Obama making a mistake in treating Putin like a pariah
“Mr. Obama is focused on isolating President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world … and effectively making it a pariah state.”
So wrote Peter Baker in Sunday’s New York Times. Yet if history is any guide, this “pariah policy,” even if adopted, will not long endure.
Three years after Khrushchev sent tanks into Hungary, he was touring the USA and celebrating with Ike the new “Spirit of Camp David.”
Half a year after Khrushchev moved missiles into Cuba, JFK was talking detente is his famous speech at American University.
Three weeks after Moscow incited the Arabs in the Six-Day War, Lyndon Johnson was meeting with Premier Alexei Kosygin in New Jersey, where the “Spirit of Glassboro,” was born.
So it went through the Cold War. Post-crises, U.S. presidents reached out to Soviet leaders. For they saw Russia as too large and too powerful to be isolated and ostracized like North Korea.
These presidents also understood that the American people wanted constant efforts made to reduce tensions and avoid war with a vast country with thousands of nuclear weapons. And presidents being politicians, be they Democrats JFK or LBJ, or Republicans Eisenhower, Nixon or Reagan, responded to this political reality.
We may not have liked the Soviets. We could not ignore them.
But if throwing Putin out of the frat house and off campus is an unsustainable policy, what of the hawkish calls for a return to Cold War containment and military countermeasures against Russia?
Well, let us inspect them one by one. We are urged to go back to building a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. But this is a project of years. And before this shield was ever up and operational, Moscow could deploy hundreds of new offensive missiles targeted on Central and Western Europe.
How would that make our allies more secure? How would Angela Merkel respond to that?
Among Reagan’s achievements was persuading Russia to pull its triple-warhead SS-20s out of Eastern Europe, in return for our taking our Pershing and cruise missiles out of Western Europe.
Do we really want to reverse the Reagan triumph of 1987?
Some conservatives want to send arms to Ukraine. But given the performance of Ukraine’s army in the Crimean crisis, we would be provoking a war Ukraine could not win, while ensuring the casualty count would be higher.
And as almost no Americans favor U.S. “boots on the ground,” the result of a Russia-Ukraine war our arms provoked would be a beaten Ukrainian army and an occupied country.