April 2, 2009

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

Obama is abroad, making his first trip to Europe as President, attending the G-20 summit, meeting with NATO, sitting down with the Russian President and making a final stop in Turkey. This is the Great Game of geopolitics and Obama is a player.

He's got a plate full of issues. Obama is looking for the Europeans to pump more money into their economy, but their balking and are unlikely to do so. Germany leads the charge in this regard. At the same time, their asking for the US to put more of its financial system under international controls and for a big donation to the IMF to bail out Eastern European countries (and EU banks in the process).

Obama is also looking for help from the EU countries on Afghanistan. He is unlikey to get that either. EU countries and NATO of which they are a part have somewhat atrophied military capabilities. The whole of the EU together has almost no expeditionary force capability. All the years the US has guaranteed EU security, they spent the money they saved on creating the modern welfare state. On top of the anemic military, the European electorate does not favor helping out in the Afpak theatre either.

Obama met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev today and there were some announcements about cooperating around ABM treaty deals, but thats mostly show. Obama wants the Russians to throw Iran under the bus and he seems willing to put ballistic missile defense (BMD) emplacements in Poland on the table. Statements out of Medvedev today seem to indicate that they are unwilling to give up the Iran card for a little love on BMD and the Obama isn't going to trade away a strategic element like BMD if the Russians can't deliver something on Iran. These negotiations will continue, but Obama is making it clear that he doesn't intend to leave Russia with an unfettered hand in Eurasia. So there is a lot more work to be done on this front and key to it is going to be some assessment by Obama as to what the NATO countries are willing to do about a resurgent Russia and this issue is complicated mightily by the fact that Europe is dependent on Russian energy supply. NATO is kinda lame now, and not very much of a strategic military partner.

Given that the EU countries are probably going to send Obama away with no agreement for stimulus, and no committment on Afghanistan, its good that Obama's last stop is Turkey. Turkey is strategically positioned on Iraq's border, has an economy in decent shape, a big military and is a NATO member. They could become an important US ally in the region, as the EU countries increasingly are not.