If Crimea Really is Important, Tell Us What Obama Ought to Do About It

Fareed Zakaria has a piece in the Washington Post about Ukraine. Here’s the headline:

Why (this time) Obama must lead

So I clicked. Plenty of sensible stuff. The EU dithered. Ukraine blew up. Putin responded stupidly. “Let’s not persist in believing that Moscow’s moves have been strategically brilliant,” Zakaria says. His invasion of Crimea has turned the rest of Ukraine irretrievably pro-Western; triggered lots of anti-Russian sentiment on his borders; soured relations with Poland and Hungary; and sparked Western sanctions that are going to hurt.

And Zakaria says this is important stuff. “The crisis in Ukraine is the most significant geopolitical problem since the Cold War….And it involves a great global principle: whether national boundaries can be changed by brute force. If it becomes acceptable to do so, what will happen in Asia, where there are dozens of contested boundaries — and several great powers that want to remake them?”

OK, fine. So what should Obama do? Here it is:

Obama must rally the world, push the Europeans and negotiate with the Russians.

Go ahead and click the link if you don’t believe me. This is, literally, the sum total of Zakaria’s advice. So what’s the point? Obviously Obama is already doing this. Is he doing it badly? Is he pressing for the wrong sanctions? Is he working too much behind the scenes and not enough publicly? Should he be threatening a military response? Should he ask Zach Galifianakis to tape an episode of “Between Two Ferns” with Vladimir Putin? Or what?

Maybe I’m more frustrated than usual with this because I tend to like Zakaria. Sure, he’s sometimes a little bit too weather-vaney for my taste, but he’s smart and practical and tends to understand the big picture pretty well. So why not tell us what he thinks the US response should be? We could use some judicious advice to make up for the tsunami of idiocy emanating from the crackpot wing of the foreign policy community right now.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now