Putin and Netanyahu on the brink

Russia has close to 40,000 troops massed near its border with Ukraine, has sent goon squads into Ukraine to stir up instability and create false pretexts for attacking and is now trying to drive Ukraine into bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the Middle East peace negotiations are hanging by a thread and Secretary of State John Kerry has correctly criticized the latest round of Israeli settlement activity.

The upcoming negotiations over Ukraine between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union may be the last hope for avoiding a new Cold War initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin underestimates the resolve of President Obama and the EU. If there is any more aggressive action I fully expect full sanctions against Russia to be announced and enforced that would include oil, gas, banking, minerals and military sales.

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These sanctions, if instituted, would moderately hurt the European and American economies but would devastate the Russian economy. My hope is that this can be avoided, and if Putin understands the consequences to his people of escalated sanctions, and pulls back from his aggressive actions, it will be.

Similarly, I applaud the efforts of Kerry to seek a Mideast peace and to also seek, despite opposition from some on the right, a nuclear agreement with Iran. Regarding Israel and the Palestinians, there must be a freeze on Israeli settlement activity, which should then be accompanied by the Palestinians putting on hold their applications to join various international organizations if serious negotiations resume.

Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are on the brink. Putin should not underestimate the resolve of the United States and the EU, and Netanyahu should understand that Kerry has made it clear that he cannot continue indefinitely his heroic efforts for peace if the parties — including Israel — do not initiate steps for peace that have been lacking.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at brentbbi@webtv.net.