Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cold War II: How Obama - Clinton "Russian reset" paved way for current foreign policy disaster

Cold War 2.0 and the 2016 Election

Obama Administration's Russian reset launched new Cold War
This blog focuses on U.S. - Cuba policy but as the geopolitical situation deteriorates, U.S. - Russia relations deteriorate and Russia returns to Cuba and makes new inroads into Latin America the obvious question arises: How did the new Cold War between Russia and the United States materialize?

First, the end of the Cold War without a major war on the European continent was achieved during the Reagan - Bush era (1981 - 1993). Ronald Reagan entered The White House rejecting the failed policy of detente that had ended with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the Carter administration. However, the first Bush Administration pledged to Gorbachev in 1990 that in return for German unification and freeing the "captive nations" there would be no NATO expansion. Bill Clinton abandoned this agreement and NATO went on to expand with 12 nations of the former Warsaw pact joining and encircling Russia on its western front. During the second Bush Administration plans to install a missile defense complex in Poland were announced.

Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov press button marked "overload" in 2009 
On March 6, 2009 Secretary Hillary Clinton in Geneva, Switzerland announced the "Russian reset" with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov but things did not go as expected as Time Magazine's Simon Shuster reported a year later when there were already signs that things were going in the wrong direction:
Last March, she had the honor of starting Obama's charm offensive by presenting her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, with a little red button. It was supposed to have the Russian word for reset on it and was meant as a harmless bit of fun. But thanks to a spelling mistake somewhere in the State Department (presumably the Gimmicks Directorate), Lavrov had to explain that the button actually said overload. It caused some awkward laughter.
In September of 2009 the Obama Administration announced that they "no longer planned to move forward" with the missile shield and scrapped it, but pursued an alternative scaled down version that still bothered the Russians who viewed the President as weak.

On March 26, 2012 President Obama was caught on a hot mike telling then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility." President Medvedev replied, "I understand. I transmit this (inaudible) to Vladimir." President Obama went on to win re-election.

In August of 2012 President Obama made his famous statement of a "red line" in Syria over the use of chemical weapons leading to a U.S. military response only to back down when Assad used them.
This was all taking place under a backdrop where the Putin regime was transitioning into a more authoritarian regime murdering opposition activists, human rights defenders and independent journalists. The Obama administration did not allow these developments to effect their approach to Russia.

By 2014 Vladimir Putin responded to President Obama's promise of "flexibility" by militarily taking part of Ukraine, backing Assad in Syria, and floating the idea of opening Russian military bases in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Today in 2016 as construction begins on a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, and Russians have now returned to Latin America expanding their position there not only in Cuba but also Nicaragua the prospects that a second Cold War is underway is a reality.

U.S. foreign policy during the Obama administration has been a mixture of signals perceived as weak being sent, inviting aggressive responses by outlaw regimes and adversaries, followed up by responses that threaten to explode into conflict.

This is how today the Russians are involving themselves in the U.S. elections mocking The White House, as Russian planes buzz U.S military warships around the world, and the unprecedented statement by Vice President Biden announcing a "covert" operation against Russia for its alleged leaking of hacked e-mails of the Democratic National Committee, and John Podesta. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored protocols placing her electronic communications on a private and unsecured server. Until now there have been no leaks of her e-mails but could there be a late "October Surprise" as Russian revenge for Bill Clinton's NATO expansion?

This "Russian reset" was part of President Obama's overall charm offensive with various adversaries of the United States which amounted to neo-appeasement, and as was the case in Cuba and Venezuela failed terribly, and has created the conditions for future conflict that are now erupting at the end of his presidency.

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