By Kim Zigfeld
The worst has finally happened. It took much longer than expected — nearly two thousand days — but Barack Obama’s foreign policy has finally collapsed, leaving Americans to gape slack-jawed at the smoking ruins. Obama has undermined American influence and honor in ways that will be very difficult to repair.
Writing in the Moscow Times, Russian attorney Vladimir Berezansky plays the funeral dirge. He calls Russia’s granting of asylum to Edward Snowden a “Suez moment.” By this he means that China and Russia have effectively burst the bubble of American power in the same way that the U.S. burst the bubble of French and British power during the Suez crisis. The latter two nations were never the same afterwards, and, Berezansky argues, neither will the USA be after Snowden. Watching Obama’s helplessness as these two malignant dictatorships thumb their noses at America reminds one of nothing so much as the Iran hostage crisis and the Afghanistan invasion, where Jimmy Carter’s presidency ran aground.
Russia went out of its way to snub and provoke the United States and to humiliate Obama. It took the minimum amount of time and gave Snowden the maximum number of benefits available. Russia sent a clear message that it cares nothing for its relationship with the United States, has no fear of Obama’s retaliatory moves, and believes that there will be none anyway. Obama replied by making it clear that he would not impose any tangible sanctions, such as an Olympic boycott, once again handing another easy victory to Putin.
Leon Aron, the dean of American Russia watchers, believes that Obama’s feeble response to Russia on Snowden, canceling a scheduled personal meeting with Putin, was a fatal display of weakness and a national disgrace. Aron points out that Obama could have refused to attend the upcoming G-20 summit in Russia, where the meeting was scheduled, or he could have attended and strongly confronted Putin over what amounts to an act of war against the United States. Predictably, Obama chose to do neither. He’ll attend the summit, sparing Russian face, but won’t meet with Putin in protest, sparing Putin the post-meeting press conference where Obama calls him to account. Instead of punishing Putin, Obama is basically doing him a favor.
Putin did the worst he could to the U.S. on Snowden, and the U.S. responded with maximum softness. Obama’s message to Putin is clear: grab for more. Russian political pundits were openly laughing at Obama’s feebleness.
Political Information Agency General Director Alexei Mukhin told Interfax:
The Soviet Union hosted the Olympic Games without the Americans in 1980. Nevertheless, everything was just excellent. Even if Washington makes a similar step during the Sochi Olympics, this won’t mean anything unpleasant for Russia. In 1980, the Americans were supported by a number of countries, but now this can’t be replayed, because of the EU’s position, among other things. It looks like, in its desire to sting the Russian leadership, Washington has outsmarted itself in the situation surrounding Snowden. The Barack Obama administration has behaved like a capricious woman.
Of course, Obama never thought he’d need to show any backbone where Russia is concerned, so naturally he’s not ready to do so. His “reset” policy was supposed to turn Russia into a cooperating partner on issues like Snowden, and it has blown up in his face, just as his critics predicted it would from the first.
Russia was happy to sign a nuclear weapons treaty that called on only the USA to cut weapons. When Obama sought a second round that would actually impose some cuts on Russia, Putin told him to drop dead.
No progress whatsoever has been achieved in inducing Iran to abandon nuclear weapons. To the contrary, Russia not only continues to support Iran, but is now helping Iran support Syria, and flouting U.S. policy there as well.
Putin has escalated an appalling crackdown on civil society, which has seen him arrest his leading critic, Alexei Navalny, on clearly political charges and sentence him to five years at labor. America’s moral leadership in Russia has vanished; America has betrayed those who stand for its values.
The most utterly humiliating moment for Obama on Russia, however, has not been on the foreign policy front. Russia recently passed a law making it illegal for any homosexual to act gay in public. This law makes gay Olympic athletes subject to arrest in Sochi, Russia, during the 2014 Winter Olympics scheduled to be staged there. The Kremlin has said it will enforce the measures. This has resulted in a furious backlash. Celebrities from Harvey Fierstein to Steven Fry to Mr. Sulu have openly called for a boycott, and 88 U.S. congressmen have signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding action. As a result, Obama faces the lowest moment of his presidency: he must either side with the gays and follow the path of Jimmy Carter into an Olympic boycott, or he must side with his “reset” policy and permanently alienate a key element of his political base. There is no way out.
Everywhere Obama has turned, Putin has been there to stick a finger in his eye. Just like Neville Chamberlain, Obama thought the power of his personality could convert a malignant dictator into a reasonable partner. Just like Chamberlain, Obama’s policy of appeasement has collapsed into humiliating failure, with devastating consequences for future generations to bear.
Ironically, in a recent interview with Jay Leno, Obama didn’t disagree when Leno accused Putin of acting like Hitler on the homosexual question. This equation is percolating throughout the internet these days. Obama’s bitterness at being betrayed by Pooty was palpable. Yet despite acknowledging Putin’s evil, Obama is unable to confront it. He can respond only with confused half-measures that just make the situation worse. This is precisely the problem Obama’s critics were worried about when he took the Oval Office: his total lack of foreign policy credentials left him adrift and unable to recognize that his balloon was losing altitude until it spectacularly crashed.
On internet forums, Obama’s critics have taken to writing his name commencing with the numeral zero rather than a letter, and that just about sums it up. So far, Obama hasn’t even had the fortitude to fire his ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, the architect of the ruinous reset, whose service in Russia has been a Keystone Cops fiasco from the first moment. When Snowden walked into Moscow, McFaul should have walked out.
As Hitler could not have wished for better than Chamberlain, Putin could not have dreamed of more than Obama. The president won’t make the highest American values part of his relationship with Russia, maybe because he doesn’t share them, and he won’t stand up for American values and honor by making Putin pay dearly for crossing them, maybe because he doesn’t care about them.