I opened my newspapers this morning and found depressing and wrongheaded, but predictable op-ed articles by two infamous right-wing journalists in the Washington Post, both of whom decided to pour ashes on Obama’s accomplishments on this recent trip to Northen Ireland for the G-8, his meeting with President Putin, his visit to Berlin, his meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and his Brandenburg Gate speech. They must not have understood the major and real changes in our world Obama was proposing.
Both Charles Krauthammer’s article entitled “America Sidelined, barely relevant” and George F. Will’s article called “Obama hits a wall in Berlin” tried to tear down what was a largely successful, international, and multifaceted set of initiatives by the president. You get the essence of the Krauthammer article by its title, but it also contained an anti-science, fact denying argument about climate change and criticisms of Obama’s attempts to deal with this issue. You have to wonder about the Washington Post’s continued support for Krauthammer’s column, and whether it would support a columnist who constantly argues for the creation of the earth 10,000 more or less years ago? George Will also went after Obama for his views on terrorism and arms control, the subject of this post. He also attacked him over his Syria policy. Does Will think Syria will be solved only by inserting American troops?
As someone once said, “lets look at the facts.” While Will criticized Obama over dealing with President Putin, the reality is that there never was much of a chance to change Putin’s rigid policies regarding Syria until the tide changes on the battle field and international pressure grows.
In reality it was not Obama that was isolated at the G-8 meeting, it was Putin. He was opposed on Syria by all other members of the G-8; he will not be part of the imaginative transatlantic trade pact that Obama has boldly initiated; he now faces a dismal Russian economy, a fraction of America, Europe, China or Japan’s – with a poorly run energy sector and growing disenchantment at home. No wonder he looked despondent! What these neo-con pundits did not say, is that we still need to work with Russia and its people to establish for the long run a productive and peaceful relationship beyond Putin’s reign.
But the larger picture on U.S.- Russian relations may not be as bleak as Will and Krauthammer depict. Russia and the U.S., as we noted earlier, achieved agreement on a scaled down and a more limited, but still important program, of cooperation on destruction and security of nuclear weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union to replace the Nunn-Lugar expired agreement. The Geneva II diplomatic tract is shaky, but is still an agreed option for both sides. We have a consensus with Russia on the dangers of terrorism and need to cooperate on this issue. An energetic Obama put forth a proposal of a cut of about one-third in the strategic nuclear arms of both sides. Obama also said that the key tactical nuclear weapons should be on the negotiating table. Russia and America are going ahead with the cuts of New START, they continue to cooperate on transit to and from Afghanistan, and we likely share a similar view on nuclear weapons for Iran. Obama also said that the White House will host another international Nuclear Security Summit in 2016. The summits are a key Obama initiative to discuss and work on securing loose atomic materials from terrorists.
Further, George Will characterized as “[resuscitating] the cadaver of nuclear arms control with Russia,” once again resuscitating his credentials as a post-cold war warrior still longing for a nice nuclear filled world and thinking the more nuclear weapons in the world the better, not acknowledging how much Obama has moved those numbers down and made the world safer for all. Obama’s support for CTBT, continued drive to support NPT, and commitment to reduce nuclear global risks show leadership we have long missed in the disastrous Bush administration for which Will and Krauthammer must still long.