WHAT THE MIDDLE EAST HAS AT STAKE IN CRIMEA

How the current conflict over the aggressive actions of Russia in the Ukrainian crisis affect the Middle East remains a serious issue. While Israel has maintained a cordial relationship with Russia, it has also stayed out of the fray over the situation in the Crimean Peninsula. However, the entire Middle East might not be able to escape the conflict. The jury is still out.

The Obama administration and much of Europe are back peddling fast from any relationship with Putin and Russia. Currently, President Obama is focused on isolating Putin and cutting off his economic ties through the imposition of harsh sanctions. While pundits have been critical of Obama’s response as weak, many forget that these very actions brought Iran to the negotiating table. Sanctions are slow, but anything but ineffective. They certainly keep American soldiers off the battlefield while the screws are tightened.

At the same time, worsening relations between Washington and Moscow could have a negative impact on the Middle East. The hope of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians could be negative affected if Putin throws his weight behind the Palestinian Authority (PA). Moreover, the nuclear disarmament dialogue with Iran could also be harmed if Russia makes a radical move.

Is this possible? Sure.

America has completely backed away from any concern not to offend the Kremlin. The quest for an international consensus against Russia is now also reaching toward China’s participation. The Europeans are skittish about possible damage to their still fragile economic situation. At the same time, the United States maintains considerable stature and forcible situation in the region. Unless Putin backs away from his expansionist tastes, Washington has written him off as a partner in future agreements. Putin may be arrogant, but he is not stupid. Ultimately, he must recognize the price he is paying for returning to Cold War propaganda and maneuvers.

The new sanctions imposed this week hit at the pocketbook of Putin’s inner circle. Next in line is Mr. Putin’s billfold. While his global investments have not been easy to uncover, the government is feverishly pursuing them. The international rumor is that Putin has stockpiled investments that make him on of the richest world leaders. Recent media investigations suggest Putin has significant investment in Guvnor, the fourth-largest oil trader. Moreover, Putin has been tied to Sturgutneftegaz, another large oil company. You can bet the USA is running down all of these leads.

Is this worthwhile? Don’t forget Hitler’s grab of Europe began with a parallel situation in the controversial Sudetenland region after the end of World War I. Such expansionism cannot be tolerated. Let’s hope it doesn’t backfire in the Middle East.

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