Originally Published: April 10, 2014 6 a.m.
While the world awaits word of exactly where the missing Malaysian airplane ended up, the controversy it unseated from the headlines has become like a scene from the Wizard of Oz. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," the Wizard told Dorothy and her friends.
The issue that was making the most international headlines alongside MH370's disappearance was that of Russia and, ultimately, Ukraine's vote to join its former mother country. The big concern there has been the Russian troops involved and the Russian annexation.
This week, data from classified and commercial satellite imagery shows as many as 40,000 Russian troops are on the border with eastern Ukraine, according to the Associated Press. NATO and the United States have warned Russia against a major troop buildup.
Russia's response? "No reason to worry," the Wizard, err ... Vladimir Putin's Foreign Ministry said.
The sad part in all of this is the flaunting of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, which guaranteed countries such as Ukraine would not suffer from threats and granted immunity from use of force. That plays down the chessboard well beyond the Crimean Peninsula now, affecting non-proliferation talks and Middle East peace concerns.
Of even greater concern is what U.S. officials are doing about it. Asked if he considered the threat of a Russian advance into Ukraine more likely now than last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told CNN: "We are always vigilant. We are always looking at the options that we need to take."
The logical thought to follow that is, "There's nothing we can do," for which retaliation is off the table, sources in Washington are saying.
Unfortunately, those voices are playing down our role on the world stage; a powerhouse can show strength without firing a single bullet or missile. We forget that democracy scares the likes of China and Russia.
Knowing that, consider which part President Obama would play in the Wizard of Oz: would it be Toto pulling back the curtain, the Scarecrow who cannot stand up, the Tin Man crying until frozen ... or the Cowardly Lion whose roar was his only asset?
The apologizer-in-chief has a choice to make.