Unaware of an open microphone, on March 26, 2012, at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, President Obama said to outgoing Russian president Dmitry Medvedev,
“This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” To which Medvedev replied, “I understand, I will transmit this information to Vladimir (Putin).”
Is “flexibility” implicated in the Ukraine crisis?
What we do know is, a few months later, the Obama administration canceled a planned anti-missile system for deployment in Poland in the year 2022. This naturally pleased the Russians, since they felt the system was a deterrent to their missile capabilities.
More significantly, the Europe-based system defended the U.S.in case of a missile attack by Iran. Furthermore, the cancelation also disengaged the European anti-missile defense systems from defending the U.S. This of course appeased both Russia and Iran, or any other regional adversary of the U.S.
Today, Russia is flexing their military muscle. They have swiftly moved troops in to “protect Russian interests” in Ukraine. Understand, the crisis is mainly about President Putin’s Kremlin vs. an expanding European Union—East vs. West, global economic power is at stake.
Some Ukrainians want ties with the EU, others with Russia. It is a power struggle on the world stage, which can easily become a civil war, resulting in the death of thousands. Perhaps the crisis could have been avoided through diplomatic channels –Russia, the EU and the U.S. being major actors. Unfortunately, our State Department seems to be one-step behind.
Again, the Obama administration is in a reactionary mode--quite the opposite of Ronald Reagan’s famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” speech in 1987.
Yesterday, President Obama told reporters, “We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine. Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing.” He further stated, ". . . there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine."
The implied warning is hollow rhetoric.
No one really knows the meaning of Obama’s so-called flexibility, but it may have profound implications. For one, cancelation of the planned anti-missile system is shifting the balance of power to Russia’s (and Iran’s) advantage.
Removal of the missile shield and considering its strong military and vast oil & gas resources has further emboldened Russia. If they take over Ukraine, it will advance Russia's mission of becoming a major economic player, in competition with China, the U.S. and the EU.