He didn't arrive in Moscow wearing a leisure suit and platform shoes,
but there was a distinct 1970s retro feel to President Barack Obama's
summit meeting in Russia.
With his job approval numbers sinking as unemployment rises, Mr. Obama
was eager for the appearance of a foreign policy success.
Too eager, say JWR columnist Charles Krauthammer and former Army
intelligence officer Ralph Peters.
The proposed nuclear arms reduction treaty Mr. Obama negotiated with
Russia's titular leader, President Dmitry Medvedev, and it's actual
leader, Prime Minister Vladmir Putin, is "useless at best, detrimental
at worst," Mr. Krauthammer said.
"We got nothing of real importance," LtCol. Peters said. "But the
government of puppet-master Vladimir Putin got virtually all it wanted.
For Moscow, this was Christmas in July."
What struck me was how passe the exercise was. In the 1970s and 1980s,
when the prospect of a nuclear confrontation between the United States
and the Soviet Union was very real, arms control negotiations were a big
deal. But such an agreement with Russia today is as relevant as a
treaty with the Austro-Hungarian empire to limit the number of
The New York Times recently unearthed an article Barack Obama had
written in 1983 for the student newspaper at Columbia University
endorsing a nuclear freeze. Young Mr. Obama turned out to have been
completely wrong in his prognostications, which is not unusual for
college students. The Moscow summit suggests his erroneous views have
been unaffected by the developments of the last 26 years.
Russia today is much weaker than the Soviet Union was thought to be in
the 1970s and 1980s. It's economy is the size of Belgium's. It's
committing demographic suicide.
"According to Pravda, there are 22 million Russian men of the prime age
to be new fathers, 20 to 40 years old," noted my friend Jack Wheeler.
"Of these, almost a million are in prison, over two million are
registered alcoholics, close to three million registered drug
addicts…Eighty percent of Russian women have had abortions."
A report by the Public Opinion Foundation in Moscow indicates 54 percent
of Russians over the age of 12 have never used the internet; 36 percent
have never once used a computer, Mr. Wheeler said.
It takes remarkable incompetence to get one's lunch eaten in
negotiations with such a shrinking "power," but the White House staff
which misspelled Mr. Obama's name in the communique issued after the
summit was up to the task.
In the words of Claudia Rosett, the Wall Street Journal's bureau chief
in Moscow in the 1980s, Mr. Obama agreed to "scrap real capabilities in
tandem with Russia retiring some of its rusting junk."
Most alarming, said LtCol. Peters, was the president's pledge to reduce
our number of dual capable systems such as bombers and submarines.
"Moscow knows we aren't going to start a nuclear war with Russia," Mr.
Peters said. "Putin wants to cut our conventional capabilities to stage
globe-spanning military operations. He wants to cut us down to Russia's
Mr. Obama also agreed to a linkage between offensive and defensive
systems, which is bad for two reasons. The first is because we are far,
far ahead of the Russians on ballistic missile defense. The second is
because the Obama-Putin deal undercuts our new friends in Eastern
"Obama doesn't even seem to understand the ramifications of this
concession," Mr. Krauthammer said. "Poland and the Czech Republic
thought they were regaining their independence when they joined NATO.
They now see that the shield negotiated with us and subsequently
ratified by all of NATO is in limbo. Russia and America will have to
'come to terms' on the issue…This is precisely the kind of compromised
sovereignty that Russia wants to impose on its ex-Soviet colonies and
that U.S. president of both parties for the last 20 years have
In Iran, Honduras, and now Eastern Europe, President Obama has extended
his hand to anti-American dictators, and given the back of his hand to
people seeking freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Is this the
product of breathtaking naivete? Or is it a hint of something worse?