Obama vs Putin: How soft is this U.S. leader?
By Andrew Malcolm
Posted 09:08 AM ET
Perhaps you've heard with echoes of Nazi Germany annexing its neighbors with no convincing Allied response, Russian troops have taken effective control of eastern Ukraine.
Here's how President Barack Obama responded:
He telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Obama expressed "deep concern" over Russia's moves, suggested Putin's troops leave and warned the occupation "would negatively impact Russia’s standing in the international community."
Along with other Western allies, Obama said, not that they would boycott the big G-8 summit Putin is scheduled to grandly host this summer. But that the allies would stop preparing for the big G-8 summit Putin is scheduled to grandly host in Sochi, now that most of the hotels are completed. Stop preparing? Boy, that'll scare the KGB outta Putin.
Obama's also been busy concluding U.S. involvements abroad. Last week seeking more money for his domestic priorities, Obama announced drastic cuts in U.S. defense spending to take the Army back to pre-World War II levels and the Navy to World War I levels.
Additionally, he killed the Air Force's A-10 Warthog, the devastating ground-support plane designed to attack Russian tanks just like those moving through Crimea now. Not the sort of steps that convince any foreign powers (or allies) that Obama means business. Coincidentally, over the weekend North Korea tested more rockets.
Of course, it would be ridiculous to suggest Obama's passivity toward Putin is connected to the American's overheard promise of post-election "flexibility" to Putin's predecessor back in 2012. So, we won't.
Here's how Col. Putin responded to Obama's words of warning: He sent more Russian troops into Crimea.
Then, to show how really serious he is, Obama dispatched Secy. of State John Kerry to Kiev to offer cheap symbolic support for the reformers attempting to organize a new, but bankrupt Ukraine government.
Kerry is fresh from a series of diplomatic triumphs including alienating Egypt's new military-backed government, negotiating a Syrian chemical weapons accord that country is now ignoring and agreeing to give Iran six more months to maybe possibly agree to stop its nuclear weapons program, which everyone knows is not going to happen.
Kerry has also failed to reach agreement with Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai on a residual U.S. troop presence after December.
Recently, Kerry announced that global warming is “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Just so we -- and Russia -- know where this administration's true priorities lie.
The seeds of Obama's ongoing diplomatic embarrassments -- and dangers to this nation -- were sown in the Democrat's early months in his so-called Russian policy reset.
Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty (Obama caught whispering a promise of "flexibility" to Russian leader, 2012.)
Candidate Obama complained that U.S.-Russia relations had "drifted" during the late stages of George W. Bush's presidency. In reality, they had not drifted; Bush froze them, largely in reaction to Russia's annexation of two northern provinces in Georgia, an annexation that candidate Obama was days late denouncing.
In his first year, without informing partner Poles and Czechs, Obama unilaterally abandoned the U.S.'s planned missile defense shield in Eastern Europe as a freebie to Putin. Obama naively hoped the former Soviet spymaster would in return help curb Iran's nuclear weapons program. As any student of history knows, such automatic appeasement never works.
Since then, Putin has bolstered Syria's dictator Bashir al-Assad with arms and diplomacy, out-maneuvered Obama on a phony chemical weapons agreement there, begun improving relations with Egypt's ruling military, done nothing to curb Iran and given asylum and a platform to American traitor Edward Snowden, with the Russian ironically citing "free speech."
Today, Obama must endure yet another meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the sort he's been overheard to complain about. Why should the Israeli leader trust Obama's expressed support after such empty Ukraine words?
The Democrat would like to return ASAP to his jawboning campaign for a minimum-wage hike; he's set a Connecticut rally for Wednesday.
But Obama is certain to feel mounting bipartisan pressure from Congress for stronger retaliation on Russia for an invasion that one Obama spokesman cutely called an "uncontested arrival." Even Republicans who opposed Obama's proposed strike on Syria called his ongoing reaction "trembling inaction."
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio suggested reconsidering the missile shield cancellation. Other ideas include boycotting the Sochi summit.
Even fellow Illinois Democrat, Dick Durbin, wants Russia kicked out of the G-8 altogether. One of these times Obama may surprise everyone with an uncharacteristically strong response.
For now, however, aides said Obama suggested to Putin that his troops in Crimea, wearing no uniform insignia to fool everybody, be replaced by international observers to protect the trumped-up interests of its Russian-speaking population. That's a non-starter, of course.
Some kind of economic sanctions are a possibility, though that requires a kind of international unanimity that produces watered-down results. And a stronger U.S. leadership style than Obama has ever demonstrated from behind. Plus, years of sanctions have not been effective changing Iran's mind.
Russia is reliant on foreign currency earnings from natural gas exports. But Europe is reliant on Russian natural gas.
What seems most likely now is that Russia keeps Crimea. While Europe and the U.S. get stuck with the bill, a fiscal sinkhole that is a would-be democratic Ukraine, where immediate needs are variously estimated between $36 billion and $75 billion.