I don’t usually engage in “what if?”, but in this case the results are so striking that I have to do so.

Daniel Greenfield has written a scathing critique of Presidents Obama and Putin at frontpagemag.com.  I commend his analyis and conclusions to you.  Here is his description of these two men’s arrogant approach to every opportunity.

“If you can do something, you do it. If your opponents can’t stop you, then you have the right to do it. The true radical, the man of destiny, will do anything he wants because that is what makes him great. Lies are constant and utterly shameless. No lie can ever be exposed because the liar moves on to the next lie and then the one after that. Truth is as meaningless in this world as law.

While agreeing with Greenfield about their arrogance, I want to take a slightly different approach to ask the questions, “What if these two men had not been the Presidents of our two nations for the past several years? And what differences could new leaders make?

I am clearly not advocating that anything bad happen to either of them. I’m pointing out what a huge impact just one or two personalities—and their interactions—can have on virtually all of humanity.

You don’t have to imagine them being replaced by great statesmen, like Reagan and Gorbachev.  Just imagine that for the past several years the leader of our nation had been either of the Clintons, George H.W. Bush, or Mitt Romney; and on their side either Dmitri Medvedev or any one of several post-Yeltsin pragmatists who wanted to focus on growing Russia’s economy, not her territory. What could the differences have been?  How much trouble, pain, suffering and death could have been averted?  Just two men.

Profile of man in origami style

Wooden Ideas

Starting with Putin, he is a thug; he is ex-KGB, has never run a business, and is determined to take what is not his, both domestically and internationally.  I was in Moscow many times in 2006-2008 before his offense into Georgia and the murder in prison of Sergey Magnitsky. Although Putin was beginning to clamp down on internal opposition, there was still the real hope that Russia was on the path to greater prosperity, economic freedom and, one day, personal freedoms.  That hope has now been pushed far into the future, if it is still imagined at all.

Barack Obama silhouette isolated on a white background

I am leading the nation in this direction!

Then there is Obama, the professor/organizer who never ran a business, rarely had to be accountable for a decision or even a vote, and apparently considers himself to be part of the intellectual/progressive elite.  One could write a book on his failed leadership, but I particularly hate that he has stolen future prosperity from the younger generation by debilitating the economy, reducing the traditional paths to good jobs, and saddling them with huge debt.  He has always only been the leader of the Democratic Left, never the leader of the nation, flaunting laws when they don’t suit his personal agenda. And overseas he has stumbled and bumbled from one disaster to another, apparently wanting to think and ponder while the world run by thugs moves on too quickly for him to ever catch up.

The Unexceptional Nation?

When you step back and look at them, they are both very selfish small men, though in different ways.  Putin wants what you have and just takes it under the guise of governmental power, patriotism, or fraud. Obama thinks himself above the rest of us and maintains a fantasy world in which he can give a speech and the whole world, not to mention our economy, will give him what he wants.  If not, he then takes it by fraud, lies, obfuscation and/or cover-up.

To blend Greenfield’s words and mine, both Putin and Obama are thugs.  Putin is a violent thug, and Obama is a devious thug.  But they both just take what they want for as long as others will let them.

So, what could be different? For starters, our two nations are economically crippled, compared to where we should be, by the policies of these two very different but equally selfish men who, at the end of the day, talk self-serving rhetoric but really don’t care what happens to the average citizen.  It’s all only about them and their inner circles.

Almost anyone with common sense and even modest business experience could have made better economic decisions for our two countries.  Without these two, our families would, in economic terms, be much better off, with higher incomes and less debt.

Ukraine crisis map. Pro-russians protests in the eastern cities.

Take Ground Until Someone Stops You

Of course in foreign policy there is first the spectacle of the disaster caused by the playground bully who refuses time out, even when “demanded” by his teacher.  This thug protects Iran, protects Bashar al-Assad in Syria, meddles everywhere, and of course simply took Crimea right after the Winter Olympics.  Then shot down an airliner with 298 innocent people onboard. And may yet invade Ukraine.  “Why won’t he just behave like a nice person should?” the leader of the largest military on earth asks and dawdles.  Violent thugs fill vacuums, and our President keeps creating more to be filled.

Entertainment Center and Rec Room in Luxury Home

Neville Chamberlain Situation Room

In fact, President Obama is at least consistent in treating all violent thugs with the same weak hand.  When leading from behind is your most aggressive action to date, one wonders whether the area in the White House where his crisis experts gather should be renamed the Neville Chamberlain Situation Room.

Focusing back on Putin and Obama, the largest problem with the greatest long term impact is this: Think about what might have been if the leaders of our two nations had not just not bickered, but had instead united to defend against Islamic jihad across a broad front.

America is a nation founded upon, as a matter of pure history, Judeo-Christian values and principles.  Until recently, we expected our citizens to honor that same moral code, even if they were not believers themselves. Russia is a mostly homogeneous, Christian European nation with incredible resources and very many nearby Islamic states.

I have worked in Russia and with Russians since 1991, and our people and countries are so basically similar that our continued friction is inexplicable, except as a way to motivate the political bases in both nations.  You would be proud to have our current Russian partners as business colleagues in any venture. The latest culprit in the long history of bashing each other is Putin, who, like thugs everywhere, diverts attention from his own failings to the supposed enemy. I imagine that the crisis for good, decent Russians today is the same as for good, decent Germans in 1935; I hope the final outcome will be much better.

muslim with us flag and finger raised to her lips

We’re Here

What if, instead of fighting and bickering at the political level, our two countries had in unison led the world as a combined positive force to bring an end to Iran’s nuclear program, and to support its Green Revolution in 2009?  What if the U.S. had enjoyed a Russian partner as the Iraq War wound down, so that there was an alternative to complete U.S. withdrawal?  What if, in general, our two countries cooperated and helped each other in all areas dealing with extremists, whether governmental or not?

And if Putin is truly looking to protect ethnic Russians across the globe, he should note that according to NPR, Israel has the third largest concentration of Russian speakers of any nation outside the former Soviet Union, behind only the U.S. and Germany.  And they are the only Russian speaking civlians currently being attacked by rockets. So why not include Israel in the Russian protectorate rhetoric?

I’m afraid that looking back from twenty years out the most long lasting tragedy of Obama and Putin will be that while they were consumed with Crimea, sanctions, and Ukraine, the Islamic world descended into even more chaos and thuggery. What if they could have focused together on that huge threat to both our nations, and to millions of people of all faiths, rather than on their own selfish diversions?

Handshake between United States and Russia

Working Together for Good

My fervent prayer is that the world holds together, and that no more innocent people are murdered, while we wait for Obama’s time pretending to be our President to run out, and that some legal way is found for there to be a new leader in Russia.  What an incredibly positive impact on our world two different people could have by working together!