Sten Hankewitz: Obama’s visit to Estonia doesn’t mean diddly

Dear Estonians, I have some bad news for you. Looking at your euphoria over the visit of President Barack Obama to Estonia in September, I have something to tell you: it doesn’t really mean anything. So you may just as well sit back, relax, and pray the traffic chaos Obama brings along won’t affect you.

Admitted, the euphoria by Estonia’s politicians is understandable. They actually have to say that Obama’s visit strengthens the ties between the two countries or reaffirms America’s commitment to Estonia and NATO and the collective defence article. Otherwise they wouldn’t be doing their jobs.

Russia does what it pleases

But when one sees the Average Joe jumping for joy over Obama’s visit, it’s almost funny – if not tragicomical. And when a journalist speculates over whether the president’s visit could be more than a political gesture (Delfi, 14 August), I can only counter-speculate that the journalist is either deliberately trying to mislead people or hasn’t been really following Obama’s governing pattern for the last five and a half years.

Let’s roll back for a moment to the time before Obama’s reelection in 2012. In March of that year, Obama said to the then-Russian president Dmitri Medvedev the words that should have made everyone extremely cautious: “This is my last election … After my election I have more flexibility.” The events that have ensued since speak for themselves:

  • Russia has occupied the Crimean peninsula
  • Russia is de facto controlling Eastern Ukraine
  • Russian-backed terrorists have shot down a civilian aircraft, murdering 300 innocent people
  • Russia is sending tanks and artillery to the separatists, effectively invading Ukraine

Keeping up appearances

One might, of course, ask me, “What the hell are you talking about? What about the US sanctions on Russia?”

Okay. Let’s look at the facts again.

Flight MH17 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine on 17 July. Within days it was certain the culprits were Russian-backed terrorists, and the weapons they used had been brought on Ukrainian soil from the Russian Federation. But when did Obama finally impose sanctions? Over two weeks later, on 29 July, and even then he managed to almost apologetically utter to the media, “It’s not a new Cold War.”

That’s all there is to it – keeping up appearances. Because, let’s be honest, the weak sanctions on Russia haven’t really accomplished anything – the state of events in Ukraine is now even worse. Only last week, the Russian authorities sent a “humanitarian convoy” – escorted by attack helicopters – into Ukraine; at the same time the Ukrainian military engaged a separate Russian armored column that had entered Ukraine. Even Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary-general of NATO, confirmed that Russia was continuing to supply the pro-Moscow terrorists with “a continuous flow of weapons and fighters”.

Obama doesn’t have allies

But one of the biggest deceptions by the Obama administration is the illusion some people still have that Obama is supposedly their staunch ally. On what, exactly, are people basing this illusion?

On the fact that another ally of the United States – Israel – is frequently told by administration officials, including President Obama himself, how it shouldn’t defend itself against Hamas terrorists and instead quietly go into the night?

On the fact that Iraq, a country the US committed to help, has been all but neglected – or at least thousands of people have been allowed to be murdered before the Obama administration approved air strikes against the Islamic terrorists of ISIS?

Or, perhaps on the fact that even at home, Obama is playing golf rather than dealing with riots in Ferguson, MO?

The sad fact is, President Obama doesn’t have allies. He has popularity ratings, and not necessarily the ones given by the American people – rather by useful idiots all over the world who are still under the impression that Obama is the messiah who will fix the world, without seeing that during Obama’s reign, the world has started to crumble from every corner and soon enough there may not be much left to fix.

All things considered, it is quite naïve to hope that Obama’s visit to Estonia is anything more than a simple political gesture, designed to boost his approval ratings among Eastern Europeans. Let’s be honest, he would much rather be vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard than taking a long and exhausting cross-Atlantic flight to meet people he doesn’t give a hoot about.


Cover photo: President Barack Obama meets with Vladimir Putin at his dacha outside Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

The opinions in this article are those of the author.

8 thoughts on “Sten Hankewitz: Obama’s visit to Estonia doesn’t mean diddly”

  1. Pretty spot on. Putin is a surprisingly simple creature. He feels entitled to move with impunity simply because he knows he can.

  2. I agree with you Obama’s visit doesn’t mean much, because Obama’s acting based on the will of the _American_ people regarding Russia. Americans just don’t care about what’s going on in Ukraine. Trade between Russia and the US is tiny for both sides, and the US does not rely on Russia for energy. They could cut off all trade and barely anyone would notice.

    What I don’t understand is — why are European countries so actively turning to the US? Why can’t the EU sort this out on their own? This is a European problem, and should be solved by Europeans.

    As for Obama playing golf while the riots in Ferguson took place, this represents a fundamental misunderstanding by the author of the powers of the federal government in the US. Unless the governor of Missouri requests federal assistance, usually through declaring a state of emergency, the US government cannot step in on a state’s issue. Missouri has made no such request, nor do I think they should — they seem to now have this under control. As for any crimes committed, some do indeed fall under federal law and the US Justice Department is following the investigation closely. Attorney General Holder even visited there personally to ensure the investigation is progressing. That shows how important this is to the administration.

  3. Baloney! This writer has an Israeli minded point of view. He alleges the President does not cow-tow to Bibi Netanyahu. I am glad of that. As for Estonia, The trip there was bold to begin with. It was a poke in the eye to the Russians, who still would like to retain the Baltic States—-No way the NATO Allies will permit that. As for Ukraine, It should be split in half, while the Western nation is invited to join NATO. Putin will puke.

  4. I just love all these “know it all” comments from people who know nothing about diplomacy, foreign policy, government, and what it takes to govern. Easy to say, yes, let’s just send weapons to the Ukrainians. Let’s just send in the troops and the Russians will turn tail and run. Let’s do this and all will be well. Folks, this is NOT only a problem for the US, it is a bigger problem for the EU and it is they who should be visiting Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. It is they who should be providing the Ukrainians with weapons. Why aren’t they> Because they, unlike the Russians, respect the rule of law and will not just go willy-nilly into a country and start a third world war. Restraint is needed, but the EU needs to put up a better front. It is not this president’s prerogative to tell the Europeans what to do, or to tell Russia what to do. It is not in his or anyone’s best interest to bring this to a hot war. I believe, should the time come and the Europeans first realize they need to put up a united, tough front, then can the president act to stop the aggression. Until the Europeans do something, this president has no other alternative than to offer support as he is doing here. Does his visit to Estonia mean something? It certainly does, it means a whole helluva lot more than if he were to just sit back and ignore the situation. All you warmongers, great minds who know the situation better should just keep your mouths shut unless you want to grab a weapon and go to Ukraine and fight with your hand, minds and bodies.

    1. Dear Sten,
      You sound SO bitter (but then, you ARE a Republican). You also seem to think that Obama’s visit to Estonia should have some sort of cataclysmic effect on Putin. Those of us who know the score realize that could never be the case, anymore than Bush’s or Clinton’s visits were. But it does put Estonia in the world news, however briefly, and that can only be good for Estonia.
      (And as for Israel, I have only one thing to say: It’s very easy for the victim to become the victimizer, and Israel stopped being the victim long, long ago.)

  5. Actually, if you read the many articles in Estonia pertaining to this visit you would see that it meant a whole lot to the Estonian people. Furthermore, if the Estonians would have had such a pessimistic attitude like yours they would never have achieved the accomplishments they can be proud of. I suggest you dig a lot deeper before you write such poorly informed articles such as this one.

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