Putin Teaches Kerry and Obama How to Play Chess

Secretary of State John Kerry, interviewed on “Face the Nation”, demonstrated his silver-tongued diplomacy by setting Russian President Putin straight on the recent invasion of Ukraine. ”You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.”

Says who? Mr. Putin did just that, an 18th-century invasion, and he is standing firm despite threats of sanctions, rebukes, and a time out in the corner. Actually Mr. Putin behaved in more of a 13th-century manner, befitting Mr. Kerry’s Vietnam war nemesis Genghis Khan. And much like Genghis Khan, who created the largest land empire in history, it seems Mr. Putin wants to rebuild the old Soviet Union.

Did anyone see this coming? Mitt Romney certainly did. In the 2012 Presidential debates he labeled Russia our, “number one geopolitical foe.” Even Sarah Palin predicted in 2008 the possibility of Russia invading Ukraine. Did the Obama administration foresee this invasion? Apparently not. In 2009, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her Russian counterpart a “reset button” inscribed with not the Russian word for “reset”, but instead the word for “overloaded.” And how prophetic. As the eyes of the world were focused on the Sochi Olympics and the Oscar Awards, Mr. Putin overloaded the Crimea Peninsula with Russian soldiers.

Why would the Russian President be so brazen? Perhaps an invitation came unintentionally from President Obama and his Syrian “red line” warnings. Or else from comments made during his apology tour of the world in 2009. Regardless, Mr. Putin smelled weakness in the American waters and the Russian shark decided to strike. And all Mr. Kerry could do in response on "Meet the Press" was to cite all of the acts, charters, and treaties that the Russians violated.

Since when do bullies and aggressors care about niceties and rules? Perhaps in Mr. Kerry’s French speaking social circles, manners and protocols are the sine qua non. Mr. Putin instead is following the Obama Doctrine, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” Unfortunately our President meant this in regards to campaigning, not foreign policy in a dangerous world. On the world stage, Mr. Obama’s mantra is more like, “If they bring a crowbar to the fight, we bring a feather duster.”

As past presidents of both parties have learned, America must project strength and power, else our country will become a doormat.  Presidents Kennedy and Reagan demonstrated resolve against the Soviets, who eventually backed down. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, apologizes and makes idle veiled threats that are nothing more than empty words. No wonder Mr. Putin feels free to expand his empire.

Russia is known for the game of chess, boasting more than half of the top 20 players in the world. A game of strategy and tactics, it relies on a longer-term goal of noticing an opponent’s weakness, watching for opportunities, lulling the opponent into a false sense of security, and eventually cutting off all means of escape. Mr. Obama’s weakness is his indecisiveness and failure to act. The current opportunity is during the distractions of Obamacare, gay rights, immigration, and other domestic issues consuming the media and political chattering classes. The false sense of security arose from the well-executed winter Olympics and NBC’s fawning coverage of President Putin. Now Mr. Obama has no means of escape. Mr. Putin is unimpressed with Mr. Obama’s speeches. America and her allies are weary of war. Does the average American care about the Ukraine? Over a third of Americans cannot even locate America on a world map. So what now? Checkmate Mr. Obama.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician, is an advocate of smaller, more efficient government. Twitter @retinaldoctor.

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