Here is a transcript of the exchange, which leads us to a number of important questions that demand answers:
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: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
What do you mean by “flexibility?” Flexibility to do what?
In addition to these broad questions, your words to President Medvedev raise more specific questions on a range of issues.
Missile Defense: Your administration has cut our missile defense budget, linked the New START treaty to our missile defense capabilities, and abandoned plans for missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic without extracting concessions from Russia. Should the American people expect more efforts to placate Russia by weakening the missile defense systems that protect us and our allies?
Iranian Nuclear Weapons: In your speech to AIPAC, you said you “don’t bluff” when it comes to the Iranian threat. But your administration has delayed and opposed crippling sanctions in its first three years, repeatedly talked down the effectiveness and advisability of the military option, and openly discouraged Israel from acting in its own self-defense. Would post-election “flexibility” lead you to revive your “no preconditions” engagement policy with the Iranian regime?
Israeli-Palestinian Dispute: According to the Palestinian foreign minister, your administration told the Palestinian Authority to wait until the election is over for further action on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Over three years you have pressured the Israelis to grant one-sided concessions to the Palestinians, demanded that Israel accept the 1967 lines as the starting point for negotiations, and lobbied Congress to restore U.S. taxpayer funding to a United Nations body that has recognized a Palestinian state. Will post-election “flexibility” lead you to undermine Israel further?
Iraq and Afghanistan: Contrary to the recommendations of your military commanders, you withdrew American forces from Iraq without leaving an appropriate training force behind. And contrary to the recommendations of your military commanders, you have begun to draw down American forces in Afghanistan according to a politically driven timetable that makes no strategic sense. Stability in both countries is now at greater risk. If you are reelected, would “flexibility” lead you to abandon completely American commitments, notwithstanding the enormous sacrifices American forces have made, and with little regard for our national security?
The Castros and Chavez: Your administration has relaxed sanctions on the brutal Castro regime in Cuba and has done little to counter the growing influence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez throughout Latin America. Would post-election “flexibility” lead you to take an even softer line toward these authoritarian regimes?
Defense Budget: Your administration has proposed cutting $487 billion from the defense budget over 10 years and supports a budget process that may bring that number up to nearly $1 trillion. While spending explodes elsewhere in the budget, would post-election “flexibility” lead you to impose even deeper cuts that will cripple our military?
In a democracy, no issues are more important than those pertaining to national security. The American people deserve full and frank answers to these questions, or at least the same level of candor you have offered to Russia’s leaders.
Mary Beth Long