Vladimir Putin negated Barack Obama's final attempt to cause a political crisis between the United States and Russia through a smart maneuver: Declaring that he will not deport American diplomats from Russia, Putin's political prudence is not only appreciated by Donald Trump, but also forestalled a prospective crisis between the U.S. and Russia. Yet, that last attempt of the Obama administration is crucial for reflecting on their incompetence in international relations.
In my previous columns, I have already interpreted the Obama administration as "hesitant" and "incompetent" in the international realm. While Russia has taken the upper hand in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, allies of the U.S. have been seriously weakened in those regions. In this respect, the main problems of the Obama administration can be summarized as follows:
1. When the authority of the president becomes weaker, the administration of the state falls into the hands of subgroups within the state structure. Thus, the particular interests of those subgroups take precedence over the general interests of the state. The individual policies supported by different interest groups may even conflict with the most fundamental interests of that state.
2. The Republican Party generally prefers to work with traditional allies of the U.S., i.e. the European Union, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. During the Obama's administration, however, all those international actors were weakened in their position against Russia and Iran.
3. During the Syrian civil war, the Obama administration preferred to work with a terrorist organization, i.e., the PKK. In one of his presidential campaign speeches, Trump even argued that Daesh could have been founded by the Obama administration itself. Regardless, the U.S. as the superpower of the world preferred during the Obama administration to rely on terrorist organizations in the Syrian civil war.
4. After the eruption of the Arab Spring, the U.S. could have instead cooperated with democratically elected governments. By supporting those democratic and secular governments, the U.S. could have founded a stable world order. Instead, the Obama administration supported vacillating dictatorships and illegitimate non-state actors. The result of such a preference is the ongoing chaos and instability in Syria, Egypt and Libya. Obama's failure in international relations unintentionally concluded with the rise of terror and the worsening of civil wars, which in turn led the whole structure of the EU being shaken by unending waves of refugees and the reactive rise of racism.
5. What's worse, the hesitancy and capriciousness of Obama's foreign policy behavior seriously damaged the international image of the U.S. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov himself pointed out that Obama's capricious foreign policy behavior always put U.S. Foreign Minister John Kerry in a difficult position.
6. While Iran has always been hostile to the U.S., U.S. intervention in Iraq and Syria concluded with Iran's taking the upper hand in its region of influence. Moreover, just like Daesh, the Shiite militia of Iran continues to violate the most basic human rights in Iraq and Syria.
The dramatic errors of the Obama administration are indeed self-evident. What is uncertain is the promise of Trump. First, if a strong presidency is founded under his leadership, the national interests of the U.S. will certainly take precedence over the particular interests of subgroups. It is also reasonable for the American nation that their president prioritizes the economic interests of the U.S.
For Turkey and other countries in the region, the U.S. should immediately return to their historical position by working with traditional allies in the Middle East and beyond. We all know that the only antidote for terrorism and racism is the rise of democracy and welfare and hope that Trump will side with democracy and stability instead of chaos.
About the author
İhsan Aktaş is Chairman of the Board of GENAR Research Company. He is an academic at the Department of Communication at Istanbul Medipol University.