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July 21, 2014

Obama's Oddly Reassuring Statement to Putin

I found Obama's statement strange for how far it went out of its way to reassure Putin that no consequences will follow should he continue attacking the Ukraine (and blowing the occasional airliner out of the sky).

A President does not wish to make it impossible for an aggressive, brutish leader to back down. Brutes are shame-based creatures, and full of machismo. So no president should ever make statements which will activate the Lizard Machismo Complex of the brute's brain, and thus make it impossible for him to back down.

Well, on that score, Mission Accomplished. Obama sure didn't threaten Putin at all.

At all.

But it seems to me he went out of his way to let Putin know that Putin could get away with anything he wants.

First, Obama said:

"My preference continues to be finding a diplomatic resolution within Ukraine--I believe that can still happen, that is my preference today and it will continue to be my preference..."

Why swear, from this day until the end of days, that this will continue to be his preference? Why not leave it at "this is currently my preference?"

Putting it that way leaves open the possibility that that preference could change, without actually making any kind of threat that would activate Putin's You Can't Boss Me Around response.

Instead, Obama broadcasts that he will never seek anything other than a diplomatic solution "within Ukraine," no matter what Putin does.

This is a gratuitous reassurance to Putin. Yes, I agree that the President shouldn't bluster and make empty threats against a brute armed with nuclear missiles, but neither does he have to get on his back and show his belly like a defeated dog.

Then Obama got the part of his statement that seemed like a threat -- but wasn't:

"But if Russia continues to violate Ukraine's sovereignty and to back these separatists, and these separatists become more and more dangerous and now are risks not simply to the people inside of Ukraine, but the broader international community, then Russia will only further isolate itself from the international community and the costs for Russia's behavior will only continue to increase.

Russia will "isolate itself." America will not actively isolate Russia -- no, it will just happen (Obama hopes). The EU will not slap sanctions on Russia -- no, the "isolation" will just naturally proceed along (Obama prays).

Obama here is basically talking about Hoping for a Miracle from God, rather than sketching steps that we ourselves might undertake.

Tyrants don't care about what things an American president prays will happen.

They worry about things an American president will make happen.

Now, I already said that I don't think Obama should make direct threats. But this statement is so weak, so fearful of itself, it can't even state a vaguery in a straightforward manner.

Even the vaguery must be couched in the passive voice.

Even Obama's gauze comes shrouded by haze.

Combining those statements together, I can't see how anyone in the Kremlin could fail to read this as an American greenlight for just about anything Russia wishes to do.

And that makes me wonder why this statement was given at all -- if Obama had chosen to remain silent, at least there would have been mystery about his possible responses and current line of thinking.

Instead he went out there to tell Putin not to sweat it, that the US would not do a damned thing, ever.

That said, Russia has promised -- supposedly -- to grant inspectors "unfettered access" to the crash site, and an hour or so ago they promised that the separatists would turn over the plane's black boxes (probably after ascertaining there was no evidence on them directly suggesting Russian involvement).

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posted by Ace at 01:55 PM

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