I find it very disturbing the number of times that President Obama has disrespected Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Obama’s behavior is not fitting for a president of the United States, and it has produced serious blowback, which we’ll discuss in a minute. But first, how about a walk down memory lane?
During the 2013 NSA spying controversy, when Edward Snowden was given asylum in Russia, Mr. Obama quipped regarding Mr. Putin, “I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom.” The comment seemed to come out of nowhere and was beneath the leader of the Free World, betraying some type of deep-seeded, schoolboy insecurity.
During comments at The Hague in 2014 Mr. Obama said, “Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength but out of weakness. They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.” The immediate question that comes to mind is if he is more worried about a nuke going off in Manhattan then why is he importing Islamofascism by the truck load, but that’s for another column.
When discussing Russia in a 2014 interview with the Economist, Mr. Obama once again opined, “I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything,” Mr. Obama said in the interview. Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking,” I guess the president hasn’t been to Moscow recently and seen the throngs of immigrants from central Asia looking for work.
In comments about Russia during his 2015 State of the Union address, Mr. Obama said, among other things, that the “Russian economy is in tatters.” Russia’s economy is in tatters, but why crow about it?
And finally, during a recent Steve Kroft interview on “60 Minutes,” Mr. Obama continued the meme, “Well, Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership. My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris. My definition of leadership is mobilizing the entire world community to make sure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon. And with respect to the Middle East, we’ve got a 60-country coalition that isn’t suddenly lining up around Russia’s strategy. To the contrary, they are arguing that, in fact, that strategy will not work.”
First of all, everyone knows the 60-country coalition is a pipe dream and everyone knows Iran will get a nuclear weapon. But the real question is why President Obama routinely feels the need to denigrate a former superpower, bent on re-emergence, stocked to the gills with nuclear weapons?
We are seeing the fruits of his words as Mr. Putin lands an expeditionary force in the Middle East, rapidly expands air bases in Syria and sells Iran sophisticated weapons systems by the ship load. Even one of our closest allies, Israel, knows there is a new sheriff in town and is acting accordingly, coordinating with Russia with its efforts against the Islamic State.
Whether you are a fan of Vladimir Putin or not, is not the question. The question is how the president of the United States should be conducting himself in office when it comes to public humiliation of a significant world power.
Some, but not all, of Russia’s behavior can be attributed to Mr. Obama’s mocking of the Russian president. It certainly did not further America’s strategic interests to disrespect a leader who carefully crafts his machismo with the Russian public and where the weaponized population is yearning again for Russian greatness. Russians will suffer great hardship for the good of the state. There is a high probability they will ride out the oil price collapse and Western sanctions.
One also wonders how the Democratic Party can call out Donald Trump’s politically incorrect comments and wonder aloud about its effect on geopolitics, when their own president is guilty of the same offense with real consequences.