Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Vladimir Putin's Winning Streak

At this point, 2:34 PM Monday June 24, Russia Today's website is almost entirely devoted to the Edward Snowden debacle.

Fox News's site leads with Snowden, but also lists a variety of other stories.  CNN didn't have Snowden covered in any prominent spot.

But Russia Today revels in the twists and turns of Snowden's ability to elude American surveillance.

Putin has been on a winning streak of sorts lately.  His ally, Syria, now receives arms and other support that may push the regime to bloody victory.  The Russian leader put his thumb directly in the eye of Obama by facilitating Snowden's escape.  He managed to split from his wife without much public fuss.  Putin even somehow managed to score a Super Bowl ring without ever suiting up.  The only mark against him is the viral picture of Steven Seagall giving him bunny ears in a photo.

This presidency has never played the diplomatic game well, but now the world has become the Harlem Globetrotters to Obama's Generals. 

From the beginning, Obama wanted to organize the world community.  He failed to realize that diplomacy at its core is a relationship of power and interest.  Choices made for the office of Secretary of State reflect domestic political priorities rather than wise selections.  Former Senator Hillary Clinton turned out to be a non entity (although Obama rarely put his trust in her.)  John Kerry will not do much better.  Diplomats, military officers, and even academics seem to understand the abstract and the reality of power better than legislators. 

Obama also does not seem to understand the limits of power.  One never makes threats or demands that can be easily flaunted.  The US government warned Western Hemisphere nations to not allow a plane carrying Snowden into their airspace.  Fair enough.  But what will we do if one does?  More bluster?  Any tin pot who wants to make the US look bad without consequences can bring this guy to their country, at least in the short term.

The government should have said nothing and just kept quiet tabs, waiting for the pressure to get to him.  He would either turn himself in, or make a mistake.  Snowden has already brought his own judgment into question.  American officials making themselves look like fools will not bring him to account. 

Strangely enough, Obama has the ability to embarrass and even harm Putin if he chooses.  Should the United States ever remove its export restrictions on natural gas, the price will plummet even further.  Gas revenues are most of the foundation of Russia's recent prosperity.  The impact of American shale gas on the global marketplace has seriously weakened Russia's economic position.  Why not turn on the taps full blast and watch American energy might push Putin (and a few oil states in the Middle East) toward irrelevance? Why not build the pipeline that would bring even more US made energy to market?  This would put even more Americans to work in gas and its byproducts.

Putin may be on a winning streak, but it lies within Obama's power to prevail in the game, if he so chooses.

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