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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Photoplay Diplomacy

The foreign policy of a narcissist.

They say a photo is worth a thousand words. Perhaps presidents Obama and Putin never heard of that expression. It is rare to the point of being unknown when the last time was that two world leaders showed such obvious mutual dislike of each other. Even the post-White House meeting facial expressions of Netanyahu and Obama did not reach that level. It's hard to imagine a discussion over why Russia should allow heavy sanctions to be placed on the Assad regime in Syria or similar Russian cooperation over Iranian nuclear weapon development becoming so vitriolic as to create the intensity of distaste and disregard that showed in the faces of Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin after their meeting at the G-20 in Mexico.

Even more odd is why none of the media outlets tried to explore what was behind the childish display of pique. Aren't clever major country potentates supposed to be able to hide their personal feelings and mask their political animosities? Where was that usually well-placed bit of information explaining Obama's ultimate rectitude that so often leaks its way out of the White House? What happened also to the typically indiscreet, but clearly purposeful, tidbit of disclosure that makes covering the Kremlin such a challenge and mystery at the same time?

Instead the only thing left is to wonder if the two men just really don't like each other; that they in fact can't even stand being seated next to each other. To allow a personal reaction to dominate intergovernmental relations is not merely inexcusable, it is irresponsibly dangerous. Of course, equally inexplicable is the American president's obsequious bowing to the Saudi King Abdullah.

Vladimir Putin is not unsophisticated and certainly not inexperienced. He is a very calculating intelligence professional and since the 1990s an equally calculating politician. The problem that President Obama has with his counterpart is that Putin just does not respect him. From Putin's standpoint Obama is quite deficient in his knowledge and experience in world politics and thus inept as a prospective partner in evolving issues such as Iran and Syria.

Apparently this lack of understanding by President Obama has arisen before in the private conversations between the U.S. and Russian leaders. Putin was treated to the Obama pedantry much the same way the American president has insultingly lectured other world figures as he did P.M. Netanyahu of Israel. The New York Times reported Pres. Obama's remark about a "Polish death camp…" so infuriated Poland's P.M. Donald Tusk that he referred to Obama as guilty of "ignorance, lack of knowledge, bad intentions." President Obama's behavior on numerous occasions gives a lie to his vaunted intellectual competence in the field of diplomacy. Apparently Putin -- hardly known as a mild-mannered person -- chose to react at their meeting in Los Cabos.


And there is this...

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