Obama Warns Russia on Ukraine Intervention, Silent on Cuban Intervention in Venezuela

Monday, March 3, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama has rightfully warned Russian leader Vladimir Putin against military intervention in Ukraine.

The question remains whether Putin will heed Obama's warning after so many unconditionally extended hands; inconsequential breached "red lines"; and unilateral concessions to tyrants around the world.

Let's hope so, but it's not clear.

Unfortunately, in dealing with tyrannical leaders, our policymakers sometimes forget how concessions -- or even apparent concessions -- are interpreted as acts of weakness that embolden misbehavior.

The "nuances" of our policies are lost on them, for these tyrants aren't reasonable, peace-loving actors -- they're anti-American megalomaniacs, obsessed with absolute power.

For example, extending permanent normal trade relations ("PNTR") to Russia (with the help of Congressional Republicans) in December 2012, while Putin was enabling a genocide in Syria, showed him the fickleness of our priorities. This would later come to bear in his giving U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden refuge and protecting Assad after he breached Obama's chemical weapons "red line."

(This is also a reminder of why the Chamber of Commerce should not formulate U.S. foreign policy.)

Similarly, this was the problem with easing travel sanctions for "people-to-people" trips to Cuba in January 2011, while the Castros hold a U.S. hostage and increase repression against their own people. This untimely decision showed the Castros that there are no consequences to misdeeds -- hence the illegal trafficking of weapons to North Korea, welcoming Russian military ships to Cuba and committing acts of violence against the Venezuelan people.

Yet, in contrast to Russia's intervention in Ukraine, the Obama Administration remains silent regarding Cuba's ongoing intervention in Venezuela.

Perhaps Obama should borrow from his statement on Ukraine, and issue a similar warning to Cuba's regime:

"Over the last several days, the United States has been responding to events as they unfold in Ukraine (Venezuela). Throughout this crisis, we have been very clear about one fundamental principle: The Ukrainian (Venezuelan) people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future... We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation (Cuba) inside of Ukraine (Venezuela)... It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian (Venezuelan) people... The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine (Venezuela)."

The Venezuelan people deserve no less.