Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Obama And The Russian Bears

President Obama met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday. The two signed a framework for reducing nuclear weapons. Obama probably hadn't noticed that the breakup of the Soviet Union produced a major reduction in Russian weapons because a large number of them ended up in other former Soviet republics such as The Ukraine and Belarus. But that's another story.


This is really three stories which are intertwined. Let's call it good news, bad news, and Omigod.

First, the good news (well, maybe). There are a whole lot of nuclear weapons floating around in the world, but there is no doubt that the United States and Russia have the largest number of them by far. Many of these weapons are Cold War era, and are deteriorating. Others are simply supernumerary. If four or five hundred nukes will destroy the world at least once, why do we jointly need nearly two thousand five hundred? Now all we have to concern ourselves with is how well Russia observes agreements as compared with the predecessor Soviet Union (anybody remember "we do not have any nuclear weapons in Cuba?).

But it was a wonderful sight. Obama smiled. Medvedev smiled. Charm fairly oozed throughout the entire meeting. Together, they built a framework for a formal treaty by the end of the year. We'll cut the total weapons down to around one thousand five hundred. We'll cut the number of missiles capable of delivering the nukes to somewhere between five hundred and a thousand. With Obama's love for reducing our Air Force budget, how the extra nukes would be delivered in case of war remains unclear. Perhaps in the trunk of a GM solar-powered tinfoilmobile. But since nobody wants a nuclear war anyway, what need is there for delivery? Even Democrats came to agree that MAD (mutually-assured destruction) had worked, however terrifying the prospect. But, what the heck. This happy-happy diplomacy just feels so darned good. Diplomats and State Department bureaucrats are awaiting instructions on whether the framework will be modeled after the highly-successful framework pioneered by President Clinton and North Korea.

Ever watchful of the American economy, President Obama saved us $133 million dollars by charming Medvedev into picking up the navigation costs for American military overflights of Russian territory for emergency deployments to Afghanistan. I think the savings amounts to about ten seconds on the Obama "how fast can we spend the taxpayers' money" clock. But at least we won't be flying blind over Russia. Medvedev was also beaming when he agreed that he would not only cover the navigation costs (leaving American flights under the control of Russian air traffic-controllers during any crisis in Afghanistan), but he would also guarantee that Russian air defenses would promise not to shoot down any American planes making those overflights. Finally, peace for our time.

Now, for the bad news. President Obama is "examining options" for ending the Bush plans to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The two nations sit in ideal positions to fend off any missile attacks on Europe originating in Iran (or any other Middle East nation adhering to the religion of peace). Stanford physicist Dean Wikening has been advising the President's staff on more optimal sites for downing the incoming missiles--particularly Turkey and Romania. Unfortunately, Wikening is neither a history nor foreign relations expert, so he is obviously unaware that the two sites are in places semi-hostile to America, and one is nearly in open support of Islamic hegemony. Someone needs to tell Wikening that the optimum location to blow up Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles is in Teheran, but I don't think the Iranians would be amenable to that solution.

Could there be a connection between the good news and the bad news? Don't forget the smile-fest in Moscow. Russia has maintained that anti-missile defense weapons in Poland and the Czech Republic would be more likely to be used against Russian than Iranian missiles. Why would we need to do that, since President Medvedev has declared America a partner in defense of the free world? Then again, if Russia didn't have any contingency plans for attacking America or Russia's European neighbors, why would Medvedev care about where we put our defensive system? Perhaps Medvedev's people also consulted with Dr. Wikening about where the defense system would be most effective.

If the United States insists on placing those systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, Obama might not be invited back for any more Moscow kumbaya moments with uber-smiler Medvedev. Love makes the world go 'round, and Obama doesn't want to miss a moment of that love. So it became incumbent on the smiling Presidents to undo all that suspicion and distrust created by the evil and unsubtle George W. Bush. How to explain that Obama is even still considering the Poland-Czech Republic option? He forthrightly told Medvedev that "there is no scenario from our perspective, in which this missile defense system would provide any protection against the mighty Russian arsenal." Well, if Obama goes through with his plans to end the missile defense systems, he is then absolutely right, and it wouldn't matter where we had planned to put them.

And finally, for the Omigod news. The meetings in Moscow are not yet over. After meeting with the mugging Medvedev, Obama will be meeting with the real power behind the throne--Vladimir Putin. To understand the Russian power structure, it is important to remember that the system doesn't work anything like the systems of the West where similar titles are given to government leaders. The President of France has real power. The President of Germany has ceremonial duties only as the head of state, but the German Chancellor has the real power as the head of government. And for that matter, the President of the United States is both the head of state and the head of government, while in England the Queen is the head of state, but the Prime Minister controls the government.

If you're not confused enough by now, let's visit the Russian system. Medvedev is the President. Putin is the Prime Minister. In the Russian system, the head of government is the man with the most guns and loyal party members. That used to be the President of Russia--V. Putin. Now it's the Prime Minister--V. Putin. Obama's highly-competent Russian translators (the ones who sent Hillary with the red button gift) translated Putin's latest statement prior to the meeting with Obama as "we wish to work closely with America." One anonymous source in the State Department thought he recognized the Russian words from a previous Russian leader, so he looked them up. What Putin actually said was "we will bury you." (OK, I made that last part up)

Putin is not a smiler. Putin is not a diplomat. Putin is immune to the greasy charm of the American President. Putin attempted to bully Bush into giving up the missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, but failed. That damned cowboy stood up to him. But Putin has already taken the measure of Barack Obama. Like Hitler with Chamberlain, Putin threatens, demands, gets his way, then holds out the promise of eternal peace.

There will be more smiling announcements and holding of hands before this is over. Obama and Medvedev will declare that they have reached agreement on the framework. Putin will barely be mentioned, and since he loves power not publicity and photo-ops, that's just fine with him. But we will not know for sure what Obama agreed to or what he may have given away until the treaty is prepared for Senate approval at the end of the year. I would like to hope it will be a good thing, but so far change of any good kind has not come out of the Obama administration. The best we can probably hope for is that Medvedev and Putin taught Obama a little something about capitalism. They obviously understand it better than he does. Karl Marx must be very confused in his grave.

Note: Subsequent to my writing of this article, the Putin-Obama meeting went forward. Obama was given a fifty-minute lecture on the Cold War and all of the mistakes America made during that period. Obama smiled, incessantly. Putin frowned most of the time. Obama later acknowledged who the real power in Russia is (Putin). Putin neither confirmed nor denied the earlier agreement(s) between Obama and Medvedev. Beyond that, the substance of the article is not changed in any appreciable way.

24 comments:

StanH said...

Dr. StrangeloveL: ... General "Buck" Turgidson: Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines. ... Good news General Buck -- Lawhawk we now have our own doomsday machine, “wink and a nod Barry.” When Mr. Bush said he looked into Putins eyes and could see the soul of a man he could work with, he atleast had the sense to move forward with missle defense …Barry he’ll deal anything away for his perceived egalitarian utopia.

freedom21 said...

Excellent Article. Thanks. This is the resurgence of Russian power methinks...

I have some troops on the ground over there (my dad) and one thing that should be stressed. It is NOT a smile fest. My dad (who is very-tell-it-like-it-is-formerly-apolitical) said that things are tense. Why? Russians hate colored people. By colored I mean anything but white. The darker they are, the more they hate them. Russians want nothing to do with Obama. (In fact, my dad was telling me that we used to send all black people to the embassy over there just to p!ss them off--and it worked). The press has been down right dismissive of Obama and the leaders actually cold shouldered him. Russians don't fall for fancy words either. If youve ever spoken to a Russian, you know this. It's like verbal assault for every conversation--no pleasantries exchanged, just demands. Obama will not get far with a smile.

Also, you are very correct about the power. Putin is hard nosed former KGB bad a$$ who holds all the power (and by power I mean political and energy). Obama has never dealt with anyone like this guy. I'm sure that the Russians will get rid of some of their nukes--just the old and useless ones. I shudder to think about how these meeting will end. I imagine Obama in a corner wetting himself and mumbling something about "..not his fault..past eight years...before my life time...only 8...failed policies".

As for screwing Poland? Bad move, Obama. His complete disrespect for Poland and the Czechs is akin to meeting the family the first time and forgetting to be nice to grandmother. That lady has all the power. Everytime.

freedom21 said...

Sorry to throw this out there as it has absolutely nothing to do with anything about this post..but I was at WriterX's site looking at where people are fun (yes, the conference call I am on demands THAT much of me) and someone from on here went over there and is from WHEELING WV...who are you?!?!?!? And do you know my grandpa!??!? :)

Writer X said...

Watching Obama with Medvedev was like watching a kid at his first Boy Scout meeting. He was gushing. Interestingly, I read on Drudge that the Russians were more interested in watching a national soccer game than in watching Obama. Smart people.

AndrewPrice said...

Everything I've seen agrees with what freedom21 says.

Two other points I would raise. First, the Russians bribed Kyrgistan to demand the removal of American bases used to resupply Afghanistan. Now the Russians generously agree to host us for that purpose. Gee, I wonder what that could be about.

Second, Obama talks about the need to be Russia's economic partner, BUT we have more trade with Poland than Russia.

Maybe he's still getting economic advice from Biden?

AndrewPrice said...

Oh, I also forgot to mention, I saw this on European Squawkbox last night -- the Chinese walked out of the G-8 meeting (ostenisbly because of the riots in China). But these riots have been on-going, and the Chinese chose to wait until the opening to take off. So many are taking this as an insult and a statement that the Chinese are going to be difficult on economic matters. At the very least, they are saying that it makes the rest of the G8 conference irrelevant.

CrispyRice said...

Great, just when I wrapping my head around worrying about North Korea, Iran, and Honduras, now I have to think about Russia, too.

Thanks for the update!

freedom21 said...

Writer X: Smart people indeed! Although...our people are more concerned with a funeral than our impending doom. Does that make us smart too?!

AP: I never have understood the economic partnering with Russia. We don't get our oil from them(because if we did, we'd freeze whenever Putin decided it was fitting)and other than matruska dolls and vodka, I can't think of anything they produce. Is there something I am missing?

Writer X said...

Freedom21, the people who spent their entire day watching that bizzaro memorial service are most likely habitually unemployed--and Obama followers.

AndrewPrice said...

Freedom21, you're right. We have very little commerce with them -- I would add hockey players and mobsters to their list of exports.

I understand the desire to engage Russia diplomatically for a variety of reasons, but I think we are still stuck with the cold war impression of Russia, as bigger and more important than they really are.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, Hey, I didn't watch all day! I took a few minutes out during the commerical breaks to listen to MJ's music. Today I'm moving his shrine from the basement to the living room. . . :-P

Writer X said...

Andrew, too funny. I haven't been able to get that song "Ben" out of my head. On a serious note, I've never been able to understand people who have the need to grieve so publicly.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I don't understand the desire to be seen grieving either, and I think that is a lot of what is going on with regard to MJ -- many people seem to want to be seen grieving.

LawHawkSF said...

NIGHTHAWK DISCLAIMER: I just want to remind everyone who doesn't already know that I am on Pacific Time, and most of our readers are on Eastern Time. For those of you who joined us after my original disclaimer, I just want to let you know that I read every comment and attempt to answer them as quickly as I can. It's just that when you're having your last cup off coffee before heading off to work, I'm still sound asleep dreaming about Ann Coulter being appointed to the Supreme Court. So please bear with me if I reply to you later than you expected.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: Every time I looked into the eyes of a district attorney, I evaluated whether or not I could work with him. And like President Bush with Putin, if I decided I could, it didn't mean for one minute that I forgot he was my opponent, and that we had very different goals in the courtroom. If Barry Boy had ever actually been in a courtroom as a defense attorney, the first time a district attorney shook his hand and smiled, Obama would decide they were on the same side.

LawHawkSF said...

Freedom21: As an American from a German background, I have two instinctive reasons not to trust the Russians. But that's only my visceral reaction. We have a large Jewish-Russian "gulag thaw" immigrant community here in San Francisco. Most of them have the same feeling toward Russia that German-Jewish immigrants have about Germany. They have a love for the country from which they fled, but despise everything the government did to them. You have reminded me that Russia was notorious for its pogroms, the Russian version of ethnic cleansing.

Bush partnered with Russia because he understood the maxim: keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Obama is so nuanced that he actually believes Russia is a legitimate partner.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: I hate admitting this, but I was a teen when the naive and idealistic John Kennedy met at the summit with Nikita Khruschev. Kennedy smiled and Khruschev ripped him apart. Kennedy had expected to charm the Soviet dictator into a peace partnership just like Obama with Putin. Kennedy's belief that charm and intellect alone could tame the Russian bear resulted in Khruschev deciding that America wouldn't do a thing if the Soviets put nuclear missiles in Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a direct result of presidential naivete. Fortunately, Kennedy was able to learn from that first summit humiliation. I'm not sure Obama is a good learner.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew and WriterX: You were both discussing memorials and a funeral going on yesterday. Who died?

CrispyRice: The worst part is that of the names you mentioned (North Korea, Iran, Honduras and Russia), only one--Russia--is actually capable of annihilating us. I worried all those years when the Soviet Union openly threatened us, I worry even more now that they're so secretive, even at the highest levels. I'd be on much more familiar ground if Putin would show up at the U.N. and pound his shoe on the podium while denouncing us. At least then, there would be no pretense.

Tennessee Jed said...

Lawhawk - as always a great analysis. Sounds to me like Obama all but kissed Putin's ring while bowing. Like you, I am old enough to remember Nikita Kruschev and fallout shelters. Like you and W. I have zero trust of the Soviets (oops, Russians.) Please apologize to Kitty Kelly for me because at first I thought you were using a photograph as an avatar for Obama to make a point.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: We must admit that Khruschev had to be one of the funniest mass-murderers in history. Putin is cold, and profoundly scary. Even Brezhnev laughed occasionally.

Don't worry about Kitty Kelly. She is utterly convinced that she could write better climate and health care bills than Obama. Come to think of it, she's right.

patti said...

putin...that name makes me laugh every time.

add that to his beady steely eyes contrasted with obama and his smile that pisses away our strength and you have the makings of a saturday morning cartoon for kiddies.

LawHawkSF said...

Patti: Changing names in order to protect the guilty, we could call the cartoon "Puta and Bammy." Of course, we might have to change that name for the Spanish-speaking market.

CrisD said...

Mark Steyn touched on some of the finer points on this with a caller today and I got it. Thanks.

LawHawkSF said...

CrisD: Mark Steyn is one of the greats. I was so taken by his writing style that I wrote a couple of articles for The Weekly Standard about fifteen years ago, and when somebody at work started to read one of them to me a couple of weeks later, I said "oh, yeah, that must be Mark Steyn." About two sentences later, I realized the other reason it sounded familiar--I had written it. I only wish I could write half as well as he does.

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