Barack Obama is lauded for his statesmanship. But it was on his watch that the murderous gangster Putin TRULY grew emboldened

By Dominic Lawson for the Daily Mail

13 Feb 2023

The Dutch-led joint investigation into the downing over Ukraine of flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur has saved the most important point to the very end.

The investigators concluded: ‘There are strong indications that the Russian President decided on supplying the [missile system] Buk Telar’ — which, on July 17, 2014, annihilated 298 men, women and children on an airliner packed with mostly Dutchholidaymakers.

The investigation, which intercepted more than 3,500 conversations, had already established that the Buk had been conveyed, manned and fired by members of the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Russian army, based in Kursk.

But it was only last week, when announcing its conclusions, that the investigators revealed telephone conversations about the request to Moscow from the Russian separatists on the ground in the east of Ukraine for this form of weaponry.


They are told to wait a short while because ‘there is only one who makes a decision . . . the person who is currently at a summit in France’. This was, of course, President Vladimir Putin, then at the D-Day commemoration.

On his return, Putin gave the go-ahead, and the fate of those hundreds of sun-seeking tourists was sealed. It’s not surprising that the first Western European nation to declare itself open to supplying modern fighter jets to the Ukrainians fighting for their lives against the Russian army was the Netherlands.

It is the U.S. which has been by far the biggest contributor of advanced weaponry to Kyiv. But the question lingers: what would have happened if the Americans had, much earlier, recognised the threat which Putin posed to peace in Europe?

In fact, Joe Biden, as Barack Obama’s vice president from 2009 to 2017, had implored his boss to send Javelin anti-tank missiles and other ‘lethal aid’ to Ukraine. As Peter Conradi, the author of Who Lost Russia? From The Collapse Of the USSR To Putin’s War On Ukraine, points out: ‘Biden wrote in his memoir in 2017 of having tried in vain to persuade his boss to change his mind.’

Obama had long been dismissive of the idea of Putin as a significant threat. Indeed, in the final TV debate of the 2012 presidential campaign, he ridiculed his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, for saying earlier that year: ‘Russia, this is without question our number one geopolitical foe.’ Obama mocked Romney: ‘The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War has been over for 20 years.’

Ten years later, Romney was able to retort, after Russia had launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine: ‘Putin’s impunity predictably follows our tepid response to his previous horrors in Georgia and Crimea, [and] our naive efforts at a one-sided reset [in relations with Russia].’

He added, referring directly back to Obama’s put-down of him in 2012: ‘The 1980s called and we didn’t answer.’

In fact, Putin had been encouraged into thinking the Americans were paper tigers by Obama’s behaviour in 2013. The U.S. President had declared that any use of chemical weapons by Russia’s Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad, would constitute a ‘red line’, justifying U.S. military intervention — but when Assad did exactly that, Obama vacillated, saying it would be for Congress to decide.

Those involved gave their accounts in Norma Percy’s superb three-part documentary series (the last episode goes out tonight), Putin Vs The West. The then U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, tells the programme that when he and his team listened to Obama climb down in a White House Rose Garden address: ‘We were open-jawed and dumbfounded.’

Putin flooded his own forces into that vacuum, and when, the following year, he sent Russian troops into Crimea and the east of Ukraine, Obama still refused to send any ‘lethal aid’ to the beleaguered government in Kyiv.

Donald Trump, in fact, for all that he wanted to be matey with Putin, was responsible for changing that policy, agreeing in 2017 to the plea of the then Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, to supply Kyiv with anti-tank weapons.

But what did Obama say in the wake of Moscow’s attempt to seize the whole of Ukraine a year ago? In an interview two months after Russia’s tanks were sent (unsuccessfully) to capture Kyiv, he ruminated of his dealings with Putin: ‘I don’t know that the person I knew is the same as the person leading this charge.’

This idea that the Putin who has been bombarding Ukrainian cities is ‘different’ from the person Obama and other Western leaders had encountered in earlier years is convenient self-justification.

Putin has always used extreme violence and murder to achieve his political objectives. (I’m no great expert, but was able to write in 2006 that he was a gangster more than a politician.)

And, when Putin attended a closed session of a NATO conference in 2008 — yes, really — he told startled delegates that ‘Ukraine is not a country, [it is] a mistake in history.’ It was obvious to a number of those attending (specifically, those from the former Soviet satellite states) that Putin’s ultimate aim was to rectify that ‘mistake’.


One can see why Obama took the line that he did. The main reason he won the Democrat nomination, rather than Hillary Clinton, in 2008, was that he, unlike her, had not backed the invasion of Iraq — and had been proved right.

And in 2009, very soon after becoming President, he was, for no obvious reason, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps he then felt he had to live up to it.

I met Obama once, being introduced to him on his state visit to the UK in 2011. As is customary, I said something flattering: to the effect that his memoir Dreams From My Father was so brilliantly crafted, it was a great shame that he had given up writing for a career in politics.

It was a joke, obviously. But now I think — for all the adulation Barack Obama’s presidency still evokes — that it may also have been the truth.


  1. ‘The 1980s called and we didn’t answer.’

    Ukraine is uniquely unlucky. She is long overdue for a change of fortunes.
    We learned back in 2008 that France and Germany, despite contributing less than half of what they are supposed to contribute to Nato, were able to block the Nato applications of Georgia and Ukraine. We now know that they were covert Russia assets; the very last countries that should have been involved with Minsk.
    Shortly afterwards, putler invaded Georgia and committed crimes of similar savagery as in Ukraine. The EU sent Nicholas Sarkozy; a vile putler shill, (now a convicted criminal) to “negotiate” an end to the war. This turned out to be the gifting of 20% of Georgia to putler and producing an official report that incredibly blamed tiny Georgia for starting the war, despite never leaving its own land.
    A result of that was the installation of a Russian puppet government that is now slowly murdering Mikhail Saakashvili under putler’s orders, seemingly without any criticism.
    A US politician; Sarah Palin, said “Crimea will be next” and was not taken seriously. Unfortunately she has since become a defacto Russia shill, since she supports Trumpkov, but she was right.
    There have only been two US presidents since WW2 who were prepared to confront Russia: JFK and Ronald Reagan. Since Reagan, every time the Republican Party nominated a candidate for president who took a robust, principled position on how to deal with fuhrer putler, he was defeated by a defacto Marxist who was indifferent to Ukraine and Georgia. I refer of course to Obama, who defeated two really good guys; John McCain and Mitt Romney. Next time the Republicans put up a blatant putler jackboot licker; Trumpkov, for the job.
    Trump was defeated by Biden; a weak politician who had been VP under Obama.
    Ukraine is in the difficult position of having to thank Biden for the help he has given, which has been surprisingly good, but still less than 10% of what a powerful nation like the US could do.
    Now the leading Republican candidate is again Trump; which means that Ukraine has to hope for another term from Biden, despite his “just enough” policy being a failure.
    Ukraine needs to win right now, but still has not been given the resources. She also needs to prepare both for another Biden presidency (bad) and another Trump presidency (catastrophic).
    They need to try to squeeze everything they can out of Biden now and fully militarize the already existing tripartite agreement with Poland and the UK.

    • Many Trump supporters were correct about evil Putin’s intentions. It seems to me, being a person that knows the Putin regime a little, that he would have attacked whenever he felt there would be the least resistance. Well, that was in 2014 and 2022 neither of which were during the Trump administration. So, a few idiotic remarks placating the dictator actually produced a good result…for Ukraine.

      • Just a few remarks, that’s all.
        Lol, you are at it again.
        Some will never learn or admit they made a mistake.

        • And yet you can’t argue with the results. I am not blinded by hatred. Ask any Ukrainian, that should be a good judgement. The very people that should be offended…..aren’t.

  2. Obama is anything but a good statesman. He might have done some things right, but this makes him average. In the foreign policy department, he was a complete failure. He is one reason why mafia land grow exponentially in evilness. Having allowed the evil runt a free hand in Georgia and Syria and having been oblivious to the atrocities there, and previously to his office, in Chechnya, virtually encouraged Putler to engage in the rape of Ukraine. Biden has added to the image of a weak and woke United States, in particular in our deplorable handling of the Afghanistan escape, but it was definitely Obama who started this trend. What will forever linger in memory, like a bad, horrible dream, was Obama’s response to the Crimean theft and the war in Donbas shortly thereafter; sending blankets and broken Humvees to Ukraine, along with a few other minor items. This, as a signatory nation of the Budapest Memorandum! Obama’s handling of this was weak, it was deplorable, it was embarrassing for a nation like ours, it was unstatesmanlike! It was the first green light for Putler to do more … more evil, that is.

  3. Who exactly did call Obama a great statesman? I can’t recall anyone that said that.

    Nor did I ever hear Obama getting compliments for his foreign policy.

    Obama did not get a Nobel peace price because of his achievements, but because he is the first black POTUS and because of his message of hope during his campaign amid the 2007 financial crisis.

    And even back then it did raise a lot of eyebrows.

    But I do not think it was mainly Obama that has emboldened Putin and China: this already started in the Bush era and you could even argue to some extent it already started under Biden or even before.

    Bush basically did the same as all his successors, basically parking the Russia issue to focus on Islamic terrorism.

    But unfortunately you cannot always choose your enemies, as enemies choose you!

    But even before that the West was sleeping: there was a war in Moldova around 1991 and multiple in Chechnya but no one wanted to admit that the West didn’t “win” the Cold War as Russia didn’t go anywhere and probably even more evil than it ever was.

    I think populist/right wing outlets prefer to blame Democrats and the other way around, but I think each POTUS made a similar mistake: Bush parked Russia to deal with terrorism, Obama parked Russia to deal with the financial crisis, Biden wanted to focus on China and Biden initially parked Russia as he wanted to focus on Covid.

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