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June 9, 2014

Russia: Lurching Toward Surrender?

Obama thinks he’s isolated Russia. The truth is not that good.

Last month in addressing West Point graduates, Barack Obama declared that his policies have succeeded in isolating Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away,” Obama claimed. “Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions.”

That condemnation may have pulled the proposed G-8 summit out of Russia, creating a hastily rescheduled G-7 summit in Brussels. But French President Francois Hollande welcomed Putin to a D-Day commemoration, leading to an awkward exchange there between Obama and Putin where our commander in chief pleaded with the Russian president to “work immediately with the government in Kiev to reduce tensions,” or face deeper isolation. One step in that direction would be for Russia to recognize last month’s election of incoming Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Yet it’s not clear that our allies are on board with isolating Russia over Ukraine. France is considering selling Mistral cruisers to Russia, while British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel slated private meetings with Putin around the G-7 summit.

Meanwhile, on the Ukraine front, two outposts were overrun by Russian separatist irregulars, with Ukrainian soldiers trying to hold on to one of those outposts forced to withdraw when they ran out of ammunition after a 10-hour struggle.

In response, the White House finally agreed to send Ukraine long-delayed military supplies such as body armor, communications equipment and night-vision goggles – but no ammunition. It’s the latest in an increasing flow of “non-lethal” aid to the Ukrainians, which was delayed to avoid “upsetting relations with Moscow” and “de-escalate the crisis.” Profiles in courage right there.

Not only is Putin playing the West like a fiddle as he gauges its lack of serious action on Ukraine as a sign of weakness, he also taunted likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “When people push boundaries too far, it’s not because they are strong but because they are weak. But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.”

Looks like we need a little more than a “reset” button.

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