KT McFarland pointed out some of their consequence in a Friday interview on Fox News‘ Happening Now program against the backdrop of the Russian-supported “rebellion” in Ukraine and the just being agreed “cease fire” between those “rebels” and Ukrainian forces.
It seems that President Barack Obama, while spending a day in Estonia, had assured the Estonians that NATO would, of course, rush to their defense in the event of “an attack” on Estonia. The next day, Obama repeated that assurance, sort of. This time, he said NATO would rush to Estonia’s defense in the event of “an armed attack” on Estonia.
McFarland had two comments on those phrases. The first was technical: NATO, in fact, is sworn to come to the aid of any member who has been subjected to “armed attack” not to “attack.”
Her second comment was substantive. Putin has not engaged in an armed attack against Ukraine. Instead, he fostered unrest in Crimea as a prelude to seizing and occupying that peninsula, and since he’s fostered unrest in two oblasts of eastern Ukraine with the same goal. Next, he’s infiltrated soldiers and un-uniformed fighters; he’s infiltrated weapons up to and including the SAM equipment used to shoot down a Malaysian airliner and a number of Ukrainian fighter jets; he’s infiltrated armored weapons; he’s infiltrated advisors; his forces have taken the lead in reversing the “rebels'” battle fortunes, and his forces have taken the lead in driving a land corridor along Ukraine’s Sea of Azov coast to give Russia a land connection to occupied Crimea. In short, Putin has attacked Ukraine without an overt armed attack.
With Obama’s carefully rephrased assurance to Estonia, he has given Putin a green light to press his campaign in similar fashion against that NATO member and the other Baltic States (each of which also is a NATO member).
Now, McFarland is a very sharp political analyst, and she picked up on this subtlety. Vladimir Putin is a very smart man, and he very clearly understands the import of Obama’s changed phrasing, also.
But, contrary to the attitudes of many on the right, so is Barack Obama a very smart man. This man, say I, this man of letters from Harvard, this highly skilled politician, understands full well everything he says, in all of the implications flowing from his words. That’s why he says them.
No, this change of phrasing is simply more of the flexibility that Obama promised Putin in 2012, “after his last election.”