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>Obama Won Nothing In Russia

>The Russians Walked All Over Obama In Recent Trip

By Don White
When you go to a country soon after being elected, you don’t give away the store. But that’s what President Obama did. He got nothing, really, for eliminating 500 nuclear warheads from the U.S. arsenal. Russia was going to destroy some old nukes, anyway.

In the following story, in the small bold type I make jabs at our president for failing to watch out for America’s interests. He went to Russia like it would be another chance to shine personally, another holiday for Michelle and the kids, another cake walk to look good amongst the peasants. Well, it backfired and here’s how.____________________

Obama Puts Medvedev Ahead of Putin

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Forget the nuke deal, forget the speech, forget even the Russians’ lack of interest in Michelle: The real surprise of President Obama’s trip to Moscow this week was that he spent most of his time talking to the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, and took only a couple of hours to pay a courtesy call on the Russian prime minister and former president, Vladimir Putin.

When you visit the home of a cute girl you hope to date and maybe eventually marry, you don’t spend all your time with the girl’s little brother watching demolition derby. Ignoring the girl on the other end of the sofa gets you nothing. That’s just a metaphor for what Obama did by pretty much ignoring the man who makes most of the big decisions in Russia, Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister and President Dmitry Medvedev’s mentor and strong-arm protector.

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Almost anywhere else in the world, this sort of thing would be a matter of protocol. Generally speaking, the American head of state spends most of his time with other heads of state when traveling abroad. Exceptions are made for those countries whose heads of state are monarchs or some other figurehead, in which case our president pays a courtesy call and then hangs around with the chancellor or prime minister. If Obama were following that pattern in Russia, he would have spent most of his time with Putin.

Yes, Medvedev is the president and, yes, the Russian constitution gives the president the lion’s share of power. But ever since his profoundly undemocratic election last year (following his selection by Putin and an orchestrated parody of a campaign), it has been abundantly clear that the Russian president is not in charge. After the invasion of Georgia last August, it was Putin, not Medvedev, who appeared on television and negotiated behind the scenes. And during the Ukrainian gas crisis this winter it was Putin, not Medvedev, who spoke for Russia. Those who have watched the two men together generally come away impressed by Medvedev’s exceptional deference to the prime minister. Someone who took part in a meeting with them some months ago told me afterward that Putin did all the talking while Medvedev took notes.

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In recent months, Medvedev has chosen to play a kind of “good cop” to Putin’s “bad cop,” giving an interview to the last remaining opposition newspaper; saying nice things about democracy and electoral reform; even smiling, on occasion, in photographs with foreign leaders. But none of this has resulted in profound changes in foreign policy, economic policy or human rights, leaving most observers inside and outside the country to assume that Medvedev is playing his part in an elaborate public relations campaign.

Isn’t it interesting that Medvedev and Obama seem to be cut out of the same cloth — presidents who seek attention but who don’t really matter too much.

The decision to focus the American president’s visit on Medvedev instead of Putin could therefore be what British civil servants call “very brave,” not least because if you don’t talk to the person who’s really in charge, you can’t expect to get much done.

At last, someone who agrees with me and a score of conservative writers. He didn’t expect to get much done and he didn’t get much done, did he? PR was his aim, but it backfired in Russia when Putin and, I suppose, Medvedev did not allow national television to give him a huge audience and the Russian people were non-pulsed and were not at all excited to see the first black American president and his first lady. “So what, they were saying.”

As I understand it, this decision (to spend more time with Medvedev) was made at least partly on pragmatic grounds: Meetings with Putin nowadays tend to turn into extended rants about Russia’s grievances (this week’s breakfast between Putin and Obama apparently being no exception), which doesn’t leave much time to pursue productive conversation. Putin wasn’t going to get into the subject of Russia’s recent military maneuvering on the Georgian border (thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks began exercising there at the end of June), and Medvedev can’t do anything about it anyway, so the Obama administration seems to have figured that there wasn’t much point in dealing with the issue. Instead, it dealt with less controversial subjects — such as nuclear arms reductions (which were mostly going to happen anyway) and rights for U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan to fly over Russian areas (nice, apparently, but not crucial) — that Medvedev might actually be able to sort out.

But what a great opportunity lost. Obama should have pressed Putin about the joint maneuvers Russian naval vessels have been having with the Hugo Chavez regime just 90 miles off our shores. He wasn’t there sightseeing or to show Michelle and the girls a good time at government expense.

He should also have discussed in no uncertain terms with Putin the massing of troops on Georgia’s borders in June. Now Obama comes off looking weak. It would be easy for the Russian leaders to interpret the lack of special talks with Putin about these subjects must mean Obama doesn’t care if Russia takes over an almost defenseless Georgia — a country that has all along wanted to be member of NATO, a nation that needs America’s help, both physical and moral, to keep Russia at bay. George Bush and the EU including French President Sarkozy were very forceful about the Russian invasion into sovereign Georgian territory, but apparently Obama doesn’t care.

Communication, man! It isn’t always in what you say but in how you act and how forceful you become. And Obama is supposed to be the Democrat’s answer to the Great Communicater, meaning Ronald Reagan? Hardly.

Putin, the strong man of Russia, now has every right to interpret this to mean that he could wrap this slender and naive new president around his little finger any time he wanted and do what he pleased.

That is just the opposite reaction from the one that George Bush gave him. Of course, we must realize that Obama has given other signs of weakness to the Russians, the Chinese, to Iran, and to North Korea — and also to Hamas about his determination to keep the North Koreans out of the South, to retaliate if he hits our territory or a friendly nation’s and to stand by Israel in case of attack. Strong words and a show of determination is needed, and our president once again missed an excellent opportunity.

Instead, he’s paranoid. He wants to “mend fences,” even if he has to criticize our own country as he frequently does.

The upside of this policy is that it might make Medvedev more powerful, though this is a rather naive and forlorn hope. The downside is that Putin might take offense at being ignored. But given that Putin appears to be generally offended all the time, no matter how often or how sweetly U.S. presidents talk to him, this latter concern seems rather beside the point.

In any case, this sort of chilly calculation is preferable to the carefully staged walks in the woods, bear hugs and holiday outings that characterized the Clinton-Yeltsin and Bush-Putin relationships. It also beats the lame “let’s press the reset button with Russia” metaphor that the Obama administration was using in its first few months in office. It’s absolutely true that the worst problems were not resolved this week and that everything hard — from Georgia to missile defense to Iran — has been left aside until further notice. But at least no one is pretending otherwise.

The problem with leaving it ’till later is that often we only get one chance of making impressions.

applebaumletters@washpost.com

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>CAUTION: Russia is Arming Venzuela

>By
Don White

September 22, 2008
Washington–An AP headline and story today, taken alone, is innocuous enough. Writer Vladimir Isachenkov tells of how Russia is supplying arms to the militant Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a tit-for-tat show of strength countering America’s food and supply lifts to beleaguered Georgia.
But there is a problem. The amount of military trade with this small country is far beyond that needed to defend itself, so what’s up?

Only the threat of the U.S. intervention in South and Central America has checked Chavez’s imperialistic designs and confined him to his borders. But sources inside Venezuela tell us he has greater aspirations. With big brother Vlad Putin on his side, he could see his dreams come true–and his sights are set on at least out-maneuvering and influencing, if not immediately attacking, countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.

With Chavez-friendly Ecuador on one side of pro-American Columbia and his own country on the other, it would not be a difficult task to overcome Columbia even before the U.S. had time to react. If not Columbia first, it could attack Panama and take over the canal, allowing only tankers with Russian oil to pass.

We haven’t done anything to oust Russia from Georgia, and Chavez counting on that to be a signal that the U.S. is too preoccupied in Iraq and Afghanistan to pose a threat to his imperialistic moves.

Russia has been providing Chavez arms since 2005 with $4 billion in fighter jets, helicopters, and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to mount a war of aggression.

In addition, Hugo Chavez will travel to Russia later this week to enter into discussions on many subjects: First, how to keep America at bay; second, which weak Latin American nation now friendly to the the U.S. could Chavez attack and occupy? And third, he needs Putin’s blessing to show him how he can use the oil card to change the balance of power in the Americas and further weaken America? Both he and Putin understand that oil is America’s achilles heel.

A Russian navy squadron set off for Venezuela Monday, an official said, in a deployment of Russian military power to the Western Hemisphere. If this doesn’t excite anyone else, he scares me. This move is unprecedented since the Cold War.

In his AP story today, Vladimir Isachenkov said the Kremlin recently has moved to intensify contacts with Venezuela, Cuba and other Latin American nations amid increasingly strained relations with Washington after last month’s war between Russia and Georgia. During the Cold War, Latin America became an ideological battleground between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said the nuclear-powered Peter the Great cruiser accompanied by three other ships sailed from the Northern Fleet’s base of Severomorsk on Monday. The ships will cover about 15,000 nautical miles to conduct joint maneuvers with the Venezuelan navy, he told The Associated Press.

The deployment follows a week-long visit to Venezuela by a pair of Russian strategic bombers and comes as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — an unbridled critic of U.S. foreign policy who has close ties with Moscow — plans to visit Moscow this week. It will be Chavez’s second trip to Russia in about two months.

The intensifying contacts with Venezuela appear to be a response to the U.S. dispatch of warships to deliver aid to Georgia which angered the Kremlin. But the Kremlin’s chain needs rattling.

So. . .they are upset because the world, led by America, is up in arms about their recent takeover of a sovereign nation? They shouldn’t be. If Russia expects to work well with the West it must never, never again attack and take over a sovereign nation. But we all know this is just the first step in an aggressive war plan Putin and Medvedev have put into action.

On August 13, 2008, just five days after the start of the Georgian War, I wrote a story about Putin in my blog Political Disconnect, satirizing his imperialistic ways. Part of the headline said: “I Can Haz Georgia?” Thereafter, he stayed in Georgia after attacking a much smaller, less well equipped nation and now, for all intents and purposes, he “Haz” Georgia as the West sits idly by doing almost nothing.

Chavez said in an interview with Russian television broadcast Sunday that Latin America needs a strong friendship with Russia to help reduce U.S. influence and keep peace in the region. “Keeping peace” is a code word for attack. That’s exactly what Putin said he was doing when he went into Georgia–keeping peace between South Ossetia, a province of Georgia, and Georgia. But what business does he have keeping peace in Georgia? Next, he will want to “keep peace” in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Baltic states, European Union, NATO, and the U.S., beware!

In separate comments on his Sunday TV and radio program, Chavez joked that he will be making his international tour to Russia and other countries this week aboard the “super-bombers that Medvedev loaned me,” a reference to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. “Gentlemen of the CIA, to be clear, I’m joking,” Chavez said with a laugh.

No he isn’t! Chavez has repeatedly warned that the U.S. Navy poses a threat to Venezuela.

Russia has signed weapons contracts worth more than $4 billion with Venezuela since 2005 to supply fighter jets, helicopters, and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. Chavez’s government is in talks to buy Russian submarines, air defense systems and armored vehicles and more Sukhoi fighter jets.

Russian and Venezuelan leaders also have talked about boosting cooperation in the energy sphere to create what Chavez has called “a new strategic energy alliance.”

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who visited Venezuela last week, announced that five of Russia’s biggest oil companies are looking to form a consortium to increase Latin American operations and to build a $6.5 billion refinery to process Venezuela’s tar-like heavy crude. Such an investment could help Venezuela, the world’s ninth-biggest oil producer, wean itself from the U.S. refineries on which it depends to process much of its crude.

Sechin warned the United States that it should not view Latin America as its own backyard. “It would be wrong to talk about one nation having exclusive rights to this zone,” he said in an interview broadcast Sunday

>Russia’s Aim Is Clear: Capture Georgia

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President Mikheil Saakasvilli was educated in America in law and is pro-American.

Russia doesn’t want to protect anyone, least of all the Ossetian Russians who fled when Georgian tanks rolled in. Russia’s aim is to take back Georgia by hook or crook. And by the time this post circulates, due to inaction on Bush’s part and bad advice from Democrats, the Russians will be in the driver’s seat, having killed or captured most of the Georgian army–an army that the U.S. financed and trained.

There is no excuse for inaction on the part of the United States. We have troops, planes, and other assets in nearby Germany. Land our paratroopers in Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi–downtown Tbilisi, in fact. We need a show of strength, NOW! Drop some tanks, have the airforce make a couple of strikes against Russia’s tanks. Drop them in their tracks. Then you will get the attention of Putin and Medvedev. Russia is an uninvited enemy. We would be an invited guest.

World opinion is on our side, as it is with poor little Georgia. It can’t possible stand up against this Russian assault. Help, George. Help…

If you wait for the European Union to act, as Democrats suggest, it will soon be too late. Even if you get an emergency session of the U.N. today and a resolution condemning Russia, so what? That won’t stop them. One thing Russia knows that all liberals must learn–especially Obama–is that you lead with strength, not with some pretty little gestures like Obama made the other day when he said all sides should act with “restraint.” That’s such a gentle word, it belongs in the Kindergarten, not rough-and-tumble world politics. I can’t believe he’s like that. What kind of person would seek the presidency in today’s world and not be tough minded?

Georgia is a small, hilly country. We have an embassy in Tbilisi so with one phone call we can logically and legally beef up our embassy and save this city by acting now. Georgia’s location, nestled between the Black Sea, Russia, and Turkey, gives it strategic importance far beyond its size. It is developing as the gateway from the Black Sea to the Caucasus and the larger Caspian region, but also serves as a buffer between Russia and Turkey. Georgia has a long relationship with Russia, but it is reaching out to its other neighbors and looking to the West in search of alternatives and opportunities. Right now it needs our help.

Georgia signed a partnership and cooperation agreement with the European Union, participates in the Partnership for Peace, and encourages foreign investment. France, Germany and the United Kingdom also have embassies in Tbilisi.

The tiny nation of Georgia is also a member of the United Nations, the OSCE, the CIS and the Council of Europe. Why have we heard so little from these groups about this crisis? What’s the use of belonging to groups if you get no help when it matters?

Because of its strategic location it is in both the Russian and American spheres of influence. In common with many ex-Soviet republics it is both influenced by and fearful of its larger neighbor. Now, we can see why! The invitation of US troops into the country caused tension with Moscow some time ago, but to that I say so what! that should not deter America from taking action while its still not too late. The Russian government also believes that Georgia is being used by Chechen separatists. That’s a ruse. The American government has interests in an oil pipeline passing through the country. Former president Eduard Shevardnadze attempted to balance these competing demands. The new leadership of President Mikheil Saakasvilli is much closer to the United States and George Bush. Friends don’t let friends down, George.

George, don’t let your presidency end on a sour note like this. Get a move on and do something dramatic to stop these Ruuskis. They are land grabbers in the worst way.

Georgia has many mountains. Its highest point is 5,048 m above sea level. The mountains running through Georgia are called the Caucasus Mountains.

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