- - Tuesday, July 11, 2017

When former KGB apparatchik Vladimir Putin became the capo di tutti capi of the Russian Federation, we should have expected some less than friendly back-and-forth. Then President Barack Obama, urbane and dignified, went all servile in a vain attempt to ingratiate himself with ‘Vlad the Bad,’ and canceled the anti-missile defense system so patiently negotiated with Eastern European nations by his rough-and-tumble predecessor, cowboy George W. Bush.

Mr. Obama, minimizing himself further, sent a smiling secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to meet her Russian counterpart bearing a misspelled “reset button.” Sensing that Mr. Obama, whose foreign policy consisted primarily of a mysterious arc of history visible only to his eyes, was no challenge, Mr. Putin seized Crimea, promoted insurrection in eastern Ukraine, put military forces into Syria and meddled in our election.

Russia remains a proximate challenge to the United States and is sure to cut into President Trump’s golf time. Mr. Putin, conditioned by eight years of Mr. Obama, will almost certainly stress our new president in many ways. He will want to take the measure of his new antagonist as well as that of the new secretary of state. Will John Kerry’s Foggy Bottom replacement continue his predecessor’s role as favored interlocutor of tyrants and miscreants? Will we continue to put ultimate faith in the arc of history bending our way in lieu of effective strategy? Will high moral pronouncements continue to supplant backbone? Finally, will the “reset button” be spelled correctly and represent anything worthwhile? Mr. Putin wants to know and he is not alone.



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