The PJ Tatler

$1 Billion to 'Reassure' Europe? Showing Leadership is Cheaper

The US government spends about $10 billion a day so perhaps earmarking 10% of one day of the taxpayer’s tab in order to reassure the White House that we are reassuring Eastern Europe of our commitment to their security is money well spent.

Or maybe not. Far more than a token billion dollars, what Poland, the Czech Republic, and the rest of the former Soviet satellite states want is a demonstration of American leadership to counter Russian aggression.

Are those government looking at our actions in Ukraine and wondering if it was their hide on the line, would President Obama issue “strongly worded statements” and slap useless sanctions on Russia?

Not long ago, Lech Walesa wondered the same thing:

Speaking to The Associated Press, Walesa said “the world is disorganized and the superpower is not taking the lead. I am displeased.”

The former Solidarity leader said that when he meets Obama in Warsaw, he wants to tell him that the U.S. should inspire and encourage the world into positive action.

“The point is not in having the States fix problems for us or fight somewhere, no,” Walesa said. “The States should organize us, encourage us and offer programs, while we, the world, should do the rest. This kind of leadership is needed.”

“I will say: Either you want to be a superpower and guide us, or you should give the superpower to Poland and we will know what to do with it. Amen,” said Walesa, who is known for sometimes abrasive comments.

Inspiring leadership escapes the president because, as he has proven here at home, he hasn’t a clue how to lead. Empty speeches made to his robotic followers, lovingly reported by an adoring media is no substitute for taking the Congress and the country where he wants us to go. His failures in leadership have forced him to govern partly by decree — a sad commentary on a sad presidency.

In the real world where Eastern European countries are facing a resurgent Russia and wondering about the American commitment to their survival as free states, the president’s words were probably comforting, but are they truly “reassured”?

The White House also said it would review permanent troop deployments in Europe in the light of the Ukraine crisis — though that fell short of a firm commitment to put troops on the ground that Poland and some of its neighbours had sought.

Stationing troops permanently in eastern Europe would be tricky: many NATO members in Western Europe would baulk at the cost, and a big increase in U.S. forces could prompt reciprocal steps by Moscow and spiral into an arms race.

A new arms race? Russia is the aggressor, invading Ukraine to seize Crimea and threatening the rest of the country as well as Eastern Europe and we’d be to blame if another arms race started? Sheesh.

The military assistance for Europe proposed by the White House, called the European Reassurance Initiative, is to include greater U.S. participation in training and exercises, deploying U.S. military planners, and more persistent naval deployments in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea, on Russia’s doorstep.

The White House said in a statement it would help build the defence capacity of Ukraine and two other Western-leaning states on Russia’s borders, Georgia and Moldova. Obama would be seeking the support of the U.S. Congress for the plan, it said.

“In addition to this initiative, we are reviewing our force presence in Europe in the light of the new security challenges on the continent,” it said.

At a separate meeting in Brussels of NATO states, U.S Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged allies to raise their defence budgets in response to the Ukraine crisis, something several of them are reluctant to do.

NATO countries have no interest in cutting social spending to meet a threat they’ve always believed the US should handle. And with the US cutting its own defense budget, these deployments are almost certainly going to cut into our forces elsewhere.

Lech Walesa, again:

“The world does not have politically moral leadership at the moment,” Walesa said in an interview with broadcaster CNN. “The world is a very dangerous place if there is no world leadership… They (the Americans) should finally start acting like a superpower again.”

Would that it were so.