Putin’s Man in the White House

So this is what a weak America looks like. President Obama issues threats to the Russians over their takeover of the Crimea, and they respond with laughter. Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov tweets a picture of Obama wearing a Russian lieutenant’s uniform.

A Russian news anchor states, “Russia is the only country in the world realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash.” Pundits on the Left and Right, in Europe and the US see no way for the administration and its western allies to respond. Now Ukraine watches nervously with 60,000 Russian troops on its borders, awaiting Vladimir Putin’s next move. There is no downside to whatever it is. Putin can send the troops to take the Ukraine by force and nothing will stop him. The EU will fume, and the President will make another phone call, but nothing will stop him.

Putin has a once in a century shot at rebuilding the Russian empire at no cost. He’d be stupid to stop now. Not only Ukraine is at play, the entire former Warsaw Pact is now up for grabs. The Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia can’t resist Russian pressure, and neither can Poland. Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. The promise of 1989, of freedom and democracy for half a continent that had known nothing but war followed by repression, is threatened by a Russia that laughs at Western sanctions and posts photoshopped pictures of the American president. Oh, and one shouldn’t forget that it is also home to 4,500 nuclear warheads, so that comment about turning America into radioactive ash is not hyperbole.

For decades the Left has detested American exceptionalism. Starting after World War 2 and supported by the KGB, the Left has demanded America unilaterally disarm. Every movement the United States made to protect Europe was resisted by leftist parliamentarians, student protests and protestors chaining themselves to the gates of American military bases.  European bureaucrats condoned this anti-Americanism while at the same time relied upon the American soldiers stationed at these bases as well as the political leadership in Washington DC that was willing to use them.

Now one of those Leftists sits in the White House. He has unilaterally withdrawn American forces from Iraq and now does the same with Afghanistan. Around the world American forces are being cut back to pre-World War 2 levels, replacing American soldiers with rhetoric. He has led an administration that rewards American adversaries like Russia, Iran and China, and punishes its friends like the UK and Israel. In short he has acted like conservatives expected him to act: gutting the military, weakening America and its alliances, and encouraging its foes. Putin’s actions in the Ukraine merely reflect this new reality.

Some leftists, particularly the more ideologically pure, will see these events in a positive light. A humbled America is the final bulwark standing between transnational socialism so its demise at the hands of one of their own will usher in the the triumph of socialist intellectual thought over capitalist avarice. The fact that China and Russia, two of the largest remaining socialist powers on the planet, are preparing to reap the benefits of the end of Pax Americana is as it should be.

The problem with this train of thought, perhaps perceived clearly by the Leftists in Europe, is that neither Russia nor China are true socialist states. Russia is controlled by the basest form of crony capitalism, with the oligarchs siding with Vladimir Putin reaping the state’s largess at the expense of the masses, before shuttling it off to offshore banks in Switzerland. China too is not very socialist. The people do not own the means of production unless you specify the term “people” to mean the children of party leaders. In fact China today has one of the purest forms of capitalism around, more akin to Britain during the industrial revolution and America a century ago as opposed to some communist utopia. In fifty years it’s more likely to look like 20th century America than some sort of Marxist paradise.

Since World War 2 some European states like Sweden and Denmark  have crafted socialist paradises, and others like Germany, France and the UK have pursued socialist policies that now find themselves threatened by Russia. Russia controls 30% of the natural gas flowing to the continent, and has shown the willingness to use this resource as a weapon in the past. There is nothing to stop it from doing so in the future, which would destabilize these socialist-leaning European states through higher energy prices. With the Ukraine crisis proving NATO to be a paper-tiger, the continent lays ripe for the picking for Putin and his kleptocrats. The only realistic constraint on Russia is logistical: Putin doesn’t have enough men-at-arms or the ability to project force with lengthy supply lines.

In less than 3 years time America will replace the leftist in chief with another leader. Can Europe hold off Putin until then? The likely butt in the Oval Office chair will either belong to Hillary Clinton, a woman whose political experience helped create this problem with Russia in the first place, or Rand Paul, a neo-isolationist libertarian. Either case would mean the American Calvary wouldn’t be charging anytime soon to save Europe for a third time in a century.

Europe is on its own and will be for the foreseeable future. It will have to deal with Mr. Putin on his terms. For decades European lefties have dreamed of a weak America and it has succeeded. President Obama has taken a 300 lb man who was respected and feared and turned him into a 90lb weakling respected by no one, the laughing stock of the international community. It will be interested to watch how the Continent handles this blessing. At the very least, the Germans and Swedes better hope they don’t have any Russian-speaking minorities.

Update: Did Russian Intelligence Promote Obama from Lieutenant to Colonel? Personally I think his behavior warrants a promotion for the devotion he has shown to the Motherland.

 

 

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15 Comments

  1. Zachriel:

    The Razor: The Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia can’t resist Russian pressure, and neither can Poland. Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

    Those are all NATO members. An attack on one is an attack against all member states. It’s very unlikely Russia would risk war with NATO.

  2. Scott Kirwin:

    An alliance is only as strong as its strongest member and perception is reality. If Russia perceives the US will not go to war if it annexes Latvia or Estonia, then it will act to do so.

    Both were once part of the Soviet Union. Both have significant Russian-speaking minorities. So far the US and its allies have not pushed back on moves in Georgia and Ukraine.

    Would the US send troops to defend the Baltic States? What you think doesn’t matter. It’s what Putin thinks, and given our behavior over the past 5 years I don’t see what would deter him.

  3. Zachriel:

    Scott Kirwin: If Russia perceives the US will not go to war if it annexes Latvia or Estonia, then it will act to do so.

    That would be a dangerous gamble for Russia. The West will avoid war for as long as possible, but like Germany’s invasion of Poland, they will go to war when pressed.

    Scott Kirwin: It’s what Putin thinks, and given our behavior over the past 5 years I don’t see what would deter him.

    The Georgia situation occurred during the Bush Administration.

  4. Scott Kirwin:

    From an earlier post:
    George W. Bush believed his personal relationship with “Pootie-Poot” would help him in his global war against terrorism. Putin provided little support, instead bolstering socialist regimes in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela, capping off 2008 with an invasion of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. By then relations with Russia had deteriorated to the point where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised a reset of relations with the Kremlin, blaming the problems with Russia on the Bush administration.

    Sorry, but you can’t blame this one on Bush. The reset with Russia makes Obama (and Hillary) own this mess.

    Interesting you mention Poland. Hitler hoped France and Great Britain would act as they had when he took over Czechoslovakia and Austria. “Secondly, he judged the British and French prime-ministers, Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, to be weak, indecisive leaders who would opt for a peace settlement rather than war.” (Source)

    In a street fight the failure to hit back doesn’t stop the punches; it increases their ferocity. Obama and the EU’s failure to “hit back” against Russian aggression in the Crimea will only encourage Putin, thereby increasing the likelihood of a broader and more deadly conflict in the future.

  5. Zachriel:

    Scott Kirwin: you can’t blame this one on Bush

    We didn’t blame anyone. You had brought up the lack of push back on Georgia, then placed blame on U.S. actions over the last 5 years.

    Scott Kirwin: Interesting you mention Poland. Hitler hoped France and Great Britain would act as they had when he took over Czechoslovakia and Austria.

    But they didn’t. They went to war over Poland.

    Scott Kirwin: failure to “hit back” against Russian aggression in the Crimea will only encourage Putin

    Possibly. What specific action did you have in mind?

  6. Scott Kirwin:

    Whose “we”?
    Instead of continuing the Bush administration’s adversarial approach to Putin, Obama took office and suddenly Hillary’s handing a big red button to the laughing Russian foreign minister.

    As for Poland, the question is would they go to war over it now?

    Specific action? It’s too far gone. I would never have allowed things to go this far in the first place. I would have continued the Bush administration’s policies. The only specific action I would recommend is for Obama to resign, but given his narcissism that is impossible.

  7. Zachriel:

    Scott Kirwin: Instead of continuing the Bush administration’s adversarial approach to Putin …

    “I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul.” — George W Bush

    Zachriel: What specific action did you have in mind?

    Scott Kirwin: Specific action? It’s too far gone.

    In other words, no.

  8. Scott Kirwin:

    He said that back in 2001. He left office in 2009. Why was the reset button necessary?

    You want specifics of what to do now? Punish the oligarchs backing Putin. Bankers will squeal – especially in the UK and Switzerland, but who cares. They’ll get over it. Some economies will take a hit, but like Cyprus did going cold turkey off Russian money they will recover.

    But the best solution is to not get boxed into a corner in the first place. Obama did it with Syria, has done it with Russia, and is the process of doing it with Iran and China. That requires seeing reality for what it is instead of how you want it to be. Once you do that, you develop a strategy that manifests itself in small choices made every day. Some of those choices are hard, some not so difficult, but they all combine to create a coherent policy that other states can respond to.

  9. Zachriel:

    Scott Kirwin: He said that back in 2001.

    Yes, he did.

    Scott Kirwin: Punish the oligarchs backing Putin.

    What does that mean specifically? Freeze their assets? What about Russian retaliation? Europe is highly dependent on fossil fuels from Russia. Such an action could intensify their nationalist fervor. Not sure it’s so simple.

    Scott Kirwin: But the best solution is to not get boxed into a corner in the first place.

    If you were Russian, you might see things differently. They consider Crimea something they have to have. The U.S. has few real options.

  10. Scott Kirwin:

    Well you’re right about that. It’s not so simple – especially where we are now.

    But the key, again, is to make a series of small but difficult choices over time rather than always take the easy way out. It’s like raising kids. It’s tough to say “No,” when they are asking for a coke or a piece of cake before dinner, but if you don’t you’ll have a 300 lb 15 year old with a blood sugar of 1000 like my wife saw on Monday.

    As for Russian retaliation, I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing. Europe has been living in a fantasy land where states are not supposed to act aggressively towards each other. Perhaps now it will wake up and see the world for what it is: filled with states with interests some of which are worth fighting for.

    And if I were a Nazi I might consider the Holocaust differently. That doesn’t justify it.

  11. Zachriel:

    So specifically, you would cut all economic ties between the U.S. and Russia?

  12. Zachriel:

    Scott Kirwin: As for Russian retaliation, I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing. Europe has been living in a fantasy land where states are not supposed to act aggressively towards each other. Perhaps now it will wake up and see the world for what it is: filled with states with interests some of which are worth fighting for.

    Perhaps, but drastically weakening the European economy may not be the best way to fend off Russian hegemony. Over time, they will wean themselves from reliance on an unpredictable Russia.

  13. Scott Kirwin:

    So specifically, you would cut all economic ties between the U.S. and Russia?

    I would treat Russia the same way we treated pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union. As an adversary.
    Russia sees the US as an adversary and we’re foolish not to reciprocate.

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