The problem for President Obama, now a lame duck, is that he’s increasingly compared with Vladimir Putin and found wanting.
In theory Mr. Obama ought to hold all the cards. Russia is a backward state, whose vodka-soaked population is teetering on the verge of decline. It lacks a modern industrial base, though its vast territories contain ample natural resources, particularly those used for energy. These finance the country and its massive armed forces. But Russia lacks the means and skill to raise its people’s standard of living, and every year the gap between their lifestyle and that of the prosperous West widens.
Obama ought to be sitting pretty. The U.S. economy is recovering rapidly from the worst recession in modern history. Unemployment is falling, with millions of new jobs being created. Fracking is giving an immense boost to energy supplies and should make the U.S. energy-self-sufficient before the end of the decade. Yet Obama is not getting credit for these welcome developments. Normally a President’s stock rises when the economy prospers, but Obama’s ratings continue to stagnate or, on occasion, fall.
Whatever one may think of Putin’s moral posture–which is deplorable–he is regarded as strong, decisive and vigorous, pushing Russia’s interests at all times, with considerable success. In contrast, Obama is written off as weak and irresolute, with no clear short-or long-term aims. He gets high marks for rhetoric but scores zero for action. In short, he’s a windbag.