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Does America understand Putin's aggression?

Published: Monday, March 17 2014 12:39 p.m. MDT

In this July 7, 2009 file photo, President Barack Obama meets with then- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will use their first meeting Monday June 18, 2012 since Putin returned to the top job to claim leverage on their twin needs: Obama needs Russia to help, or at least not hurt, U.S. foreign policy aims in the Mideast and Afghanistan. Putin needs the United States as a foil for his argument that Russia doesn’t get its due as a great power. (Haraz N. Ghanbari, Associated Press) In this July 7, 2009 file photo, President Barack Obama meets with then- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will use their first meeting Monday June 18, 2012 since Putin returned to the top job to claim leverage on their twin needs: Obama needs Russia to help, or at least not hurt, U.S. foreign policy aims in the Mideast and Afghanistan. Putin needs the United States as a foil for his argument that Russia doesn’t get its due as a great power. (Haraz N. Ghanbari, Associated Press)

The Obama administration on Monday “slapped economic sanctions on 11 high-level Russian government and Ukrainian officials and also laid the groundwork" to go after the Kremlin, the New York Post’s Geoff Earle reported.

“The sanctions are by far the most extensive effort aimed at Russia since the Cold War — although advanced warning that they would be coming failed to persuade Russia to change course,” Earle wrote.

The Ukrainian/Russian crisis is putting “Obama’s strategy of caution to the test,” according to The New York Times’ David E. Sanger.

Obama’s foreign policy strategy is now under tremendous pressure with the mayhem in Syria hastening and Russia poised to annex Crimea after the Sunday referendum in which voters overwhelmingly chose to join Russia, Sanger wrote.

“The White House was taken by surprise by Vladimir V. Putin’s decisions to invade Crimea” and adversaries of America are testing the limits of its power, according to Sanger.

“You can bet the Chinese are watching our every move” to see if the United States imposes biting sanctions and if the Russians figure out how to evade them, Sanger quoted a senior intelligence official as saying. “They want to know where the limits are, or if there are any.”

The problem, in part, is that America doesn’t understand Putin, according to Angela Stent, the director of Georgetown University's Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, writing in the Washington Post.

Stent made the case that although the Cold War is history, today’s Russia can, at times, look like the old Russia.

“So for the moment, let’s forget about resets,” wrote Stent. "Unless we effectively manage the current crisis and prevent it from becoming even more dangerous, it will become more difficult to concentrate on the concrete areas where Russia and the United States have overlapping interests: Iran, Syria, transit to and from Afghanistan, and the Arctic.”

Putin’s aggression is a big deal and one we have to have an answer to, according to The American Interest’s Walter Russell Mead.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry labeled the measures as a military invasion by Russia into Ukraine. “If that is what is happening, and the preponderance of evidence suggests that it is, Putin appears to be following the Adolf Hitler strategy manual pretty much to the letter,” wrote Mead.

Erik Raymond is experienced in national and international politics. He relocated from the Middle East where he was working on his second novel. He produces content for DeseretNews.com. You can reach him at: eraymond@deseretdigital.com @RaymondErik

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