For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.I thought of those words when I read George Condon's article about the leverage President Obama has over Putin.
And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes -- and, yes, religions -- subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared.
President Obama is not the first American president to be confronted by provocations and military actions from Moscow. All 12 presidents since World War II have faced such challenges. But Obama is one of the first to have a broad range of potentially biting nonmilitary responses to employ—a measure of how much Russia has been integrated into the world's financial system since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.The article goes on to explain that during the Cold War, the USSR was economically isolated. That all changed in 1987 when Russia worked diligently to join the G-7 partnership - which they eventually did in 1997. And now the prospect of economic sanctions imposed in partnership with other nations has real teeth.
It is why American policymakers are so convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin has miscalculated by dispatching troops to Crimea. And why you hear over and over again from the White House and State Department that Putin does not seem to understand the interconnectedness of the 21st-century world.
"What we see here are distinctly 19th- and 20th-century decisions made by President Putin to address problems, deploying military forces rather than negotiating," says a senior administration official, speaking on background. "But what he needs to understand is that in terms of his economy, he lives in the 21st-century world, an interdependent world."
Thinking in terms of power as partnership rather than domination is something that neither the U.S. neo-cons nor Putin seem capable of incorporating. That does not change the reality that we are living in an increasingly interconnected world. But it's exactly why President Obama is a leader for the 21st century.