Barack Obama: No Better Friend in the World (to Russia)
Since the dawn of the Cold War, has Russia enjoyed as accommodating a president in Washington as Barack Obama?
President Obama has been so serially weak in standing up for the interests of America and our allies -- particularly when confronted by Russian President Vladimir Putin -- that one wonders whether an actual Russian operative in the White House could have achieved anything materially different.
It's not just a couple of worrisome incidents; there is a disturbing litany of acts and policies carried out by Obama that could have been scripted by President Putin and his puppet/placeholder, Dmitry Medvedev.
Right away, the Obama administration touted its "Reset" button for relations with Russia. The underlying conceit was that all those experienced foreign policy hands in the Bush administration could not deal with recidivist Russia as effectively as could Barack Obama, charming novice. Why dwell on trivialities like Russian poisoning of a pro-American Ukrainian presidential candidate, facilitating the Iranian nuclear program, assassinating a Putin critic on British soil, displaying belligerence over missile defense for Eastern Europe, making mischief in Syria, or initiating the invasion of American ally Georgia?
Obama demanded no Russian repentance or behavior modification as part of the "Reset." The Russian church may require confession and penance before God grants absolution for sins, but God has nothing on the merciful Obama, who "Resets" unconditionally. The slate was wiped clean, absent even a gesture of contrition from the Kremlin. The Russians learned that "Reset" is English for "Delete Accountability" and "Erase Memory."
So, how has Russia applied that learning? Since the "Reset," Russia has blackmailed Europe and the Ukraine with periodic stoppages of critical natural gas shipments. The Kremlin has repeatedly blocked or evaded sanctions against Iran and Syria while selling Iran advanced weaponry and ensuring that Syria is armed sufficiently to massacre its people. Russian bombers simulate attacks against America while violating U.S. airspace, while armed Russian attack submarines operate in U.S. waters, and Putin turns human rights back a generation, liquidating and imprisoning political opponents.
Russia has also been instrumental in Iran's nuclear development. From providing essential technical expertise and nuclear fuel to providing diplomatic cover and defense systems, it is no exaggeration to say that no looming Iranian nuclear threat would exist without Russian assistance.
Repurcussions? To the contrary. Worse than simply turning a blind eye to Russia's aggressive actions, Obama has gone out of his way to grant additional Kremlin wishes.
At Russia's behest, the Obama administration left Poland and the Czech Republic in the lurch, unilaterally reversing American commitments to post anti-missile systems in those countries. Both countries have been model American allies, with Poland even contributing elite forces to American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the summer of 2010, a Russian deep cover spy ring was discovered operating in the U.S. The FBI revealed that the most famous of the spies, siren Anna Chapman, had been on the verge of seducing an Obama cabinet secretary. Interrogated and imprisoned? Nope, not under this administration; these spies were sent back to Russia, where they were given hero treatment by the Kremlin. Chapman in particular has been singled out for honor.
Obama has both facilitated Russia's upgraded WTO status and called for the repeal of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment (tying trade to human rights) without backing its updated human-rights replacement. He also dramatically slashed U.S. nuclear deterrent stockpiles -- and, unaware that he was being heard over an open microphone, chillingly promised the Russian leaders that he would be more flexible in a second term.
Even in areas only tangentially related to Russian interests, Obama's decisions have been favorable to the Kremlin. Obama has proposed a half-trillion dollars in military cuts. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama made decisions on troop levels and withdrawal schedules that had the backing of no commanders. As hard-fought gains in both countries evaporate, America's position in a volatile part of the world is diminished -- just as resurgent Russia injects itself more forcefully into the region.
The list arguably even extends to economic policy. Putin introduced a 13% flat income tax that stoked both a Russian economic boom and a lot of Tea Party envy. By contrast, Obama's regulatory reflex, offshore oil drilling moratorium, war on inexpensive American coal and electricity, stratospheric deficits, and increased government involvement in and ownership of industry all effectively throw sand in the gears of America's economic machinery.
And Obama hasn't limited himself to earthly capitulation to Russia; he has also ceded American dominance in outer space. Obama canceled the space shuttle program and the Constellation manned space program which was to follow. You'll never guess to which country we now pay $63 million per flight to the space station.
One can only marvel at such an unblemished record of servility and concession. What has America gotten in return?
Has anyone in Washington served Kremlin interests more effectively than President Obama? Could Putin have dreamt of a more "flexible" president, or one so quick to back down from advancing American interests? Those should be ridiculous questions -- yet if one has to stop for even a moment before answering, then maybe it's time for American voters to use our own "Reset" button.
Abe Katsman is an American attorney and political commentator living in Israel. He serves as counsel to Republicans Abroad Israel.