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Mr. President, the 80s Called With Some Advice on Russia


Obama could benefit from some 1980s wisdom about being leader of the free world.

In this June 17, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

In a debate preceding the 2012 election, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was mocked by President Barack Obama for characterizing Russia as our greatest “geopolitical foe.”

Romney defended his rationale:

“First of all, Russia I indicated is a geopolitical foe. Not... excuse me. It's a geopolitical foe, and I said in the same - in the same paragraph I said, and Iran is the greatest national security threat we face. Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin.”

To which the president responded:

“The 1980s are calling and they want their foreign policy back.”

Well, it turns out that Romney was right. About quite a few things.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval rating in his country has soared to over 80 percent. Meanwhile, 80 percent of Americans believe (and Ukrainian officials have confirmed) that he and/or Russia was “involved” in the missile attack on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukrainian airspace, in which 298 people died.

I’d call that “geopolitical foe” material. And so does Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cali.), who declared over the weekend that Putin needs to “man up” and admit his mistake; even characterizing U.S.-Russia relations as being at “Cold War levels.”

In this June 17, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP In this June 17, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP 

A new CNN poll suggests that “Ukrainians are a lot less pro-Russian than separatists there would like the world to believe.” A majority of Ukrainians support economic sanctions against Russia, and would choose to ally with Europe over Russia (even in areas that are allegedly voting for independence from Ukraine).

I wonder why.

According to the poll, Ukrainians are likely to see Putin as “dangerous” (67 percent) or “strong” (44 percent). But not to worry, the majority of respondents see Obama as “friendly” (47 percent). The foreign leader Ukrainians feel best understands their needs? Not the “leader of the free world,” but German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

From Israel to Ukraine, the world is falling apart. This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone; this is simply what a world absent American leadership looks like. But Obama won't hear any of it because "the Cold War has been over for 20 years."

[sharequote align="center"]But Obama won't hear any of it because "the Cold War has been over for 20 years."[/sharequote]

If Obama could muster up some interest in doing his job, I think it would greatly benefit all of us for him to spend some time contemplating the phrase “leader of the free world.”

Mr. President, the 80s called. They have some advice about what it means to be leader of the free world.

What Obama doesn’t seem to realize is that the Russians have done this before. In the 80s.

In 1983, the Soviets deliberately shot down a Korean civilian airliner (KAL 007) that accidentally wandered over their airspace. There were 269 civilians on board. President Ronald Reagan responded quickly, cutting short his vacation to return to Washington and address the tragedy:

For those that didn't listen to the full 17-minute speech, here is the important part:

“Let me state as plainly as I can: There was absolutely no justification, either legal or moral, for what the Soviets did… make no mistake about it, this attack was not just against ourselves or the Republic of Korea. This was the Soviet Union against the world and the moral precepts which guide human relations among people everywhere. It was an act of barbarism, born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life and seeks constantly to expand and dominate other nations…. Our immediate challenge to this atrocity is to ensure that we make the skies safer and that we seek just compensation for the families of those who were killed.”

Mr. President, the difference between you and your predecessor - who you look down on as a relic of the old-school, Cold War Era – is that he acted on his threat to the Soviet Union.

While the Obama administration stopped short of even blaming Putin for the atrocity, the Reagan administration immediately leapt into action:

  • They asked Congress to pass a joint resolution of condemnation.
  • They suspended all negotiations that were under consideration with the Soviets.
  • An emergency U.N. Security Council was called; 11 nations in addition to the United States and Korea denounced the Soviets for their crime. The administration promised to work closely with all 13 nations who lost citizens.
  • Compensation for the victims’ families was demanded and called “an absolute moral duty which the Soviets must assume.”
  • The 13 nations sought to end the flow of weapons and military items into the Soviet Union by economic and trade restrictions.
  • The secretary of state was sent to Madrid to meet with representatives from 35 countries, one of whom was the foreign minister of the Soviet Union. The secretary of state had orders to “present him with our demands for disclosure of the facts, corrective action, and concrete assurances that such a thing will not happen again and that restitution be made.”


Reagan acted swiftly and responsibly. His response was strong, aggressive and effective – without putting any boots on the ground. Mr. President, that “80s foreign policy” you spoke so condescendingly of certainly seems impressive.

Reagan didn’t act as though the tragedy had nothing to do with him. He embraced his role as leader of the free world. He acted as an advocate for peace and justice, and promised (and delivered!) repercussions if these values were compromised.

Photo Credit: AP Photo Credit: AP 

Six years later, Reagan celebrated the fall of the evil regime as he ordered that the Berlin Wall be torn down. Six years from now, I have a suspicion Obama will be celebrating himself at yet another fundraiser.

Shooting a civilian plane out of the sky is an intolerable act. The international community should be outraged by this; they should demand an investigation and consequences. This charge should be led by the United States of America and its president.

But it’s not.

It’s 3:00 am. The proverbial phone is ringing in the White House.

It would be nice if there was a leader there to answer it.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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