When word came that the Russian government had granted former NSA contractor and fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum, the consequences of President Obama’s enfeebled foreign policy directives became abundantly clear. President Obama’s almost obsessive desire to eschew any semblance of a muscular foreign policy has weakened the administration’s ability to protect America’s vital national interests and rendered Russian dismissal of American concerns a fait accompli.
The manner in which Russia continued to brush off U.S. requests for Snowden’s extradition should have come as no surprise given Mr. Obama’s penchant for dithering and equivocation. President Obama’s approach to foreign policy has systematically undercut the international respect that is necessary to achieve a nation’s foreign policy objectives.
This process began almost immediately following the president’s inauguration in 2009. While then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was making a conciliatory offer to “reset” relations with Russia, the Obama administration was simultaneously preparing to rescind a series of strategically important agreements negotiated by the Bush administration, with great difficulty, to place vital missile defense assets in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Anti-ballistic missile (ABM) and radar tracking assets would have been added to the larger NATO-led European missile defense enterprise, providing significant long-term protections for both the American homeland and forward deployed troops from intermediate and long-range missile threats originating in Iran.
Russia objected to the anti-ballistic missile and radar emplacements, which they saw as threatening their perceived sphere of influence. Thanks to the Obama administration, Russia got what it wanted: The missile defense plans were nixed during the president’s first year in office.
This decision was followed up by the president himself subtly offering then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev “flexibility” on missile defense issues after his November 2012 reelection. Medvedev responded by telling Obama that he would “transmit this information to Vladimir.”
The information transmitted was indeed clear: Repeated acts of weakness and acquiescence to Russian demands informed the Russian government that there existed no compelling need to accede to American interests because the likelihood of any repercussions for their intransigence was remote.
But President Obama’s misguided foreign policy decisions have not been limited to his dealings with Russia. The administration’s impotent response to ongoing cyber indiscretions by the Chinese government has all but emboldened Asia’s emerging superpower.
Strong evidence continues to link the Chinese government to repeated transgressions, including the stealing of American intellectual property and military intelligence. This theft has been ongoing for years, and the ineffectual response from the Obama administration, limited to the occasional verbal reprimand, has done little to curb China’s behavior.
The Obama administration’s preferred foreign policy approach, light rhetorical posturing designed to dispel any perception of international bullying, has achieved little if not the growing belief that the United States can be ignored.
The weakening of America’s global image has not simply emboldened our adversaries but also caused our most important allies to question our fidelity to the causes our nation has historically promoted.
The unassertive response to the conflagrations in Libya and Syria has sown confusion among allies and enemies alike as to where America stands and the extent to which she will defend both her ideals and those who promote them.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when global adversaries would heed the words of an American president as they carried with them the implied weight of a full and vigorous American response. This respect was developed over the course of two World Wars and several generations. Sadly, it has now largely been squandered in the matter of one presidency.
Scott G. Erickson is a conservative writer, policy analyst, and law enforcement professional in California. He was recently named to the Republican National Committee’s “Rising Stars” program.