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Belmont Club

Walking Into It

March 3rd, 2014 - 12:44 am

The capitals of Europe have gone from complacency to a near panic in the last 72 hours, not simply over the crisis in the Ukraine but in the growing awareness that for at least the last half decade they’ve been standing on a trapdoor.

At least president Obama, the leader of the Free World, has.

The arms control agreements with Moscow; the “deal” with Syria; Obama’s negotiations to disarm Iran of nuclear weapons; the Russian-controlled northern distribution network through which NATO forces in Afghanistan are supplied — every one of these — once counted as glittering achievements, the crown jewels of the administration, now reappears in a new and sinister light.

Marco Rubio instantly knew what the Ukraine meant:

Majority Leader Harry Reid should immediately halt his effort to force a Senate vote on Rose Gottemoeller next week to be under secretary of state for arms control and international security. As I, Sens. John Cornyn and Jim Risch said yesterday, we shouldn’t even be thinking about arms-control negotiations with Russia anytime soon. And especially not negotiations led by a State Department official, such as Ms. Gottemoeller, who has tried to play down and potentially kept information from Congress and our allies about Russian violations of arms-control agreements.

Michael Singh, a former national security staffer, wrote in the Washington Post that the administration chose not to see a whole series of oncoming freight trains.

In Venezuela … in Syria … in Ukraine …” the administration ignored the obvious signs of trouble. “What contingency planning would have counseled, was … taking early, proactive steps to head off crises. In each case, the chosen policy has seemed designed to minimize risk and cost in the short run — but at the expense of greater costs in the long run. We have stood by as crises have deepened and problems grown harder to solve, and our prestige has waned accordingly.

To see it coming would have invalidated the fundamental premise of Obama’s foreign policy: that the train line was unobstructed; that he could talk to people he now knows he can’t talk to. For a while the deal making seemed too almost too good to be true and Obama marketed his “opportunities” and “investments” with almost evangelical zeal.  Even now Obama plans to tell Benjamin Netanyahu that time is running out for Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians.  One of those magic deals Kerry’s negotiated, like the one with Syria. He is figuring to tell the Israeli prime minister he had better buy now while supplies last or miss the deal of the century, the deal of a lifetime!  Maybe he even plans to exhibit all the notices he’s received from his “partners for peace” about how close he is to grabbing the Big Brass Ring.

It’s almost too sad to watch.  As the Washington Post editorial board just headlined, “President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy”. And that’s a verbatim quote.

In fairness the setup began during the Bush administration. George W. Bush famously said of Vladimir Putin:

I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. … I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.

But if Bush nibbled on the bait, it was Obama who decisively swallowed the hook.  As Peter Weber wrote,  partnering with Russia lay at the core of Obama’s foreign policy. He called it the reset.

In March 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made news by presenting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a cartoonish “Reset” button that included a bit of a translation error. The U.S. used the Russian word for “overcharged” where “reset” should be. The button was supposed to symbolize newly inaugurated President Obama’s outreach to Russia. In a way, it did.

What “reset” symbolized was his full acceptance of Putin’s strategic deception. Scott Wilson at the Washington Post marks almost the exact moment when Obama made the fatal choice to lower America’s guard, put his peacemaker back in the holster,and turn his back on Vladimir Putin, who was having coffee with one hand in his pocket, in order to hang the old irons up on a peg.

A president who has made clear to the American public that the “tide of war is receding” has also made clear to foreign leaders, including opportunists in Russia, that he has no appetite for a new one. What is left is a vacuum once filled, at least in part, by the possibility of American force.

“If you are effectively taking the stick option off the table, then what are you left with?” said Andrew C. Kuchins, who heads the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that Obama and his people really understand how others in the world are viewing his policies.”

Rarely has a threat from a U.S. president been dismissed as quickly — and comprehensively — as Obama’s warning Friday night to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. The former community organizer and the former Cold Warrior share the barest of common interests, and their relationship has been defined far more by the vastly different ways they see everything from gay rights to history’s legacy….

At the core of his quandary is the question that has arisen in White House debates over the Afghan withdrawal, the intervention in Libya and the conflict in Syria — how to end more than a dozen years of American war and maintain a credible military threat to protect U.S. interests.

The signal Obama has sent — popular among his domestic political base, unsettling at times to U.S. allies — has been one of deep reluctance to use the heavily burdened American military, even when doing so would meet the criteria he has laid out. He did so most notably in the aftermath of the U.S.-led intervention in Libya nearly three years ago.

And now he finds himself on the floor, his legs unaccountably unresponsive; aware something terrible has happened that he can’t explain; while  from the next room, an old TV a rerun of Star Wars tinnily plays the voice of Admiral Ackbar warning: “it’s a trap!”.

What’s trap? Will someone shut that TV off? Ow! What’s that pain in the back?

Gotta focus on Syria … you know the surrender of the chemical weapons … and Iran … can’t have nuclear weapons and when are the boys coming home through the Northern Route?

“Vladimir. Can you help me up? Vladimir?”

But maybe there was no real trap.  As Michael Singh, Sarah Palin, even fuddy-duddy Mitt Romney guessed, it was all too good, “too quiet” to be true. Something was up. The signs were plain to see if only Obama could take the vanity blinkers off. But where’s Vladimir and what’s that damned TV on about? “It’s a trap? It’s a trap?”

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Top Rated Comments   
There is, of course, the possibility that Bush was spot on and doing a good job of hinting at his understanding of Putin's complete predictability and trustworthiness. He is basically a smart, savvy, entrenched and nationalistic strongman, in the style of the great power mongers of the past centuries. He is doing what such leaders tend to do, to feather their own nests and whip up nationalist confidence that serves them at home.

From this perspective, he simply saw what anyone with a brain could see, that Obama's rise was a symptom that the West was attempting suicide and that this meant there was a big gap on the left side of the line that he could run through.

The problem for him is that there is another, equally great, pragmatic, yet flawed offensive team out there. That would be China, and there are probably any number of other flies in his ointment of the type that tend to cause these power games to unpredictably but eventually blow up in everyone's face.

But the longest game is being played on an entirely different level, and the resurgence of the Orthodox church is probably the most important player on the field at the moment.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting that the Wapo is saying such outspoken things in broad daylight inside der beltweg. Not just non existent invisibles like the Krauthammer and that wretched Wretchard who keep banging on about a delusional alternate reality in which broken glass cuts, appeasement invites bullying, and dead bodies stink.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you read Drudge and many other sites it surely sounds like the Russkies have pour thru the Fulda Gap! Former Ambassador John Bolton (very smart, down to earth American Patriot) said an amazing thing Friday on Fox News when asked what he would do, Mr. Bolton went on to acknowledged we don’t have any, ANY military options with Ukraine but the United States had a unconventional Nuclear Option, OIL, that’s right! Oil, John said President Reagan knew what the USSR weakness was, it wasn’t their Military it was their economy, Russia is even more venerable to an economic collapse as they were 40 years ago, The US has more Natural Gas and Oil than all of Russia, John said all America has to do is drill and frack our way to less than $100 a barrel of Oil and the Russian influence around the world would collapse like a house of cards, Yes it might take a year or so to see the cost of Oil fall and stay below a $100 bucks a barrel but Russia would feel the pinch even before it fall below. Sad fact is and History surely points it out that the Smarter, Wiser way of doing something often falls on deaf ears and many thru out history pay with lots of Blood.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (106)
All Comments   (106)
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"Oh," sneered Obama, "Russia a geopolitical foe? that's SO five minutes ago!"

The Gigolo Kerry seems to have skipped over the 20th century (couple of World Wars, anyone?) in his equally bird-brained complaint that Putin's move was "something out of the 19th century!"

I mean, gee whiz, where's Putin's fashion sense???

These people are blithering idiots. So are the "citizens" who voted for them. Twice. God help us.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
mr Wretchrd, I have wavered long on the incompetent or evil mastermind duality. you seem to favour ( I am not american!) the fool option for Obama?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
You can be both a fool and a rogue. My judgment of foolishness is based on the record of his losses to opponents. He's a loser. Now is he malevolent or just plain inept? Objectively it doesn't matter. If he doesn't do his job then even if were the best intentioned person he still should consider another line of work.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good. The Obama/American decadence contagion will be limited by their own incompetence.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
A couple of points.

Ukraine produces its own oil and natural gas. It still has to import the majority of what it uses. Are there perhaps some opportunities for US help with fracking? And if that was part of a US response, wouldn't that be ironic?

The Zenit and Tsyklon (ie, SS-9 ICBM) space boosters are built in the Ukraine. The engines are built in Russia. The first stage airframe for the US Antares space booster is built in the Ukraine. Obviously, the country has considerable technical expertise and manufacturing capability, and Russia relies on it - but the Ukraine also relies on Russian components.

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wow. That video is brutal.

So if today President Obama asked Mitt Romney to join his foreign policy team, what would the first meeting look like? What would someone who based his entire strategy on incorrect assumptions say when confronted with the facts?

Maybe something like this:

(Jump to 1:25 if the link takes you to the beginning of the clip. And be aware that it contains profanity - but it's a classic.)

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Russia And China In Agreement Over Ukraine"\
H/T Drudge

Eisenhower's comment regarding Nixon was in a public press event and has been confirmed through multiple sources. Do your own homework. McCain's judgment on Putin is something I heard him say myself when I was with the campaign. It was one of his standard lines. He may have cribbed it from Cheney but I don't know.

Just now I was channel surfing and saw the author of "Bloodlands" Timothy Snyder on the doctrinaire agitprop outlet "Democracy Now." The station was New York City's municipal owned PBS affiliate. Interestingly he self-identified as a "man of the Left" while criticizing the station's Kremlin friendly party line that everything is Amerikkka's fault. Snyder was firm that the revolution was genuine and the divisions between Ukraine's regions are the result of Russian intrigues.

It was then fascinating to watch rogue CIA analyst Ray McGovern try to pump air into the blame the USA-CIA-Soros for inflaming the poor Russians line. Have we found X in his day job?

Honest men like Snyder, whether their views on social and tax policy are flawed or not, are rare and they need our support.

If an officer in one of the surrounded Ukrainian garrisons has the spine of a Doubleday then there may be a Fort Sumter event. Obama hearing of that would think of sending baseballs. Once the fire is lit no one knows where it will go.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The expected outcome of the surrounded Ukraine soldiers in the East is the hinge pin of what happens next. If they surrender and are then allowed to march out to the West, the situation is temporarily defused, and the shooting doesn't start yet. Putin and his military are daring the Ukrainians to resist. Next time it will be harder to muster resistance. Putin wants to win but doesn't yet want a real fight if he can get what he wants by ultimatum.

And de facto Chinese support was to be expected. Ukraine, Poland and those countries in the "near abroad" from Russia are all disposable to the West and the rest of the world. Who do they think they are? Right now, Poland is just realizing what a betrayal was Obama's cancelling of the missile interceptor bases were, as if they didn't know already.
Russia will return the favor in de facto support of Chinese actions against Japan and the Philipines later this year. And again, it will be hard for the West to resist, because caving in is easier. Hey, there's crucial cable TV to watch.

The Moscow - Beijing Axis is coming into view. By this time next year, a lot of countries will be choosing up sides. The politically supine Obama Regime will let the world catch on fire, because there is no will to resist or apply any effort. Europe is just about worthless now, and I think that also within the year NATO will be de facto dead. Germany may well choose to be on the winning side this time and join up with Russia.

This could be a version of Steyn's "America Alone".
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
It seems to me that the administration of the uSA has made several key mistakes.

1. Engaging in a war with supply lines that are not under their complete control. Worse, pursusing that action when the supply lines run through a potential enemy's territory. Utterly insane. All generals who allowed this without resigning should be dismissed immediately.

2. Not being self sufficient in energy, especially oil, when the availability is there.

3. Thinking that they needn't negotiate from strength and that the other side mirrored their philosophy. Just plain stupid, again.

There was never going to be much the USA could do if the Russians wanted the Crimea. Fighting Russians face to face five thousand miles away and on their own doorstep would not be the same as trying to control Afghanistan, and look how that turned out.

Perhaps if the USA had developed a key supply the Russians desperately needed they might have some influence, but food would be a long term embargo, besides a few million starving, who among the Democrats will allow sanctions when millions are dying? Oil to move your tanks, that would be different but is not an option, the Russians are self sufficient in energy and Europe should have been. Now the Euros are hostages.

Seems to me Russia holds most of the all the trumps cards.

Best the West can hope for is that Russians over reach and the populace tears their countries apart. It will do no one any good at all except for schadenfreude and for sure, if I was a Ukranian I'd hunker down and wait it out.

The Ukranians were lazy and did not protect themselves, I still think their best option is to sell the Crimea, $50B up front and get time to build a cohesive country with a willing defence force.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment

President Obama has deliberately or by sheer incompetence placed the American army in a trap, sending them to a landlocked country from which they may well have to fight their way out. In December 2009 President Obama surged the US forces in Afghanistan to 100,000 men, effectively depending on Pakistan to allow supplies to travel overland through Pakistan to Afghanistan. That route was closed by the Taliban and an enemy Pakistani government, and Obama made a deal with Russia to supply our forces through Russia. Does anyone think Putin doesn’t remember the US supplying Stinger missiles to the Taliban to shoot down Russian helicopters and troop transports? He remembers, and he will act accordingly. Putin has the fate of every American and Nato soldier in Afghanistan in his grubby little hands, and he will extract a price.

The Northern Route is closed, he said, as Putin broadly smiles
We’re sorry now that you must make your push
Through Pakistan with all your men, a march of many miles
Through mountains and a Taliban ambush
Oh yes we’ve sold them weapons too, not Stingers but you know
What goes around must come around one day
Just little stuff to blow your trucks and armor up in smoke
Consider this a reset by the way

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I recall in one of Henry Kissinger's books he noted that it was stupid for France to allow the various Germany states to unify. Prior to unification France invaded Germany pretty much every time they got bored. After, Germany treated France like the Hulk treated Loki in that Avengers movie.

Anyway, it's always struck me as stupid for the United States to encourage the pumpernickel principalities of Europe to unify- especially since much of it has happened on our dime.

So gosh. Somehow I'm not feeling too upset that the Zeropean Yoonyun- which openly aims to become a great power rival to the United States- has suddenly run into difficulties swallowing Ukraine.

Dang that bad luck.

I know the EU reeeeally liked Obama once upon a time.

I hope they're happy to have what they wished for...
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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