I am stuck on the second sentence here, on a piece about the US, Russia and the Crimea by Vali R. Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Let's take it from the top:
Crimea, a Pyrrhic Victory?
WASHINGTON — However the Ukraine crisis ends, it is now clear that Russia is not the partner America has expected. Both countries have crossed a Rubicon, and there is no going back.
"Both countries have crossed a Rubicon, and there is no going back"?!? Uh huh. What's next - There Is No Alternative and there is nothing else to be done, either? We have reached a turning point which calls for a change in direction?
C'mon, crossing the Rubicon means that there is no going back. Let's verify that and doublecheck it with Wikipedia:
The idiom "Crossing the Rubicon" means to pass a point of no return, and refers to Julius Caesar's army's crossing of the river in 49 BC, which was considered an act of insurrection. ... The river is perhaps most known as the place where Julius Caesar uttered the famous phrase "alea iacta est" – the die is cast.
I know you are wondering - with the phrase "the die is cast", was Caesar referring to the throw of a dice in a game such as backgammon (where it is bad form to try and catch them out of mid-air, so once they are thrown you live with the consequences), or was he alluding to molds and molten metal? [And what did he really say, anyway?]
The experts say that he had gambling in mind, which is especially appropriate since the whole notion of leading his army against Rome was a gamble.
Back to the Crimea, I haven't read far enough to see whether it is Russia or the US that is experiencing a Pyrhhic victory. Or maybe the author's point is that we already know that whoever "wins" will still lose a lot. Still, we have two quick allusions to Roman wars so that is something.
I suggest a rewrite along the lines of "Into the Valley of Death rode the hopes of six hundred diplomats, which then died". Redundancy and a Crimea reference!
OK, THIS STUNS ME: I know I will never be a dean of anything after reading this:
But to change Mr. Putin’s strategic calculus, America must expose his hubris and convince him of the high cost to Russia of his foreign policy.
First, we must counter his overconfidence in the growing dependence of Europe and Asia on Russia’s vast energy reserves. Europe has invested its future in natural gas, which Russia alone can provide at prices and quantities that can keep European economies competitive. But the United States can rewrite its laws to allow energy exports and invest in liquefied natural gas terminals for ships carrying the fuel to Europe. America’s gas would be more expensive than Russia’s, but the mere fact of an alternative would sap Russia’s leverage to blackmail Europe with threats of price rises or cutoffs.
After Russia, Iran has the world’s second-largest gas reserves, and it, too, might compete with Russia to supply Europe and Asia. Mr. Putin understands this; in 2007, he went to Iran offering to temper the international pressures on that country, to give Iran an incentive to shun two proposed pipeline projects pointing toward Europe. Russia has since offered financial support for pipelines to Armenia and Pakistan, as an alternative. The last thing Mr. Putin wants for Iran is an end to its isolation from the Western economies.
Indeed, an Iran in conflict with the West has been a strategic godsend to him. So long as Iran’s rich gas reserves remain off limits to Europe, Russia can hold the Continent hostage. Meanwhile, he can barter with the West for concessions to Russia’s own interests, in exchange for his collaboration on matters like Iran’s nuclear program.
The West has to change that equation, and use Iran to its advantage instead. The merest hint that Iranian gas might soon flow to Europe and Asia would begin to do that. And if nuclear talks succeeded in bringing Iran fully back into the global economy, Russia’s hold on Europe would be a thing of the past.
So we should segue from Russia holding Europe hostage to Iran holding them hostage? And we should expect Putin to continue to hold our coats while we reason with Iran?
Dare we fret about an alternative scenario in which Obama's efforts to isolate Iran completely collapse due to Russian support for Iran and Europeans being Europeans, after which the Middle Eastern dominoes go nuclear?
From where I sit Obama is counting on Putin to bail him out with both Syria and Iran. And this gives us leverage?
This is addressed a bit later:
From the start, Russia saw the Syrian uprising as a black-and-white choice between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and a takeover by Sunni Islamic extremists, and put its bets on Mr. Assad’s butchery. That has won it few other friends in the Middle East, but until now, American acceptance of Russia as a partner has protected it from much damage to its relationships in the region. America must free its Syria policy from the drag of its Russian anchor.
The deal brokered by Moscow to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons was an achievement, but it came at the cost of legitimating Russia’s position on Syria. In reality, Russia has been no help in finding a political solution that would end the killing there. It has no intention of pushing Mr. Assad into a deal. And after Ukraine, it should come as no surprise if Syria starts to backtrack on its chemical weapons promises.
The United States should declare an end to its partnership with Russia on Syria, escalate diplomatic and military pressure on Mr. Assad and seek a diplomatic solution on its own. There is precedent for doing without Russia; NATO did so in Kosovo.
Oh, yes, that's right - Obama should promptly switch to Plan B C D on Syria; the Russian involvement on chemical weapons was really just meant to throw Putin a bone and had nothing to do with Kerry and Obama being lost on the world stage.
His Big Finish:
For too long, America has played down its difficulties with Russia. But Russia now poses a clear and present strategic challenge to the United States that is at least on par with any from Iran or China. American foreign policy needs to accept the challenge and pivot to Russia.