Obama Assailed for Russia Showdown Moves; Pillar says “Learn from Putin”

President Barack Obama continues to come under a torrent of attacks for his provocations for world war against Russia. Yesterday, international attorney John Whitbeck nailed Obama in a widely circulated commentary, in which he systematically demonstrated that the Russian actions in Crimea were fully within both the spirit and letter of international law.

Whitbeck praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech earlier in the week, in which he clearly spelled out the Russian mindset and worldview, including his detailed treatment of the Kosovo precedent upon which he based the re-annexation of Crimea after a series of legally mandated steps had been taken.

Whitbeck ended his carefully crafted legal assessment with an historical forecast: “When, in a calmer atmosphere some years hence, ‘realist’ students of statecraft look back at the events of the past month regarding Ukraine and Crimea, I expect that Vladimir Putin will earn an A+ for intelligence, restraint and effectiveness. I also suspect that the current vilification, demonization and even ‘Hitlerization’ of Putin by less intelligent, restrained and effective politicians in the West is motivated in no small part by jealousy and personal embarrassment.”

William Pfaff, who writes regularly for the International Herald Tribune, joined the Obama critics in an op ed headlined “New Cold War Hysteria,” in which he also cited the Putin speech and Putin’s public declaration that he has “no further demands to make on Ukraine.” Pfaff contrasted Putin’s straightforward approach to that of Obama, whom Pfaff described as “out of touch, protesting violation of international law when the world knows the U.S. is the country that ignores it the most.”

Paul Pillar: Learn from Putin About International Law

Paul Pillar, a long-time anti-Cheney leader of the U.S. intelligence community, now retired, finally addressed the so-called Ukraine crisis in two articles in “The National Interest,” for which he regularly writes.

The second, dated March 19, addresses what Americans can learn from Putin’s March 18 speech to the Russian legislature and other notables. Although Pillar makes light of some aspects of what Putin said there, he quotes in full the latter’s indictment of the U.S. and friends for their disregard of international law:

“Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle ‘If you are not with us, you are against us.’ To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organizations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.”

Pillar concludes, “This is the ugly, outward-facing side of American exceptionalism. Americans should not need Vladimir Putin to tell us how it looks, but now that he has, we may as well try to learn something about what he is addressing.”

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