Relations between Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Barack Obama are poisoned and irretrievably damaged. It’s therefore a good thing that Obama is leaving office on 20 January. Bad US-Russian relations are of course nothing new. Since the Anglo-American war against Iraq in 2003, the US-Russian relationship has been headed downhill. For Obama, it appears that everything has gotten personal. The US president often acts like a petulant adolescent, jealous of a high school rival. You know, the kid who does everything better than he does. The lad takes it badly and won’t let it go. He challenges his nemesis to some new contest at every opportunity only to lose again and again. That’s got to be hard on the ego. Between Obama and Putin there have been many such encounters. Nor can it help that western cartoonists so often ridicule Obama as out of his depth in comparison to Putin.
Let’s consider Obama’s remarks at his last press conference on Friday, 16 December. «The Russians can’t change us or significantly weaken us», said Obama: «They are a smaller country. They are a weaker country. Their economy doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy, except oil and gas and arms. They don’t innovate». This was insulting both Putin and his country, but not enough apparently for Obama. «They [the Russians] can impact us if we lose track of who we are. They can impact us if we abandon our values. Mr. Putin can weaken us, just like he’s trying to weaken Europe, if we start buying into notions that it’s okay to intimidate the press, or lock up dissidents, or discriminate against people because of their faith or what they look like».
Western cartoonists so often ridicule Obama as out of his depth in comparison to Putin
What on earth is Mr. Obama talking about? Intimidate the press? The Moscow newspapers and television media are loaded with «liberals». Many Russians call them «fifth columnists». They are «people with ‘more advanced’ worldview[s] who do not tolerate ‘Russian propaganda’ themselves», according to one colleague in Moscow. But Mr. Putin tolerates them and pays them no mind.
«Lock up dissidents… discriminate against people»? What alternate reality does Mr. Obama live in? Doesn’t produce anything people want to buy? The United States buys rocket engines that it does not now produce at home. Maybe the Americans, a Russian commentator joked, can use high tech trampolines to get into space and do without Russian technology.
In an interview the previous day with the American National Public Radio Obama ranted about Putin. It must have been a rehearsal for his press conference. «This is somebody, the former head of the KGB», said Obama, «who is responsible for crushing democracy in Russia… countering American efforts to expand freedom at every turn; is currently making decisions that’s leading to a slaughter in Syria». What stupefying hypocrisy; what utter nonsense. Putin was a lieutenant colonel in the KGB, but never its head, and he certainly has not «crushed democracy in Russia». He even treats his political opposition with respect compared to Obama who dismisses president-elect Donald Trump as some kind of Russian Manchurian candidate. The Russians, according to Obama, interfered in the US presidential elections, and helped defeat fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton. They hacked the Democratic National Committee’s hard drive and passed thousands of emails to WikiLeaks, although, according to others, an outraged Clinton insider leaked the cache of embarrassing emails. Obama has dismissed that possibility. The Russians did the hack, he insists , and Putin must be held personally responsible.
In Syria, the United States and its NATO and regional vassals are waging a war of aggression against the legitimate government in Damascus, backing jihadist terrorists
Where’s the evidence? In Moscow, an angry Putin challenged Obama to put up or shut up. This is a hard thing for Obama to do. The Russians, he says, «counter American efforts to expand freedom at every turn». One wonders where that would be. In the Ukraine where the United States and European Union backed and guided the coup d’état against the democratically elected Ukrainian government? Or in Syria where the United States and its NATO and regional vassals are waging a war of aggression against the legitimate government in Damascus, backing jihadist terrorists? How many democratic governments or popularly supported political movements has the United States plotted against or destroyed since 1945? The list is long, including the 1996 Russian presidential election.
Remember 2013, when the US government started a propaganda campaign about Syrian chemical weapons and warned of «red lines» that could not be crossed?
Obama directly raised the issue of Syria during his NPR interview. The liberation of E. Aleppo from Al-Qaeda and other jihadists has infuriated the west. To the everlasting shame of France, the Eiffel Tower was darkened to mourn the defeat of Al-Qaeda. The Mainstream Media (MSM) is up in arms. Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Palestinian and Iraqi militias have helped the Syrian Arab Army to cleanse Aleppo of jihadist terrorists, and thwart the United States and its vassals. This is what galls Obama, being outmanoeuvred by a lesser man than he and a lesser country than the United States. How deplorable to speak of the liberation of E. Aleppo as «a slaughter in Syria».
Obama’s frustrations began several years ago. Remember back in 2013, when the US government started a propaganda campaign about Syrian chemical weapons and warned of «red lines» that could not be crossed? Apparently, the US government came within an ace or two of launching massive air attacks on Syria. Putin intervened and the Syrian government gave up its chemical weapons, removing the US pretext for intervention. The print media had a field day showing Putin helping Obama out of a corner of his own making. All the while, Putin kept urging Russian-US cooperation against the jihadists in Syria, trying to draw the United States away from its ruinous policies. To no avail. Who then acted with greater statesmanship, Putin or Obama?
In 2013, when the US government started a propaganda campaign about Syrian chemical weapons, Putin intervened and the Syrian government gave up its chemical weapons, removing the US pretext for intervention. The print media had a field day showing Putin helping Obama out of a corner of his own making.
Temporarily thwarted in Syria, the United States opened up a new front on Russia’s southern frontier in the Ukraine. It backed the coup d’état in Kiev and turned a blind eye to the fascist vanguard, which kept the new Ukrainian junta in power. «The fascists are just ‘a few bad apples’», officials said in Washington, thinking that NATO had scored a great victory in getting its hands on Sevastopol so it could kick the Russian Black Sea fleet out of its traditional home base.
You have to give credit to Obama; he was ambitious, aiming for a big prize and the humiliation of Russia and its president. Again, he was thwarted not so much by President Putin but by the Russian people of the Crimea who immediately mobilised their local self-defence units backed by «polite people», Russian marines stationed in Sevastopol, to kick out the Ukrainians with scarcely a shot fired. They organised a referendum to approve entry into the Russian Federation. Reunification was quickly approved by a huge majority and celebrated in Moscow. Putin gave a remarkably candid speech, explaining the Russian position. «NATO remains a military alliance,’ he said, «and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way round».
«NATO remains a military alliance,’ he said, «and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory», Putin said
It all happened so quickly, Obama must have looked on, dumbfounded, sputtering with angry frustration at having been outmanoeuvred by Crimean Russians who knew a thing or two after all about «innovating» and defending their land. Russians in the eastern Ukraine also resisted, taking up arms to defend themselves against Kiev’s fascist battalions.
That was too much. Putin became Obama’s nemesis. The US president struck back with economic sanctions, which his European vassals quickly endorsed. When Malaysian Airlines, MH17, was shot down over the eastern Ukraine, Obama and the EU at once accused Putin of being responsible without a shred of evidence. In fact, the available evidence points to the Kiev junta as the guilty party, but the MSM paid no attention. It ran an orchestrated propaganda campaign leading to harder sanctions against Russia intended to sabotage the Russian economy and break the Russian government.
Obama and his advisors again miscalculated. The Russian government instituted its own sanctions against the EU, and looked for other sources of supply or replaced foreign imports with Russian products. «We can do without Polish apples and French cheese», most Russians thought. «Liberals» sulked over the loss of their camembert, but that’s a small price to pay for Russian independence. Obama was outsmarted again by Russians who, he insists, can’t innovate. As for the EU, it suffered huge economic losses because of sanctions at American behest in a classic case of shooting oneself in the foot. It’s getting to be a habit; the EU has again renewed its sanctions against Russia.
The EU has suffered huge economic losses because of its anti-Russia sanctions at American behest in a classic case of shooting oneself in the foot.
Whilst the Ukrainian crisis dragged on, Obama had to turn his attention back to Syria. In the autumn of 2015, Putin ordered Russian aerospace and naval forces to intervene on behalf of the hard-pressed Syrian government which asked for assistance against the western-backed jihadist invasion. The tide of battle slowly turned. Again, Obama was caught off guard; again, the US plan to overthrow the Syrian government was thwarted by Obama’s nemesis. The United States tried bogus truces to allow its jihadist mercenaries to refit and resupply. At first, the Russians did not seem to catch on, accepting American proposals as genuine. They had to learn the hard way, but they did eventually. The liberation of E. Aleppo, although overshadowed by the simultaneous loss of Palmyra, is another blow to Obama’s policies and to his fragile ego.
How could this «weaker… smaller country» outsmart the all-powerful Mr. Obama and the great US Hegemon?
No wonder the US president is lashing out at Putin, publically insulting him and his country. No wonder the MSM is up in arms. How could this «weaker… smaller country» outsmart the all-powerful Mr. Obama and the great US Hegemon?
Like the USSR before it, Russia has always had to pursue a politique du faible, a poor man’s policies, never having the abundant resources of it western adversaries. Russians learned early on to innovate. The fox has to make its way in a world full of dangerous wolves.
What Obama must hate most of all is Putin’s exposure of US support for Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Who indeed is responsible for the «slaughter» in Syria? Obama calls it fighting for democracy. «Airstrike democracy», Putin once derisively replied. «Do you realise what you have done?» Putin asked at the UN in 2015, shocking the MSM. Obviously not, if one is to judge by Obama’s remarks of the last few days. He’s still the obsessive adolescent with doubts about himself and in over his head against a real statesman. Thank heavens Obama is on his way out the door of the White House. It’s not a minute too soon. Olliver Cromwell’s famous remark in 1653 to the Rump Parliament seems apposite. «You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!»