Apr 02 2012 -
Comment Prompts Serious Concerns About Future of U.S. Foreign Relations
There is reason to be disturbed and upset by the recent exchange between President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea. The unguarded remarks from President Obama pose dangerous implications for America’s national defense and that of our allies.
At the summit, President Obama was overheard on a live microphone whispering to the outgoing Russian leader, “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” In response, Medvedev says, “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin].” In other words, but for the accident of an open microphone, the President’s intentions would have been known by Mr. Putin but not by the American people.
It is no wonder that President Obama’s comments have prompted such swift speculation and scrutiny. He recklessly implies he is willing to make more concessions to Russia – an authoritarian government that has triggered American concern time and time again. The question now arises – how can we trust President Obama not to say one thing before the election and yet do something entirely different afterward? One can only guess what else is hidden on the President’s agenda if he secures a second term in the White House.
It is unbelievable and chilling that President Obama would make his election a factor in how he deals with an important national security issue. Before mentioning the upcoming election, the President asked Medvedev for “space” on the issue of missile defense. Even the hint of compromising on our missile defense capability is irresponsible when the prospect of nuclear-armed missiles is a real and growing threat.
Moreover, it is clear the intended recipient of President Obama’s message is not Medvedev but Putin, the former KGB head, who was named Russia’s president-elect in a contested election last month. Putin has made no secret of his criticism of the United States. In fact, anti-Americanism was part of his campaign to become president again.
The Obama Administration continues to support “resetting” bilateral relations with Russia but fails to follow through on an approach that takes into consideration how that country’s leaders have not made good on their promises in the past. Simply put, we cannot trust the Russian government to keep its word.
Instead, Russia continues to act against U.S. interests, such as its refusal to condemn the brutal regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its objections to NATO’s missile defense system in Europe. On numerous occasions, I have spoken out against the deteriorating rule of law and respect for human rights in Russia.
This is not the kind of relationship President Obama promised when he pressed for passage of the New START arms-control treaty with Russia in 2010 over objections many of my colleagues and I raised, and it sends the wrong signal to our allies.
Congress & Russia
At the end of the day, better U.S.-Russia relations are not a foregone conclusion, and President Obama would be wise to remember that one-sided promises are not the means to get there. He also should not forget that the Constitution requires the “advice and consent” of the Senate on foreign policy decisions.
Over the coming months, the Senate may take up several issues related to Russia, and I look forward to having a frank discussion about the President’s ideas and intentions. The comments in Seoul are only one instance of the President pledging to have “more flexibility” after the election, but Americans are right to question what other promises are being made. It should also give all Americans pause as we approach this fall’s election.