Russia has now made it clear to the incoming president: Move ahead with deploying 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic and we will deploy short-ranged missiles near Poland. So what will our new president do? The last time Russia flexed its considerable muscle by invading Georgia, candidate Obama at first acted as if both sides were equally to blame. He later righted himself, condemning Russia as the aggressor.
But those were just words -- after all, the only thing a candidate has at his disposal. On Jan. 20, President Obama will have to take action. As Abe Greenwald, my fellow blogger at Commentary magazine's Contentions wryly noted, "In Russia, we now witness ice-cold realism at its most intractable. This is an enemy that advances when we blink."
President-elect Obama is busy with preparations for the transition to his new office. But the Russians won't wait -- and neither will our enemies. Obama must signal that there will be no major shifts in American foreign or defense policy, irrespective of all the campaign rhetoric about change. He could do so by quickly announcing his picks for secretaries of state and defense. I doubt Colin Powell wants another term at state, but perhaps he would view defense as a new challenge. At the very least, such a choice would inform Russia that despite partisan wrangling in election years, the United States remains committed to protecting our allies and ourselves, and a President Obama has no plans to change that.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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