Rich Galen

Saudi Arabia, which has previously announced it wants to unwind its cheek-by-jowl relationship with the U.S. sent the head of its security service, Prince Bandar, to meet in person with Soviet President Vladimir Putin to discuss issues of mutual importance.

Russia, for its part, wielded a really big stick by convincing the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, to turn down a closer economic relationship to the European Union - a deal that was all but signed.

That has led to demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians in Kiev protesting what many see as a sharp return to Ukraine being a vassal state of Russia.

According to CNN:

"Russia threatened its neighbor with trade sanctions and steep gas bills if it forged ahead with an EU deal, but promised deep discounts on natural gas if it were to join the Moscow-led Customs Union instead."

So, where are we? That's Syria, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Ukraine, and China all rotating in orbits that no longer intersect with that of the United States'.

It is becoming clear that the 21st Century will not be the "second American century." If that is the case then the challenge for President Obama is: Will the United States be like the U.K. - involved in, and respected for, its participation in world events?

Or, will we become like France, ridiculed by the world when we try to take a seat at the grownup table and try to influence events.

Which would be, as Macbeth put it in Act 5, Scene 5:

A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at