Saturday, November 8, 2008

Will Obama Back Down To Russian Threat?

Welcome to the real world Mr. Obama, your table is ready.

As the good wishes and congratulatory messages poured in after the election, one country chose to send a very different message to the new American President-elect. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced Wednesday that Moscow would deploy missiles in its western outpost of Kaliningrad in response to U.S. plans to station an anti-missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The timing and the severity of Medvedev’s threat shows that Russia wants to be the first country in a long line that wants to test the new President. The missile defense shield involves the stationing of US Patriot missile batteries in Poland. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski this week said Obama had told him two months ago that he had concerns over the missile defense shield's effectiveness and whether it was not directed against Russia.

That sounds suspiciously like someone trying to avoid a tough decision by deciding [using his vast knowledge of all things military] that the Patriot is not the right weapon system for the job. Note to Obama; Patriot missiles are a defensive weapon, so you do not “direct” them against anything, except inbound missiles, and if missiles are inbound, that means someone is trying to kill you. As for effectiveness, they may not be perfect, but you stand a better chance of taking out a missile with Patriots than anything the Poles currently have in their inventory.

If the Russians are worried that a few Patriot missile batteries might someday ruin their plans for the nuclear incineration of Europe, so be it. Are they worried that the Patriots in Poland could be used to suppress a nuclear response to an American first strike? Not likely, and Russian missiles bound for US based targets would travel over the pole, not over Europe. However, the US maintains numerous military bases in Europe. In the Kaiserslautern/Ramstein area alone, there are over 50,000 US military personnel and their dependants. As Iran acquires sophisticated weapons technology, that it is more than willing to export, the defense of US interests abroad, especially against missile attack, is vitally important.

President Obama stands a crucial test; the Poles have been staunch allies in the war on terror, and now they are asking for US protection. If Obama offers them the weak excuse that the Patriot is not the right weapon for this situation, he abandons an ally and shows the Russians that he is not ready to play in the big leagues. The presence of Patriot batteries in Poland is largely a symbolic gesture, demonstrating US commitment to defending its’ allies in a very dangerous world.

Obama steps on to the world stage with a papyrus thin resume` and a community organizer’s mentality. He is rightly concerned with domestic issues, but people like Medvedev and Putin [former head of the KGB] will not go wobbly-kneed in his presence. They care little that he is the first African American elected President. No, Putin and his friend Medvedev are old school, hard-core Soviet style communists that only respect one thing; power. If Obama chooses to sit down and negotiate with these men, he must do so not from a position of respect [they don’t respect the man] he must negotiate from a position of power. The catch-22 of course being that if you call for negotiations, you demonstrate weakness and forfeit power in the Soviet school of thought.

Putin and Medvedev eagerly await an Obama response. His reaction to this threat will likely shape US-Russian relations for the next four years. If Obama backs down without a fight, the Russians will view him as a weak leader who lacks the stomach for confrontation on the geopolitical stage, and will continue to push their advantage by constantly testing the President. If Obama stands tough, the Russians will see that as a display of power from the young President, and although they will continue to test him, it will be on a less provocative scale.

Unfortunately for the new President-elect, he can’t vote “present” on this issue. He no longer has the luxury of avoiding tough decisions. He ran for President and was subsequently elected to that office. On the world’s stage, everyone is watching. Welcome to the real world Mr. Obama, your table is ready, and we are all waiting to hear what you order.

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