If Putin thought there was a diplomatic solution that would give Russia eastern Ukraine to join his annexation of Crimea and leave the rest of the county permanently unstable, he’d take it. Putin, who actually has a strategy, which he regularly articulates, knows that to win his position at the moment there is only a military solution and he’s using it. Even Joe Biden, who like much of the field interested in being president, finally gets it: “Russia is trying to redraw the map of Europe,” and he points out the obvious, Putin “ignores every agreement he signs.”
The administration’s position is that nothing can be done without the assent of Germany and France, which for now will not happen. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen, German Defense Minister, both strongly believe there is “no military solution.” And the White House continues to resist any serious consideration of providing weapons to the Kiev government, saying that it would give Russia an excuse to escalate the conflict. Of course, Russia doesn’t need an excuse. It simply escalates the conflict whenever it wants to change the facts on the ground.
The reason Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, are putting distance between themselves and the White House is that President Obama has lost the confidence of the American people on foreign policy. President Obama and the White House, recognizing growing dissatisfaction with their foreign policy leadership, have been strengthening their rhetoric. The appearance of a national security strategy was largely defensive because many observers believe the Obama administration doesn’t have one.
A couple of metrics reinforce the Democrats’ concern. Obama’s foreign policy approval is five or more points lower than his overall approval.
- 55% of Americans believe Obama is not tough enough on foreign policy and national security issues (Pew Research, 1-14-15)
- 54% of Americans don’t believe Obama is tough enough in dealing with ISIS (40% of Democrats, 83% of Republicans) (CBS News/NYT, 9-17-14)
- 78% Obama not tough enough toward Russia, 77% Putin doesn’t take Obama seriously (Fox News, 8-12-14)
- 70% Obama has not been tough enough on Iran (57% of Democrats, 87% of Republicans) (Fox News, 1-29-15)
Defense nominee Carter casts himself as independent voice
Obama’s fight with his own party over foreign policy