From what is unfolding in Ukraine, it looks like the United States has become a bit “soft” in responding to a crisis that can potentially become a full-scale armed conflict anytime.
From the time Russia positioned 40,000 troops and war equipment along the border it shares with Ukraine, the response of the US has been more token-like, with 200 US troops sent to Poland and a squadron of F-16 jets sent to the Balkans.
This type of response is sheepish compared to the Kennedy administration’s naval blockade against Soviet warships during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. Of course, Ukraine is very far from the United States, while Cuba is just a vigorous swim away from Florida state. And that time was the height of the Cold War between the so-called Free World and the so-called Soviet Empire.
Although it is understandable that risking a war with Russia is totally scary for the whole world given its nuclear possibilities (Ukraine, when it was part of the Soviet Union was one of the Russian bloc’s nuke-bomb arsenals) the US and its NATO European allies could have pushed more punitive sanctions against Russia if only to show that they have the resolve to protect their allies from regional bullies. But the sanctions so far slapped by the US and its allies on Russia have been less than dramatic, with the economy of Russia likely to experience only a dent over the short term.
This is because the Europeans themselves don’t want full-scale hostilities to threaten their gas and energy supplies from Russia. The United States, having economic problems of its own and looking to profitable trade deals with Russia, does not really want to escalate the conflict. That is why it has been observed that President Barack Obama has deliberately chosen to subject Russia to “ineffective sanctions.”
Thus when President Obama visited Asia last week, there were doubts if the US would have the resolve to show Asia’s bully, China, to stop its aggression against the Philippines. Mr. Obama sounded very convincing when he was in Japan, where he said that the US forces will fight alongside their Japanese counterparts in case armed conflict erupts over Japan’s Senkaku islands in the East China Sea that China also claims.
And when he visited the Philippines, he said “Our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad.”
While Obama should be admired for making strong statements for Japan and the Philippines, we Filipinos should find a way to raise our defense capabilities and be able to stave off Chinese moves to take over our territories. We must not forget that the People’s Republic has successfully taken over some of our shoals and reefs the past decade, defeating us in the small skirmishes that broke out because of these Chinese invasions.
An aside about pro-China commentators
And we wonder why some Filipino commentators, sounding like agents of the Chinese military and members of Beijing’s propaganda machinery, refer to those shoals, reefs and islets disdainfully as if we Filipinos have NO right to defend our ownership of them and even seem to be chastising our government for daring to defend our sovereignty against all-powerful China. Are these people receiving money from the Chinese embassy? Or is their allegiance to the People’s Republic and not to our own impoverished, weak and badly governed Republic of the Philippines?
Now, back to our topic of whether the US can be counted on: We must find a way to raise the money to buy submarine fleets, which is what our neighboring countries have been doing. Having submarines will make it more expensive for China to attack us.
We must modernize our military and also have more fighter planes. And we must have drone technology.
It is a fact that commercially, psychologically, culturally, ideologically, militarily and physically the USA is the closest country to us.
Under the new agreement reached with the United States and based on declarations made by President Obama and other American officials, the US will henceforth aid us more substantially. Well and good. We must do everything, diplomatically and people-to-people-wise, to make the Americans part with more of their money to assist us in our military and economic strengthening.
We must make use of the presence of at least one million OFWs and another one million Filipino-American families in the United States to lobby with American officials and lawmakers–of the federal and state governments–to become more emotionally partial to the Philippines and to us Filipinos.
In addition, we must also be effective enough to make deals with other friendly countries, like France and India, which can help supply us with more weapons and supplies–such as jet planes and helicopters, for example.
To the question “Can the US be really counted on to be the world’s policeman or the defender of democracy in a worst case scenario, like an armed conflict?” we must hope and pray that the answer is YES. It is, after all, the only country that still has the military might to back up its ideological conviction that democracy and peace should reign in this world.
We believe America can be counted on to make the initial steps. But it will not be able to afford doing the job alone.
What we Filipinos and the people of the US’s other small-country allies must do is be ready to support it. We must join it in ventures like the Bush Administration’s “Coalition of the Willing.”