Romney, Palin accurate in comments about Russian aggressionBy Andrew Parks | 03/17/2014 11:00pm
In October 2012, during the final debate of the 2012 presidential race, Republican candidate Mitt Romney called Russia our greatest geopolitical adversary. At the time, President Barack Obama and top liberal commentators across the country pounced on the statement as a sign of Romney’s inexperience in the realm of international politics, claiming that Gov. Romney simply didn’t understand the nature of America’s post-Cold War relationship with the world. And this wasn’t new; when former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin commented that Vladimir Putin’s Russia would invade Ukraine during the 2008 presidential campaign, she was excoriated by candidates and political pundits alike.
Now, however, those voices are silent.
When Sarah Palin made her comments, she did so while pointing to then Obama’s indecisive statements on the Russian invasion of Georgia earlier that year. His failure to take a real position on the issue, she claimed, would lead to an emboldened Vladimir Putin and, more broadly, a more aggressive Russian posture if Obama was elected president.
Now, in light of the Russian invasion of Crimea, can we really say she was wrong?
Let’s push things a step further. In 2012, a leaked report from unnamed U.S. officials revealed Pentagon suspicions of covert Russian submarine operations in the Gulf of Mexico – a bold step even by Cold War standards. On Feb. 28, a Russian warship arrived in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, for an unannounced visit the day after Russia’s defense minister announced plans to increase Russia’s global military presence. This came only two years after the Russian navy announced the first plans for an increase in the country’s fleet size since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
All of this can be attributed to one fact: This administration has failed to deal with Russia, and much of the world for that matter, from a position of strength.
During the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan hastened the pace of the demise of the Soviet Union, or the “evil empire” as he called it, by projecting American influence, creating a clear and decisive breadth of separation between the United States and its Cold War counterpart. He did so with ambitious military and political goals, such as the Strategic Defense Initiative, a 600-ship navy, an end to a divided Germany and, more broadly, Soviet isolationism. As a result, President Reagan continues to receive much of the credit for bringing the Cold War to its eventual peaceful end.
By comparison, as part of a “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations in 2009, President Obama removed American missile defense platforms from Eastern Europe in his first few days in office, literally handing the Russians a major political victory with no determinable benefit in return. In doing so, President Obama angered many of our allies in that part of the world, simultaneously opening them up to increased Russian influence. Additionally, after becoming involved, to varying degrees, in revolutions spreading from Libya to Egypt, the Obama administration chose to steer clear of the Syrian crisis in large part because of Russian interference.
If anything, this is a track record of kowtowing to the Russians, not dealing with them on equal footing. Given this body of work, it should be no surprise that the president made off-the-cuff comments to Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s surrogate replacement during his constitutionally mandated term off from the Russian presidency, about having “more flexibility” after the 2012 elections. And, on that note, it should be no surprise that the Russians continue to run rough-shod over the rest of the world without being held accountable by their only real global competitor.
Democrats were right about one thing: We’re certainly not in the Cold War anymore, but only because we no longer treat the Russians as geopolitical adversaries, not because they don’t treat us as such.
Andrew Parks is a junior majoring in political science. His column runs biweekly.