How quickly we forget then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and that goofy laugh as she and her Russian counterpart pressed a mock button “resetting” US-Russian relations. How soon we forget the then-laughed off comments by Sarah Palin about Russian ambitions with an eye on the Ukraine. How soon we forget the Romney-Obama debate with Obama asserting the “the 80’s called and wants their foreign policy back” in response to Romney’s assertions that Russia was the biggest challenge to US foreign policy. That last line may have produced some guffaws from Democrats at the time, but it is they who have egg on their faces today.
Almost from the beginning of his presidency in 2009, miscues by Obama in an effort to “reset” Russian relations have backfired tremendously. The fact is that he has been out-gunned and out-foxed by Vladimir Putin in almost every foreign policy area leaving one to believe that he (Obama) is an amateur on the international stage. Whether it was his lack of action regarding the Iranian “Green Revolution” or Syria or the Russian armed incursion into Georgia, Putin tested Obama often and early and came away with only one logical conclusion: Obama is an amateur with no stomach to take on Russian designs.
Besides the Georgia episode, in an appeal to that reset, one of Obama’s first moves was to dismantle the agreements with the Czech Republic and Poland regarding an ABM system. Despite great political risks to the democratic leaderships in those countries, the US under Bush had negotiated these agreements only to have them torn asunder by Obama to the delight of Putin. Putin soon realized that Obama was nothing but a talking a head- a bag of hot air with great speeches and little else. In so many areas, the United States under Obama would run from conflict by pulling all their troops out of Iraq, announcing when troops would be pulled out of Afghanistan, standing back and spouting words when North Korea tested nuclear weapons, delaying the inevitable by negotiating with the Iranians, etc. While Obama talks, threatens and blusters, Putin acts.
Of course, this can be expected from an administration who believes that global warming is the highest priority foreign policy issue of our time. While John Kerry stands in Indonesia and denigrates “deniers,” Putin’s troops are moving into the Crimea- a part of Ukraine. While Hagel is announcing major cuts to our armed forces, Russia is blackmailing former members of the Eastern bloc with energy cut-offs. While Obama is waging class warfare by demanding an increase in the minimum wage that will do nothing to decrease the income gap, Russia is harboring Edward Snowden. While Obama sends outed homosexuals to represented the US at the Olympics in Russia, Putin’s anti-homosexual campaign remains unabated. The only conclusion Putin can make is that Obama is a wimp and a blowhard on the world stage.
How does one undo the damage wrought by Obama’s “foreign policy?” First, you re-institute the ABM treaty negotiated by the Bush administration, but go further. The former Soviet-bloc nations should be vividly aware by now that Putin will use his military on a limited basis to get his way. His incursions into Georgia and Ukraine should stand as stark reminders to every Eastern European country. Second, you use every means at your disposal to make the United States an exporter of energy. Assuming domestic needs are met, you export the remainder to Europe to lessen the Russian stranglehold on energy imports and screw that global warming nonsense. Third, you embrace and help in every way possible alternative pipelines to Europe from central Asia that bypass Russia. In short, the only major product Russia has to offer Europe- energy- can be cut off to a trickle. This would economically weaken Russia until such time they act like a responsible member of the European community.
Fourth, you make sure that in these former Soviet republics that the rights of the Russian minorities are respected and upheld. In other words, take away an excuse by Putin to intervene in the affairs of these sovereign countries using protection of ethnic Russians as a pretext. Fifth, outflank Russia to the south through full integration of Turkey into the European Union. Part of Turkey’s current tilt eastward is that the westward countries are intransigent in fully integrating Turkey. You could kill two birds with one stone with this move. Sixth, it may have been Georgia then and Ukraine now, but it may be the Kurile Islands next as Japan and Russia have haggled over these islands since the 19th century. Here, diplomacy may play a role, but from a position of strength. Throwing some US naval military might into the area may help convince both parties to get serious.
Seventh, you do everything possible- militarily, economically, and diplomatically- to ensure that the US has the backs of former Soviet states in Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakastan, etc.). Negotiation of a military base in the area to respond to regional problems is a must and signals to Russia that the US respects their sovereignty. However, from the diplomatic standpoint, you must assure Russia that their presence is not designed against Russia per se. And eighth, you negotiate an arms treaty with Egypt which was America’s greatest ally in the Middle East besides Israel to prevent that country from looking towards Russia for arms. Allowing Egypt to fall into Russia’s orbit would be one of the biggest foreign policy mistakes this administration could make.
Putin knows one thing and one thing only- strength. He is not afraid to use it, but he also respects it. All the talk and all the condemnation in the world will not thwart Russian expansionist designs on areas with large Russian ethnic populations. Using their protection as a pretext, he only increases his standing internally as portraying himself as the ultimate defender of the Russian people which only appeals to his nationalistic policy. Cooperation with these types is viewed as weakness by them. The world does not need another Neville Chamberlain; it needs another Ronald Reagan.