During the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, President Barrack Obama promised to accommodate, after the US presidential election, the interests of Russia's head of state President Dmitri Medvedev, and, more specifically, his predecessor-cum-successor Vladimir Putin. The latter has vowed to reintegrate the old Soviet Empire.
There are some irritants, however. America's lingering presence is a major block to the Kremlin's objective. Moscow scoffs in particular at the previous American administration's commitment to set up a missile shield in the post-Soviet zone, Poland, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic. The project is of puny importance militarily, but of enormous significance symbolically. For the former captive nations the Shield signifies the US commitment to maintaining their freedom.
No such commitment is evident now. Appeasement is. Since the Obama administration's Freudian slip about peregruzka (overload) that was supposed to have launched perezagruzka (reset), the White House has acted overloaded, overworked, and overcharged as far as its relationship with Russia. The much vaunted reset translates into a brazen appeasement of Russia. With a few exceptions on minor issues, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have preached and practiced appeasement toward Moscow. One example is the signing of the START II treaty of 2011, which put America's security at a disadvantage by forcing the US to obey by an agreement concluded with a party that no longer exists, the USSR. We are forced to disarm unilaterally. And now the Shield project will be scratched.
President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it's important for him to give me space.
President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you...
President Obama: (putting his hand on Medvedev's knee): This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
In a way, then, the unguarded remarks of Obama reflect the administration's consistency and continuity in its policy of appeasing Russia. What's unsavory about the whole affair is that a hot microphone accorded America and the world a glimpse at frank, back door deals between the most powerful leader on Earth and the boss of a regional power.
There are two main losers of the secret tacit understanding between the White House and the Kremlin: the Americans and their allies. First, the American people voted for Obama trusting the alleged young idealist to break with the politics as usual and usher in "change" that we could all believe in. All in the public square would be honest, decent, and transparent. The people trust the leader; and the leader trusts the people. Right? Not exactly. There are hot potato issues not to be dealt with before the presidential election, apparently. Will the American people, in particular some of Obama's supporters, be outraged that throwing our central and eastern European allies under the train was not the change the adoring crowds expected of the new Commander-in-Chief?
The other losers of the deal with Moscow are the denizens of the post-Soviet zone. Dubbed briefly "New Europe," they stood and bled with the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan for no apparent reason other than allied obligation and sympathy for the US. Their Transatlanticisim has been stellar in cooperation with the British. For the White House, that hardly counts because we are withdrawing our troops and the central and eastern European allies are fast becoming irrelevant. Also, Transatlanticism is so passé. And so is the special relationship with the Brits. Brussell is the go-to center, followed by Berlin and Paris. Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, and others simply do not matter.
They are also unimportant for Obama because they can't vote in the US. Yet, they can: by proxy. Fortunately, they have cousins in this country as well as friends with strong memories of solidarity in the struggle for freedom during the Cold War. The Americans of Polish and other central and eastern European origins will most certainly vote against Obama, just like the did against Franklin D. Roosevelt when he surrendered Poland and its neighbors to Stalin at Yalta in 1945; and against Gerald Ford and his Sonnenfeld doctrine advising docile self-Sovietization to the Polish and other slaves of Communism in 1976.
The so-called "white ethnics" have had a strong voting record against the appeasers. Most of them cradle Democrats, they went solidly for Ronald Reagan for he was no appeaser. They even gave Bill Clinton a run for his money until the President unequivocally embraced NATO expansion to include Poland and its fellow newly liberated states.
And then there are countless other Americans with no central and eastern European background who are worried about the nation's security. They will not be reassured that Vladimir can count on Barrack. Less damage will result if the latter becomes a private citizen after November 2012. And the economy will rebound, too.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
27 March 2012
The Institute takes no positions on policy issues, and the views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.