Obama ‘Loses’ to Putin Because of Internal Affairs

Posted on January 1, 2014.

On Dec. 19 and 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama each held separate end-of-year press conferences to review their political achievements of 2013. According to media evaluations from around the world, Putin was the big winner on this year’s international political stage, whereas Obama was named the biggest failure. This year, both Putin and Obama acted as the presidents of two major powers, and both have covertly pulled the strings of and gambled with at least three hot issues of international concern. In the end, however, Putin took the upper hand, gaining in both fame and fortune.

First, during the Syrian chemical weapons conflict, the two men displayed their merits and faults, as one acted with wit and the other with might. Obama used military force to threaten the Syrian government, while Putin advocated a political solution, suggesting that Bashar [Assad] surrender [his] chemical weapons, ultimately helping Syria avoid a U.S. military strike.

Second, on the Edward Snowden issue, Putin occupied the high moral ground. As a result of Snowden’s “betrayal,” the ugly business of the U.S. wiretapping and eavesdropping was leaked to the whole world. The Obama administration offended countless allies, while Russia has continued to provide political asylum to Snowden, still refusing to extradite him today.

Moreover, Putin has moved slowly and strategically in the area of Russian and NATO relations, consolidating and restructuring allies at every step. In Russia-Ukraine relations, Putin has delayed the process of Ukraine’s entrance into the European Union, thus improving Russia-Ukraine relations. In confronting the long-term threat from NATO, Russia took a substantial step by placing defensive missiles along its borders. At the same time, the secretary-general of NATO urged Europe to increase spending on defense, in light of the threat of a U.S. withdrawal from the organization. This exposes the divisions that have arisen within NATO.

The reason the U.S. has been at a disadvantage with regard to these three issues can be partially attributed to its domestic affairs. When the Syrian conflict began, the U.S. needed to establish equilibrium in the Persian Gulf, but, when Obama requested that Congress authorize an attack on Syria, he met many difficulties. He was bound to the “red line” that he himself drew, and yet the American people were widely against military action, so Obama seemed at a loss for action in terms of dealing with Syria. While it seemed that Snowden was to be blamed for exposing the PRISM program and prompting the number of eavesdropping and wiretapping scandals that followed, what ultimately happened was that the American people, believing their privacy was threatened, began to resent Obama. And finally, with regard to NATO, the U.S. has brought up the issue of money, but the underlying reason for this is its weak domestic economy and financial constraints. This is also the reason why the U.S. has recently allowed its European allies to take the lead in the Middle East, even while it tries to spread its “Obama doctrine.”

Obama botched far more than just these three issues in 2013. For instance, when he advocated for the implementation of a gun control bill, he met with strong divisions, both among citizens and between the two political parties. The gun control bill was destined to be stillborn. Obama’s “marketplace” health care reform was another instance of a tyrant forcing his will. Yet, in the end, because of the website’s frequent crashes, Obama lost face and even admitted himself that the health care reform was not handled well. In the final quarter of the year, the two parties faced off in a heated battle regarding the annual budget, leading to a government shutdown. It is no wonder that U.S. media have called this “the worst year of Obama’s presidency.”

When Obama was just beginning his second term in January 2013, his approval rating was as high as 55 percent. By the end of the year, it had dropped to 41 percent, matching former President George W. Bush’s lowest approval rating on record. Why is there such a disparity between the two numbers? From an economic perspective, the U.S. has been gradually losing its position as the absolute world leader since the subprime lending crisis. From the perspective of U.S. domestic politics, strife and infighting between the two parties have weakened U.S. mobility and the enforcement of both domestic and foreign policy.

In contrast, whether with internal or external affairs, Putin has continued with his straightforward and man-of-steel style. It is no wonder that in the Forbes ranking of the “Most Powerful People of 2013,” Putin was able to unseat Obama for first place.

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