He certainly didn’t intend to do so, but ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl brought a brutally clear focus to these worries on March 25 when he put this question to Obama in the Netherlands: “In China, in Syria, in Egypt, and now in Russia, we’ve seen you make strong statements, issue warnings that have been ignored. Are you concerned that America’s influence in the world — our influence in the world — is on the decline? And in light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America’s greatest geopolitical foe? If not Russia, who?”
One passage in particular from Obama’s response to Karl stands out: “Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength, but out of weakness. ... The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more.” Putin’s Russia clearly is not the global colossus that was the Soviet Union, but Obama’s reference to Russia as merely a “regional power” is frighteningly ill-informed.
“They’re on the march,” Gen. James Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, told a March 13 Senate hearing, according to The Hill. “They’re working the scenes where we can’t work. And they’re doing a pretty good job.” He also said there has been a “noticeable uptick in Russian power projection and security force personnel” in Latin America, and he added, “It has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian military presence.” In other words, today’s Russia is acting very much like yesterday’s Soviet Union.
A merely regional Russia wouldn’t be capable of dispatching its navy to patrol waters anywhere around the world. That navy includes nuclear-armed submarines, as well as aircraft carriers, missile-laden heavy cruisers, anti-submarine vessels and spy ships. Just this week, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said 40 new combat ships, including submarines and surface vessels, will be added to the Russian navy in 2014. The new ships will make the navy “combat effective in any parts of oceans in the world,” he told the ITAR-TASS News Agency.
Regional powers also don’t have a massive nuclear ballistic missile force capable, as a Russian journalist recently reminded the world, of reducing America to a pile of “radioactive ash.”
Obama must deal with the real world, not the one of his imagining.