What Is Obama Promising Putin in Exchange for 'Space'?
The next arms-control giveaway to Russia's authoritarian regime by the Obama Administration could very well be a big one.
Towards the end of a 90-minute Monday meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, President Barack Obama, apparently unaware, was recorded by a live microphone saying “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space,” then, “this is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility,” to which Mr. Medvedev responded, “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin].”
So what did this mean? Obviously what is being referred to is something that the American people might not want, otherwise it could be mentioned in public before the election. And why does Obama have to ask the Russians for any cooperation on this issue at all? That doesn’t sound like a strong negotiation approach to me, assuming it is a real negotiation and not just a big giveaway.
President Obama’s body language is also very unsettling, leaning forward and then patting Medvedev’s hand like he did. Then he sat back and looked around to make sure no one heard what he just said. President Obama really wants cooperation, or “space,” from the Russians until after the election.
Besides the physical closeness, the closeness of positions of President Obama and the Russian leaders is unsettling. This is definitely not a negotiation between adversaries. In fact, the only adversaries in this equation are these world leaders and the American people. This scene is more reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s kiss of Leonid Brezhnev than any negotiating President Reagan had with the Soviets in the 1980s.
And what is the “space” that President Obama says he needs? It probably means that he wants the Russians to hold off on some action they would be inclined to do otherwise--actions that would remind the American people that the Russians are still adversaries.
If there is some aggressive action the Russians want to take somewhere, like helping Assad in Syria quell the revolution there or supplying the Iranians with their nuclear equipment, then the American people would be wondering why the US is disarming in the face of this. Implicit in President Obama’s comments Monday is that the Russians can resume their actions after the elections--assuming the incumbent Democrat wins.
Here are some ideas as to what is going on: we have had reductions in warheads before. The New START treaty signed last year was already pretty lopsided against the United States. In exchange for reductions in American long-range nuclear missiles and missile defenses in Western Europe, the Russians agreed to limit the numbers of their mobile missile launchers, while shorter-range missiles in which the Russians have at least a 5:1 numbers advantage were left alone.
Maybe what is on Obama’s mind is even more of a lopsided arsenal and missile defense deal, or even a huge unilateral giveaway, like the total elimination of American and NATO nuclear warheads in Europe. Or it could be a huge reduction in warheads or abandonment of what little European missile defense still exists. The administration’s proposed budget already cuts back on SM-3 interceptor missiles that are the backbone of our missile defense.
Or President Obama may have in mind something that doesn’t need Senate ratification, like sharing missile defense secrets such as hit-to-kill technology and velocity at burnout information. He may be referring to divulging strategic secrets of allies, like his administration did last year. Whatever President Obama has in mind, we will all have to wait until after the election to find out what it is. But none of the theories look good for world peace.
To me, this exchange also highlights the lack of judgment possessed by President Obama, possessor of the most overrated intellect we have seen in a long time. Why even mention an election in the middle of a discussion on arms control anyway? Not too smart. Some observers will inevitably charge President Obama with signaling a request for some kind of help in his presidential campaign, or at least running the risk that the Russians might get that impression. After all, Obama did imply to the Russians that they will be better off if he wins the election.
That's definitely a cynical interpretation, but stranger things have happened in past elections. Remember how Chinese military money kept finding its way into President Clinton’s re-election campaign? That coincided with the relaxation of export controls for missile technology, which allowed the Chinese to greatly advance their ICBM guidance capabilities. Or recall the time when the late Senator Ted Kennedy offered to meet with Soviet leader Yuri Andropov to coordinate their efforts to defeat President Reagan’s re-election.
On his radio show Monday, Hugh Hewitt said “this sounds like a bad Rocky and Bullwinkle episode.” Let’s all hope that this is one of those quirky, slightly-funny news items that will become a footnote in history, nothing more. With international bullies like the Russians, you never know.