If Obama Wins, Russia Will Be the First to Test Him

I’m just amazed by the dizzying news cycle of all these broadcast outlets during my brief visit to New York City this week. It’s actually quite hypnotic and surreal … I think that a few more days of this and I won’t even remember what was happening amongst the elections gossip of just yesterday. So a comment before I lose the shelf life on this one: I am completely blown away by the stupidity of something said by the Democratic vice president candidate Sen. Joe Biden about Sen. Barack Obama, that the prospective nominee would be “tested” by a variety of foreign leaders if elected. I think it was an incredibly stupid comment because it is almost unbearably true, and really provided the Republican ticket with something to talk about for three straight days … which has become tedious for everybody by this point. Granted they took it a bit out of context.

Here’s what Biden actually said:

“And here’s the point I want to make. Mark my words. Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We’re about to elect a brilliant 47-year old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he’s gonna have to make some really tough – I don’t know what the decision’s gonna be, but I promise you it will occur. As a student of history and having served with seven presidents, I guarantee you it’s gonna happen. I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate. And he’s gonna need help. And the kind of help he’s gonna need is, he’s gonna need you, not financially to help him, we’re gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right. Because all these decisions, all these decisions, once they’re made if they work, then they weren’t viewed as a crisis. If they don’t work, it’s viewed as you didn’t make the right decision, a little bit like how we hesitated so long dealing with Bosnia and dealing with Kosovo, and consequently 200,000 people lost their lives that maybe didn’t have to lose lives. It’s how we made a mistake in Iraq. We made a mistake in Somalia. So there’s gonna be some tough decisions. They may emanate from the Middle East. They may emanate from the sub-continent. They may emanate from Russia’s newly-emboldened position because they’re floating in a sea of oil.”

However the idea of the “test” I believe especially rings true in terms of relations with Russia. I have commented elsewhere that I think that the German social democrats (SPD) have accidentally bet their next election on the victory of McCain, and similarly, the last thing that Russia wants to deal with is a resurgence of American soft power as symbolized by the Obama campaign (everybody remember the Obamamania of Europe?).So if he does win, the Russians are only going to have a short amount of time to damage his reputation through a creative series of tests, and taint him with incompetence and international scorn … ideally in Europe. I hope that Washington is already thinking about what kinds of tests Russia might be cooking up right now, no matter who wins.