It was just two years ago when President Obama was caught on an open mic saying the following to Russian President Dimitri Medvedev:
President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.
President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…
President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
While this was chalked up then to mean only missile defense, and was generally portrayed in the media as another case of the right making another one of their crazy conspiracy theories, considering what has happened with the Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of the Crimea… should we take another look? No, I am not saying our president is in on it or condones the Russian actions, but what if Russian President Medveved didn’t really understand what President Obama meant?
I take President Obama’s statements as a kind brush off. He probably found some of the positions held by the Russians to be in conflict with what he wanted to do, and what the United States wanted to do, particularly in an election year. Rather than creating ill will between Russia and America at a time when he was vulnerable, Obama wanted to table those issues for a future time.
Fast forward to today. Have we followed up? Probably not? Did we clarify our positions? Who knows? Did Medvedev, Putin, and the Russian policy makers perceive Obama’s assurances as consent and agreement… and that he only needed to get through the election before he could formally endorse them? Did the Russians have the same perception as the “vast right-wing conspiracy”?
I learned a long time ago that perception is reality. This may be a lesson that our president was naïve about in this case.