Obama Displays Steadiness in Crisis

Kyle Seasly

President Obama’s steady hand has helped guide him through a multitude of crises internationally. Although his foreign policies of drone use and internal surveillance are frustrating, his level-headed approach to crises allows him to come out on top.

When Russia invaded Crimea with large numbers of  soldiers without political markings (which illustrated Russian unease in the undertaking), supposedly to protect their citizens from the “dangerous coup” that occurred, President Vladimir Putin knew backlash from the West was imminent.

This marked the second time since 2013 that Obama has reasoned with Putin. Just as it did the first time over Syria, Obama’s steady diplomatic hand will guide the crisis into safe waters.

The former KGB colonel did not seek a revival of the Cold War when he invaded. He is not pushing an ideological struggle between two superpowers. The incident is isolated, and most nations condemned Russia’s actions as bullying Ukraine when they chose to look west instead of east. It’s more akin to the “Great Game” that the British and the Russians played in the 19th century, where Russia would advance slowly but surely, playing the game of “grandmother’s footsteps.” Anywhere Russia deemed it could expand its empire, it would. And why not? They would suffer few consequences aside from local upheaval (and perhaps British condemnation), which could easily be thwarted by Cossack military superiority. Russia, indeed, is making a power play, hedging its bets that the West is bluffing when it denounces Russia’s actions.

Obama is aware that Putin is no fool. Instead of bringing an instant thrashing to Putin’s gross violations of international law, President Obama said: “I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody … There is still the opportunity for Russia to … [work] with the international community to help stabilize the situation.”

Obama coolly responded to the situation. While he does eventually condemn the invasion, he steadily makes his way there through logic and reason. Putin is no fool. He did not think that this action would go unnoticed, but Obama’s actions were steady and will hopefully pay off. He avoided immediate escalation and will come out as the moral protagonist who condemned Putin’s actions but did not lead us into intervention. Putin, on the other hand, may get away with annexing Crimea. He at least will show the world that not only can Russia win the Olympics, but they can also violate international law and get away with just an earful of international threats. It is a showing of Russia’s strength and how it defines its sphere of influence. That message has been received.

Although Obama’s moderate ways can surely be frustrating on other fronts, when responding to Putin, his disposition is a key player in the game. A more hot-headed president could have easily led us into disaster and confrontation.