The attack on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 is a watershed moment, analogous to the shooting down of the Korean Airlines plane by the Soviets in 1983. It is truly a moment of truth for Vladimir Putin, but even more for President Obama, the West, and the American people, who are now face to face with the consequences of their collective “fatigue” with the world and its bad guys and the implications for American security of our withdrawal from Western leadership. The evidence of complicity and direct responsibility for this murderous act on the part of Russia is incontrovertible, so now what?
The increased U. S. sanctions on Russia, Putin, and his cronies will not stop them. Putin feels more pressure from his own people than he does from the U. S. and the West. At a minimum, we should arm and provide intelligence support to Ukraine, reinstate our objective to shore up defense systems in Poland, and publicly reassure the Baltic states that we will assist them as well. As for our European friends, it’s time to get serious. Thankfully, British PM David Cameron has called out Western Europe and urged it to “fundamentally change its approach to Russia”, specifically singling out France for continuing its “unthinkable” plans to sell naval assault ships to Russia. But, so far, no other meaningful response.
As for the American people, the polls are upside down on this issue, with large majorities adamantly opposed to aggressive assistance to Ukraine (or any other foreign involvement, for that matter). Well, this is where American presidential leadership comes in. Obama needs to get off the cutesy domestic political fund raising talking points and coffee shop photo ops and get serious about leading the American people to a cure for their “fatigue” and into the right frame of mind. This is what Presidents are supposed to do–not read the polls, but drive them.
We are close to a tipping point in the failure of foreign policy leadership by this administration. Will this team ever be held accountable for anything?