Mark Caserta: Dictators like Vladimir Putin only respect strength
President Obama once asked Vladimir Putin for "space" to focus on winning his 2012 re-election bid so he would be better "positioned" to "deal" on controversial issues.
While chatting with outgoing Russian president Dmitry Medvedev during the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Korea, Obama said he would have "more flexibility" on issues such as missile defense after he secured the presidency.
Rolling cameras and hot microphones picked up the following "private" exchange as Obama leaned forward toward 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."
This exchange between presidential "comrades" captured by the White House press pool and Russian reporters characterizes the foreign policy appeasement strategy employed by Barack Obama.
Unfortunately, I believe we're witnessing this president mirror mistakes eerily similar to the appeasement strategies offered by Western democracies in the 1930s that eventually put Adolf Hitler in a position to start World War II.
In what some have termed "moral cowardice," Britain and France attempted to mitigate Germany's demands through negotiation and compromise. But Hitler perceived this as weakness and was emboldened to heighten his aggression.
After seizing power in Germany, Hitler pursued a foreign policy thirsty for undoing the effects of the Treaty of Versailles, which banned him from re-arming his military and regaining territories lost at Versailles.
Hitler was desperate for more land, especially land rich in fossil fuels. And he was prepared to gamble that other European powers would be reluctant to go to war to stop him. He knew Europe's economy was still recovering from World War I and military prowess had become secondary to bolstering social welfare programs.
As Hitler's forces penetrated deeper into Poland, Great Britain and France were eventually forced to declare war on Germany, hence World War II.
Is Vladimir Putin, a man who once called the collapse of the Soviet Empire "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century," once again testing the backbone of Western democracy?
While Putin isn't Hitler, he's certainly ambitious enough and his potential for devastation is greater than anything the world has ever known.
Our nation was reminded of the dangers of liberal appeasement in Ronald Reagan's "A Time for Choosing" speech in 1964.
"...Every lesson in history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, as this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face -- that their policy of accommodation is appeasement and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight and surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand -- the ultimatum. And what then?"
Appeasement has a bad track record. And untenable tyrants only view it as a sign of weakness.
Dictators like Vladimir Putin only respect strength.
Mark Caserta is a conservative blogger, a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.
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