by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of American Reporter Correspondents
February 19, 2015
PUTIN RESCUES OBAMA AGAIN WITH UKRAINIAN CEASE-FIRE
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Is it too soon to nominate Vladimir Putin for a Nobel Peace Prize?
The Russian president has arguably done more to defuse global tensions than the Nobel laureate sitting in the White House, thus avoiding the folly of having two nations armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons going to battle.
It sounds silly to suggest it, but after saving President Obama from attacking Syria last year over allegations that the Assad regime used poison gas - allegations that turned out to be false - Putin may have prevented a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia with the shaky cease-fire he helped broker in Ukraine.
The Obama Administration was set to send U.S. forces into western Ukraine to serve as "advisors" to the soldiers of the government the U.S. helped to install last year.
That side of Ukraine is fighting the eastern Ukrainians, who live in territory that has long been part of Russia, from the Czars until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
That explains why Obama was conspicuously absent from these cease-fire talks. Putin had the help of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in doing the heavy lifting to get Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to the negotiating table.
Merkel and Hollande were on the case for a very simple reason - if the civil war in Ukraine turned into a proxy fight for the U.S. and Russia, the renewal of the Cold War that seems to have broken out would quickly turn into a hot war that would engulf western Europe, and possibly the world.
It remains to be seen if the cease-fire will hold, but if it can, the whole world can breathe a sigh of relief. Presently, it doesn't look good.
Putin is not looking to bring Ukraine back into the Russian fold. The country is bankrupt and needs massive infusions of cash from the International Monetary Fund to pay off billions of dollars of debt.
What Putin wants is not to have Ukraine join NATO, a wet dream of the neo-conservatives the past two decades. That, and to have the various embargoes and sanctions directed against Russia lifted.
It's a reasonable request. After all, the United States has never tolerated another foreign power's getting a toehold in our hemisphere. Having Ukraine be part of NATO would be like Canada joining a reconstituted Warsaw Pact.
The United States has no strategic interests in Ukraine and no reason to butt into its affairs. There is more than enough on President Obama's foreign policy plate, including the Islamic State now drawing Egypt into its nihilistic jihad with the recent execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
With Libya in a state of political, economic, and social disintegration four years after U.S. bombs chased Muammer Gadaffi from power, the Islamic State looks like it's filling the power vacuum, and inching steadily toward Europe.
Our nation is going to need Putin, as well as Merkel, Hollande, and any other leader of goodwill that wants to stem the rising tide of barbarism, to take on the Islamic State. And by take on, I mean a strategy other than indiscriminate bombing, which helped to create a growing legion of U.S. enemies from Tripoli to Kabul.
With a nation that borders a good chunk of Islamic Central Asia, Putin definitely has a stake in opposing the Islamic State.
We can only hope that President Obama and his Administration realizes that.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.