~Speaking of "secession", it is possible to have an honest difference of opinion about Moscow's claims upon the Crimea, which was transferred from Russia to the Ukraine in 1954 as little more than a bit of internal housekeeping within the Soviet Union. But it is not possible if one is the Government of the United States or the United Kingdom. London, Washington and Moscow signed something called "the Budapest Agreement" in 1994, guaranteeing Ukraine's sovereignty in return for the newly independent nation giving up its nuclear weapons. By "guaranteeing", I mean that Russia agreed to respect Ukraine's sovereignty, and Britain and America committed themselves to seeing that Russia did so. It was shortly after the USSR went out of business and in the heyday of all that talk about the new "unipolar" world. The agreement wasn't a big news story at the time, and one can argue that there was no reason for London or Washington to get mixed up in the redefined relationships of a hastily deSovietized empire. But the fact is they did sign it, and great powers should not give their word unless they intend to keep their word.
They have now broken it, as Vladimir Putin knew they would. In other words, he went into the Ukraine and snaffled out the Crimea not in vague defiance of "international law" but in an explicit up-yours to the US and UK. Because he rightly calculated that, even when a "red line" is in writing, Obama will be content to let it fade to a woozy blurry pastel. Michael Rubin sees this as part of a pattern of behavior:
That Budapest Memorandum, it turns out, has become meaningless. So too were American promises to Georgia in 2008. And American promises to Poland and the Czech Republic with regard to missile defense.
On page 176 of America Alone (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available through the SteynOnline bookstore, he pleads with an eye to the upcoming trial of the century), I quote the then Prime Minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong, on a visit to Washington:
The central issue is America's credibility and will to prevail.
And I add:
The Prime Minister of Singapore apparently understands that more clearly than many Americans.
Even a superpower has only so much credibility to bleed. Paul Mirengoff writes:
Obama's squandering of American credibility has been so persistent and multi-faceted that it becomes difficult to resist concluding that he has intended to impair his successors' ability to exert influence in foreign affairs.
Even if an incoming president insisted that this time it would be different, why would any prudent foreign leader trust him? As I put it last year:
Some years ago, I heard that great scholar of Islam, Bernard Lewis, caution that America risked being seen as harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend. The Obama Administration seems to have raised the thought to the level of doctrine.
From Afghanistan to Egypt to Poland to Ukraine, why would any American ally ever again believe the United States Government? And, when you look at what Putin did to the Budapest Agreement, why would you expect either Syria or Iran to honor their own agreements with the US? America is a dying power, treacherous as a friend, and not just harmless but extremely accommodating as an enemy.