In “Time to hit the overcharge button,” as John noted, I implied that in his foreign policy Obama is a fool. John conservatively reserved his judgment, thinking it too soon to tell.
In his weekly column, Charles Krauthammer reviews the evidence and settles our (slight) disagreement. (Coincidentally, so does Wesley Pruden.) Specifically with respect to the abandonment of missile defense in Eastern Europe and Hillary Clinton’s trip to Russia this week — the occasion of my comments — Krauthammer writes:
[W]hat’s come from Obama’s single most dramatic foreign policy stroke — the sudden abrogation of missile defense arrangements with Poland and the Czech Republic that Russia had virulently opposed? For the East Europeans it was a crushing blow, a gratuitous restoration of Russian influence over a region that thought it had regained independence under American protection.
But maybe not gratuitous. Surely we got something in return for selling out our friends. Some brilliant secret trade-off to get strong Russian support for stopping Iran from going nuclear before it’s too late? Just wait and see, said administration officials, who then gleefully played up an oblique statement by President Dmitry Medvedev a week later as vindication of the missile defense betrayal.
The Russian statement was so equivocal that such a claim seemed a ridiculous stretch at the time. Well, Clinton went to Moscow this week to nail down the deal. What did she get?
Nothing, you might say, except for the fact that it is less than nothing: “It’s the U.S. that’s now retreating from its already flimsy position of just three weeks ago. We’re not doing sanctions now, you see. We’re back to engagement. Just as the Russians suggest.”
Is it is possible, as John held, that Obama’s seemingly unilateral giveaway was, in fact, a bargain, and that Obama got something from the Russians, presumably in relation to Russia’s client Iran, that has not yet become public? Krauthammer renders his verdict on the basis of Clinton’s trip this week to Russia.
So Obama: fool or sage? “The Russian leadership, hardly believing its luck, needs no interpreter to understand that when the Obama team clownishly rushes in bearing gifts and ‘reset’ buttons, there is nothing ulterior, diabolical, clever or even serious behind it.”