Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Here's why Hillary Clinton's meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was part of an empty photo op... just like I said it was. The "reset button" was one of the dumbest gimmicks I have ever seen from a Senior U.S. official. I knew there was something pretty symbolic about Clinton getting the translation completely wrong. (also see report from the UK Times).
Just like I stated a few days ago... it will take more than gimmicks and empty photo ops to change the situation between the U.S. and Russia. The U.S. will have to decide to make real substantive changes in its foreign policy if it wants to get back on track. Unfortunately, Obama doesn't seem to understand the situation with Russia...at all. He is getting horrible advice from the Cold War relics that he has surrounded himself with. He is allowing the hawks in his administration (and just about all are Democratic Hawks... I also like to call them "Neo-Con Lite") to run his foreign policy regarding China, Russia, the Middle East, and other hot spots. And he's going to find himself in a situation where many of his domestic ambitions will have to be canceled or watered down due to misguided policy abroad. The U.S. can't afford an arms race or another major conflict, yet Obama is leading the Country down a road that will lead to one or both of those two outcomes. He is continuing many Bush Administration policies that were already leading to an arms race in Europe.
I don't think Americans will begin to pay attention to this until something major happens or until they see how Obama's right wing foreign policy will impact their domestic programs. At some point they will see that Obama's foreign policy is not much different from that of Bush & Cheney. Then they will take notice. But unfortunately it will take a couple of years before people start paying attention.
And the Russians are looking at more than just an arms race and strengthening their nuclear weapons arsenal... they are also considering basing their strategic bombers in Cuba and Venezuela. To put that into perspective.... the U.S.S.R. didn't even have long range bombers in the Caribbean during the Cold War period. In public statements, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen and Obama officials are saying that this would be no big deal. But in their private meetings they are worried about these developments.
In terms of Cuba.... it's Obama's own fault for not taking advantage of the rapid changes in that Country. If the U.S. doesn't fill the void, and doesn't take advantage of business and tourism opportunities there, then the Cubans will seek support elsewhere. And that's exactly what they are doing...while the Obama Administration sits on its hands. The Europeans have already been putting more investment into Cuba. Now the Russians and the Chinese are making more connections to the island....all while the U.S. has stood by and has failed to establish a comprehensive, sensible, robust policy towards Cuba. Raul Castro has made it clear that he wanted to take his Country in a new direction and signaled that he wanted to revamp the broken economy. He also signaled that he might be open to political reforms. Cuba should have been one of the first Countries that Obama visited as President... but the U.S. hasn't even sent a high level figure to the Country. That was a signal to Raul Castro that he probably wasn't going to see much "change" from the new U.S. President. Now we are seeing some of the consequences from those failings (which started under the Bush Administration long ago).
Much of this is bluster on the part of the Russians to hit back at the U.S. for meddling in Russia's back yard - instigating conflict with Georgia and establishing bases throughout the Caucus's. The Russians are also upset (and rightfully so) about NATO expansion...which is now out of control. But the Russians could and likely will go ahead with this strategy if NATO is expanded any further east, and if Obama goes ahead with placing Missiles in Poland (and it looks like Neo-Con Lite Inc. has convinced him to go forward with this suicidal policy which, by the way, won't improve anyone's safety and security). They don't want you to know this...but the Polish and the Czech public ...and most of the people in the EU were against this missile plan from the beginning. European leaders never allowed this issue to to be voted on by the people in a referendum... because it would have been soundly defeated. The public is still against this move because they rightfully fear that it will lead to an unnecessary Cold War situation, will spark an unnecessary arms race, and will reverse all the the gains made over the last 20 years in the realm of East-West relations.
Related article from the New York Times