Sunday, November 09, 2008

Obama Makes First Foreign Policy Error

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President-elect Obama is getting a rude welcome to the world of international diplomacy and the wide-reaching effect his decisions will have:

President-elect Obama has spoken to the president of Poland about relations between the two countries but didn't make a commitment on the multibillion-dollar missile defense program undertaken by the Bush administration, an Obama aide said Saturday.

That contrasts with a statement by Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who said Obama told him the missile defense project would continue.

The U.S. and Poland signed an agreement in August for basing American missiles in Poland as part of a shield against possible missile attacks from Iran.

A missile shield set up so close to its borders has been a sore point with Russia and has served as another dent in its battered relationship with the U.S.
So here we are with Obama telling a world leader one thing and the public another, very much like his statements on NAFTA during the election where he slammed the treaty on the campaign trail while simultaneously winking at the Canucks and saying it was just for the consumption of the gullible American electorate.

But this is not Canada, this is Russia, the former Soviet Union, the Bear who was our enemy for decades and who will be again soon. Medvedev is the puppet while Putin pulls the strings and Putin is getting a measure of just who Obama is. Russia wants to regain its influence in the region and it starts with Poland, a fierce ally and a nation that dearly needs us to be very clear about our intentions. Instead we get mealy-mouthed rhetoric from Obama.

Putin is paying attention and he's gauging the make up of the man who will replace Bush. I'm sure he's smiling with Obama's response to this issue. He's rebuilding his military (a sorry military at present) in hopes of becoming the power broker in Eastern Europe, Southwestern Asia, the Northern Pacific and the Arctic. The Bush administrations aim with placing the missile shield in Poland was to assure our ally that we are paying attention plus to force Russia's hand. Obama has essentially laid all that work to waste by his dithering.

This was not an easy plan for Lech Kaczynski to get his country to accept and he probably spent massive political capital to do so and Obama leaves the man hanging on an issue of great import.

This is no longer a campaign, that's already been won. This is not speaking in front of adoring fans who mindlessly scream "Yes we can" after every sentence. No, this is the real deal where decisions (or none decisions as the case may be) have immediate and far-reaching effect. If Europe finally likes us again as liberals are so happy to point out, it sure seems strange to leave a major European country (and one that suffered first under the Nazi's then under the Soviets in recent history) twisting in the wind.

A troubling start to say the least.


Anonymous said...

A troubling start to say the least.

To say the least indeed.

ted said...

Perhaps we can surrender to the Russians before the missile shield goes forward? That will solve the matter nicely.

I know its a long line, with Iran, Cuba, Al-Qaeda, etc ahead, but the Russians will just have to be patient. The Messiah will get to them eventually.

Anthony said...

Maybe the real question here is why he are building a missile defense system for Europe in the first place.

Russia is no threat to us. They are not the Soviet Union trying to take over the world. rather, Russia is merely acting like every other European power in European history -- trying to become the big dog on the block.

The EU is something like 12X the GDP of Russia, and 1.5X the population. Let Europe start taking care of itself.

If you really want to protect Poland from Russia, a better answer is to integrate Russia back into Europe, instead of constantly trying to kick her down.

Paul said...

The interceptors are not to protect Poland from Russia. Russia has hundreds of ICBMs and could easily overwhelm Poland's few interceptors, as it could overwhelm our own. As the article states, the goal is to prevent Iran from threatening Western Europe with its few missiles.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anthony. Europe can deal with Russia quite nicely IF they chose to do so.

One of the reasons the Europeans have done so well financially and are doing much better than the USA in the court of public opinion is that they have smartly dodged dealing with problems like this. They spend their money on themselves and leave naive Americans to pay their defense bills for them - something we can no longer afford and they easily afford. They also allow naive Americans to play the Bad Guy with tough talk and actions, while they play the Good Guy by refusing to do those things.

The Europeans attitude when it come to problems like this 'Yes we can't! Let the stupid Americans use their blood and treasure. Why should we?'

The Europeans play us for fools and have been doing so for decades.

punditius said...

If Poland doesn't want our missile defense system, then they must not think they need it. If Western Europe needs it, let Western Europe convince the Poles to allow it.

All assuming that it is in our own national interest to have missiles in Poland in the first place. Perhaps it is; I really don't know.

Maybe what we have here is a smart move by Obama, putting Western Europe on the spot to either back us with Poland, or we'll get out.

ted said...

with respect to Anthony and anonymous 9:20, if this was about Europe and the Russians, I would agree. The Western Europeans have played us and its time we stopped letting them. But their are differences.

One, the primary purpose of this shield is to prevent rogue elements (i.e. Iran) from launching one or two missiles and striking our allies. As mentioned before this is no threat to the Russians and they know it. They are using this as a pretext for their own ends.

Two, helping our Polish ally is a lot different than helping our Belgian 'friends'. Poland in its short bit of freedom from communism has been a staunch ally of the USA. This now goes to the fact of letting them down. We can not let a change of administrations, with no guarantee it goes beyond 4 years, change America's long term interests. And showing the East Europeans we can be counted on is a long term American interest.

Third, most importantly, the Russians must know we are not to be trifled with. See JFK's meeting with Khruschev as an example why. Or Hitler's march in the 30's. If I was a military historian I am sure I could go on and on.

And just because you believe Russia is no threat in 2008 doesn't mean ignoring them will keep them no threat in 2015. History teaches us differently.

Jim O'Sullivan said...

Can we start saying "I told you so" to the Obamaniacs already? I thought that we'd have to wait until about January 21st.

Anonymous said...

"One of the reasons the Europeans have done so well financially and are doing much better than the USA in the court of public opinion is that they have smartly dodged dealing with problems like this"

It's not going to be smart the day the USA no longer can afford or is unwilling to carry their weight. Politically, economically, socially, and in terms of security, they will be screwed.

When Uncle Sugardaddy no longer pays out and stands up for Lady Europe, she's going to be a heap of trouble from lecherous Ivan, Mohamed, Omar, and Lau.

Corky Boyd said...


The Poland based missile shield system is not to defend Europe against Russia. It is to defend against nuclear weapons from Iran and N. Korea. It is not an offensive system. It does not have an explosive warhead. Its kill mechanism is a wire spiderweb with small chunks of tungsten that use the velocity of inteceptor missile and the incoming missile to blow a hole in the threatening warhead. The effect is like shooting a tiny bullet at 10,000 fps at it.

There will be only 10 launchers in Poland. As in any ABM system they can be "war gamed" to death. Launch 11 warheads at a 10 interceptor missile site and the last one will get through. The Russains have thousands of ICBM and MRBM warheads to accomplish that.

FYI, the Russians still have their nuclear armed ABM system deployed around Moscow. It consists of 100 launchers. It too is vulnerable to the war gaming scenario.

MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) is our defense agaist Russian missiles. It works with rational nations with rational leaders. The European system is to defend against the rogue nations such as Iran and N Korea who can use nuclear blackmail to achieve their ends.

In no way is the Polish missile shield a threat to Russia. Russia for its own reasons just wants to allow Iran to be a destabilizing influence on Western nations.

Anonymous said...

My prediction is that on the night of Inauguration Day, Russian troops will move into the Ukraine. Six months later the Europeans will realize two things: 1) 90% of their oil and natural gas imports are controlled by a single entity, called Gazprom, and 2) without the U.S. to back them, they're screwed.

I guess we'll all find out what it was like to live in the 1930's.

MarkJ said...

Russia is no threat to us. They are not the Soviet Union trying to take over the world. rather, Russia is merely acting like every other European power in European history -- trying to become the big dog on the block.

Yeah, that's really reassuring. Russia only wants to "integrate" with Europe in the sense that it wants to swallow up what it can and neutralize the rest.

Here's a little bet: try reading your post out loud on a Saturday night, in the tavern of your choice, in any one of the following countries:

Georgia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria

I've got a sawbuck that says after you read your post, you'll count yourself lucky if the patrons merely pitch you headfirst out the front door.

Dennis fo Virginia said...

There are a couple of facts no one seems to want to look at and address. Firstly, and most important; Russia does not seek to expand or return to having a great influence on their neighbors. They were and seek to be the Controller of their neighbors. The United States seeks to have s ‘Sphere of Influence;’ Russia seeks to have a ‘Sphere of Control”, there is a very big difference between the two national goals.
Western Europe cannot stand up to Russia. Russia controls their energy. Russia can and has threatened to cut the pipeline to Europe. Sorry but Energy independence is not just a slogan it is a very big National Security concern. Remember 1974? The United States went into a very steep downturn, many lost their jobs. Stagflation steeped into our economy, Price Controls and the fear of Price Controls led to increases in the Price of Automobiles and Chrysler invented the “Cash Back” option. You see if the government reinstituted Price Controls they were covered. They also received a bonus from the government, rebates are tax deductable; price cuts are not.
Jefferson warned the Price is ‘Eternal Vigilance” there is never a step back and breathe the air. America must be number one or someone else will be; who do you want to be the number one country in the world?
The President of the United States never has an easy decision to make. The President can never vote present, the President must be decisive and strong. Pain, Heartbreak and Sorrow must be addressed at night when no one but the President can know what the Prayers ask for and what comfort is sought.

jim r said...

Anthony and Anon @ 0920:

Whether or not the missiles should be in Poland, is the issue that was raised not Obama's telling one party one thing and another party something else? Surely we can always disagree on policy, however, should a responsible President-Elect send mixed messages in his first week in the office? That's the issue here.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Listen. I used to spend a certain amount of time listening to Russian radio broadcasts. Putin understands very well that he must re-constitute some semblance of the old Soviet Union or else remain at best a second-tier backwater. Russia's population is too small and its demographics too negative to be a factor on the world stage again, alone.

Consequently Ukraine is crucial, Belarus is important, and central Asia (especially Khazakhstan) is helpful. Russia has a phenomenal problem in its Far East, where most of the resources are -- illegal immigration from China. Chinese immigrants now constitute a majority in many areas of Far East Russia.

Joint Russo-Chinese military exercises are not a sign of growing collaboration, though that is the window-dressing. The Chinese are making a concerted effort to understand Russian war-fighting doctrines from the inside.

Finally, as an aside. The Russians understand perfectly well that our missile defense system in Poland has nothing to do with them. If you don't understand 'great circle' routes, take out a globe and have a look. Russian missile routes to the USA are trans-polar and go nowhere near Poland, which is, however, directly in the boost phase of a great circle from Iran to the US east coast.

Russian blustering on the issue is only to take advantage of ignorance and idiocy. If they can take Poland out of the picture then their former Baltic Republics -- which constitute their military right flank -- are in deep trouble, and their independence is likely to last no longer than the 22 years they had the last time.

nick said...


Obama did not tell President K
what president K stated.

Just like the haaretz article about the French!

el gordo said...

Actually his first little foreign policy blunder happened right after the Berlin visit. Obama told CNN that more NATO troops in Afghanistan would mean fewer US troops and (implausibly) billions in savings which would result in tax cuts for families. It was Obama telling everyone what they wanted to hear.

However, they get CNN in Europe so this was widely reported (at least in Germany) and caused some outrage - they wouldn´t send soldiers to enable tax cuts for Americans. (The truth is they do not want to send soldiers at all except in a purely symbolic role, so the Obama gaffe might make it easier for them to say no)

Anonymous said...

We get what we deserve for electing this guy. If we are lucky our children and grandchildren may even forgive us.

Anonymous said...

"The Bush administrations aim with placing the missile shield in Poland was to assure our ally that we are paying attention plus to force Russia's hand."

I thought the BMD system was aimed against Iran, not Russia. At least that's what the Bush Administration says. According to MDA, the placement of the system in Poland and the Czech Republic supposedly was because these countries are positioned to cover the azimuths for a missile launched from the Middle East. It was never to "force Russia's hand."

nick said...

GDMF gop liars

he never said any such thing to CNN

Anonymous said...

Anony 1:02pm is correct - current BMD strategy places interceptors at key points in Europe (and at sea aboard AEGIS) to defend US and allies against Korean/Iranian missiles.

So why not let the EU defend themselves? They don't have MDA, General Dynamics, ABL, AEGIS, THAAD, etc.

Why don't we sell the stuff to them? Well, I suppose it would bail out the defense industry. And it's a darn site better than the Clinton days when we sold China ballistic missile guidance systems. (idiots)

Ballistic missiles and BMD defense systems aren't toys, kiddos. GTFU. The technology to launch them, take them down, and the calculated amount of damage that happens when we miss the intercept and a warhead lands in your back yard is highly technical and even more highly classified.

You people can whine about over elections and foreign policy, but you really have no freaking idea what you're talking about here.

Trouble is, The Ohhh does, now.

Micha Elyi said...

To Jim O'Sullivan (9:46 AM): "Yes we can!"

Enso105 said...

Please, mr President Kaczynski - stop deceiving your nation. It wouldn't surprise anyone, that the new president Obama will not necessarily continue his predecessor's policy especially in the view of withdrawing the US troops from Iraq.

We want the truth. Please be honest with us Mr President!

Chris Wysocki said...

Perhaps he is just inexperienced and it is showing. That is, he's distracted by the magnitude of the task ahead of him, and he's not up to it. After all, he has to select a dog for his children; how can we expect him to get up to speed on the nuances of European foreign policy when he's got bigger fish like that to fry!

Hence he's making disjointed statements, which he hopes an aide can clarify later on. It worked during the campaign since a compliant media let him off the hook every time. Nobody told him that our allies might not be so forgiving.

He is rapidly being schooled in the vast difference between being "candidate hopey-changey-guy" and President of the United States. This is the first of his many missteps as he undergoes baptism by fire. McCain hit the nail on the head when he said the presidency is not conducive to on the job training. Obama is not ready to lead, and now he's proving it by failing to articulate a coherent message.

Vadar said...

Hey Nick,

Do a little internet research before you flame here: