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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The Bear and NATO

Alot of things after the past week but perhaps one of the most troubling and least publicized was what exactly is the Obama Administration doing in Europe?

There were alot of chuckles after Secretary of State Clinton's gaffe with the Russian Foreign Minister, with the gift of a button that said "overcharged" instead of "reset, but the idea of "resetting" relations with Russia needs to be put into the larger context of Administration and Russian actions.

First Russia is a declining power. Its demographics are in the tank with a population that is both shrinking and growing less ethically Russian. Its recent economic turmoil should remind us that any Russian economic strategy is tied to commodities and not any information-based or manufacturing sectors; its recenet stability has been resting on theonce pricey fumes of crude oil and little else.

Second, Russia may be declining but it has chosen to reclaim its role in its former sphere of influence in both the "near abroad" and Eatsern Europe. Witness its invasion of Georgia, its computer warfare against Estonia, and threats against both the Cezechs and Poles over missile defense. In many ways the situation is analogous to the one we faced in the late 1980s as we tried to manage the decline of the Soviet Union except this time the Russians will probably not go into the good night like the Soviets did. To also being back the 80's, Europe is now even more tied to Russian energy.

So you would think with the last stand of the agressive Russian bear that the Obama Administration would want to keep its NATO powder dry. Perhaps countries in the Russian near abroad like Georgia and Kygyrstan are beyond help, but certainly not Europe.

Okay Europe is a region in decline and NATO has shown itself to be pretty toothless as an expeditionary force, but the key parts of NATO are pretty formidable and those parts are Britain and "New Europe"- the Czechs and the Poles. The Poles and Brits have sent troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan and they, unlike those from other NATO countries, fight. The Czechs and Poles have both, despite withering pressure from the Russians, agreed to host the key elements of the US missile defense system.

These countries are our staunchest allies in what soon may be a troublesome region. So what does the Obama Administration do? First after the Poles and Czechs stick their necks out for us, both understand that Russia is much closer than the US, we then turn around and offer missile defense as a bargaining chip. If that didn't get them worried in Warsaw and Prague, we then make a stunt of some corporate knick knack offering to "reset" relations with Moscow. Both Waraw and Prague understand what it is like to be a bargaining chip when great powers meet and wish to reset things.

The was the curious story of what happened when the head of government of the other pillar of NATO came to visit President Obama. British Prime Minster came bearing gifts for Obama that showed the rich history of cooperation between the two countries; a history that spanned the bequest of American civilization, multiple wars, and a joint stand against the greatest tyrannies in history.

In return, Obama gave DVDs of American movies and in general gave the perception that he couldn't be bothered.

Now in fairness to the President, his people claimed he was "tired" due to his laser-like focus on the economy but it's not like Washington has a pucity of staff drones. You would think if the White House really sort of cared, it would have delegated the planning of the British PM's visit to some assistant deputy associate secretary of something; somebody who would have actually cared to do a good job. So I'm not buying the tired thing... a president needs to multitask; instead I'm buying the theme of malign neglect.

So at a time when Russia is acting like a general pain in our back side our approach is to kiss up to them while at the same time pissing off the key members of our anti-Russian alliance?