Last week, President Barack Obama gave his successor Donald Trump some advice on how to handle the Russian problem.
“A few months ago, when you were asked what is the biggest geopolitical group facing America, you said Russia, not al-Qaeda,” Obama lectured Trump. “And the 1980’s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War has been over for twenty years. When it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980’s, just like the social policy of the 1950’s, and the economic policies of the 1920’s.”
Whoops! Sorry, got my notes confused. That was Obama making an utter fool of himself during the 2012 presidential debates, with a line his panting media lapdogs declared one of the greatest “zingers” of all time.
These days, Obama likes to pretend he is tough on Russia, and the lapdogs have all forgotten what he said four years ago. For the outgoing President who leaves a world in flames for his successor to clean up, the Eighties are so very much back that he might as well give Trump some tips on playing Donkey Kong while he’s at it.
What Obama actually said, in a joint press conference with fellow planetary arsonist Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, was this:
I’ve sought a constructive relationship with Russia but what I have also been is realistic in recognizing there is some significant differences in how Russia views the world and how we view the world
And my hope is the president-elect coming in takes a similarly constructive approach: Finding areas where we can cooperate with Russia, where our values and interests align, but also willing to stand up to Russia where they are deviating from our values and international norms.
Obama also told Trump not to “take a realpolitik approach” or “just cut some deals with Russia”:
I don’t expect that the president-elect will follow exactly our blueprint, or our approach, but my hope is that he does not simply take a realpolitik approach, and suggest that if we just cut some deals with Russia, even if it hurts people, or even if it violates international norms, or even if it leaves smaller countries vulnerable, or creates long term problems in regions like Syria, that we just do what is convenient at the time. And that will be something that I think we’ll learn more about as the president-elect puts his team together.
A world emerging from eight years of nonstop Obama disasters can only hope Trump won’t be “following his blueprint” – which, much as Obama apologists will be loathe to admit it, involved a great deal of “just cutting deals with Russia.” What has Russia wanted under Obama that it didn’t get, short of annexing Poland?
As ZeroHedge puckishly noted, the Russians were launching strategic bombers, and flinging jet fighters off the nose of their aircraft carrier, into Syria even as Obama spoke. (The Russians are also learning that the U.S. Navy only makes aircraft carrier operations look easy.)
Once upon a time, Obama was threatening to pelt Damascus with cruise missiles because dictator Bashar Assad stepped over Obama’s infamous “red line” on chemical weapons. Obama then spent years, and piles of money, training ridiculously small white-hat rebel forces, which he sent into Syria on a mission to take down Assad, ISIS, and al-Qaeda, only to abandon them to unlovely fates.
Throughout this time, Assad and his Russian patrons claimed Obama was just drawing out the bloody Syrian civil war by half-heartedly supporting the rebels, because he was daydreaming about deposing Assad, instead of teaming up with the Syrians and Russians to fight ISIS.
Here’s how intimidated Vladimir Putin was by Barack Obama: the Russians ordered American planes out of Syrian airspace and started bombing the rebels the day after Putin met with Obama.
Obama loved to posture and preen like a tough guy, holding “intense conversations” with Putin where he demanded restraint in Syria, but not much ever came of it. Putin just calmly repeated his (false) assurances that Russia was merely looking to stamp out terrorists, and Obama should join him.
Putin thoroughly and comprehensively defeated Obama in Syria, down to the last detail, by which I mean “Russians blowing up U.S. allies in Syria while Obama does nothing.” Never mind dealing with Putin – Trump is going to have a hard time getting erstwhile American allies in Syria to trust the United States, after what Obama did to them.
Obama warned about the approach of a “meaner, harsher, more troubled world” in Berlin, as if he were the last brave defender holding it back, rather than one of the primary architects of the rough times to come. There isn’t a mean, harsh, troubled corner of the Earth that is not significantly worse after eight years of Obama foreign policy. American troops are currently in harm’s way on ground in Iraq and an Afghanistan that was won before Obama took charge.
The big-time bad actors of the world set their dire plans in motion during Obama’s tenure, betting that his diminished America would be unable to stop them. At least one of those Big Bads, Iran, is much richer and more powerful as a direct, intentional result of Obama’s actions. They feel absolutely no gratitude toward the United States for the windfall Obama sent their way.
Syria isn’t exactly a merry romp for Putin, but there’s no question his vision is far closer to prevailing there than Obama’s. Trump takes heat for talking in a cooperative, even admiring way about Putin, but we don’t know what he will actually do yet. Obama occasionally talks tough about Russia, but his actions haven’t been much of an obstacle to their agenda.
Whatever you can say about “realpolitik,” Obama’s brand of unrealpolitik is an absolute horror show.