In most respects, Russia is a backward nation. Life expectancy is in decline; alcoholism is on the rise; the birthrate is below replacement level. The economy is reliant on primary industry -- mining, oil and natural gas. Despite outstanding mathematicians and technologists, high-tech development is virtually non-existent. In real terms, economic conditions for the average person have not improved in decades.
What gives Russia its clout are nuclear weapons, sophisticated missiles and a large standing land and sea force. That said, the Russian military machine could not stand up to U.S. forces by any expert calculation, notwithstanding retrenchment in the American defense budget.
This calculus, however, is predicated on the will to act when action is necessary. By any measure, Putin has Obama’s number. He senses indecision and weakness. He realizes that consequences will not follow provocative actions.
President Obama has given his enemies repeated signals that his bluster is not his policy.
His rhetoric was appropriate after Syrian President Assad’s used chemical weapons, but in the end, his policy only reinforced the Assad regime. He canceled plans for radar installations in Poland and the Czech Republic in return for Russian cooperation in the war against terror; they got what they wanted, but we did not. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood were invited to his Cairo speech, but the group has only strengthened its ties to al Qaeda, leaving Obama twisting in the wind.
The result is a Russian invasion that embarrasses the president, illustrates in graphic terms the fecklessness of Obama’s policies and undermines the prestige of the nation. This is a dark hour in our history; one that I pray can be reversed.