Lincoln * Institute

Colin A. Hanna

Colin A. Hanna

Let Freedom Ring, USA


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Let Freedom Ring

Ukraine Crisis Should Stop START

by Colin Hanna

This week the White House announced took action against 7 Russian and 4 Ukrainian top officials in Vladimir Putin's inner circle to punish them for their role in Moscow's power grab of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

What action? Freezing their financial assets in various banks. Though perhaps it's a step in the right direction, does anyone really believe that freezing international assets of just 7 Russians and 4 Ukrainians will deter Putin from further aggression against his neighbors, or anyone else for that matter?

Let's recall that in 2005, Vladimir Putin said that the greatest "global catastrophe" of the 20th century was the dissolution of the Soviet Union. So is it any surprise that he would try to re-constitute a greater Russia under the guise of "protecting Russian-language speakers," as he did by seizing Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008, Crimea this month… and who knows where tomorrow?

Putin clearly sees that he can get away with anything he wants — that he will face no serious opposition from what President Obama so longingly refers to as "the international community." In Putin's eyes, President Obama has increasingly telegraphed weakness, appeasement and disengagement since taking office in January 2009. Perhaps it all started with those halcyon days when he sketched a utopian vision of a world free of nuclear weapons — and almost immediately thereafter, won the Nobel Peace Prize.

After seeing Putin unleash Russia's Bear on his neighbors again, flaunting international law, and making a mockery of freedom and democracy, it's time for a major shift in Washington's approach to Moscow.

Here's one way, and it only requires the President's beloved pen.

He could scrap the New START arms reduction treaty — unilaterally.

According to a Heritage Foundation report which identified 12 major flaws in the 2010 agreement, it "combined the worst elements" of both Mr. Obama's view of a nuclear-free world and Cold War disarmament agreements.

It left Russia with a 10-1 advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. It failed to ensure adequate verification measures. It reduced U.S. capability. And since it was just a bi-lateral treaty, it didn't doing anything to limit nuclear programs of China, North Korea, India and Pakistan. Even more troublesome, the New START treaty didn't do anything to stop Iran's nuclear program.

In short, it was disastrous for U.S. national security. If the average American knew how lopsided and thus fundamentally unfair that agreement is, they'd be outraged.

President Obama can undo the damage by making a logical and rational argument for cancelling New START today, a fitting sequel to his unilateral cancellation of the missile defense agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic in his first year in office..

He has also fully ignored the Budapest Memorandum, signed in 1994 by President Clinton and leaders from the U.K., Russia and Ukraine. That important post-Cold War agreement pledged all four parties to "defend the territorial integrity" of Ukraine — in exchange for Kiev giving up nuclear weapons. Ukraine upheld their end of the bargain and allowed its nuclear weapons program to be dismantled.

But where are U.S. and U.K. leaders, Barack Obama and David Cameron, now that Russia has seized Crimea from Ukraine?

They're sanctioning a handful of top Russian and Russian-allied Ukrainian officials by seizing some bank accounts. They're trying to pass U.N. resolutions against Moscow, while Moscow predictably vetoes them, and Beijing predictably abstains. They've sent a Navy destroyer to the Black Sea, and a handful of Air Force jets to the Baltic. And that's about it.

What in the world are we coming to?

Why did generations of Americans sacrifice so much in the Cold War? Our nation went to war in places like Korea and Vietnam, and sent countless military and intelligence advisors around the globe since the end of World War II — in the name of promoting freedom and democracy for billions of people so they can have better lives and contribute to prosperity for all of humanity.

Yet, in 2009, Americans saw President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bowing down to Russia from the start, by launching a "Reset Button" to transform U.S.-Russian relations. They unilaterally scrapped a U.S. agreement with the Czech Republic and Poland to place a missile defense system of radars and interceptors designed to protect against an eventual Iranian capability to launch inter-continental ballistic missiles, one expected to be operational by 2015.

It's a pity that Vladimir Putin isn't similarly committed to a nuclear free world. No, the often shirtless, tiger-hunting, judo expert on a horse is looking after #1. He'd rather be feared than loved, and is making good on his intentions.

Instead of standing up to Putin, it seems Mr. Obama has gone out of his way to appease him. Let's remember that he was caught on a hot-mic at a summit in Korea during March 2012, whispering to Putin's right hand man, Dmitry Medvedev, that he'll have "more flexibility" on missile defense after the elections.

But none of this should come as a surprise. It's what happens when a career community organizer meets career KGB agent.

It's time for Mr. Obama to get tough. He could start by getting Mr. Putin's attention.

And unilaterally scrapping New START, a terrible agreement to begin with, would be a "Good START."

(Colin Hanna is President of Let Freedom Ring, USA.)