Yesterday the U.K. Telegraph reported that there was a very tense exchange between Vladimir Putin and David Cameron at the G20 summit.
The article reports:
The Russian president is reportedly planning to leave the summit early on Sunday and miss its official lunch in response to repeated criticism from western leaders.
The move comes after Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister, threatened to “shirt front” Mr Putin – a form of physical confrontation. Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, told Mr Putin: “I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I’ll only have one thing to say to you – get out of the Ukraine.”
Mr Cameron told Mr Putin that he is at a “crossroads” and could face further sanctions after the pair held “robust” discussions on Ukraine.
During a tense 50 minute meeting Mr Cameron warned that Russia is risking its relations with the West and must end its support for Russian separatists.
Let’s remember how we got here. In March of this year the U.K. Daily Mail reported:
As a U.S. senator, Barack Obama won $48 million in federal funding to help Ukraine destroy thousands of tons of guns and ammunition – weapons which are now unavailable to the Ukrainian army as it faces down Russian President Vladimir Putin during his invasion of Crimea.
In August 2005, just seven months after his swearing-in, Obama traveled to Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine with then-Indiana Republican Senator Dick Lugar, touring a conventional weapons site.
The two met in Kiev with President Victor Yushchenko, making the case that an existing Cooperative Threat Reduction Program covering the destruction of nuclear weapons should be expanded to include artillery, small arms, anti-aircraft weapons, and conventional ammunition of all kinds.
After a stopover in London, the senators returned to Washington and declared that the U.S. should devote funds to speed up the destruction of more than 400,000 small arms, 1,000 anti-aircraft missiles, and more than 15,000 tons of ammunition.
It gets worse. In March of 2014, Newsweek Magazine reminded us:
A deal was signed on February 5, 1994, by Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, John Major and Leonid Kuchma—the then-leaders of the United States, Russia, United Kingdom and Ukraine—guaranteeing the security of Ukraine in exchange for the return of its ICBMs to Moscow’s control. The last SS-24 missiles moved from Ukrainian territory in June 1996, leaving Kiev defenseless against its nuclear-armed neighbor.
That deal, known as the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, was not a formal treaty but a diplomatic memorandum of understanding. Still, the terms couldn’t be clearer: Russia, the U.S. and U.K. agreed “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine…reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine.”
I am not convinced that any of the countries involved have lived up to that agreement. America has done very little to ensure the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine (we gave up Crimea very easily, and it is very rarely spoken of in the news).
However, there is good news in this–as the price of oil falls, the economy of Russia will also spiral downward. If America begins sending natural gas to Europe, Russia will lose part of the bullying tactics they have employed in the region. Also, just to make it even more interesting, as the price of oil falls, Venezuela will also continue its economic spiral downward. The falling price of oil will also impact some of the despots in the Middle East that have had a strangle hold on American diplomacy for generations.
American energy independence is important as a security matter, but it is also very important as a component of American foreign policy. As the price of oil falls, we will begin to see the impact of that decrease in international politics.