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America the Hesitant

With Europe AWOL, can the Obama Administration lead NATO on Russia policy?

Published on: July 1, 2014
Andrew A. Michta is the M. W. Buckman Professor of International Studies at Rhodes College.
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  • Curious Mayhem

    The short answer is “no.”

    Next question.

    • Corlyss

      Took the words right out of my mouth.

      • Curious Mayhem

        Word up.

    • toumanbeg

      That question:
      Why should we?
      America has spent decades, thousands of lives and several Trillion dollars playing ‘WorldCop’. It hasn’t worked. If Europe is concerned about the Russians, they are more then capable of dealing with them.
      Europeans like the US Taxpayers paying for their defence. It allows them to spend money on Social Services.
      The Millennials are not going to play that game. Since they will be over 50% of the voters by 2020, any politician that thinks paying for the defence of Europe a good idea will not get elected.
      The Millennials foreign policy is “Go away”.
      America is protected by geography. With 300 million well armed citizens, an invasion would take several million troops. Then there is the guerrilla that would follow.
      How are those troops to get here? How do you keep them in bullets once here. No, invasion of the USA is close to impossible. Anyone of a different opinion needs to create a logistics plan and share it.
      That makes the US Army redundant. Eliminate the Army and you have approximately 500 Billion dollars a year to put into social services. Half a Trillion per annum will buy a lot of health care.

      • adk

        toumanbeg: so much nonsense in so short a post.

        “America has spent decades, thousands of lives and several Trillion dollars playing ‘WorldCop’. It hasn’t worked.”
        What hasn’t worked? In case you haven’t noticed, USSR, the greatest menace of the XX century (after the Nazi Germany) is gone.

        “America is protected by geography”.
        You have to go back to WWI for that to be remotely true. Ever heard of ballistic nuclear missiles? Do names like North Korea and Iran mean anything to you? How well did geography protect the US on September 11, 2001?

        “With 300 million well armed citizens, an invasion would take several million troops.”

        You really do live in a fantasy world if you think that a foreign army invasion is a real threat to this country.

        • toumanbeg

          “”America has spent decades, thousands of lives and several Trillion dollars playing ‘WorldCop’. It hasn’t worked.”
          What hasn’t worked? In case you haven’t noticed, USSR, the greatest menace of the XX century (after the Nazi Germany) is gone.”
          Tell that to the Ukraine, Mr. van Winkle. I can argue that the USA lost the cold war. The Soviet Union downsized and re-branded while the USA has a Marxist POTUS. Tell me again who won?
          “”America is protected by geography”.
          You have to go back to WWI for
          that to be remotely true. Ever heard of ballistic nuclear missiles? Do
          names like North Korea and Iran mean anything to you? How well did
          geography protect the US on September 11, 2001?”
          Ever hear of Ballistic missile defence? The so called ‘star wars’? It works. North Korea and Iran are illegal states with an enslaved population. They are threats only to themselves. The MIC would love to use them as an excuse to steal more dollars from the taxpayers. On 9-11, 3,000 Americans were murdered. There was not then and isn’t now a threat to America. Your problem here is seeing a threat to Americans as a threat to America. An estimate for American lives lost invading 3rd world mudhioles since 9-11 is 11 to 15 thousand. Tell me why the guys that murdered 3,000 Americans are a threat but the politicians that ordered 11,000 Americans to their death in futile wars are not a threat.
          “You really do live in a fantasy world if you think that a foreign army invasion is a real threat to this country.”
          My point exactly. And here I thought you were not smart enough to get it. So why does the American taxpayer get soaked for 500 Billion per year to pay for an army you agree isn’t needed?
          ‘splain me that please.

          • adk

            1) US lost the Cold War? I hope you are joking. Putin certainly doesn’t think so as he publicly mourns the loss of the USSR and the dominance of the US in world affairs. But today’s Russia is a shadow of the former Soviet Union. It lost a lot of territory, allies, and, most importantly, its communist ideology. Russian rulers now search, pretty desperately, for a grand “national idea” and the best Putin & Co. could come up with is a traditional Russian nationalism based on some bizarre mystic ideas about the “Aryan” origins of the Russian people. It might be good for his domestic ratings today, but it also drives Russia in very dangerous for them directions AND repels a lot of people even in his immediate neighborhood, Ukrainians being one of those.

            Ukraine is actually a perfect example that shows the inherent weakness of Putin’s Russia. It used to be a big and important part of both the former Russian empire and the USSR. It is no longer that, and I doubt it will be again — in part, because of Russia’s aggression and vile propaganda that brands Ukrainians as modern “fascists “. So the best Putin can do is to unleash his not so-covert paramilitaries in predominantly Russian-speaking Eastern Ukraine while publicly denying any involvement. He also can, and does, try to further destabilize Ukraine economically (raising the price of natural gas supplies, restricting Ukrainian exports to Russia, etc.), but that seems more like revenge tactics than a well-thought strategy to bring Ukraine back.

            All of that, plus its own corruption and internal divisions, makes Ukraine a miserable country with murky prospects going forward, but what that has that to do with winning the Cold War? Why not ask the former East Germans, Poles, Czechs, etc. whether they are better off now than under communism?

            2) N.Korea and Iran are both perfectly legal, albeit very bad, states. N.K has both nukes and missiles, Iran is furiously working towards them. They both are a real threat to their neighbors (many of whom are our allies) and the US. US strategic missile defense remains an unproven proposition.

            3) One of the greatest threats to the US security is WMD terrorism. 9/11 terrorists killed “just” 3000 because they didn’t have WMDs, the next ones may — the strong desire is there. Waiting until they come here, then trying to find and intercept is a losing game.

          • adk

            and just to be clear: Russia is weak, but if not stopped, it will do a lot of damage to the US and Western interests. In fact, it already has and continues to.

          • toumanbeg

            That depends on what you mean by stopped and interests. I’m concerned with American interests, not western interests. They are NOT the same. Iraq proved that.
            When the West and the USA can agree on their common interests, then we can cooperate. Until then, we are paying them to stand behind us and watch us fight. That has to stop.
            Put a ring of FEL’s in orbit and a shell of smart rock launchers and the Russian ICBM fleet is just so much scrap metal. Rusty scrap metal. This can be done for less then the cost of a nuclear carrier group. Then we couls sell those big slow targets (aircraft carriers) to China and India. Or even Russia.
            Aircraft Carriers are in the same position as the USS Congress was when the CSS Virginia steamed out into the roads. Against a weapons platform in LEO, that Carrier has the same change of survival as a blade of grass in front of my lawnmower.

          • Curious Mayhem

            That’s correct. Putin is playing a weak hand brilliantly. Obama started with a strong hand, but unaware that he was playing this game, he threw his hand away.

            Or whatever metaphor you want ….

          • toumanbeg

            The conflict between Freedom (USA) and Socialism (Russia) is far from over. It is early in the 3rd quarter. Russia (Socialism) has lost some land but The USA has lost it’s way. Don’t believe me, look at the election results for 2008 and 2012. Obama was put in Office and kept there by Millenials. The conflict between Russia and the USA is one of ideas;
            IDEOLOGICAL;

            snipped from;

            ww.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ideological
            “1: relating to or concerned with ideas

            2 ; of, relating to, or based on ideology

            The election and re-election of Obama means the USA lost the war of Ideas while Russia lost a little land. Russia is still the laregest nation on earth. Even if the USA exercises it’s claim to Antarctica. So who won?

            Russia is no threat. No more then the boogie man under your bed. Pootie is grabbing the low hanging fruit. Georgia and the Ukraine have little if any military. It is a jobs program for those that cannot holds a real job. Sort of like the US Army pre WW2.

            If Europe chooses to not defend themselves, they become low hanging fruit. That is their choice. As long as they can avoid that choice by letting the US taxpayer defend them, they will.

            “Why not ask the former East Germans, Poles, Czechs, etc. whether they are better off now than under communism?”
            I have pen pals (E-mail, is their a special word for them? E-pals?) from all those countries. I agree with you, as do my pen pals. So What? At some point you have to let go the keys and watch your kid drive off. I’ve done that 3 times. The first was the hardest.

            I consider this moving the goal posts. Sorta. The natives of the countries in question grabbed their freedom. We didn’t force it on them. All humans prefer freedom (at least for themselves). Which is why the topic of the former Warsaw pact nations really hasn’t anything to do with this conservation.
            I do disagree with you as to what is a legal state. Governments that use lethal force to control the citizens are not legal.

            I agree with 3. By my calculations 6 40 Kt range devices, properly placed will break loose the Canary Island fault. That sends a wave 30 meters tall moving at 700 KPH across the Atlantic. No more East coast of America. Everybody within 5 miles of the ocean is dead. That is about 140 million or so. The wave also hits the French coast, England (London flattened) Portugal parts of Spain, Italy and most of the Med within 8 Km’s of the sea. That is another 180 million or so.
            As much as 400 million dead. 3/4 of which would be westerners. So yes, I’m concerned.
            That is why my favored approach to Iran is the LeMay plan. Bomb them back to the stone age +1

          • Andrew Allison

            Let’s be clear: Obama was put in office, and kept there, by racism, and the U.S. is paying and will continue to pay, a terrible price for it.

          • toumanbeg

            No, the numbers do not add up. There are about 40 million ‘blacks’ in America. Maybe 25 million are eligible to vote.
            In 2008 69,498,516 citizens voted for POTUS. 52.93% for Obama. in 2012 65,915,796 voted. 51.06 % for Obama. So either way 30+ million citizens voted for Obama. There are not that many blacks in America. So logic says white citizens voted for Obama also.
            BTW, Obama is not even close to the first part black POTUS. He is like #6. He is the first post Civil War POTUS to be of mixed racial heritage.
            Second, the word “racist” means somebody that thinks they are better then others because of their race, gender, religion, etc. Somebody that dislikes, loathes or hates someone else because of their race, religion, gender, age, etc is called a ‘bigot’
            The MSM gets this wrong all the time.
            Racist and bigot are NOT synonyms.
            No a synonym is not something you put on your toast.

          • Andrew Allison

            Unhappily, they do. It’s not just the Blacks who voted 96% for the worst President since WW-II, but those who did so on “principle”. I’ll happily stipulate that the Republicans and Independents who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for either candidate contributed to the disaster, but the simple fact is that it was (inverse) racism that elected this utter incompetent. FWIW, I’m one of those Independents and, as a reformed drunk (naturalized citizen) care deeply for and about this country.

          • toumanbeg

            I think you are overlooking the fact that blacks are about 10% of the population and in the past had the second lowest participation rate. The black vote isn’t much both in raw numbers and as a percentage. What is larger is the youth vote. Overlooked because it is harder to define (some count 18 to 25, some up to 30) and because youths have the lowest participation rate. It has been some time since I looked but for a while the percentage of blacks in jail was larger then the percentage of blacks voting. To me that points to rejection. Of society by blacks and blacks by society. I Obama can cure that problem, then he is a good POTUS.
            A democracy must be inclusive to survive. Everyone talks it over and the side with the mot ‘snouts’ wins. The problem with ‘snout counting’ is that when the losers refuse to accept defeat on an issue, and enough people refuce to participate in the process Democracy becomes anarchy. We’re almost there.

      • Andrew Allison

        European taxpayers are not paying anything close to the cost of their defense.

  • Andrew Allison

    “Parkinson’s conjecture that membership exceeding a number “between 19.9 and 22.4” makes a committee manifestly inefficient seems well justified by the evidence proposed. NATO currently has 27 members. Q.E.D.

    • Corlyss

      It wouldn’t work if there were only 3 – Britain, France, and Germany. The rest of the little ankle-biters are there only to make them feel important and to bollocks up any action the other 3 might accidentally stumble into unanimity on.

  • Ghosts of Benghazi

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. FUNNIEST HEADLINE AND READ TODAY! I used to be a fan Of WRM until his site became a quasi life raft for the sinking disaster known as OBAMA!

  • Arkeygeezer

    To do what you ask, is to make sure that the American public supports the action. This Administration does not have that support. Government by the people is a frustrating proposition.

    • Corlyss

      Americans will follow where they are led. We have no leaders at the moment with anything beyond tactical domestic political concerns. Whodda thunk this would be the outcome of the fall of the Soviet Union?

    • Pete

      Americans see not vital in the Ukraine .. or even Eastern Europe.

    • Andrew Allison

      Nope, it’s called representative government, and our government is manifestly not representative of the people. I draw your attention to the record low approval of every single branch thereof.

      • Arkeygeezer

        The record low approval by whom? Opinion polls? Government of the people does not depend on polls. It depends on fair and free elections of our representatives by large numbers of voters. Not narrow poll samples.

        • Andrew Allison

          Get back to me in November [/grin]

  • FedUpWithWelfareStates

    This administration could not lead an Easter egg hunt…of course Russia is on the rise…of course China is on a path to controlling the S. China Sea (mainly due to weak states still depending upon America to be their Colonial Masters when it is convenient)…of course China & Russia, along with other anti-American state actors, will team up to destroy America for good…of course no one seems to be noticing these events…

  • Pete

    ‘The Obama Administration’s inability to galvanize NATO into a forceful and unified response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a sobering reminder of how far U.S. global standing has slipped, and how little willingness there is in Washington these days to shape the U.S. security environment.”

    Andy-boy is confused … yet again.

    He joins America’s ability to lead NATO in confronting Russia with our unwillingness to do so, as if the two supported each other. They don’t. The U.S. isn’t leading as Michta and other neo-cons wish because it does not want to. And rightfully so. If a true national interest of the U.S. was involved in Eastern Europe, it would be a different story.

    • toumanbeg

      Pete, Washington is just responding the the American politic. I’m a Boomer. Boomers and the so called “Greatest Generation” both saw global politics as a zero sum game. If we win, the “Bad Guys” lose. If the “bad Guys” win, we lose.
      Generation X and the Millenials don’t see it that a way. No good guys or bad guys. Just guys with a different POV.
      The MIC (Military Industrial Complex) needs to be put down. America still needs to be defended we just do not need the World’s best Army or Super carriers to do it. I could cut a Trillion dollars PER YEAR out of the defence budget without affecting America’s ability to defend itself. Why should American taxpayers pay trillions and sacrafice the lives of their children to make a couple thousand Billionairs richer?
      They shouldn’t and in another decade they won’t.

  • toumanbeg

    America’s job is to defend America. AFIK, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Et. Al. are not American states. If Russia wants to invade they it is NOT any of our business. If you are serious about helping small weak countries defend themselves from Russia, sell them Nuclear weapons. If the Ukraine had kept it’s nukes, Russia would not have invaded. The same can be said for Georgia and Tibet. Nukes = no invasion.

    Consensual governments (democracies) seldom practice aggressive war on one another. That is left to tyrants despots and religious fanatics. Nuke the Kremlin while Pootie is brushing his teeth one morning and that is it for Russia. They will spend the next decade fighting each other for the opportunity to be the next despot. Once they get that worked out, nuke them again. Once they figure out that the reward for being the new despot is a Pika-Dan, the number of wanna be despots will decline dramatically.

    Nuke the Tyrants!

  • Steve Rice

    I’m so tired of hearing about how Obama inherited these tough problems. He chose to run for office. He can’t complain if he wanted the job!

  • Arup_2

    “There is little evidence that the Obama Administration appreciates the global implications of Russia’s resurgence.”

    It is this statement and this statement alone that shows that the author is living in the last millennium. In corporate field there is a concept of “dominant logic” which is an ingrained belief system of operations. This can be extended here.

    Somewhere in the third para the author exposes his dominant logic: (a) USA must strengthen NATO in the northeastern flank to ensure effective deterrence; and (b) USA must prevent a Russian “sphere” of economic and military interests. In short, establishment of a enemy – and the required funding required – is the sole policy of America. It is this cold-war “dominant logic” that President Obama and millions of his “new post-cold-war generation” rejects with hard passion.

    In 1953 USSR wanted to join NATO but was pushed out – after all NATO was designed to “Americans in, Russians out and Germans down”. (http://www.nato.int/history/nato-history-did-you-know.html). Russia still wanted to join NATO in 2000.

    In 2010 Russia wanted a Lisbon to Vladivostok unified free market. That too was denied by the Europeans. Surely we wanted an Enemy.

    The problem is when the Enemy starts winning !!

    The problem is heightened when American population, with its rising post-cold war generation, specifically wants USA not to poke its nose into this.

    • Andrew Allison

      More incompetent disinformation from an SVR troll.

      • Arup_2

        Troll is someone who makes one-liners without thought – because of the lack of ability thereof.

        • Andrew Allison

          As I was saying . . . .

  • Ghosts of Benghazi

    Looks like WRM removed my earlier comment about his blog and contributors acting as a life raft for the tragic sinking of the USS Obama……love the censorship, follows a typical uber-liberal trajectory as is happening in US. Example: Nurses threatened with arrest if they disclose border conditions; removal of my innocuous though poignant comments…….

    • Andrew Allison

      Having had a few of my comments not appear, I’m satisfied that it’s Disqus quirks, not TAI censorship. If at first you don’t succeed, . . .

  • ttaerum

    Based on actions a one, it’s clear that Obama does not care if Georgia and Crimea are ceded to Putin, Syria and Iraq are ceded to Khamenei, and Taiwan is ceded to Xi Jinping. He has taken on the anti-colonial power attitudes of his father – real and imagined. Iraq (as he has stated) is supposed to “work things out themselves”, Egypt (as he said in his speech in Cairo) has legitimate grievances against colonial powers, Russia has concerns about its borders (which will be worked out once he’s re-elected), and Asia (including Indonesia where he lived for part of his childhood) is the future. It’s a non, even anti European view of the world enforced by his sojourn in Hawaii.

    • ttaerum

      And it’s worth noting that his comment, “so sue me”, is defiant, not just of the House and Senate but also of the Supreme Court. As in 2010, he is not up for election in 2014, so these things simply don’t matter to him. He will do what he wants – consequences be damned.

  • pnkearns

    “America’s apparent reticence to act decisively to protect its interests along Eurasia’s periphery is baffling.”

    Exactly what are the U.S.’s interest in that region? And, if the Europeans themselves – as the author laments – don’t care about that region, why should the U.S.?

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