So, I'm guessing that most readers didn't hear about North Korea's latest offensive missile launch on Wednesday. There are just SO MANY bad things going on that it's hard to keep up. What with Russia poised to slice off another part of Ukraine, Iran getting the bomb, Syria failing to destroy it's chemical weapons, Al Queda on a rampage in North Africa and on and on.
What's Obama got to say about all this? He did what he usually does and gave another speech. This time in Brussels, Belguim with an "Address to European Youth" in which he declared that wars which scarred so much of Europe are so 20th Century. It seems it's difficult, if not impossible, for Obama to realize that Putin isn't hip enough to understand that. In June of last year he stood before the Brandenburg Gate in Germany and declared that peace was at hand. He said:
OBAMA:Today, people often come together in places like this to remember history -- not to make it. After all, we face no concrete walls, no barbed wire. There are no tanks poised across a border. There are no visits to fallout shelters. Brandenburg Gate, June 19,2013Today there are tanks "poised across the border" from Ukraine and Obama is talking about concern that a nuclear device might explode in New York City.
Is it any wonder that polls show approval for Obama generally remains low and approval for Obama's foreign policy has cratered? In Ukraine, a new CBS poll finds 46% disapprove, only 38% approve. Then there is this:
1,2). Apparently the American people, and the rest of the world, have a different opinion.
While Obama gives another speech imploring Putin to join him in a 21st Century Kum ba yah moment Putin's agents are infiltrating eastern Ukraine and reinforcing military bases in Crimea.
Last week I showed you the map of Crimea at right (larger image here) and it's central position in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. This week, another map with a closer view of the region. Putin has already seized three of the areas in red: Crimea, Abkhazi and South Ossetia. He may have designs on the other two as outlined in this Washington Post story.
Crimea is a central strategic location from which Putin can dominate the entire region militarily. Empty words from Obama about war and military conflict being a thing of the past won't stop him. Sanctions which are not even a slap on the wrist won't deter Putin. What's called for isn't another speech but concrete action and real presidential leadership. The Western alliance is a weak one at the best of times but it's weaker still when the leader of the most powerful nation in that alliance can't seem to understand the nature of the problem or lead others to confront it.
Former Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates writes:
No one wants a new Cold War, much less a military confrontation. We want Russia to be a partner, but that is now self-evidently not possible under Mr. Putin's leadership. He has thrown down a gauntlet that is not limited to Crimea or even Ukraine. His actions challenge the entire post-Cold War order including, above all, the right of independent states to align themselves and do business with whomever they choose.A few months back Gates attained notoriety with a tell all book in which he described (my words)an Obama White House "corrupted by political considerations, hindered by inexperience and hampered by personality clashes!" Combine that with weak leadership and we see that Obama's chickens are coming home to roost!
Tacit acceptance of settling old revanchist scores by force is a formula for ongoing crises and potential armed conflict, whether in Europe, Asia or elsewhere. A China behaving with increasing aggressiveness in the East and South China seas, an Iran with nuclear aspirations and interventionist policies in the Middle East, and a volatile and unpredictable North Korea are all watching events in Europe. They have witnessed the fecklessness of the West in Syria. Similar division and weakness in responding to Russia's most recent aggression will, I fear, have dangerous consequences down the road.