Under the Obama administration we’ve seen American foreign policy reduced to internet trolling. The State Department opposed Russian adventurism in Ukraine with a Twitter campaign:
The administration reacted to the mass kidnapping and sexual enslavement of young girls in Nigeria with a Twitter campaign (I have to admit that she looks scary enough for many to consider releasing their sex slaves and laying down their arms):
The Defense Department is complaining about too few State Department weenies fighting ISIS on Twitter.
The other trend with this administration is attempting to gaslight it friends and foes alike by saying things that manifestly aren’t true. Just a couple of weeks ago the administration was assuring us that Russia was well on its way to being bogged down in Syria. As it turned out the Russian planned and directed offensive, one that used Syrian and Iranian ground forces, succeeded.
Now the administration is taking a new tack. Putin actually isn’t all that bright. This, by the way, is the same way they campaigned domestically in 2010 and 2014.
THE Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, continues to surprise. Russia’s military intervention in Syria, followed by a face-to-face meeting in Moscow this week with that country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has startled the world.
As there was after Mr. Putin’s action in Ukraine last year, there has been a chorus of commentary on his supposed strategic genius. He is acting decisively, seizing the initiative and creating facts on the ground — so the narrative goes, in contrast with the West’s feckless pursuits in Syria.
The opposite is true.
Five years ago, Russia was in a much stronger position, both at home and in the world. Today, Mr. Putin is playing defense, doubling down on bad decisions guided by an outdated theory of international politics.
Recognition of Russia’s mistakes, however, does not guarantee future failure. The United States and our allies cannot stand idly by and wait for Russia to fail. Instead, we must adopt a comprehensive strategy to minimize the negative consequences of Russia’s actions and maximize the positive ones of ours.
If you aren’t a shill of the Obama administration you may see things a bit differently. Putin has annexed Crimea and has put all talk of Ukraine membership in NATO or the EU on hold because the potential of being drawn into a war with Russia is too great to contemplate. The rebel areas of Ukraine may not be Jeffersonian democracies but they weren’t intended to be. They are a warning to Ukraine of what will happen if they continue their flirtation with the West. Putin has put together a credible alliance of Russia, Iran, and China which is acting in concert to fill any vacuum left by the United States. Russia convinced Obama that it could be his intermediary with Iran and deftly made himself Iran’s patron and ally. Afghanistan, nominally our ally, is now asking for Russian military equipment.
Under Putin, Russia has been flirting with recession because of its increased dependence upon oil exports but it looks no worse than Obama’s America.
There is an old joke that goes like this:
Two guys are out hiking when bear suddenly comes out and growls. One guy starts to run but his partner calmly sits down on a log, pulls a pair of sneakers from his backpack and starts lacing them up. The first guy says, “What are you doing? You can’t outrun a bear!”
The other guy says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear—I just have to outrun you!”
That is the state of play as it exists today. Putin doesn’t have to be a strategic genius to beat Obama, he just has to be smarter than Obama. That bar, as we’ve seen, is pretty damned low and for all his failings Putin is doing quite well.