Obama, Putin and the Russian Spring
Ukraine, and the Perils of Paper Tiger Foreign Policy
Obama may have no good options in Ukraine, but it's a crisis of his own making.
“[I]t is a maxim, founded upon the universal experience of mankind, that no nation is to be trusted farther than it is bound by its interest; and no prudent statesman or politician will venture to depart from it.” –George Washington (1778)
“Even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead,” claimed Obama. “And too many still are not working at all.” And that is the net result of the Obama “recovery strategy,” five years in.
That notwithstanding, Obama has been preoccupied with his National Security Council trying to look presidential in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. (Remember when Obama, before his un-vetted rise from “community organizer” to president, declared, “Wouldn’t it be great for the world with our president”?) Just two weeks after the Ukrainian people ejected corrupt Russian-puppet president Viktor Yanukovych, Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea and took control of its warm water ports in preparation for annexing the region. The occupation was a booming shot across the bow of the newly elected leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The message: We will shut off your gas supplies if you step out of line, just as we did in 2009.
Recall that, as Russian troops were amassing on the Ukrainian border, Obama insisted that the emerging Cold War chess competition with Russia is not “some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.” Then, as the Russians lined up to invade Crimea, Obama warned, “There will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.” Now that Russia has invaded Ukraine, the best Obama could do is make a lame reference to Putin’s violation of international law: “Putin, uh, seems to have, uh, uh, a different set of, uh, lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but, uh, I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.” (This logic is akin to Obama’s domestic gun-control notion that criminals will obey laws.) Obama phoned Putin and expressed his “deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and telling Putin that if they did not withdraw, “there will be consequences.” (Now that Obama has used his “phone” option, maybe now he can use his “pen” to send Putin a tough-love note.) Obama next reassured the world: “We’ve taken steps to reaffirm our commitment to the security and democracy of our allies in Eastern Europe and to support the people of Ukraine.” (Collective sighs of relief, I mean, rolls of eyes here.)
Putin has Obama in check.
In a mock Berlin Airlift effort to sustain Ukraine, Obama sent his Secretary of State John Kerry to Kiev with a briefcase full of $1 billion in unmarked American loan guarantees, while the EU and the International Monetary Fund pieced together an emergency aid package. They also canceled a G8 meeting scheduled in Sochi and threatened to boot Russia from the group altogether. On arrival, Kerry warned, “We are prepared to take further steps if Russia does not return its forces to the barracks.” I suspect Putin and company had a good laugh over that one.
Clearly, Obama’s recent claim that his Russian relations “reset button has worked” was another case of wishful thinking.
You remember when former SecState Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a giant “reset button” prop with “Peregruzka” stamped on the front. “We worked hard to get the right Russian word,” said Clinton. “Do you think we got it?” Lavrov replied, “No,” and informed her that “Peregruzka” didn’t translate “reset” but “overcharged.” That faux pas was a fitting metaphor for Obama’s reset.
Perhaps “overcharged” was the correct word, because this administration has short circuited every crisis foreign policy decision it has issued in the last five years. Fact is, Of course, some astute observers suggest that the reemergence of Russian authoritarianism is precisely the socialist reset Obama wanted.
For certain, Obama and his Leftist cadres, as with previous Democratic administrations of Clinton and Carter, refuse to accept that power doesn’t tolerate a vacuum, neither intrastate nor interstate. When a sovereign state like Ukraine has no protection from the expansionist ambitions of another more powerful state like Russia, because the latter is not constrained by concerns of reprisal and justice, the former is an easy mark.
Vladimir Putin, a hardened Communist KGB aggressor, who said famously that the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century was the disintegration of Russia’s Soviet empire, loses no sleep over empty words from the former “community organizer.” He knows that Obama is milquetoast putty, which he can shape into whatever he wants.
Recall if you will, Obama’s 2012 assurance to then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would surrender NATO’s plans for anti-ballistic missile defenses in Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria. Obama was caught on an open mike whispering to Medvedev, “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for [incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin] to give me space. This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”
Medvedev replied, “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.” He added, “I stand with you.”
This was conclusive evidence that the most significant national security threat we face is Obama himself, because he has ceded our security and interest to Russia as if he was Putin’s pocket puppy.
As for Obama’s Ukraine “options,” he has none.
Russia, having been provided a preview of all the cards we are holding by that traiterous darling-of-the-Left, Edward Snowden, has already taken measure of every U.S. response scenario. As former VP and SecDef Dick Cheney surmised, “When you’re Vladimir Putin and you decide your gonna send troops into Crimea you have to anticipate what the US will or won’t do. [The U.S. has] withdrawn from the Middle East and we are dramatically reducing our military capability. He’s raised doubts in the minds of our allies, they no longer trust us, and in the minds of our adversaries, the no longer fear us.” Of those defense cuts, Obama’s former SecDef Robert Gates notes, “It certainly sends the signal that we are not interested in protecting our global interests.”
In other words, Putin is free to do what he wants in Ukraine.
One primary reason Obama has no recourse is because Europe depends on Russian energy exports for 34% of its natural gas supply, and half of Russia’s NG exports flow through Ukrainian pipelines. Notably, Russia collects 52% of its government revenues from gas and oil sales.
Additionally, the Ukrainian economy has deep ties to Russia, and Ukrainians remember well that in 1933, Joseph Stalin turned off the Ukrainian supplies to engineer a famine, which starved more than 3.3 million Ukrainians to death in the first year alone.
Of course, the U.S. has enormous NG reserves and despite the fact our European allies have pleaded with Obama to approve exports so they would be less dependent on Russia, only six of 30 export requests have been approved. In order to appease his “global warming alarmist” base, Obama is putting up obstacles to fracking for NG, and is still stalling on the Keystone XL pipeline, thus keeping Russia’s market very profitable – undermining our national security in order to appease a political constituency. (For the record, one of the things Ronald Reagan did to collapse the Soviet economy was to convince OPEC to increase oil production and drive down the price of Russia’s oil exports.)
Putin and company are at least five moves ahead of Obama, as they were with the “deals” Putin brokered for him in Syria and Iran.
Putin’s hostile maneuvers in Crimea are a test, a probe of U.S. resolve – and will clearly cement Obama’s impotence by demonstrating he can do nothing to defend the 1994 treaty the U.S. and Russia signed affirming Ukraine’s sovereignty. His ineptitude will be in plain view of our adversaries – and allies – worldwide.
As House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) put it, “Putin is playing chess and we’re playing marbles. As you move down the list in Syria and the Ukraine and other areas, they’ve been running circles around us.”
In an editorial entitled “Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy,” The Washington Post’s editors, not known for their criticism of Obama, wrote: “For five years, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality.”
Notably, the same could be said of his domestic policies – Obama, the consummate narcissist, believes that because he thinks it, it must be reality for all.
The Post editors describe Obama’s fantasy foreign policy as “a world in which ‘the tide of war is receding’ and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces. Other leaders, in this vision, would behave rationally and in the interest of their people and the world. Invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances – these were things of the past.”
The editors conclude, “Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan – these still matter, much as we might wish they did not. While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding. In the long run, that’s harmful to U.S. national security, too.”
Sen. John McCain, a hardened freedom fighter who served our country with honor and dignity, was more to the point: “This is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy in which nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”
And speaking of McCain, in the 2008 presidential campaign, his running mate, Sarah Palin, criticized then-Senator Obama’s irresolute foreign policy just days ahead of the election, noting, “After the Russian army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence – the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s [Vladimir] Putin to invade Ukraine next.”
The former Alaska governor had a few words this week for those who scoffed at her back then: “Yes, I could see this one from Alaska.”
And it was in the final 2012 presidential debate when Obama ridiculed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for suggesting that Russia was a “geo-political” threat. Wagging his finger at Romney, Obama said, “A few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. You said Russia. … You said Russia. The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years. When it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s, and the economic policies of the 1920s.”
Romney rebutted Obama: “Russia, I indicated, is a geopolitical foe. … I have clear eyes on this. I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin…”
Of Romney’s assertion, John Kerry said at that time, “I think that candidate Romney has been breathtakingly off target, and naive and in fact wrong in his judgment about Russia when he said Russia is our number one [geopolitical] foe. I cannot think of any statement that frankly is more inappropriately threatening and simply wrong by any calculus than that.”
In fact, Romney was right, and it’s the foreign policy of Obama and Kerry which has been “breathtakingly off target … and simply wrong by any calculus.” Even Hillary Clinton now gets it: “Putin sits as the absolute authority now in Russia and it’s quite reminiscent of the kind of authority exercised in the past by Russian leaders, by the Czars and their successor communist leaders.”
Like The Washington Post, even the Leftist editors of the New Republic admitted that Romney was right and Obama dangerously wrong.
Obama said this week, “I think the world is largely united in recognizing that the steps Russia has taken are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, Ukraine’s territorial integrity, that they’re in violation of international law, they’re in violation of previous agreements Russia has made.”
What the world is “united in recognizing” is Obama’s serial foreign policy ineptitude. And his latest spin on Russia/Ukraine is that we have to show “some humility” in order to reach a resolution. For the record, Neville Chamberlain tried that approach with another tyrant back in 1938. It didn’t work then either. And, Hitler used the same “protection of our people” rationale for invading Poland that Putin used to invade Ukraine. Perhaps the similarities will end there.
Tragically, in just five years, Obama has effectively reversed most of the worldwide gains in peace and liberty that President Ronald Reagan seeded. Recall that President Reagan faced a far more dangerous national security threat in the Soviet Union than we face now in Russia, and he framed his foreign policy on peace through strength. In his first five years in office, he set the stage to bring the Soviets to their knees.
The cost of Obama’s foreign policy malfeasance, however, will be much greater than defense spending deficits, and will be paid in the blood of young Patriots. For those of us with family members who are active-duty military, that would be our blood.
P.S. Obama would like to get the Ukraine dustup out of the headlines so he can resume his perpetual campaign stumping around the nation unabated. Notably, among other campaign junkets this week, Friday, while our foreign and domestic policies are falling apart at the seams, he will be mixing it up with the wealthiest of liberal one-percenters at Key Largo’s exclusive Ocean Reef Club – where he is scheduled to play golf all day Saturday and Sunday – an excursion that will cost taxpayers far more than the few million Obama will raise for Democrats' 2014 re-election bids.
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