By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
With all of the attention focused on ISIS and the Iran nuclear agreement, missing from the foreign policy debate, and something which needs to be discussed is this: Has Russia been exploiting the weakness in U.S. foreign policy?
President Obama assumed the presidency in 2009, with one goal in mind, to repudiate the go it alone and unilateralism of the Bush administration’s foreign policy approach, especially after the terror attack on September 11, 2001.
Editor of Foreign Affairs, Gideon Rose writes, the Obama administration came into office determined to reverse what it saw as the Bush administration’s mistakes, to “rebalance our long-term priorities so that we successfully move beyond today’s wars, and focus our attention and resources on a broader set of countries and challenges,” as the administration’s initial National Security Strategy put it.
Foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal countered the assessment by Rose in Foreign Affairs that every president should be judged on a few fundamentals—his ability to deliver what he promised, weaken the country’s foes and strengthen its friends, elaborate a concept of the American interest that is persuasive and true, and pass on a world heading in the right direction. Obama rates well on none of these.
This brings us back to the original question, has Russia exploited the weakness of U.S. foreign policy?
This question needs to be addressed, because in 2016 the United States will be electing a different president with a different vision for the nation, and the same foreign policy challenges will still remain.
Again, the question needs to be addressed, has Russia exploited U.S. weakness in foreign policy?
One only has to review recent events in how Russian President Vladimir Putin views the United States and President Obama.
First, Putin was emboldened by the minimal response of the United States to the recent decree by Russia this month to deliver S-300 anti-missiles to the Iranian regime. The president’s response was tepid and showed little concern, except he stated it technically wasn’t illegal and “frankly surprised” Russia waited this long.
The second aspect was the Obama administration’s overturning of the conventional weapons and ballistic-missile embargoes against Iran, which Russia readily agreed to during the last minute nuclear agreement negotiations.
The main segment that Russia views as American weakness was during Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and intervention in Ukraine. At first, President Obama sent a signal to Russia that “Further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world.”
The president continued, “The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continued Russia military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russia economy.”
A year in half later Russia still occupies the Crimea and is deeply involved in the Ukraine. Even after Russia signed the Minsk ceasefire agreement last February, Russian forces still continue to stream across the border with little resistance from the United States.
Even before the Ukrainian crisis boiled over, the United States looked feckless in its handling of the Syrian crisis in September 2013, with which the president issued a redline with regard to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, then failed to follow through when it was breached.
Weakness by the U.S. during this crisis, and subsequent actions by the U.S., brought Russia back into the Middle East politics for the first time since the mid-1970s, especially as it relates to the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia now acts with impunity, as Saudi Arabia is looking to buy Russian made weapons, and other nations throughout the region are questioning the reliability of the United States.
In June 2014, Kori Schake wrote an article in Foreign Policy magazine regarding how our allies view the U.S. foreign policy, that the Obama administration has achieved a landmark heretofore considered impossible: they are making America’s allies homesick for the administration of George W. Bush.
Schake continues that Poland’s foreign minister was caught on tape earlier this year disparaging the United States. Radek Sikorski bitterly said Warsaw’s ties to Washington were “worthless,” then followed it up with some even saltier language.
A year later the same view is still held of U.S. foreign policy, which is that our enemies do not fear us, and our allies do not trust the resolve of the United States
With the 2016 presidential election in full swing, what are the foreign policy visions of both Republican and Democratic candidates? Maybe it’s time to ask that question now, as all these problems will still be there, with solutions growing more difficult with time.