Among the many things George W. Bush was vilified for while he was President was his assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was said that Bush had looked into Putin’s eyes and had seen his soul. Well, here’s exactly what Bush said after he met Putin for the first time in Slovenia in June 2001:
I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul. He’s a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that’s the beginning of a very constructive relationship.
O.K., I think Bush was wrong about Putin being “straightforward and trustworthy” and God only knows what he saw in his soul. But Bush was right about Putin being “deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.” Of course, what Putin thinks is in the best interests of his country doesn’t always coincide with what the people of Russia think is in their best interests. Just ask world chess champion turned opposition leader Garry Kasparov, Pussy Riot, or any member of Russia’s LGBT community.
But let’s remember that Putin also looked into Bush’s eye and saw into his soul. What Putin learned was that behind Bush’s smile was a steely resolve. Bush didn’t plead Putin for flexibility. Right or wrong, when Bush said something he meant it
Right or wrong, Bush meant it when he told the world “either you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists” following the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Right or wrong, Bush meant it when he declared Iraq, Iran and North Korea to be the axis of evil.
Right or wrong, Bush meant it when he said Saddam Hussein had to go.
And right or wrong, only six months after first looking him in the eye, Bush meant what he told Putin the U.S. would withdraw from the ABM Treaty.
Putin didn’t like it one bit. But there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. In a post 9/11 world, President Bush saw fit to pursue ballistic missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. Putin learned that Bush was deeply committed to the best interests of this country
And what could Putin do with a man who referred to him as “Pootie-Poot” and “Ostrich Legs”? All Putin could do was wait for Bush to leave office
By the way, if Garry Kasparov, Pussy Riot, or Russia’s LBGT community called Putin “Pootie-Poot” or “Ostrich Legs” they would never see the outside of a prison wall
Now I realize all of this might be ancient history to some of you, but let me ask this question. If George W. Bush were Presidentm, would Vladimir Putin have entered Ukraine and seized the Crimean Peninsula? Not on his life.
Simply put, Putin feared President Bush. Putin does not fear President Obama.
And why would he? Obama surrendered the aforementioned BMD installations in Poland and the Czech Republic and allowed Russia a10-to-1 tactical nuclear weapons advantage in the 2010 START agreement and dropped sanctions against the Russian government and business entities for selling arms to Iran in an effort to gain their support for sanctions against Iran which we have now abandoned. Putin also hasn’t been above using former NSA contractor and useful idiot Edward Snowden as a cudgel against the Obama Administration. In just over five years, President Obama has taken U.S.-Russia relations from resolve to reset and where has it got us
Unlike Bush, when it comes to the best interests of this country, Obama doesn’t mean what he says. As occasional American Spectator contributor Dustin Siggins notes, even CNN doesn’t take Obama seriously when he says there will be consequences for Russia invading, er, I mean its “uncontested arrival” in Ukraine. If CNN doesn’t take Obama seriously when it comes to Ukraine, then why should Putin?
As long as Putin doesn’t fear Obama then he can do whatever the hell he wants in Ukraine up to and including driving tanks into Kiev. The only thing Obama has in common with Bush where it concerns Russia is that Putin has outlasted both of them. While it might prove to be of cold comfort to Ukraine, the only glimmer of hope now is if our next President is someone Putin fears or will come to fear.