Barack Obama has announced that the USA will retaliate against Russia for its interference in America’s presidential election. But Obama’s threats have always been laughable – as demonstrated by the examples of North Korea and Syria.
The United States, declared Obama on Friday, will retaliate against Russia, “at a time and place of our own choosing,” for Russia’s attempts to undermine the United State’s presidential election. So, what should we make of this threat?
Obamas empty threats against North Korea
Let’s cast our minds back exactly two years to when the USA blamed North Korea for a hacking attack against a Hollywood film studio, Sony Pictures. The background to the attack involved a satirical film targeting the North Korean dictatorship. Shortly afterwards, Obama made the following statement, directed at North Korea: “You have done a lot of damage. And we will respond.” The US announced that it would “respond proportionally” and that this response would be “in a place and time and manner that we choose.” The words used in the threat to North Korea were almost identical to those now used by Obama in response to the alleged Russian hacker attack. Obama may have promised to “respond proportionally” against North Korea, but he never followed through on his threat. It was one of a catalog of empty threats from Obama.
Obamas empty threats against Syria’s ruler, Assad
In 2012, Obama warned Syria’s government not to escalate the conflict in the country, and, in particular, not to deploy chemical weapons. According to Obama, any such action would “cross the red line.” This was clearly understood to mean that the USA would launch a military strike in response. When, despite Obama’s threats, Assad deployed nerve gas in summer 2013 and at least 1,400 people suffered incredibly painful deaths in the suburbs of Damascus, Obama did nothing. Instead, he was talked into a dubious compromise that had been put on the table by Putin, and which Putin then claimed as a victory.
Obama and the Ukraine
During the Ukraine conflict Obama repeatedly clarified all of the actions he wouldn’t be taking. He made himself completely predictable for Putin, who took this as an invitation to annex the Crimean Peninsula.
And this time?
Will Obama take action this time? The Russian side can relax, put their feet up and start by demanding that Obama provide proof of their involvement in the hacking attack – proof that Obama has so far failed to provide.
Whatever Obama does now, he can only lose: If he does nothing, he just confirms his image as a weak president who issues vacuous threats.
Perhaps a few harmless sanctions will be imposed on a small number of Russian citizens and organizations. If, on the other hand, he initiates measures that draw Putin’s ire, he will be perceived by large sections of the public as a bad loser shortly before his departure from office, reacting because he cannot cope with his party’s election defeat.
But that won’t bother Putin. After all, the next Secretary of State will be Rex Tillerson, who Putin counts among his friends and, just a few years ago, even gave a medal to.
Obama ranked 48th most powerful man in the world
Obama is one of the weakest US Presidents of all time. He may have received the Nobel Peace Prize (and for what, exactly?), but in reality, his weakness has either provoked or exacerbated many conflicts. In the 2016 Forbes list of the most powerful men in the world, he only makes it to number 48! At number 1, just like last year, is Putin. And this is despite the fact that the USA is both economically and militarily stronger than Russia. Obama made this crystal clear in his address to Russia, and everything he said about Russia’s weaknesses is correct. But the fact that Putin is still able to play such a key role on the international stage is due to the weakness of the man who has led the USA for the last eight years, a man that Putin can only laugh at.