As bad as Russia’s annexation of Crimea today after the people there voted Sunday to secede from Ukraine, it could get a whole lot worse. As The Post reports, “Relations between Moscow and the West are now arguably at their lowest point since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.” And the implications for the global order are immense.
Vice President Biden is in Europe to reassure Poland, Estonia and Lithuania. Once under the iron grip of Soviet domination, they and other former satellite states fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s moves in Crimea are a harbinger of things to come. And if Putin does make a move it will seriously test the resolve of the Western alliance in general and of the United States in particular.
Besides the mischief Putin is causing in his own backyard, there is the wrench he has thrown into other vital diplomatic efforts. President Obama’s threat of military action last September against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad after he used chemical weapons on his own people resulted in two dramatic actions.
Assad acknowledged for the first time that he did indeed have chemical weapons and agreed to have them destroyed by under international law. Later in September, the leaders of the U.S. and Iran spoke for the first time in more than 30 years by telephone. Diplomatic talks over Iran’s nuclear program began shortly thereafter. Here’s the catch: efforts in Syria and Iran need the cooperation of Putin’s Russia. And the situation in Ukraine dims the prospects of success in both endeavors.
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