If Vladimir Putin had any misgivings about the consequences of invading Ukraine and taking the Crimea, the Obama foreign policy team gave Putin every reason to launch his invasion by soft-peddling the Ukraine crisis and publicly attacking U.S. climate scientists instead.
Nations signal their foreign policy priorities and resolve by choosing issues on which to focus and issues on which to tread lightly. As the Ukraine crisis escalated throughout the month of February and Russian military forces predictably prepared to invade the nation, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry chose to launch a high-profile campaign of attacks against American climate scientists and essentially give the Kremlin a green light to invade Ukraine.
The Ukrainian people’s uprising against an oppressive government reached a climax on February 22 when the Ukrainian parliament voted 380-0 to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from office for human rights violations and for failing to uphold Ukrainian national rights in the face of Russian aggression. As the crisis continued and Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Obama and Kerry said and did little other than make weak statements expressing “concern.”
Simultaneously, however, the administration signaled it was keeping a laser focus on global warming politics. Indeed, less than a week before the Ukraine crisis reached its climax, Kerry went to Indonesia of all places to blast scientists in the United States and elsewhere for disagreeing with the Obama administration’s global warming views. Kerry blasted climate scientists for allegedly performing “shoddy science” and being “flat-earthers.” Then, implicitly pooh-poohing the looming threat of Russian aggression in the Ukraine, Kerry called global warming“the world’s largest weapon of mass destruction.”
Is it any wonder that Vlad the Conqueror correctly saw this as indicating the United States would meekly acquiesce to Russia invading a sovereign European nation?
Sadly, Obama and Kerry apparently believe that losing the Crimea to Russian military aggression is a small price to pay for keeping their foreign policy laser-focused on global warming. And if Russia next invades and conquers the remainder of Ukraine, Obama and Kerry appear poised to do little more than tell a small number of Russian officials they cannot in the future vacation in the United States.
If, by contrast, Vladimir Putin and his Russian military machine had instead dared to side with scientists at NASA, NOAA, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, MIT, etc., and claim that global warming is not a planet-threatening crisis, well then there would be hell to pay. Better to lose a European nation to Russian military aggression than to let U.S. scientists think they will not be held accountable for disagreeing with Obama and Kerry on global warming, right Barack?
When Obama glibly ridiculed Mitt Romney during the third 2012 presidential debate for saying Russia is the world’s greatest geopolitical threat (“The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years”), little did American voters realize just how dangerous Obama’s flippant view of Russian aggression would be. This is apparently what Obama meant by assuring Putin he would have more flexibility after the election was over. Romney should have responded to Obama by saying, “The 1990s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because there has been no global warming for 16 years.”
Even more embarrassing for the Obama administration’s trip down memory lane, Obama’s science czar John Holdren was a leading global cooling alarmist in the 1970s. Back then, Holdren said fossil fuel emissions were ushering in a new ice age. Now Holdren says those same fossil fuel emissions are ushering in catastrophic global warming. Scientists who don’t unquestioningly say “Me, too!” to Holdren’s 180-degree reversal are ridiculed by Obama’s foreign policy team while these same foreign policy officials cower in fear while Russia invades Ukraine.
While Obama’s softness on Russian aggression yielded predictably negative results, his foreign policy’s laser focus on global warming has yielded similarly predictable negative results. After attacking U.S. scientists and giving Russia a free pass to invade Ukraine during his visit to Southeast Asia, Kerry announced he had struck an agreement with China to accelerate U.S.-Chinese cooperation on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Then, just last week as Russia invaded Ukraine, China announced it is reconsidering its prior commitment to enact a carbon tax. So much for the fruits of a foreign policy laser-focused on global warming.
Foreign policy decisions have consequences. The Obama administration’s strange decision to consider global warming the greatest threat to world peace is emboldening Vladimir Putin to launch a campaign of military aggression.
[First published at Forbes.]