As President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ended a public conference in South Korea (a nation demonstrably threatened by North Korean ballistic missiles), a still-open microphone inadvertently recorded a stunning tete-a-tete. The brief but jaw-dropping act of personal diplomacy yoked U.S. and Russian arguments over missile defense systems, a serious international security issue of long-term geo-strategic consequence, to Obama's short-term domestic political plan to secure his own re-election come November.
The whispered exchange:
Obama: "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it's important for him (Putin) to give me space."
Medvedev: "Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you ..."
Obama: "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility."
Medvedev: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir."
Accompanying video imagery, of professionally formal faces masking noxious cynicism, is available on the Web.
Obama and his press apologists dismiss "The Missile Message," spinning it as a minor gaffe. Balderdash. Obama and Medvedev are their nations' top diplomats as well as leaders, so the personal diplomatic exchange, though arrogant, flamingly stupid and brazenly conniving, isn't minor. The apologists' agitprop disregards the men's privileged positions and insults common sense. But then a fair inference drawn from Obama's request for "space" is he believes he can tell the American people any jit and jot, and the rubes will believe. When he ran against Hillary Clinton, Obama opposed the individual mandate. In office, it became the cornerstone of his health care legislation.
The patron-donor of Obama's re-election space, former KGB agent and authoritarian strong man president-elect Vladimir Putin, will soon replace Medvedev. However, like many strong men on the planet, to include his pal, Syria's Bashar al-Assad, Putin confronts his own peoples' demand for democratic change and economic revival.
Twitter-generation Russians opposing Putin know that he and his gang are the corrupt authors and beneficiaries of Russian-brand state cronyism, a vicious economic-political amalgam combining mafia greed and muscle with streaks of communism, fascism, corporatism and czarism. Charges of vote fraud and intimidation marred Putin's suspect re-election, but to ensure his grip on power he needed space to do what he had to do. Yes, Vladimir certainly understands Barack's request.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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