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The USA and Russia geo-politics: Limited action with NATO makes sense

By Bruce Pohlig, Alexandria, MN

DuWayne Paul raises a timely question in his March 12 column regarding the USA’s post-WWII difficulty with geo-politics, currently addressing the Crimea, Russia and Putin. As Paul makes valid points with which I agree, I offer several views to guide us now and in the future.

Great world powers have always exercised forceful influence as they see fit, and we should expect nothing less from Russia. Imagine if the USA was a land mass extending from Boston to Honolulu. That’s Russia.

But Russia has tough ocean access, bottled-up at most points. On their northwest, the Bay of Finland leads to the Baltic Sea, then westerly to the North Sea. To their north lie very cold seas: Barents, Kara and Laptev. To their northeast, nine time zones from Moscow, is the Bering Sea.

It is only via the Black Sea and through the narrows of the Bosporus and Dardanelles that Russia can access the Mediterranean Sea, proceeding through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Atlantic.

Their only warm water port of consequence is in the Crimea.

Attempting to deny Russia the rights to its port facility lease in the Crimea would be like trying to deny the USA its lease rights in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Neither power will stand for it. We must accept that Russian power will maintain their naval presence at Sevastopol at all costs and allow them to do so.

That said, what becomes of Ukraine? In reality the answer will be whatever Russia permits, just as there can be little doubt that Cuba will continue to be whatever the USA permits. Big powers get their way in their proximity sphere of influence.

As DuWayne says, “Why now, why Crimea, why Russian and Putin?” The Ukrainians have an internal schism that threatens Russia’s warm water naval port. Russia has a tough guy as its leader, unafraid to act decisively as Paul described. Therefore, the current crisis arises.

Our course of action will be wisely limited to joining with our NATO allies and other countries (the United Nations, if possible) in condemning Russia and imposing economic sanctions if Russia tramples the Ukrainians themselves. This means throwing cold water on U.S. politicians beating their military action drums. That, for certain, would go very poorly for us.