- - Friday, April 24, 2015

The quote on the wall for 2016 presidential hopefuls should be, “It’s our national security, stupid.” You wouldn’t get that feeling if you watched President Obama’s State of the Union speech a few months ago. Mr. Obama believes he has tamed rogue regimes and dictators alike; all is well with the world. I beg to differ. What Mr. Obama’s arrogance or naivete tells me is that we are currently experiencing the calm before the storm.

There are a multitude of serious national security problems on the horizon that could threaten the very existence of this country as we know it. Sticking our head in the sand will not make these threats go away. On the contrary, they are only getting more dangerous.

We all are aware of ISIS, North Korea, cyber attacks, and Iran. But let’s talk specifically about Russia and its current leadership.

Unfortunately for us, our current president has a penchant for publicly rubbing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s face in the dirt every chance he gets. Mr. Obama has made fun of Mr. Putin’s slouch, called Russia a third-rate, regional power that doesn’t make anything, and recently said Russia’s economy was in tatters due to Mr. Obama’s mastery of the global chessboard. Having spent a lot of time in Russia, I can tell you this is not the way to find a solution to the first shooting war between two European countries since World War II. It’s childish, immature and just plain stupid.

Yes, Russia is hurting from the collapse in the price of oil and from Western sanctions. However, Russia does have a way out to the East and it is  aggressively pursuing that option. Russia recently announced social spending cuts due to budgetary pressures but its projected military spending has not been reduced. This is Mr. Putin’s ace in the hole and he plans on using it. As Russia’s military capability grows, expect Mr. Putin to continue on the same course in Ukraine. Expect him to take further territory and continue to destabilize the government in Kiev as much as possible. Mr. Putin cannot turn back now as it would be seen as weakness on the homefront. He has nothing to lose going forward as Russia is already cut off from Western financing.

This will force the United States and its European allies to confront a resurgent Russian military and aggression head on. Further flashpoints are to come. For example, do the 40 percent of Estonia’s population that are native Russian speakers need to be protected by the Kremlin? This is a member of NATO and we have an Article 5 treaty obligation to defend Estonia and the Baltics. Expect Mr. Putin to continue to attempt to peel away EU and NATO members and entice them back to the Kremlin’s control. Mr. Putin’s recent offer to provide Greece a “gas payment advance” on the re-creation of the South Stream Pipeline is one example. Recent overtures to Hungary and the Czech Republic are another.

In short, we face a serious, geopolitical situation with Russia in the coming years. When the tank tracks hit the road, I don’t believe our current administration will be up for dealing with a future crisis. The world has seen that Mr. Obama’s rhetoric is just that — all talk. The United States needs a leader who can diffuse this situation and protect our security as Russia continues to rise. We need a leader to invite Mr. Putin to Iceland and work out a solution so America can coexist with Russia from a position of strength.

If we continue to insult the Russian people and their president, while at the same time hollowing out our conventional military and refusing to modernize our nuclear deterrent, our future will darken. While we would all like to believe in a utopia where the threat of conquest doesn’t exist, America has always worked best when we have a leader grounded in reality. For the simple fact is, Russia’s problems will be overcome and they will emerge from these economic sanctions and troubled times, with a hatred of the West.

I found this article particularly relevant to this discussion: Would we really go nuclear to protect Estonia?

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