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US politics

Obama’s biggest mistake

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty

Barack Obama is always “lauded for his statesmanship”, says Dominic Lawson in the Daily Mail. But he got one thing spectacularly wrong: the threat posed by Vladimir Putin. During a presidential debate in 2012, Obama famously ridiculed Mitt Romney for saying America’s biggest geopolitical foe was Russia, telling him: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” The following year, Obama declared that any use of chemical weapons by Putin’s Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad, would constitute a “red line” warranting US military intervention – only to back down when Assad did exactly that. When Russia then invaded Crimea in 2014, Obama refused to send lethal aid to Kyiv. Little wonder Putin thought no one would kick up a fuss if he took over the whole country.

Obama insists that Putin today is different to the Putin he knew. But that’s nonsense. The Russian president told Nato in 2008 that “Ukraine is not a country, [it is] a mistake in history”, leaving many certain he wanted to rectify this “mistake”. Joe Biden, as vice president, “implored his boss” to ship Javelin anti-tank missiles and other kit to Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea. One can see why Obama was reluctant to intervene in a foreign conflict: he won the Democratic nomination in 2008 in large part because, unlike Hillary Clinton, he hadn’t backed the invasion of Iraq. But we’re still living with the consequences of his inaction today. As Romney said last year: “The 1980s called and we didn’t answer.”