Obama’s actions are laughable but not really funny. His sanctions against individual Russians does not serve as a deterrent in stopping Russian aggression. Putin has mocked Obama over his feeble attempt to stop the Russian takeover of the Crimea.
If anything, Obama has encouraged Putin to become aggressive. History has demonstrated that economic sanctions take a long time to take effect and generally don’t work. There are many examples of diplomacy and economic sanctions but I’ll cite one example that parallels Putin’s grab of the Crimea.
In 1936, Hitler made it clear that he was rearming Germany. (Putin has increased the Russian military budget by 400% as we cut our military.) He also made it clear that he intended to regain the territory lost by Germany as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. (Putin said when he entered office that he wants Russia to new Soviet Union.) Hitler was aware that when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935 that the League of Nations imposed economic sanctions. (Sanctions have not stopped Iran from nuclear power with the help of Russia.) The sanctions had no major impact on either nation because there were League members who continued to trade with the aggressors. (Saddam Hussein got around the sanctions on Iraq with the help of members of the UN.) It was a clear demonstration of the futility of diplomacy to stop war.
In 1936 Germany ordered the German Army to march into the Rhineland. The Rhineland was given to France as a form of reparation for the destruction suffered by France during World War I because it contained the coal rich Saar Basin. So France used the coal to pay for the reconstruction of France.
Hitler didn’t mince words about the need for Germany to reclaim the Rhineland. The German Army was ordered to march in and take the Rhineland. It was a bold move because at that time France was actually more powerful than Germany militarily. (Russia is in the process of rebuilding its military.) But France backed down and withdrew its forces from the Rhineland allowing the Germans to march in unopposed. Not a shot was fired. (Obama’s response to the invasion of the Crimea was to impose sanctions on individual Russians. It was a weak and naïve. It was an ineffective response to the invasion of a sovereign nation.)
Later it was revealed that the German Army units were told by Hitler to retreat if the French resisted. Having faced down the most powerful army in Europe only emboldened Hitler. It is one of the “what ifs” of history. It may have made Hitler less aggressive. Even Mussolini was against Hitler at this point in history. Historians wondered how history may have been altered if France and its allies showed some backbone at this crucial time. We will never know. (Military experts said Obama could have put missiles into Poland and the Czech Republic, start to export oil and natural gas to Europe to wean off of dependency on Russian oil and gas and supplied the Ukrainian military with arms.)
What we do know from history is that weakness, perceived or real, is a green light for aggression that often leads to war. It happened in the 1930’s and it is happening now. Putin is trying to regain the old Soviet Union by gradually taking over what Russia lost as a result of the dismantling of the USSR. He will continue his aggression until he is stopped by force. Obama’s actions constitute modern day appeasement. It did not work in the 1930’s and it will not work today.