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One of the major foreign policy successes of the Bush administration was the effective recruiting of many of the former Soviet republics from a Moscow looking posture to one of looking to Washington or Brussels for guidance. The Baltic States and Poland have moved decisively to cast their lot with the West. Most of the various Balkan states now look West. Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic were brought into our ballistic missile defense system.
None of this make the kleptocracy in Moscow happy. As part of the infamous “reset” initiative these allies were tossed aside by the Obama regime. Under Obama, the policy of the United States has been to kowtow to Russian demands in virtually all things. Never mind that Russia is in both a demographic and economic death spiral and that Russia’s nukes are probably more dangerous to Russia than to anyone else.
As part of this subservience to Russia, Obama has stood idly by as Russia strong arms one former Soviet republic after another into Moscow’s sphere of influence. The latest victim is Ukraine. Under George Bush, Ukraine had been identified for future membership in NATO. Under Obama, Ukraine is heading towards a latter day anschluss with Russia.
Up front, let’d stipulate is not a Western democratic government but it is making a valiant effort to progress beyond its Soviet roots. For some time, the Russians have been pressuring Ukraine to join the bogus “customs union” between Russia and… wait for it… Belarus and Kazakhstan. Ukraine is also a candidate for EU membership, though this membership application is moving at a glacial pace because it is linked to political and economic reforms in Ukraine. The rules of both organizations require that members can only belong to one.
EU membership for Ukraine, like NATO membership, would present a tremendous obstacle to the cozy relationship Obama and his ineptocrats sought with Putin and his kleptocrats. The Daily Beast noted that it seemed to Obama’s advantage to not nudge Ukraine to make the reforms that would have brought it closer ties to the West:
President Barack Obama met today with Ukraine’s new President, Viktor Yanukovych, who’s in Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit. In theory, this should have been a disaster: over the years the United States has devoted a lot of time and diplomatic capital to keeping the pro-Russian Yanukovych out of power… This doesn’t seem like a natural friend for Obama.
And yet all of this suits the American president quite well. For Obama, Yanukovych’s move back to Russia’s orbit makes life much easier. NATO membership for Ukraine was a major irritant in Washington-Moscow relations for years. Now, Obama has made a point of “resetting” relations with Moscow, and to do that he needs to remove as many spanners from the diplomatic works as possible. One such obstacle was overcome last week when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sat down with Obama in Prague Castle to sign a new nuclear arms-reduction treaty, in an atmosphere as constructive and friendly as there has been between the two countries’ leaders in a decade.
But there are other examples of hurdle-clearing, too: Washington scrapped plans to station antiballistic-missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic; instead, it will station them in Southern Europe, where they won’t interfere with Russia’s nuclear capabilities. The most important, though, is Obama’s very clear signal that he won’t push to include former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Georgia into NATO and a Western embrace, as Bush had done. A cold rapport with Yanukovych will allow Obama to cultivate a warm one with Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev.
The wedge the Russians are using is access to cheap natural gas. Ukraine desperately needs the natural gas and, like the rest of Europe, has economic difficulties. Last month, Russia made an offer, as Don Corleone would say, that they couldn’t refuse:
Russia’s deputy prime minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, told in international conference in the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Yalta that Ukraine may expect a discount only if it joins a Russia-dominated economic alliance. Ukraine has resisted such Russian overtures, fearing that membership in the Moscow-led Customs Union would scuttle its hopes of closer ties with the EU.
For the time being Ukraine has rebuffed what is essentially an ultimatum. History should not make us sanguine about the outcome. Each time Ukraine has entered into a conflict with Russia over natural gas it has emerged a little less independent.
This is the venue in which presidential leadership comes to the fore. Where Ukraine may be playing a very weak hand in its dealings with Russia, with a steadfast United States by its side the prognosis is much better. With the EU brought in, suddenly Russia is the weaker party. Leadership, however, is not something this White House has demonstrated. Neither has it demonstrated itself to have any clear set of policies in dealing with Vladimir Putin other than dropping trou on command.
Sadly, this is a pattern of behavior on the part of this regime. Our friend are nervous because they’ve seen how the rug was pulled out from under the Czech Republic and Poland based on the objectives of a strategic rival. They’ve seen how Hosni Mubarak was thrown under the bus and Egypt turned over the muslim extremists. They’ve watched Qaddafi’s brutal and unnecessary death and the turning over of Libya to muslim extremists. This is foreign policy by press release; a David Copperfield foreign policy where everything is an illusion.
If Mitt Romney is elected next month we may be able to staunch the hemorrhage. If Obama is re-elected it will take generations to bring us back to where we were in 2008.