A big part of the problem President Obama faces in responding to Russian President Putin’s increasingly violence in Ukraine and beyond is that the U.S. does not have a functioning federal government. To be sure, the majority of foreign policy remains in the hands of the Executive branch, but the old saw about “politics stopping at the water’s edge” is no longer operative.
Today’s Republican party openly uses the language of secession, treason, and incitement to coup.
In my opinion, much of Obama’s fecklessness is self-inflicted. But on the other hand, the GOP gladly undercuts him at every turn — which then unavoidably makes him weaker internationally. Through their constant obstructionism, the Republicans have also ensured that the U.S. will never be seen as a reliable negotiating partner.
Putin seems pretty clearly to be looking to reconstitute the former Soviet, now Russian empire, starting with the most strategically significant territories. Europe and the U.S. are in disarray. Whether this is getting into the old “LIHOP” or “MIHOP” territory (the old acronyms associated with 9/11 conspiracy theory truthers and their constant arguments over whether the Cheney administration LET it happen on purpose or MADE it happen) is beside the point. Who benefits from atrocities and unrest in eastern Europe? Russia. Who will have opportunities to expand their ‘sphere of influence’ through intervention, occupation, and intimidation? Russia.
At this point, I don’t even think we could count on the NATO treaty to mean much if Putin decided to do to Estonia what he did in Crimea. A common defense treaty isn’t worth the paper its written on if the nations involved won’t or don’t want to back up the promises.
Back in the 1980s, when KAL 007 was shot down, the Democrats didn’t contradict their president, even as they were in the opposition in general. They didn’t undercut him. They didn’t immediately insist that everything Reagan said or did was 100% wrong.
That’s not the GOP today. They not only oppose every last thing Obama and the Dems say and do, they yell it loudly enough to make sure the entire world hears it. Or to put it another way, if this was 1941 and Pearl Harbor had just happened, the Republicans wouldn’t vote to declare war, but rather, they’d immediately convene impeachment hearings against FDR. Political opportunism overrides everything else for the GOP.
As commenter The_Fixer points out, the United States isn’t united on anything these days. And all Europe seems to care about anymore is deciding which of their poorer countries is ripe for more bankster plundering in the form of imposed austerity measures.
For a would-be imperialist like Putin, there’s probably never been a better time to rebuild the empire.