To be clear: Putin is a tyrant, and I condemn him. I condemn Russia’s military actions against Ukraine, and I support the people of Ukraine in being free and determining their own government. (Should it still be called the Ukraine, in English? Some say no.)
Having said that: As human beings, Obama and Kerry tend to be hypocrites who overplay their hands. And they strike me as surprised that Putin has offered military resistance to their wishes in the Ukraine crisis. Which raises the question: What are their real wishes? Did U.S. agencies organize the most recent Ukrainian revolution?
If so, the U.S. security apparatus would have motive in plenty. Russia supplies Europe’s oil and gas via pipelines that go through Ukraine. Putting those pipelines under control of an anti-Putin, anti-Russia government would be payback for a lot of Russian moves, not limited to Russia’s harboring of Edward Snowden (of the NSA surveillance revelations).
As to evidence of U.S. meddling: first, the Voice of Russia claims to have revelations about it, including a story that Ukrainian protestors had been murdered by their new government as a ‘false flag’ operation to foment the revolution. But Voice of Russia isn’t good enough. After all, the KGB (Putin’s first career) specialized in putting out disinformation. Is there other evidence?
In February, the Financial Times leaked a phone conversation allegedly between US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland and the US envoy to Ukraine (Geoffrey Pyatt) wherein they explicitly plan who will be in Ukraine’s next government. The ZH link provides audio; the Nuland voice famously says “F**k the EU”, near the end.
That’s still not hard evidence, because Nuland/Pyatt might have been fantasizing or delusional about the extent of their influence. Overall, although motive abounds for the U.S. to have brought about the Ukraine revolution, the evidence for it is still weak.
Regardless of the answer here, my feelings are mixed. It would be nifty if President Obama really cared about promoting freedom in Ukraine and/or U.S. interests, especially after he failed to support them in Iran’s aborted Green revolution of 2009-10. On the other hand, I’m against murdering protestors; and the U.S. shouldn’t be making trouble on Russia’s doorstep without a very compelling U.S. security interest. It would be just like Obama to overplay his hand with something like that. Containing Putin is one thing; aggressive (and losing) games of brinksmanship with Putin are another.
Speaking of the U.S. possibly losing the game: Russia is keeping up the the financial threats I mentioned a few days ago. Russia’s foreign minister, Lavrov, affirms that sanctions would “hit the U.S. like a boomerang”. And yes, China is siding with Russia against Obama’s threat of sanctions (so China may join Russia in dumping U.S. Treasury bonds). FWIW, India also seems to lean toward Russia. It is not at all clear that, in a diplomatic contest between Obama and Putin, Putin would be the one who ends up isolated.