Charles Krauthammer presents his plan for how to “stop — or slow — Putin.” I agree with all of the items on Krauthammer’s list. However, I’m pretty sure they won’t stop Putin and they may not slow him much.
My idea is to punish Putin by doing what we should have done long ago — attacking his Middle East client state, Syria. It’s the only non-outlandish action we can take that, after five feckless years, would demonstrate our seriousness to Putin
You will recall that President Obama was planning to attack Syria by air when Putin himself intervened. The Russian strongman offered Obama his services in assisting with the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons program. Obama foolishly accepted them.
Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?
Syria has not complied with the benchmarks for dismantlement and Russia has done nothing to force, or even encourage them, to do so. With the U.S. now at loggerheads with Putin, however ineffectually, Putin certainly will not push Syria into compliance.
Thus, the stated justification — actually the fig leaf — for not attacking Syria no longer exists. The decision should now rest on the merits.
The merits support an attack. Assad, with the help of Hezbollah and Iran, is entrenching himself in power and butchering his people. John Kerry’s negotiations have been entirely unproductive for the very good reason that Assad is winning and so has no reason to make concessions.
An injection of U.S. air power — and not John Kerry’s “unbelievably small” one — might well change the calculus. If so, we would kill two birds with one stone. We would deal a set back to Putin’s ally, thereby demonstrating that there’s an immediate geo-political price to be paid for Russian aggression. And we would improve the situation in Syria by weakening its bloodthirsty, Iranian-allied dictator and increasing the chances of a negotiated settlement.
I’m sure that President Obama isn’t even considering this option; nor would Republicans be likely to favor it. We are a passive nation now, as Putin well understands. But attacking Syria was the correct of action last year and it’s more obviously correct now.