Ukraine Just The Latest Example of Obama’s Limited Global Influence

From Kiev to Kabul to Cairo, the U.S. president is a frustrated bystander

  • Share
  • Read Later
Charles Dharapak / AP

President Barack Obama speaks about Ukraine in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Feb. 28, 2014.

Russia’s escalating intervention in Ukraine once again confronts Barack Obama with a foreign policy crisis over which his options are painfully limited, forcing him into a reactive posture that relies on tough, but largely hollow rhetoric.

Appearing on short notice in the White House briefing room yesterday, Obama warned Russian president Vladimir Putin that “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.” Within hours, Putin had requested and received from Russia’s parliament the authority to use force in its western neighbor, whose capital city Kiev saw an uprising against Moscow last month.

Putin appears to have calculated that the benefits of maintaining control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, home to a large ethnic Russian population and a major naval base, would outweigh any costs that Obama and the West can impose.

He’s probably right. The prospect of a U.S. or NATO military response is roughly nil. The West has limited, if any, economic leverage over Russia. In fact, the leverage may work in the opposite direction as Russia is a major oil exporter at a time of already-high crude prices. Rhetorical shaming? Putin has endured months of it over his support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, without budging from his position. Western support for Putin’s domestic opposition would likely undermine its recipients and allow Putin to dismiss all protest as foreign intervention.

So Obama is left to issue tough statements and place overseas phone calls, to little likely effect. By now it’s a familiar story—and a particularly frustrating one, given the American public’s unrealistically high expectations for presidential problem-solving. Consider several other crises that have left him stumped:

In Syria, Obama stubbornly refuses to wade more than ankle-deep into the bloody fight against al-Assad’s regime. He doubts whether the U.S. can influence the course of the war and worries that the risks of action—including an Iraq-style quagmire—outweigh the costs of inaction. His critics argue that he’s wrong about that, a debatable proposition. But the practical result is Obama’s pursuit a diplomatic solution that has gone nowhere, along with rhetorical condemnations of Putin, who supports Assad, that achieve nothing.

In Afghanistan, president Hamid Karzai refused to sign a carefully negotiated agreement that would allow a residual U.S. military force in his country after 2014, saying he would leave that decision to his successor, who will be chosen in elections this spring. Obama has threatened that such a delay might require scrapping plans for a residual force. But with the stability of the Afghan government uncertain and al-Qaeda operatives just across the border in Pakistan, he wants to avoid a total withdrawal. Lacking any real leverage over an Afghan leader who seems willing to let the Americans exit for good, Obama endures Karzai’s bluster and false accusations, while letting his deadline slide for deciding on a full withdrawal.

And in Egypt, Obama has largely been a spectator to that country’s ongoing political turmoil. His condemnations of a July 2013 coup—though he won’t actually use the word—hasn’t rattled the generals in Cairo, whose military aid he can’t bring himself to sever. Meanwhile, bolstered by financial and political support from wealthy Arab neighbors, Egypt’s military regime has ignored U.S. pleas for restraint and waged a brutal crackdown. Libya, Iraq, Sudan — all are places where terrible things happen that the U.S. can do little about.

Obama’s critics say he’s been risk-averse, reactive and lacking vision. But even they would have to concede that American power is not what it was before two costly foreign wars and a budget-wrecking economic crisis. The result is a frustrated president whose foreign policy often amounts to tough statements which fall on deaf ears.

188 comments
john.stefanyszyn
john.stefanyszyn

President Obama’s critics say he’s been lacking vision re the international political and humanitarian conflicts, ie. Syria, Egypt, and others.....and now Russia.


They are mistaken for they are looking at the "trees and not the forest".


President Obama has made it very clear that his "vision" is the advancement of the FREEDOM...freedom of self-rule, self-.rights, self-religion, self-sexuality, etc.


President Obama has confessed that this FREEDOM is the "Light" of man's righteousness and the "will" of his 'god'.

This FREEDOM is his 'god of fortresses' that is being advanced to all nations....and the consequential pressures and conflicts are acting to catalyze the unification , a unity-seat (armageddon) , in the worship of the image of FREEDOM.


BUT note, this FREEDOM also dictates that it is RIGHT (one's right) to be free to worship ANY 'god'.


The Lord Jesus Christ commanded that one is to worship Only the Creator God and Him Alone, His Will Alone to serve in obedience and love....for there is no other.


.....but man desires to "know" ( establish and justify) "good and evil" in his own eyes...for his own justified desires

.....man confesses that he is "keeper" of himself first and foremost

.....but man says that his way is right...that the Way of the "One God" is not right

.....but man desires to serve and magnify himself (XES)


Take Note:...Soon, the the One King Jesus Christ will return tu rule the earth in power according to and in obedience to the Will of Jehowah Elohim and NOT according to man's first love for his "FREEDOM".

....The Lord Jesus Christ said to repent and to serve the One Truth.


John Stefanyszyn

...a bondman of the One King Jesus Christ, Son of the Only Creator God.



GayleLoveland
GayleLoveland

----An unmentioned (by the author) possibility for the many foreign leaders "thumbing" their noses at the US, is the character of the man occupying the presidency. It is not merely serendipity that is causing so many "leaders" (Assad, Putin, Sisi) to behave in such a cavalier way toward the US; they have taken Mr. Obama's measure, and found it lacking.

----It is difficult to impossible imagining such "in-your-face" behavior occurring if Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy were sitting in the Oval Office............

almonjer
almonjer

America starts wars with 1.5 billion Muslims from Lebanon to Iraq and LOSES. What did we get out of it BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING, TIMES SQUARE ATTEMPTED BOMBIN, FT. HOOD MASSACRE, LITTLER ROCK SHOOTING, 9/11, AND A RUINED CULTURE AND SOCIETY.

Now these politicians want to fight China over a group of rocks in the South China Sea, although China as 42 times the population of Iraq or Afghanistan-which we LOST.


Now America is in the business of the Russians and the Ukraine-maybe we should mind our own business and FIX AMERICA-what do you think? THIS IS WHY WE ARE BROKE, AND EVERYTHING WE WORKED FOR OVER THE PAST 200 YEARS HAS BEEN TAKEN AWAY IN 10.

gybognarjr
gybognarjr

One consolation; Obamacare will be offered to the Ukrainian people, who will not support a Russian take over and possession of the Crimean peninsula.

BobbyDias
BobbyDias

Limited? Obama and Kerry and Biden support the self-called leader of Ukraine who took power by violence after he lost the last Ukraine election. Obama and Kerry and Biden supported the self-called leader who seized power by violence after he lost the election in Egypt. Obama and Kerry and Biden supported the man who took power by violence after he lost the last election in Libya. Obama and Kerry and Biden support the so-called opposition who are trying to take power in Syria after losing Syria's last election. Why is Obama and Kerry and Biden is negating one election after another by supporting violence?

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

In all these brouhaha about Ukraine one name is forgotten Hillary. The picture of Hillary presenting the reset button to Lavrov is one of the most telling argument why she should not be elected President. The woman is clueless.

Robert2011GB
Robert2011GB

The editorial board of Time live on a fabulous planet where America says "Jump!" and the rest of the World asks "How high?".


Here, on Planet Earth, however, things are a little different.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Of course the reason Obama's influence is limited is because the person that came before him squandered our political capital in an invasion of Iraq viewed as illegal by most of the world. Hard to tell someone not to do something you have already done yourself.

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

I would like to know since when as an American President been able to influence the behavior of the Russian bear?  Where were American presidents when Russia put the squeeze on East Germany in 1953, Hungry in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Poland in 1981?  Look what our intervention in Afghanistan got us -- Al Qaida!  Ukraine is in Russia's neck of the woods and we can't do anything without our NATO allies on board.

SpikeLee
SpikeLee

TIME magazine once again asserts that warmongering is the only acceptable foreign policy.

sumifanforever
sumifanforever

People seem to forget - as does Obama, if his great brain ever knew, that the West made an agreement & an undertaking with Ukraine, back in 1994. That in exchange for the removal of all Ukrainian nukes (left-over from the USSR), the West would defend Ukraine.

There is a contractual & certainly moral obligation to defend Ukraine, rather like GB & France had to defend Poland in 1939

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

There are Presidents who are strong in one department but weak in others. Like Bill Clinton. His foreign policy leave much to be desired like the debacle of the Black Hawks in Somalia to the growth of al Qaeda which culminated in 9/11 but he was good at the economy of the country plus leaving a budget surplus. But with Obama it is hard press to point out where he had success with. From the foreign affairs to the economy to national governance, heck he doesnt even know how many states he is governing to his disastrous Obama Care. He is a total failure. Just as the Democratic Governor of Montana said that the only notable the Idiot has done is being the first Black President of this country. But  let us add another achievement. He is the first celebrity President of the United States. Popular with the same empty headed people like he is.

Omega
Omega

Barraq will use his ipod, and his phone and his pen.  I couldn't. what do you use a pen for?

jeffreycobham
jeffreycobham

The days of The USA righting the world's wrongs are long past.....is President Obama supposed to send in the Marines? Thank God that in the last five years in the US, the DOW has moved from 7949 to 16459, Unemployment from 7.8% to 6.7%, GDP growth from minus 5.4% to plus 6,7%, GDP Deficit from 9.8% to 3.3% and Consumer Confidence from 37.7% to 78.1%. These are positives. The Western Democracies including the USA can impose sanctions on Russia, but why single out President Obama?

Greg01
Greg01

What overthrow a dictator? the guy as bad as he was was democratically elected it's the second time the opposition in Ukraine throws out a democratically elected government 

but this time they went a step further banning Russian even in areas were they are a majority and having the newly right wingers from the Right Cause threatening that they will take away Crimea autonomy 

Russia is sending a message We will protect are people and interest,....George Bush did the same thing in Panama when he invaded he said there is a need to protect are interest and citizens leaving there.



and on top of that there would have been general elections in Ukraine in less then two years  all this for nothing.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

When it comes to Ukraine there is only so much the US can do. Much like with the Georgia was of 2008 Russia will fight to protect what they view as their backyard and our options are limited if non existent.

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

@ReneDemonteverde Really Rene, and who would do a better job in dealing with Putin?  Can you actually name one Republican who would be stronger on foreign policy than Hillary Clinton?  Maybe, if we had elected Mitt Romney, he could insult Putin the same way he insulted our strongest ally, Great Britain.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@mantisdragon91 Still no reason to triple the national debt. Or maybe the idiot thought he has to top Dubya`s record over all including the deficit, the unemployment. Hate to agree he did well on that part. 

Robert2011GB
Robert2011GB

@sumifanforever  Oh go on then, nuke Moscow but remember you don't get any right to complain when New York gets nuked in return.

tommyudo
tommyudo

@sumifanforever  


Moral obligation my arse. 


Why don't you and Lindsay Graham ,and McCain (and throw in Kristol and Cheney too )  each gather together an expeditionary brigade to kick some backside?


Tell it to George Bush , who was told by Putin in 2008  to keep his hands off the Ukraine. Like everything else that was told to him for 8 years, he followed the orders of the grown ups.


You wingers make me ill.

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

@ReneDemonteverde Rene,  I have wondering where you have been for the past 5 years?  Obama got Europe to agree to sanctions against Iran that brought Iran to the negotiating table.  When did that happen during the Bush administration?  Obama help overthrow Quadaffi in Libya without a single American being killed.  Obama got Syria to acknowledge and agree to get rid of its chemical weapons. 

What did George W. Bush do right?  Well, he was successful initially in Afghanistan.  However, he dragged that war out by going into Iraq looking for non-existant WMDs?  Oh, the Democrats thought there were weapons, too?  Well, they relied on the some of the same erroneous "intelligence" info from Shaddam's opponents and actually listened to the Bush administration . . . . . . .

Obama got us out of Iraq, a needless war which busted our budget and turned Bill Clinton's surpluses into huge deficits.  Now that Obama had reduced the deficit ( Republican's really should take credit for this, instead, with their hatred of Obama, they pretend the deficit is not shrinking) and the Dow Jones is above 16,000.

In one sense, you  and your ilk is correct.  You think Obama set out to ruin this country economically and so far he is doing a lousy job at that.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jeffreycobham  Is that the only solution you could think of ? Send in the Marines ? Let the professionals find out a way. They are being paid to do that. And what is so special about Obama that people cannot criticize him ? Many Presidents more worthy than him have been slammed by the presstitutes. The man is as incompetent as they come and that is not because of the color of his skin.

ahandout
ahandout

@jeffreycobhamI think it's that "leader of the free world" BS.  We know that there really isn't any freedom under Obama so we shouldn't really look to him.  

A stock market that double in five years...don't see any problem there. POP goes another bubble.  


ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@mantisdragon91  Who else would he send Mantis ? Joe the Clown Biden is an exact image and extension of Obama. No President of this country thought he has 57 states to govern.

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 Obama could have sent Paris Hilton to talk to Putin instead of the moron, Joe Biden.  Paris is much smarter.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@fhmadvocat @ReneDemonteverde  I have the feeling that you think people do not follow up the news or does not know how to read. On that I give the floor to you. Continue with your delusions please.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@mantisdragon91 @ReneDemonteverde  Good Lord, Mantis. With Obama being the least respected among his fellow world leaders and the country is teetering on falling from the financial cliff, you still have your head inside your butt ?

jmac
jmac

@ReneDemonteverde @jeffreycobham  ". . . what is so special about Obama. . . "


The Alternative.  The alternative controlled by voters like you, Rene.  You've scared the country.   You've so scared the country my conservative Texas paper can't support you.  

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

@ReneDemonteverde @fhmadvocat Rene, the only thing delusional is your hated for Obama.  Obama has not been perfect and the ObamaCare rollout was a disaster.  However, given the circumstances with which he came into office, he has done a decent job.  Look at where the economy was when he came into office and where it is now.  Can you really say with a straight face he has been a complete failure?  Of course YOU  can.  Heck if Obama walked on water, you would fault him for not being able to swim.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@mantisdragon91 @ReneDemonteverde  The ultimate Obamabot with TLS. 

ahandout
ahandout

@kamikazemelon @ahandout @jeffreycobham  Was the stock market a bubble in 2000? Yes from too much cheap money flooding the market.  Was the housing collapse a bubble?  Yes from too much cheap money flooding the market.  Was the stock market a bubble in 2008?  Yes from too much cheap money flooding the market.  Is the stock market a bubble or heading for a bubble now?  Yes from too much cheap money flooding the market.

I think I see a pattern here.