A White House hes­i­tant to con­front re­al­ity

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Tony Blank­ley

On three fronts — South Korean trade, Ukrainian/Rus­sian diplo­macy and Afghan war fight­ing — the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is be­ing in­creas­ingly pres­sured by un­fold­ing events to shed ide­ol­ogy and ra­tio­nal­iza­tions and come quickly to a re­al­is­tic anal­y­sis of world events and their con­se­quences.

In each of th­ese cases, in the ab­sence of very prompt United States pol­icy de­ci­sions and ac­tions, we shall in­cur long-term ir­re­versible eco­nomic, geopo­lit­i­cal or na­tional se­cu­rity harm. I will dis­cuss the Afghan war de­ci­sion in a fu­ture col­umn.

In the case of South Korea, two weeks ago the Euro­pean Union com­pleted a bi­lat­eral trade deal (re­quir­ing ap­proval by the EU Par­lia­ment) with South Korea. While the 2006 U.S. deal with South Korea lan­guishes un­rat­i­fied by both a Congress and White House con­trolled by the ev­i­dently pro­tec­tion­ist wing of the Demo­cratic Party, the Euro­peans can­not be­lieve their luck. They ba­si­cally copied our hard-ne­go­ti­ated, ten­ta­tive agree­ment, and if they soon rat­ify, it will be able to take eco­nomic ad­van­tages over the United States.

Euro­pean of­fi­cials are “ec­static” at the ac­cess they have gained. Cather­ine Ash­ton, the EU trade com­mis­sioner, told the Fi­nan­cial Times: “I think the pack­age is the best we’ll ever get and I think it’s a fan­tas­tic pack­age for Europe.” “There is no doubt the Korea-U.S. agree­ment was used as a bench­mark or even a model from the Korean side,” Christo­pher Dent, pro­fes­sor of east Asian po­lit­i­cal econ­omy at Leeds Uni­ver­sity in the United King­dom told the Fi­nan­cial Times two weeks ago.

The pact will in­crease trade for South Korea-E.U. by about 20 per­cent — surg­ing past cur­rent U.S.-South Korean trade lev­els if the U.S. fails to rat­ify our treaty first. In­de­ci­sion by the U.S. gov­ern­ment will in fact be a de­ci­sion to lose up to $25 bil­lion per an­num of trade and jobs to the Euro­peans.

On the Ukrainian front, Rus­sia is ratcheting up heavy pres­sure on the Ukraine to vote for the pro-Rus­sia can­di­date in Jan­uary elec­tion, while am- bigu­ous Amer­i­can pol­icy and ac­tions is un­der­cut­ting proWestern forces in the Ukraine.

Two weeks ago the left­ist pres­tige Bri­tish pa­per, the Guardian, head­lined its ar­ti­cle: “Ukraine fears for its fu­ture as Moscow mus­cles in on Crimea. As Ukraine pre­pares for its first pres­i­den­tial elec­tion since the Or­ange Revo­lu­tion, there are signs that its gi­ant neigh­bor to the east will not tol­er­ate a prowestern out­come.”

The crunch may come over the Crimea, cur­rently part of the Ukraine, but sought by Rus­sia as in olden days. It was, of course at Yalta in the Crimea that the U.S., Bri­tain and Rus­sia drew spheres of in­flu­ence that deeply shaped the Cold War that fol­lowed.

To­day, as the Guardian rue­fully notes: “But al­most 65 years af­ter the ‘big three’ met in the Crimean sea­side re­sort of Yalta — now in Ukraine — the ques­tion of zones of in­flu­ence has come back to haunt Europe. Rus­sia has made it clear that it sees Ukraine as cru­cial to its bold claim that it is en­ti­tled to a zone of in­flu­ence in its post-Soviet back­yard.”

This fol­lows Rus­sian pres­i­dent, Dmitry Medvedev’s Au­gust let­ter to Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yushchenko, seen by diplo­mats as an “un­prece­dented diplo­matic mug­ging [. . .] a seething let­ter” that said not only was Mr. Yushchenko a “non­per­son” but that Rus­sia was re­view­ing Rus­sia and Ukraine’s 1997 friend­ship treaty, a ref­er­ence which the Guardian char­ac­ter­ized as “a hint that Moscow may no longer re­spect Ukraine’s sov­er­eign bor­ders.”

Th­ese dis­turb­ing events are ex­plic­itly be­ing seen by Europe and the Ukraine in the con­text of Pres­i­dent Obama’s re­cent de­ci­sion to re­verse our pol­icy to place anti-mis­sile de­fense sys­tems in Poland and the Czech Repub­lic. Again, as even the left­ist Guardian ex­plains:

“ ‘A lot of peo­ple in this part of the world are se­ri­ously [de­lud­ing] them­selves,’ one an­a­lyst in Yalta ad­mit­ted bluntly. ‘We don’t know what Obama’s deal [with Moscow] was. They think that Rus­sia will take it as a green light,’ he added. Wash­ing­ton in­sists it dropped the shield fol­low­ing a new as­sess­ment of Iran’s nu­clear threat. But many in Ukraine be­lieve the White House sac­ri­ficed its com­mit­ments to east­ern Europe in or­der to ‘re­set’ re­la­tions with Moscow.”

Mr. Obama’s re­fusal to meet with Mr. Yushchenko when they were both in New York for the re- cent United Na­tions con­fer­ence is taken by some as fur­ther ev­i­dence that Wash­ing­ton is aban­don­ing to Rus­sian suzerainty the for­mer Soviet-con­trolled states of east­ern Europe.

The Euro­peans strongly op­pose Moscow’s im­pe­rial as­ser­tions, but seems un­able to speak out, let alone act, without Amer­i­can lead­er­ship. In fact, Brus­sels has in­di­cated that Ukraine has no hope of join­ing the EU in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

This Euro­pean pas­siv­ity comes in the face of Mr. Obama’s ide­al­is­tic call at the United Na­tions last month: “Those who used to chas­tise Amer­ica for act­ing alone in the world can­not now stand by and wait for Amer­ica to solve the world’s prob­lems alone.”

It seems that Europe will in fact stand by. The world may say it dis­ap­proves of bold Amer­i­can lead­er­ship, but it fears — and is pow­er­less — in its ab­sence. Ex­cept, of course, to nib­ble at our eco­nomic an­kles while we are inat­ten­tive.

Tony Blank­ley is the au­thor of “Amer­i­can Grit: What It Will Take to Sur­vive and Win in the 21st Cen­tury” and vice pres­i­dent of the Edel­man pub­lic-re­la­tions firm in Wash­ing­ton.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.