent of the foreign policy challenges confronting Carter and other American presidents during the Cold War, experts say there are important differences.

    During President Barack Obama’s first term, his administration worked to improve relations with Russia by establishing a “reset” policy with Moscow, a relationship strained by Russian military action in neighboring Georgia in 2008.  

    University of Chicago political science professor Stanislav Markus says President Obama’s “reset” policy showed initial signs of progress.

    “Given that thaw in the background, I think there were hopes in the administration that the relations with Russia could get back on a more positive track,” he said.

    But Markus says much of that thaw froze again in 2012, when Russian President Vladimir Putin returned to power.  Any progress to improve relations, he says, evaporated with the Russian annexation of Crimea.

    “I think it did catch many people in the administration by surprise given, of course, the reset policy Obama tried to promote,” he said.

    As Russia consolidated its hold on Crimea, the Obama administration's “reset” policy was roundly criticized by opposition Republican lawmakers, such as Senator John McCain, who called Obama’s previous approach toward Russia “naïve.”
    FILE - U.S. Ambassador to the USSR, Thomas Watson (R), who was recalled consultation after the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, talks with President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance (L) at the White House in Washington, Jan. 5, 1980.FILE - U.S. Ambassador to the USSR, Thomas Watson (R), who was recalled consultation after the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, talks with President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance (L) at the White House in Washington, Jan. 5, 1980.
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    FILE - U.S. Ambassador to the USSR, Thomas Watson (R), who was recalled consultation after the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, talks with President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance (L) at the White House in Washington, Jan. 5, 1980.
    FILE - U.S. Ambassador to the USSR, Thomas Watson (R), who was recalled consultation after the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, talks with President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance (L) at the White House in Washington, Jan. 5, 1980.
    It is criticism familiar to former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, who was faced with similar challenges when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

    “I withdrew my ambassador," he said. "I broke diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. I declared a grain embargo against them. I supported the Congress and the Olympic Committee in withholding our contestants from the 1980 Olympics.”

    But much has changed in the 35 years since the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. With the end of the Cold War and increased economic ties between Russia and the rest of the world, Carter concedes the options before President Obama to counter Russian aggression in Crimea today are much more limited.

    “Threatening an embargo, even threatening military action, in my opinion, would not have deterred Putin from doing that,” he said.

    Markus says, “Crippling the economy by, say, imposing certain embargoes on Russian energy, which obviously a lot of Russian state revenue depends on energy exports, that would have an impact on the Russian people which automatically would be interpreted in Russia as actually confirming what Putin has been saying all along, that a lot of people in the West have not left the past behind, have not left the Cold War behind, they want Russia to be on its knees.”

    As Ukraine prepares for a presidential election May 25, Carter says he believes Putin will bolster efforts to influence those living geographically and ideologically close to Russia, but doubts he plans further military action in Ukraine.

    “He announced that he would not take military action against eastern Ukraine, and I don't think he will," said Carter. "The United States ought to be very forceful along with our allies in telling Putin, "If you do that, there will be very serious consequences.”

    U.S. military commanders in Europe estimate an additional 40,000 Russian troops are massed along the Ukrainian border.  While President Carter threatened to use U.S. military force as a way to contain Soviet ambitions beyond Afghanistan in 1979,  Obama has said there is no military solution to the deepening crisis in Ukraine.

    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

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    by: pat from: FL
    April 03, 2014 10:24 PM
    The thing is, Ireland has wanted its independence for a very long time and they still do. What has Britain said "NO" by military force. There are other counties in the world wanting there independence also. Are we going to become dictators of the world? Is NATO? Especially at the time NATO was formed these counties were under Russian rule. If Russian starts taking counties other than what it originally had then is the time to worry about it all. We need to stop being the dictators of the world. Russia is open now, these people can leave if they don't like it. It's not worth causing WWIII. There are good people in Russia lets keep the doors open for them and us.

    by: Harry Kuheim from: USA
    April 03, 2014 9:15 PM
    Obama and the Progressive Liberals can't understand that there are other World Leaders who want to make up Constitutional Rules as they go too...Russia has been Redistributing Incomes, providing Health Care, Subsidizing Food and Housing, and destroying Capitalists long before Obama ever heard Rev. Wrights diatribe rants damning Amerika.
    In Response

    by: Goldingen from: Greece
    April 04, 2014 5:01 AM
    Other World leaders distributing own wealth and human rights should be the heads of the states in Siriya, North Korea, Cuba, Zimbabwe ...and Tuvalu

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