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Obama's Russia: How Obama's Background and Worldview Shed Light on the Putin-Ukraine Situation

In the Ukraine yesterday, pro-Russia activists broke through police lines and stormed several government buildings.

A flag of the Russian Navy hangs from a tree as policemen stand guard in front of the local parliament building on February 28, 2014 in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine's strategic peninsula. Pro-Russian activists flexed their muscles in in Crimea on Friday, swarming government buildings after Kalashnikov-toting men in fatigues descended on two key airports, as tensions mounted over the strategic Ukrainian peninsula. Hundreds of pro-Moscow protesters in Crimea's capital Simferopol massed outside the regional parliament, seized on February 27, 2014 by separatist commandos, as 50 others formed a barricade outside the Ukrainian presidency's local office, blocking its newly designated director from going inside. AFP PHOTO/ GENYA SAVILOV GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

In the Ukraine yesterday, pro-Russia activists broke through police lines and stormed several government buildings.

They are Putin thugs and lackeys, and the latest instance of escalation in Vladimir Putin’s steady assault on an independent nation.

About a week-and-a-half ago, Ukrainian defense officials publicly stated that Russia had amassed upwards of 80,000 troops along their border. The Obama administration seemed to scoff at that number, claiming the number was closer to 20,000. Two days later, the administration upped the number to 30,000. Today, they’ve upped it again, pegging it at 40,000.

Personally, I trust Ukrainian officials to have a better grip than Obama officials. But whatever the number, the situation is grim—and not just for Ukraine.

Crimean pro-Russian volunteers in military fatigues line up in a square in front of a statue of Vladimir Lenin, next to the Council of Ministers of Crimea's building, in Simferopol, on March 14, 2014, two days ahead of the referendum over Crimea's bid to break away from Ukraine and join Russia. US Secretary of State John Kerry said on March 14 that Russian President Vladimir Putin will make no decision on Ukraine until after Sunday's referendum on the region of Crimea. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL LEAL OLIVAS AFP/AFP/Getty Images Crimean pro-Russian volunteers in military fatigues line up in a square in front of a statue of Vladimir Lenin, next to the Council of Ministers of Crimea's building, in Simferopol, on March 14, 2014, two days ahead of the referendum over Crimea's bid to break away from Ukraine and join Russia. US Secretary of State John Kerry said on March 14 that Russian President Vladimir Putin will make no decision on Ukraine until after Sunday's referendum on the region of Crimea. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL LEAL OLIVAS

The neighboring countries around Ukraine are extremely concerned, terrified that an ex-KGB lieutenant colonel named Vladimir Putin fancies himself a modern Vlad the Great who will expand the motherland to something approaching the grand old Soviet days. The Estonians are worried. The Latvians are worried. The Poles are worried.

“Professor, do you think Poland is next?” I was asked last week by a Polish journalist.

Poles fear not only a Putin invasion; they fear Barack Obama will not lift a finger to help, even though Poland is a devoted American ally and NATO member. They’ve been appalled by our president ever since he cancelled plans for a joint U.S. missile shield with Poland and the Czech Republic on Sept. 17, 2009.

That date is burned into the souls of Poles. It was the 70th anniversary of the exact day that Stalin’s Red Army, enforcing the Hitler-Stalin Pact, invaded Poland. That Obama cancelled the missile shield on that date was viewed by Poles as the ultimate slap in the face, especially given that he did so to accommodate Russia. The Poles have a long, painful history of watching the West and Democratic presidents accommodate Russia at their expense, beginning at Yalta.

But again, Poles fear that Barack Obama will not defend them. They see Obama as a weak leader who the Russians realize they can roll right over—which brings me back to the Ukraine.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) signs a law on ratification of a treaty making Crimea part of Russia, during a ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow March 21, 2014, with Valentina Matviyenko (L), the speaker of the upper house of Russian parliament, the Federation Council, and Sergei Naryshkin (R), the speaker of parliament's lower house, the State Duma, attending the ceremony. Putin said today Moscow would hold off on further reciprocal sanctions against the United States, after Washington introduced punitive measures against his close allies over the Ukraine crisis. AFP PHOTO/ POOL / SERGEI CHIRIKOV AFP/AFP/Getty Images Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) signs a law on ratification of a treaty making Crimea part of Russia, during a ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow March 21, 2014, with Valentina Matviyenko (L), the speaker of the upper house of Russian parliament, the Federation Council, and Sergei Naryshkin (R), the speaker of parliament's lower house, the State Duma, attending the ceremony. Putin said today Moscow would hold off on further reciprocal sanctions against the United States, after Washington introduced punitive measures against his close allies over the Ukraine crisis. AFP PHOTO/ POOL / SERGEI CHIRIKOV

What has happened in the Ukraine is, of course, a result of Vladimir Putin’s aggression. At the same time, Barack Obama cannot be completely exempted from any blame. Since his first year in the presidency, Obama has bent over backwards to assuage the Russians, perhaps viewing them as cheerful redistributionists just like him. His worldview is the product of people who were enamored with and even pledged to Russia.

Obama’s mother and father met in a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii in the fall of 1960. They wanted to learn the language not to join the CIA or FBI as agents striving to help defeat the Ruskies and the commies. To the contrary, they were smitten with communist Russia. Barack Obama was literally conceived as a result of parents drawn together by a mutual fondness for Russia.

Likewise infatuated with Mother Russia was Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, who joined Communist Party USA under Stalin.

“I pledge myself to rally the masses to defend the Soviet Union, the land of victorious socialism,” declared Davis and other CPUSA members in the loyalty oath they swore. “I pledge myself to remain at all times a vigilant and firm defender of the Leninist line of the Party, the only line that insures the triumph of Soviet Power in the United States.”

Writing for the Chicago Star, the communist organ for which he was the founding editor-in-chief, Davis stated: “I admire Russia for wiping out an economic system which permitted a handful of rich to exploit and beat gold from the millions of plain people…. As one who believes in freedom and democracy for all, I honor the Red nation.” Davis said openly, without apologies or equivocation: “I salute the Soviet Union.”

He sure did. He also met many times for many hours (into late evenings) with a young Barack Obama throughout Obama’s adolescence, up to the moment Obama left Hawaii for college. Frank Marshall Davis was a loyal Russian patriot.

A young Barack Obama poses for the camera. A young Barack Obama poses for the camera.

These were the people who raised Barack Obama. They would have told Obama that the Russians could and should be trusted, certainly more so than the United States.

Here I’m reminded of a very different worldview toward the Russians, by another president.

“We had to bargain with them from strength, not weakness,” said President Ronald Reagan. “If you were going to approach the Russians with a dove of peace in one hand, you had to have a sword in the other.”

Barack Obama approached Vladimir Putin with a dove in one hand and a bouquet of roses in the other—and with plenty of promised “flexibility” after the 2012 election. Obama showed weakness, not strength.

Reagan understood the Russians. Obama does not. And if you think that doesn’t matter, just look at the differences on the ground.

Reagan took pride in the fact that the Russians didn’t gain “one inch of ground” while he was president. Indeed they did not—and after they had picked up nearly a dozen satellite states in the immediate years before Reagan was elected. Today, the foes of freedom are gaining ground around the world.

Is it fair to blame our current president for at least some of that lost ground? You bet it is.

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is "11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative." His other books include "The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor."

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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