Eugene Robinson Live

Mar 04, 2014

Chat with Post columnist Eugene Robinson about his latest columns and political news.

Hi, everyone, and welcome to a truncated (unfortunately) version of our weekly chat. I'm sorry but I can only stay for about a half-hour today; I'll try to make it up next time. Two big stories today: Ukraine and the budget. Today's column notes that the United States lacks credibility in telling Vladimir Putin not to go around invading sovereign nations, given our long and rich history of doing the same. I'm not taking Putin's side, just reminding everyone of the recent unpleasantness in Iraq. For starters. On the budget front, the president has sent Congress his real priorities, undiluted by what he thinks Republicans might swallow. It should make for an interesting debate. Let's get started.

Is the current course of action in Russia the result of the Syrian red-line? The United States told Syria there was a red-line, it was non-existent and now Russia knows we won't do anything but "talk"

Of course not. Two reasons: First, at this point no one can doubt President Obama's willingness to use military force. Second, please tell me what any president could do to force Russia out of Crimea. When Russia sent troops to invade Georgia, George W. Bush did nothing but "talk." The United States can push most countries around. Russia, however, not included.

Eugene, you were quick to mock and insult Romney & Palin when suggesting Russia was a country of concern during the previous election. Will you care to comment on Russia doing exactly what Pallin said would happen?

I don't believe Imocked romney for that. I certainly did mock Palin for her insane locution about "when Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America" etc. I stand by that mockery.

Would this be akin to a regime change in Cuba where we may send our military to protect our interests in Guantanamo bay? From what I have read, Putin seemed justified to protect Russia's interest until diplomacy (between Russia and Ukraine) won over.

I wouldn't go so far as to say Putin is justified. Russia does have an agreed right to the naval base, but Putin seems to have invented a pretext to assert effective Russian control over Crimea. I just pointed out in my column that he's not the only leader to have invented a pretext for an invasion. 

I wonder if everyone else laughed as loud as I did when John Kerry made is 21st century remarks. Seriously, though, how can anyone consider military action against Russia? Invading a comparatively miniscule, backwards country with no air support (Iraq) resulted in a quagmire that took a decade to escape and cost thousdands of American and Allied lives. Afghanistan still stumbles on. How much better result could anyone expect from military action against a modern superpowerled led by someone hwo has widespread domestic support? Bleaks as the future looks now, it will be even bleaker if American hotheads prevail.

Even the hotheads realize that there will not be war with Russia. Period. Because it could escalate into global annihilation. The hotheads are talking tough, but under their breath they are careful to mutter, "Of course, there's no military option." And the Europeans, who have significant economic relationships with Russia, are cool to the idea of sanctions -- even the Brits don't much like the idea, to say nothing of the Germans. So exactly what do the hotheads propose, beyond getting themselves on television?

Our wars last decade were in response to the fact that bona fide large-scale terrorism had reached our shores. The intelligence about WMD's in Iraq was faulty, but there Saddam was still a terrorist enabler. And the game plans (however poorly they were carried out) were to remove the terrorist threats, install democracies and then get out. Do you see Putin wanting to get out of Ukraine? Ever?

When you say "Saddam was still a terrorist enabler" what are you talking about? We know that he had nothing to do with 9/11. Are you aware of some other terrorist attack against the United States that you can blame him for? And as for Putin and Ukraine, I think he would be delighted to "install" a friendly government and then leave.

Invading another country on a madeup charge is BAD when the Russians do it (Ukraine) but GOOD when we do (Iraq), right?


I don't consider myself an automatically reactive Anti-Obama Republican, I supported his closing of the embassies when most R's ripped him, and I hate the Birther Movement. That being said, I feel like the President does appear weak with the Ukraine situation. Mainly because he appears to be at a loss of what to do. Is this assessment to harsh in your opinion?

Anyone taking that position should propose a course of action. What would you have him do? I'm not hearing any concrete plan from the president's critics. Are you?

And how do you think the whole thing will end -- by splitting Ukraine?

Russia has a veto at the Security Council, so nothing will come from that body. My guess is that Putin wants effective control over Crimea, and perhaps formal control, but that he isn't eager to split the rest of the country between east and west. If the government in Kiev were to join NATO, though, I'm not sure what Putin would do. A split would be more attractive to him, I think.

I agree I don't hear many solutions from the presidents critics, but we only have one president, he won the election, the worlds problems are now his problems, not John Boehner's.

Right. But criticism is empty if it's just "I don't like the situation." Nobody likes it. But what would critics do about it? If they can't say what's wrong with the way President Obama is handling the crisis, why should anyone pay them the slightest bit of attention?

Your column today begs the question - do smaller states living in the shadows of their more powerful neighbours have to just 'suck it up' when they are invaded ? If Russia can send its troops into Ukarine on the filmsiest of excuses, can China do the same to Indonesia or the Philipinnes ( where there are many of Chinese descent who are discriminated ) or India to Nepal ( where there are many of Indian descent ) ?

I refer you to the history of Latin America and its relationship with the powerful neighbor to the north. 


Folks, I'm really sorry but I've got to run. Wish I could stay. See you next week!

In This Chat
Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards.
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