Russian President Vladimir Putin exploited President Barack Obama's weak foreign policy in granting asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, according to Josef Joffe, who teaches U.S. foreign policy at Stanford University.
"Washington is now looking at the greatest counter-intelligence failure since the Rosenbergs betrayed nuclear know-how to Stalin some 60 years ago," he writes in The Wall Street Journal.
And all that the White House could muster in response
was, "We are extremely disappointed," in the words of White House press secretary Jay Carney, Joffe says.
"A nice understatement. Now the Russians have Mr. Snowden's hard disks to unearth more U.S. secrets than could be stolen by a battalion of spies," Joffe says. "President Vladimir Putin has it in his hands to endlessly embarrass the U.S. by releasing choice bits and pieces from the Snowden trove, or to threaten to do so to keep Washington on its best behavior."
Given Putin's action, "'extremely disappointed' is the diplomatic equivalent of pouting — unbecoming to a great power," Joffe says.
Putin ignored the Obama administration's wishes in the Snowden affair "because he could," Joffe says. "He has taken the measure of Barack Obama, concluding that there isn't much there, to paraphrase the president on the State Department's e-mails about Benghazi."
Obama has shown weakness throughout his presidency when it comes to foreign policy, Joffe says. For example, "the Kremlin has noticed how Mr. Obama has basically scotched the military option against Iran's nuclear-arms program," he says. "So if you're Vladimir Putin, why not probe more deeply?"
And that's what he has done, Joffe says. Earlier this year, Russia sent sophisticated anti-ship missiles to the Assad regime in Syria. Russia reportedly also sent about a dozen warships to the eastern Mediterranean, he says.
"The Kremlin's message: We shall protect our Syrian asset, the Assad regime," Joffe writes. "While Secretary of State John Kerry is investing in a sideshow — the Israeli-Palestinian peace — Moscow and Tehran are securing a foothold on the Mediterranean."
Obama's basic deficiency is philosophical, Joffe says. "The president apparently believes that the U.S. can safely retract because giants no longer roam the earth," he writes. "Alas, the chickens of indifference always come home to roost as birds of prey."
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