The whole premise of Obama and Hillary’s Russia reset was that relations between Russia and the United States had been bollixed up before, since Russia was still being run the same way, the implicit premise was that Bush had somehow messed up what should have been a good relationship and now that Obama was in office, the reset button would be pressed and everything would be reset.
The great fallacy of progressive foreign policy is the assumption that other nations and ideologies are reactive. If we treat them well, they reciprocate. If we treat them badly, there’s blowback. The United States is the only true player and the goals of other nations, such as Russia, or ideologies such as Islam, only exist as reflections of our actions.
The Reset Button didn’t work in Russia, but it did set the stage for a series of Russian humiliations of Obama, some of which Douglas Feith lays out in Foreign Policy.
In August 2011, Putin, then the prime minister, accused the United States of living “like a parasite” on the world economy. At a May 2012 international missile defense conference in Moscow, Russia’s top military officer Gen. Nikolai Makarov denounced U.S-NATO plans to build defenses against ballistic missiles launched from the Middle East. Referring to potential Eastern European sites for such defenses, General Makarov made a remarkable threat: “A decision to use destructive force pre-emptively will be taken if the situation worsens.”
And Feith points out how the seeds of that lay with the Reset Button.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served Obama as the head of Policy Planning at the State Department, wrote a February 2008 Commonweal article called “Good Reasons to be Humble” in which she said that the United States “should make clear that our hubris … has diminished us and led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.” Current White House adviser Samantha Power, while a Harvard University lecturer, wrote in the New Republic’s March 3, 2003 issue: “Instituting a doctrine of mea culpa would enhance our credibility by showing that American decision-makers do not endorse the sins of their predecessors.”
The Obama administration has had plenty of time to test its diplomatic theories. It was back in July 2009 that the president told the New Economic School in Moscow that the U.S.-Russian relationship required a reset. “There is,” he said, “the 20th-century view that the United States and Russia are destined to be antagonists, and that a strong Russia or a strong America can only assert themselves in opposition to one another. And there is a 19th-century view that we are destined to vie for spheres of influence, and that great powers must forge competing blocs to balance one another.” Obama called these assumptions mistaken, and added: “In 2009, a great power does not show strength by dominating or demonizing other countries.”
Obama failed to appreciate Putin’s interest in reasserting Russian influence in the Middle East. Russia’s predominant interest is in high oil prices and Middle Eastern turmoil serves that interest, yet Obama simply assumed that Russia would cooperate with American efforts to promote Middle Eastern stability.
And Obama’s eagerness to seduce Vladimir led to human rights hypocrisy and the betrayal of oppressed nations that still fear the Russian bear
When Obama offered blandishments to Russia in Europe, he did so at the expense of U.S. allies in Poland and the Czech Republic… Obama, however, apparently decided that those agreements were less important than the goodwill he might buy with Russia by cancelling them.
Obama pursues new arms control agreements so eagerly because he sees them as steps toward “nuclear zero,” a world entirely without nuclear weapons — a grandiose goal he endorsed early in his presidency. It was quite a turnabout for a man who criticized U.S. policy during the Cold War because he said opposition to communism blinded successive U.S. presidents to the human-rights violations of regimes with which they cooperated in pursuit of security. Now, in pursuit of nuclear zero, he refuses to acknowledge the significance of the Putin regime’s human-rights abuses.
Why? Obama’s multilateral foreign policy assigns high importance to the legitimacy the U.N. Security Council supposedly bestows on American actions in the world. Acknowledging Putin as an untrustworthy and brutal authoritarian would not serve Obama’s interest in claiming that Security Council approval — that is, Putin’s approval — is the acid test of international legitimacy.
And that’s the bottom line of multilateralism.
Putting the UN and its democracy of dictatorships ahead of the United States requires acknowledging and respecting the legitimacy of tyranny. That was the great flaw in the Democratic opposition to American unilateralism and it has gone beyond turning a blind eye to Saddam and into the territory of turning a blind eye to any tyranny that has genuine influence in world government institutions.