On Tuesday, November 4, Sen. Obama decisively defeated Sen. McCain to become the 44th president of the United States. On Wednesday, November 5, three things of note happened: The stock market dropped 500 points; Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai called on the president-elect to stop killing Afghani civilians; and Russia announced plans to move missiles to the small Russian enclave west of Lithuania on its border with Poland.
Let me repeat that: Each of those things happened the day after Obama's election.
Then, late this week, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev announced plans to visit both Cuba and Venezuela later this month. A Russian flotilla is currently on its way to Venezuela to conduct military exercises with Venezuelan troops. Under the iron rule of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has moved to buy millions of dollars in Russian weaponry and has invited Russian energy companies to begin drilling in its oil fields.
Is all this a coincidence? Highly doubtful. Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, obviously relieved that Russian antagonist McCain won't be in the White House come January (McCain has gone so far as to call for Russia's expulsion from the G-8), see an obvious weakness. When Russia invaded their tiny neighbor Georgia in August, Sen. Obama presciently noted that Russia's aggression "violated the spirit of the Olympics" and called on both countries to calm their aggression toward each other. I can only imagine Putin and Medvedev doubling over in laughter.
The hard reality is this: While the world might have cheered an Obama victory on Nov. 5, America's antagonists and enemies cheered it for very different reasons than our allies in western Europe. Putin and Medvedev have a very clear agenda, and their actions -- jailing dissidents, crushing opposition, severely curtailing freedom of the press, attempting to rig the 2006 presidential elections in Ukraine, invading Georgia, allying themselves even closer with communist states and now moving missiles to their border with Poland -- should be a wake-up call to our new president that sticks must be used and not just carrots. The mere fact of Obama's election has not, as many of his supporters implied, appeased the aggressors across the globe, nor has it altered the agendas of people like Iran's Ahmadenijad, Belarus' Lukashenka or the Castro brothers in Cuba. Putin and Medvedev, in particular, will walk all over Obama if he is as spongy in the White House as he was on the stump.
Did Obama's supporters -- and did the candidate himself -- really believe that Russia's agenda would be different on the morning of November 5?
This should be a further wake-up call to our president-elect that he had better be serious about energy independence as well, as Russia and Venezuela remain two of the largest exporters of oil in the world.
As much as his supporters might disagree, the hard reality is that Obama's election has changed very little in the rest of the world. And if he thinks mere diplomacy or fireside chats at the White House will convince Putin and Medvedev to scale back their aggression, then he will have proven himself to be a wholly incapable commander in chief.