Since Thursday, many people have asked me what I would do about the Ukraine after the murderous downing of the Malaysian Airliner by Ukrainian rebels (which is another way of saying Russian forces). There is a clear path and it is clearly the time for that plan.
President Obama has looked like a weakling to this point. His inaction over the Crimea was inexcusable. His later unwillingness to provide armaments to our ally, Ukraine, to defend itself further enhanced the impression of his being a wimp and whipping boy for Putin. In Obama’s defense (yes, there is some though it is meager), Ukraine itself was in disarray at the time and our European partners were even less willing to confront Putin being more interested in their business interests.
The facts on the ground have changed. The Ukrainian election resulted in Petro Poroshenko taking charge of the government, and take charge he has. This is a leader with the backbone that is missing in many world leaders today. In addition, any queasiness from Europeans or other allies of taking on Putin has been mitigated by the brutality of this demented act.
Obama has a clear path to reestablishing his position as a respected leader. This moment calls for the leadership of the United States. And it can be done without causing a broader war with Russia. There has to be a clear show of resolve.
Obama needs to coalesce the most important leaders first, and make it clear that there is no other direction. He needs Merkel of Germany, Cameron of Great Britain, and Hollande of France to fall in line. Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of The Netherlands, will be easy -- he lost 154 of his fellow countrymen. Tony Abbott of Australia and Stephen Harper of Canada will be with him because they both have guts and they also lost citizens. New Zealand will be with us because they are always with us. The other countries of Europe will have to fall in line, including Italy and Spain. Japan will aid us however they can.
With the coalition in hand, it is then time to speak to Putin. Putin is not easily bullied (bullies rarely like being pushed around), but he is not psychotic and he knows when to regroup for another day. He thinks in the long run he will win out and knows when to not fight with a losing hand. That is why he called for a ceasefire.
President Obama needs to say: “The rebel revolt in Eastern Ukraine has to be ended and ended now. We know that you and your team are behind this, and you are supplying the weapons if not advisors and personnel. I am speaking for a coalition of world leaders who are behind this effort. We are unified in our position that this cannot go any further.”