Opinion: World depends on U.S. leadership

March 29, 2014


“The United States does not view Europe as a battleground between East and West, nor do we see the situation in Ukraine as a zero-sum game. That’s the kind of thinking that should have ended with the Cold War.”

     — Barack Obama, March 24

Should. Lovely sentiment. As lovely as what Obama said five years ago to the United Nations: “No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation.”

That’s the kind of sentiment you expect from a Miss America contestant asked to name her fondest wish, not from the leader of the free world explaining his foreign policy.

The East Europeans know they inhabit the battleground between the West and a Russia that wants to return them to its sphere of influence. Ukrainians see tens of thousands of Russian troops across their border and know they are looking down the barrel of quite a zero-sum game.

Obama thinks otherwise. He says that Vladimir Putin’s kind of neo-imperialist thinking is a relic of the past — and advises Putin to transcend the Cold War.

Good God. Putin hasn’t transcended the Russian revolution. Did no one give Obama a copy of Putin’s speech last week upon the annexation of Crimea? Putin railed not only at Russia’s loss of empire in the 1990s. He went back to the 1920s: “After the revolution, the Bolsheviks ... may God judge them, added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine.” Putin was referring not to Crimea (which came two sentences later) but to his next potential target: Kharkiv and Donetsk and the rest of southeastern Ukraine.

Putin’s irredentist grievances go very deep. Obama seems unable to fathom them. Asked whether he’d misjudged Russia, whether it really is our greatest geopolitical foe, he disdainfully replied that Russia is nothing but “a regional power” acting “out of weakness.” 

Where does one begin? Hitler’s Germany and Tojo’s Japan were also regional powers, yet managed to leave behind at least 50 million dead. And yes, Russia should be no match for the American superpower. Yet under this president, Russia has run rings around America, from the attempted ingratiation of the “reset” to America’s empty threats of “consequences” were Russia to annex Crimea.

Annex Crimea it did. For which the “consequences” have been risible. Numberless 19th- and 20th-century European soldiers died for Crimea. Putin conquered it in a swift and stealthy campaign that took three weeks and cost his forces not a sprained ankle. That’s “weakness”?

Indeed, Obama’s dismissal of Russia as a regional power makes his own leadership of the one superpower all the more embarrassing. For seven decades since the Japanese surrender, our role under 11 presidents had been as offshore balancer protecting smaller allies from potential regional hegemons.

What are the allies thinking now? Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and other Pacific Rim friends are wondering where this America will be as China expands its reach and claims. The Gulf states are near panic as they see America playacting nuclear negotiations with Iran that, at best, will leave their mortal Shiite enemy just weeks away from the bomb.

America never sought the role that history gave it after World War II to bear unbidden burdens “to assure the survival and the success of liberty,” as movingly described by John Kennedy. We have an appropriate aversion to the stark fact that the alternative to U.S. leadership is either global chaos or dominance by the likes of China, Russia and Iran.

But Obama doesn’t even seem to recognize this truth. In his major Brussels address Wednesday, the very day Russia seized the last Ukrainian naval vessel in Crimea, Obama made vague references to further measures should Russia march deeper into Ukraine, while still emphasizing the centrality of international law, international norms and international institutions like the United Nations.

Such fanciful thinking will leave our allies with two choices: bend a knee — or arm to the teeth. Either acquiesce to the regional bully or gird your loins, i.e., go nuclear. As surely will the Gulf states. As will, in time, Japan and South Korea.

Even Ukrainians are expressing regret at having given up their nukes in return for paper guarantees of territorial integrity. The 1994 Budapest Memorandum was ahead of its time — the perfect example of the kind of advanced 21st-century thinking so cherished by our president. Perhaps the captain of that last Ukrainian vessel should have waved the document at the Russian fleet that took his ship.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

And what has the party of Charles K delivered over the past 34 years? Sam ALEC Brownback for one.

--- Killing Social Security Insurance Effort . http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0111orr.html

--- Killing Medicare Insurance Effort . http://www.thenation.com/article/159769/paul-ryans-plan-destroy-medicare

Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

And what has the party of Charles K delivered over the past 34 years? Sam ALEC Brownback for one.

--- A 600 room luxury American Embassy In Baghdad @ 1 billion tax $$$$$$

--- Waging war against women

--- Reagan/Bush Secret Weapons Deal aka Iran-Contra

--- --- Why does the GOP deliberately crash the USA economy? at will? http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/09/did-republicans-deliberately-crash-us-economy

--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT - TABOR is Coming by Grover Norquist = Grab Your Wallets! http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0705rebne.html

--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT - Bailing out The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist aka home loan scandal sent the economy out the window costing taxpayers many many billions and millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT - Sold off zillions of home loan bundles to our allies around the world aka Bailing out the Bush/Cheney Home Loan Wall Street Bank Fraud costing consumers trillions of $$$$$$, millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. Exactly like the Reagan/Bush home loan scam. Déjà vu can we say. Yep seems to be a pattern. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

--- This GOP ENTITLEMENT – Bailing Out Big banks. Bush/Cheney implied many financial institutions were at risk instead of only 3? One of the biggest lies perpetrated to American citizens. Where did this money go? Why were some banks forced to take bail out money? http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

--- RECKLESS GOP Tax cuts = THE GOP ENTITLEMENT program for the wealthy which do nothing to make an economy strong or produce jobs. Tax cuts are a tax increase to others in order to make up the loss in revenue = duped again. Bush Tax Cuts aka http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2001/0301miller.html

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 2 months ago

My great great grandparents had differences. They were "White Russians," that is, ethnic Germans that were farming in Russia raising wheat, because the Russians couldn't seem to do a very good job of it. And it was well known in the 1820s that if you needed wheat to be grown in your country, the best way to get that done in short order was to get some Germans there to do it for you.

So, Katherine the Great sent for some ethic Germans to come to Russia with some guarantees. Some years later, starting about 1880, the Russians didn't feel the need to stick to the guarantees that the Germans had been given. And, the Germans were being cheated in every way, it seemed, although they were apparently feeding the whole of Russia. So, starting in 1880, the Germans began to leave Russia. And they sent letters back telling their relatives they should do that too.

So, my great great grandfather began to talk of leaving Russia. There was a faraway place called "America" that sounded almost too good to be true. The money there held its value, and there was something going on there that sounded unbelievable, called "homesteading." All you had to do was show up and live on some land without paying anything for it, and after a few years, it would be yours! Free and clear, and you could even sell it after that if you wanted to! But Germans, as a general rule, are very reluctant to do that.

His wife did not want to go. Russia was her home, this is where her relatives were buried, and "America" was so far away.

True, there was a serious problem with Russians, and it was said that "You can always trust a German. But you can never trust a Russian! A Russian will cheat you every time!"

So, they steered clear of the Russians, and stayed in the German villages in Russia as much as possible.

And then came the fateful day, in 1917. They did know something was going on in Moscow, and it might not be good. Then, a group of Bolsheviks arrived, and they were told that things were different now. They were going to be taxed, as of today.

The tax that was collected that day was one third of absolutely everything they owned. They just took it away.

After the Bolsheviks left, my great great grandfather announced to his wife, "I'm going to America! You can stay here if you want." Then he began to pack some of his things, and took their money from its hiding place.

His wife responded, "I want to go with you! Don't leave me here!"

And so, he and his wife came to Kansas, and my family still lives here today.

I'm still a bit leery of Russians, though.

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