Obama is a man with a plan when it comes to Russia:
In Cold War Echo, Obama Strategy Writes Off Putin
Just as the United States resolved in the aftermath of World War II to counter the Soviet Union and its global ambitions, Mr. Obama is focused on isolating President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state.
Mr. Obama has concluded that even if there is a resolution to the current standoff over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, he will never have a constructive relationship with Mr. Putin, aides said. As a result, Mr. Obama will spend his final two and a half years in office trying to minimize the disruption Mr. Putin can cause, preserve whatever marginal cooperation can be saved and otherwise ignore the master of the Kremlin in favor of other foreign policy areas where progress remains possible.
So treat Putin like any other House Republican. Which comes next - accusations that Putin is racist, or sexist?
Obama has a pen and a phone and he isn't afraid to use them. Of course, isolating Putin while relying on him for help with Iran and Syria might not be so easy. The Times attempts to explain how that circle will be squared:
But the two sides have not completely cut off ties. American troops and equipment are still traveling through Russian territory en route to and from Afghanistan. Astronauts from the two countries are currently in orbit together at the International Space Station, supplied by Russian rockets. A joint program decommissioning old Russian weapons systems has not been curtailed.
Nuclear inspections under the New Start arms control treaty Mr. Obama signed in his first term continue. The Air Force still relies on rockets with Russian-made engines to launch military satellites into space, although it is reviewing that. The United States has not moved to try to push Russia out of the W.T.O. And the Obama administration is still working with Russia on disarming Syria’s chemical weapons and negotiating a deal with Iran to curtail its nuclear program.
“You can’t isolate everything from a general worsening of the relationship and the rhetoric,” said Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University and an adviser to multiple administrations on Russia and defense policy. “But there’s still very high priority business that we have to try to do with Russia.”
Oh, good, we will stay in touch because there is a lot of stuff we need from Russia. Sadly missing from the list above is stuff Russia needs from us. Well, maybe Putin won't mind being a pariah and won't push back.
Denial and distraction is the plan du jour:
While Mr. Obama spends a lot of time on the Ukraine crisis, it does not seem to absorb him. Speaking privately with visitors, he is more likely to bring up topics like health care and the Republicans in Congress than Mr. Putin. Ukraine, he tells people, is not a major concern for most Americans, who are focused on the economy and other issues closer to home.
Yeah, Americans are so focused on how hard Obama's economy sucks that they can't worry about how hard his foreign policy sucks. Got it. And if the White House isn't worried about the Ukraine because the public isn't, ask me about global warming; from Gallup:
Americans Show Low Levels of Concern on Global Warming
MY NEW BFF: Ron Fournier of the National Journal:
President Obama came to office nursing dreams "of forging a new partnership" with a stubborn rival. When times got tough, he abandoned the relationship and adopted dusty zero-sum gain policies of his predecessors. To allies and rivals alike, he looks naïve, weak, and disconnected.
This is the portrait presented Sunday by Peter Baker in his front-page New York Times story titled, "In Cold War Echo, Obama Strategy Writes Off Putin." What struck me about the piece is the unstated parallel between Obama's handling of Russia and Republicans, and how in both cases the gap between promise and performance illustrates a fundamental failure of leadership.