The Problem with Pivots and Pacino
Given America's pivot to Asia, and its apparent deemphasis of European interests, how do you see American national security interests progressing, and what kind of roles do the political machine and the public play here? —Andreas Kaju @andreaskaju
Damir: I always think back to that overwrought Al Pacino scene in Godfather Part III...
Obama was right when he complained that steering the ship of state to a completely different course is very difficult. His own "Pivot to Asia" was a notable failure, even though he, too, sought to de-emphasize Europe. Had Hillary Clinton won, she probably would have redoubled her commitments to the pivot, just as the Biden Administration has, after the undisciplined Trump interregnum.
But just because one wants to pivot doesn't mean one gets to pivot. What we're seeing in Ukraine is proof of that. Russia has sensed an opportunity and is pushing its advantage. As long as we remain committed to European security, we will get pulled back into European affairs if the Russians demand it.
As for the political machine and the public, I don't know. I don't think voters much care about the details. But politically, it's never a good look to be losing, especially against telegenic peer competitors like Russia and China. From a purely opportunistic standpoint, I fully expect Republicans to make much hay over Biden being a weak foreign policy president, capitulating on Afghanistan. If major concessions are made to Russia in Europe, expect that to be added to the list of failures.
Empty Promises and NATO Expansion
Thinking about the Ukraine issue, what should be the criteria be for NATO expansion? Should NATO only expand to countries that would not elevate tensions with Russia? Was it a mistake to promise Ukraine membership in 2008? If so, was NATO's expansion into the Balkans and the Baltic states also a mistake? —Aakash