Updated: July 3, 2012 9:32AM
America has never been stronger nor its standing in the world higher, boasts President Barack Obama. Yet the realities of a complex and dangerous globe take a bit of the bloom off that rosy picture.
Had not the euro zone crisis dominated the recent G-8 economic summit at Camp David, a lot more would have been made of the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin stiffed Obama by not showing up.
That was one way for the Russian autocrat to express his displeasure with plans for a NATO missile defense system in eastern Europe directed, not at Russia, but at the possibility of a threat from Iran or North Korea. More ominous defiance came Wednesday with Russia’s testing of a new intercontinental ballistic missile it said was capable of overpowering missile defense systems.
These are but the latest developments calling into question the “reset” the Obama administration has pursued with Russia. Indeed, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s view that Moscow remains a foreboding adversary seems more valid.
Russia’s full-speed ahead on military projects contrasts with Obama’s cutting of defense and preference for nuclear weapons reductions over a reasonable course of modernizing our atomic arsenal to make sure it’s up to date. The administration cut nearly $500 billion from defense spending in February and added a further $500 billion in reductions under the debt ceiling deal with Congress, setting the stage for what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described as “devastating” cuts to national defense.
Russia continues to be less than cooperative in backing strong measures to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The latest round of U.N.-sanctioned talks with Tehran that began in Baghdad with some degree of hope appear to be running into the same old problem: Iran, like North Korea before it, is using negotiations to string along the West while it keeps on spinning centrifuges to enrich uranium.
Iran remains the obvious foreign policy wild card in this election season. Will the mullahs finally relent — not likely — or will their progress provoke a preemptive attack by Israel or America? The U.S. ambassador to Israel last week insisted Washington has readied plans for the military option if needed.
Even Obama’s most heralded accomplishment — the killing of Osama bin Laden — risks being tainted. After boasting it would never take a victory lap, the White House sought to exploit the feat with a crass political ad falsely questioning whether Romney would have done the same thing. The administration is helping a friendly Hollywood director make a movie about the killing and has granted unprecedented access to Pentagon information, sparking fears that sensitive operational details may be leaked.
What’s more, the bin Laden mission can never be deemed complete so long as the Pakistani doctor who helped us locate the terrorist remains in prison in Pakistan. Shakil Afridi was sentenced Wednesday to 33 years for treason. Securing his release and, if he wants it, transfer to American soil should be a high U.S. priority as a matter of honor.
A militarily resurgent Russia, an intransigent Iran and an uncertain ally in Pakistan are just a few of the reasons to think that U.S. global prestige is less than the rosy picture Obama paints.