President Obama has in recent days suffered a decline in popularity according to at least one poll. While the economy is strong, surveillance by government agencies of U.S. citizens has produced a crisis of confidence, especially among the young. The failure to date to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is another disappointment, although we concede the Republicans have fought long and hard to obstruct that closure.
More recently, our President’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the g8 in Ireland was characterized by Media sources as non-productive; short of expectations.
Now, in liberal garb, Obama has revived his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. In Germany’s capitol, just where the notorious Berlin Wall once stood, the American president issued a call for a mutual agreement with Russia to cut by one third our respective nuclear arsenals. Given oversight and inspections, one still sees a potential strain on international trust. The president articulates, “We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not safe. I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.”
The President would have us throw down our arms, toss our munitions in the sea. He adds that even two-thirds of our current capacity will be more than sufficient for any eventuality. While China, an ally but an economic competitor, is clandestinely working with the U.S.’s one-time strong ally Pakistan to increase Pakistani nuclear capacity, while Iran is exploring new leadership and maintaining ties with Hezbollah, while North Korea is under immature leadership and enhancing each local holiday with the specter of a nuclear strike against the U.S., we have to wonder at the president’s logic.
The people of Berlin have deep memories of our presidents. In June of 1961, Berlin was a divided city. Following World War II, Germany and Berlin were dominated in the West by the United States, Great Britain, and France. In the East, the Soviet Union maintained control. To enforce the separation, the Soviets built a wall preventing travel between zones, East and West. Families were prevented from crossing even on family matters. The local economy was thwarted.
In the early summer of 1961, President John F. Kennedy met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, Austria. He was combative and threatening in his goal of opening the wall. “…but we must also be ready to resist with force, if force is used upon us.” No force was forthcoming, and relations between the nations deteriorated.
Then, In June of 1987, the vibrant President Ronald Reagan made history, as he urged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!” At the time Gorbachev was seeking glasnost and perestroika (transparency and restructuring), so Reagan’s words were met with good will, and the wall came down.
It is once again June. Prior to his election to a first term, Barack Obama envisioned complete global disarmament, a high-minded but perhaps unrealistic notion. Now, in Germany, before the Brandenburg Gate, he brings to Russian President Putin a plan of equilateral reduction of nuclear warheads. Putin made a passing reference to the Obama plan as he spoke to arms industry officials in St. Petersburg. He said Russia needs to preserve a deterrent and strategic force not only in consideration of the U.S. presence, but also in the light of an increasingly powerful non-nuclear threat from various nations. He added that the non-nuclear weapons “are approaching the level of strategic nuclear arms in their strike capability.” A member of the Russian Defense Ministry advisory panel was quoted as saying, “The Obama initiative is a continuation of the consistent U.S. course toward drawing Russia into the process of further and quite dramatic nuclear disarmament, which for our country is of course absolutely unacceptable.” The same advisor added that Moscow believes any such cuts should include stockpiles within China.
Obama ended his speech, which was hampered by a breakdown of his teleprompting equipment, with the idea: “These are steps we can take to create a world of peace with justice.” At that point, Obama had no choice but to refer to the notes before him.
Obama seems unconcerned about earlier accusations of weakness. He may now be seen as too liberal, and naïve. This is not a good time for our president to flounder, with the world watching as the people of Syria are daily dying, and voices from all sides are crying for American intervention.
The republicans have suggested impeachment; buckle down, Barack, buckle down.
Photos: AtlanticCouncil.com, AndBerlin.com