We are about a week removed from President Obama’s State of the Union Address, 2015 edition. The Address begins:
We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.
But tonight, we turn the page.
…right back to where we started. Yemen’s president recently resigned amid political turmoil. Russia and separatists in Donetsk are causing great unrest in Ukraine. Each actor threatens to destabilize their respective regions. Russia’s aggression is particularly puzzling given its weak economy and faltering currency (see previous post), but Russia does maintain a military advantage, and if there is a time to attack, the dead of winter seems like an optimal time. I suppose Putin is hiding its economic weakness by seizing on its military strengths. Even so, the price of oil in the short-run will likely remain low and, by extension, squeeze the Russian economy even further. Assuming Ukraine can survive the winter, European and American sanctions and diplomatic pressure can and should ease the crisis come spring.
In short, while President Obama’s diplomacy is not fully in tatters (Iran still does not have an atomic bomb, Cuba came as a complete but thoroughly satisfying surprise, and Guantamo is finally coming to an end), much leaves to be desired. The world, fifteen years later, can still be a scary place.