National Security & Defense

The Russian Stooge

President Putin and President Obama at the 2013 G20 summit in Russia. (Reuters photo: Grigory Dukor)
Obama’s record on Russia

The circumstantial evidence is mounting that the Kremlin succeeded in infiltrating the U.S. government at the highest levels. 

How else to explain a newly elected president looking the other way after an act of Russian aggression? Agreeing to a farcically one-sided nuclear deal? Mercilessly mocking the idea that Russia represents our foremost geopolitical foe? Accommodating the illicit nuclear ambitions of a Russian ally? Welcoming a Russian foothold in the Middle East? Refusing to provide arms to a sovereign country invaded by Russia? Diminishing our defenses and pursuing a Moscow-friendly policy of hostility to fossil fuels?

All of these items, of course, refer to things said or done by President Barack Obama. To take them in order: He reset with Russia shortly after its clash with Georgia in 2008. He concluded the New START agreement with Moscow that reduced our nuclear forces but not theirs. When candidate Mitt Romney warned about Russia in the 2012 campaign, Obama rejected him as a Cold War relic. The president then went on to forge an agreement with Russia’s ally Iran to allow it to preserve its nuclear program. During the red-line fiasco, he eagerly grasped a lifeline from Russia at the price of accepting its intervention in Syria. He never budged on giving Ukraine “lethal” weapons to defend itself from Russian attack. Finally, Obama cut U.S. defense spending and cracked down on fossil fuels, a policy that Russia welcomed since its economy is dependent on high oil prices.

Put all of this together, and it’s impossible to conclude anything other than that Obama was a Russian stooge, and not out of any nefarious deals, but out of his own naivete and weakness. Obama didn’t expect any rewards when he asked then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during a hot-mic moment at an international meeting to relay to Vladimir Putin his ability to be more “flexible” after the 2012 election; he was, to put it in terms of the current Russian election controversy, “colluding” with the Russians in the belief it was a good strategy. His kompromat was his own foolishness.

The cost of Obama’s orientation toward Russia became clearer during the past two weeks. When he pulled up short from enforcing his red line, an agreement with the Russians to remove Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons became the fig leaf to cover his retreat. This deal was obviously deficient, but Obama officials used clever language to give the impression that it had removed all chemical weapons from Syria. Never mind that Assad still used chlorine gas to attack his population — exploiting a grievous loophole — and that evidence piled up that Assad was cheating more broadly.

The Russians eagerly covered for Assad because he’s their client. What was the Obama administration’s excuse? It effectively made itself a liar for the Russians at the same time Moscow bolstered the Assad regime we said had to go, smashed the moderate opposition we were trying to create and sent a destabilizing refugee flow into Europe. This was a moral and strategic disaster.

To be sure, Donald Trump’s statements about Russia during the past year and a half have often been stupid and shameful. But there was always a good chance that Russia’s blatant hostility to our values and interests would make any attempted Trump detente unsustainable. With his secretary of state and U.N. ambassador hitting Russia hard over the Assad gas attack and Trump’s strike challenging Russia’s position, the administration looks to be adopting a hardheaded attitude without bothering with a doomed reset first.

Even if Obama eventually got tougher on Russia — imposing sanctions after the Ukraine invasion and sending contingents of U.S. troops to countries near Russia — he never entirely shed his reflex toward accommodation. No matter what conspiracy theorists might say, there’s nothing to suggest anything untoward about Obama’s relationship with Russia. But based on the record alone, you might have suspicions.

— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. © 2017 King Features Syndicate

READ MORE:

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

ABC Chief Political Analyst: GOP Rep. Stefanik a ‘Perfect Example’ of the Failures of Electing Someone ‘Because They Are a Woman’

Matthew Dowd, chief political analyst for ABC News, suggested that Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) was elected due to her gender after taking issue with Stefanik's line of questioning during the first public impeachment hearing on Wednesday. “Elise Stefanik is a perfect example of why just electing ... Read More
White House

Trump vs. the ‘Policy Community’

When it comes to Russia, I am with what Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman calls the American “policy community.” Vindman, of course, is one of the House Democrats’ star impeachment witnesses. His haughtiness in proclaiming the policy community and his membership in it grates, throughout his 340-page ... Read More
Law & the Courts

DACA’s Day in Court

When President Obama unilaterally changed immigration policy after repeatedly and correctly insisting that he lacked the constitutional power to do it, he said that congressional inaction had forced his hand. In the case of his first major unilateral move — “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” which ... Read More
White House

Impeachment and the Broken Truce

The contradiction at the center of American politics in Anno Domini 2019 is this: The ruling class does not rule. The impeachment dog-and-pony show in Washington this week is not about how Donald Trump has comported himself as president (grotesquely) any more than early convulsions were about refreshed ... Read More
Books

A Preposterous Review

A   Georgetown University professor named Charles King has reviewed my new book The Case for Nationalism for Foreign Affairs, and his review is a train wreck. It is worth dwelling on, not only because the review contains most of the lines of attack against my book, but because it is extraordinarily shoddy and ... Read More