Thursday, November 13, 2014

A stoic Obama and a dangerous Putin, side by side

At the Asian economic summit in Beijing in recent days, the staging seemed rigged.  President Obama and the kleptocrat Putin seen in photos often seemed to be arranged side by side, as equals.  Their nuclear arsenals may be equal, who knows, but their global leadership roles should not be.  It is unfortunate that President Obama, in the eyes of world opinion, has become somewhat of a "has been" after the mid-term elections.  The timing of this Asian trip was not good.

Putin's new obvious aggression in Ukraine, his aerial invasions of the Baltic, Sweden, and Finland airspace, and his assertion that Russia will begin bomber surveillance of the Alaskan coast, the Caribbean, and the U.S. gulf coast is provocative in a way not seen since the Cuban missile crisis.  There is no comment yet from Obama.  He wants to focus on U.S. issues, continued punishment of our nation's leading global banks for what should be shared responsibility, unflinching on any compromise related to the XL pipeline, and pretending that the Affordable Health Care Act and the Dodd-Frank bills are some sort of golden standard.  They are flawed, but they are directionally right and could be improved, but he admits to no flaws, preferring the "head in the sand" approach to public relations and any changes.

This approach by Putin now cannot be just looked at as something to ignore, just the ranting of an egomaniac.  He has power.  His country has been manipulated to support him. They have him and they have a renewed hope for the power of their fatherland.  Look at WWI.  That did not start with any real purpose.  Look at WWII.  That started with the ignoring of obviously hostile actions, bellicose threats, and racist action.  Obama can stay in his protective shell, ignore the election results, think that he salvaged his Asia trip with an unenforceable agreement with China on climate change, use his executive power in a way that may lead to impeachment, and approach his remaining two years in an almost nihilistic way.

On the other hand he could engage with others and act like a real human being.  He could be royally pissed by Putin.  He could acknowledge that some of the legislation that his administration has passed is not perfect.  He does not need to give in to the Republicans, but one could suggest that he does need to be aware of what has just happened in the elections and in his own debased stature in even the Democratic party.  He does need to be aware that, no longer what he thinks, in his ongoing position as President of the United States, Commander in Chief, other countries, particularly Russia and China, see him as severely compromised by the recent elections.  They definitely do and they are acting on that thought.  

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