Russia holds the aces

Dr. Norman Bailey

The hypocrisy aside, the West's moves on Crimea are ludicrously feeble.

Granted that hypocrisy is the mother's milk of both domestic and international politics, but the outcry from Europe and the United States over the Russian seizure of Crimea really is beyond the pale.

The current provisional Ukrainian government is the product of a coup d'état.

Crimea was transferred to Ukraine in 1953 by Khruschchev (who was born in Ukraine) without asking anyone in the Crimea whether they wanted to be transferred or not. Even former Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev stated, "Crimea was merged with Ukraine...without asking the people and now the people are correcting that mistake. This should be welcomed rather than declaring sanctions."

Russia will have no more access to the Mediterranean from Crimea now than it already had under its long-term lease on the naval base in Sevastopol.

As to forcible detachment of territory from a sovereign state, Kosovo was separated from Serbia through the US and European bombing of Serbia until the Serbs agreed.

Finally, despite fierce rhetorical condemnation of the Russian takeover, the sanctions applied with much fanfare are so weak as to be ludicrous, and are taken as such by the Russian government. Russia has much more leverage over Europe than Europe has over Russia. If Russia were to place an embargo on oil and particularly gas exports to Europe, the Europeans would run out of reserves in two months and then the European economy would shut down. Russia in contrast, would merely lose $7.5 billion of revenues. US-Russian trade is tiny, so that trade sanctions by the US would be meaningless.

As to possible financial sanctions, Russian officials are prohibited from having assets abroad in any case, so that the "freezing" of their assets in the US amounts to nothing at all, despite the monumentally exaggerated declaration of a "state of emergency" and incredibly weak sanctions taken as a result of a threat to the "national security". In response, Russia is reported to have withdrawn $100bn in US treasury bonds. As to the Europeans, their assets in Russia are three times Russian assets in Europe.

In other words, all the trade and financial leverage is on the side of Russia, not the West.

But most significantly, and in a perfect illustration of what may result when the various effects of policies adopted and measures taken are not properly calculated, the reaction of Europe and the US to the Russian takeover of Crimea ensures no Russian cooperation on any meaningful agreement with Iran concerning their plans to achieve the means to produce nuclear weapons. Indeed, Russia has just agreed to provide Iran with another nuclear power plant. It can thus be confidently foreseen that sooner or later, and probably sooner, Iran will achieve nuclear weapon capacity.

What should Israel do? It realistically has two options--attack Iran's nuclear facilities militarily, which defense minister Ya'alon now says he is reconsidering, or take the defensive measures necessary to make sure that Israel is prepared if and when Iran succeeds in miniaturizing its nuclear weapons.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and teaches at the Center for National Security Studies and Geostrategy, University of Haifa.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 20, 2014

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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