American Elephants


Unprepared for the Office to Which He Aspired. by The Elephant's Child

The Russian absorption of the Crimea seems to be a done deal. Obama is ordering sanctions, but apparently on the wrong people. One would think that they could at least sanction the bank accounts of people who would mind and do something about it. This is what Russia has been doing since the end of the Cold War— when it sees weakness and vacillation, they slide in.

The big problem is that our lack of understanding of how the world works, speaks loudly to the rest of the world. Putin, former KGB Colonel,  knows what he is doing and has a good idea about what he can get away with. Russia is a mess. Life expectancy is around 55. Their manufactured goods are only for home use, and are not competitive on the world market. What they do have is lots of oil and natural gas, which Europe, due to their romance with wind and solar, and fear of global warming, desperately needs. Europe can thus be blackmailed. They have relied for too long on an American superpower which they can no longer trust.

On September 17, 2009, President Barack Obama officially announced that he would abandon the Eastern European missile shield. The new man in the White House apparently felt that his “mandate” meant that he was free not only to break with the past, but to undo it.  No scruples about reneging on long-term commitments of his country when they interfered with his own plans. So he scrapped the treaties George W.Bush had signed with Poland and the Czech Republic. The latter countries were not exactly pleased.

“Catastrophic for Poland” a spokeswoman at the Polish Ministry of Defense said. Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and founder of Solidarity observed with bitterness: “I can see what kind of policy the Obama administration is pursuing toward this part of Europe. The way we are being approached needs to change.”Aleksander Szczyglo, the minister of defense at the time, told the press: “From the point of view of our interests, every U.S. soldier, every U.S. base on Polish territory, increases our security and binds us to the United States by a closer alliance.”

Continuity in international relations is essential. You just can’t jerk other countries around. The U.S. has historically respected it’s treaties, even those that the Senate did not ratify. We now have an administration unconstrained by preceding commitments. Nations whose good-faith gestures and risks are snubbed may have a very different view. Simply dumping treaty commitments may seem unimportant at the time, but it is the kind of thing that reverberates around the world affecting countries willingness to act in concert with us. Diplomacy by “reset button” damages our relations with everyone.

In a joint statement on December 4, 2009, the president of the United States, Barack Obama and the president of Russia, Dimitry Medvedev, confirmed the assurances of security to Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus given on the heels of these countries consent in 1994 to give up their nuclear weapons. According to the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, the signatories pledged to “Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders” and “Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.” The Russians ignored the memorandum, but one does not expect much of Russia. Apparently one does not expect much of the United States either.

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