US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir, and Chinese President Xi Jinping in their 2015 speeches to the UN Assembly sounded more like candidates on the campaign trail than three of the world’s most powerful leaders. In many respects, they are competing for global influence at time when the International Community needs renewed leadership and more effective solutions to mounting crises. Although there will not be a single winner, the one who garners the most support from the nations and Peoples of the world will determine the course of our global society.
Taking the first turn at the international bully pulpit, President Jinping used the occasion to solicit international support by donating a billion dollars to the UN for a “peace and development fund,” 100 million dollars to the African for the creation of a rapid response unit, and 8,000 peacekeeping troops. President Obama, however, sought to rekindle support for American leadership with an argument based on aspirations while criticizing Putin, as well as others, for aggressive and counterproductive policies. In turn, President Putin aimed a great deal of criticism at the faults of US policy in his effort to capitalize on national security and economics concerns.
By supporting the mission of the UN with Chinese blood and treasure, Jinping offers a positive sign that China wants to live up to its responsibilities as a rising global power. This gesture does not, however, absolve the Chinese government of its other leadership responsibilities nor does it excuse its wrongs. Where Jinping has received public backlash for his hypocrisy on Women’s Right that same criticism applies to the mistreatment of all Chinese People. China will never be able to spend enough money to make the suppression of its own People, or the bullying of its neighbors, acceptable. Of course, the same is true for all nations, including Russia and the US.
With that in mind, it is important to recognize Vladimir Putin did offer a very alluring argument for his militarized foreign policy. It would be far easier for Europe, the Middle East, and the rest of the world to simply turn away from the plight of the Ukrainian and Syrian Peoples. Given the threat of the Islamic State could easily spread beyond the Middle East and the Syrian Refugee Crisis is already a headache for Europe, it would be far easier to reverse sanctions against Russia and bolster the weak Assad regime than to help find a solution for peace that also empowers these disenfranchised people.
As it is, the world has watched the Syrian rebels struggle for years while offering minimal support. Now that the conflict has become a problem for Westerners, Putin’s call to empower Assad, so he can suppress the violence with even greater brutality, is both convenient and easy. Even though Europeans would have rejected Russian support of Hitler as solution to end the violence of World War II and Americans would never have allowed the French to sacrifice them for peace with England, Putin hopes to capitalize on the presumed hypocritical nature of Westerners.
Obama’s argument, on the other hand, calls on the world to do more than just stabilize the current situation. Truth be told, Obama did favor much of what this writer has been arguing on the Washington Outsider in regards to the Ukraine Crisis and the Syrian Civil War, yet his strong stance also helped discourage those who are tempted by the ease of Putin’s plans and version of reality. In the strength of his speech, he also offered a welcome retort to domestic critics who undermine the President by framing him as weak as well as those who fear the Obama Administration might capitulate on the Ukraine Crisis and Syrian Civil War.
American diplomacy and global leadership does, however, face major challenges due to a history of periodic hypocrisy and a lack of confidence. In other words, the Peoples of the world probably like the idea of Obama’s aspirations, but do not know if we can achieve such a vision. Putin’s plan is easier while the results of military action are far more concrete. The truth is that the world does not necessary have to even put any effort forward to support Putin in Syria; the West just needs to stop imposing sanctions on Russia and, perhaps, write a few check for Russian weapons.
Ultimately, global support for any given initiative will depend on whether the governments and Peoples of the world still have faith in the International Community. In many respects, the China’s financial and military support for the UN suggests Chinese leadership does see value of a stable International Community that fosters diplomatic engagement. In fact, even Putin’s call to support the Assad regime reveals some commitment to global cooperation, even if he dreams of a Russian-centered International Community.
Despite the blame and accusations flying around the UN, all nations have done wrong, all nations have failed to live up to expectations, and all nations are hypocritical to some degree. A key difference between Obama and Putin’s outlook on the International Community is that Putin is far more focused on the rights of his government and the governments that support Russia; whereas, Obama is far more focused on the rights of all Peoples while recognizing government exists solely to serve the interests of its People.
Putin’s arguments on Ukraine and Syria are convenient, because they seek short-term stability and an end to violence by suppressing people. Obama’s argument requires commitment to ideals, because it takes far more time, far greater effort, and far smarter strategies to build a future where the weak are not oppressed by the strong. The truth is that instability and violence exist, because people make the choice to wage war. When facing rebellion and terrorism, governments do not decide when violence is no longer a better option than peace. Only by serving the People and their interests can governments encourage peace and stability. Suppressing people and their interests only makes violence the better choice.
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