When most Americans think about Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEmanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Public officials are under physical and digital siege We must protect and support our health care safety net MORE’s foreign policy, the terms Benghazi, Arab Spring, ISIS, Cuba rapprochement and the Russian Re-set Button quickly come to mind.
Yet those aren’t his only embarrassing failures.
Obama’s global influence, or lack thereof, also led to a spike in chaos and corruption throughout Eastern Europe, harming American interests. I’ve personally seen this on recent think tank trips, speaking and touring for a collective three months in 12 European countries to include 7 former Soviet Republics and several satellite states.
For example, his meddling in Ukraine didn’t end well. That former Soviet Republic was torn apart in a corruption-riddled tug of war between the West and Russia, mostly over natural gas.
Nor did his ineffective policies for the Balkans. Several former enclaves of Yugoslavia saw an explosion of arms smuggling, human trafficking and money laundering. It’s now the main conduit for Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II.
Though perhaps the poster child of chaos and corruption which worsened is Moldova, an impoverished former Soviet Republic along Ukraine’s border. Though distant geographically, Moldova personally strikes close to home. That’s because the tiny nation of 3.5 million with the annual per capita GDP of a meager $1,850 was the birthplace of my father’s father, back when it was called Bessarabia and part of the Russian Empire.
In 2014, while the world’s attention was focused on the Ukraine vs. Russia clash next door, roughly $1 billion disappeared from three top Moldovan banks in what economists call the “bank heist of the century.”
Considering Moldova’s entire GDP in 2015 was $6.5 billion, that figure is astounding. It would be as if trillions of dollars suddenly disappeared from U.S. banks.
So how did it happen?
While there were complex moving parts, the basic idea was simple. Powerful Moldovan leaders set up shell companies overseas, were given massive loans, cashed out, and closed the companies. Like a James Bond movie.
Some were caught red-handed. Former Prime Minister Vladimir Filat and his banker pal, Ilan Shor, were jailed. Yet the web of shady characters weaves deeper.
According to foreign policy experts from Washington think tanks such as The Heritage Foundation and The Lexington Institute, one central figure is Moldovan tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc. He’s the Deputy Chairman of the Democratic Party and arguably the most influential player in Moldovan politics, business and the media.
Though most Americans don’t know anything about Plahotniuc, perhaps they should.
That’s because despite his suspected ties to the missing $1 billion, Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland still met with him in Washington, D.C. three months ago. Their picture together has helped cement his power back home.
Ironically, after Nuland met Plahotniuc, State Dept. spokesman John Kirby remarked that she “underscored the need to fight corruption, including within the government.” Words that rang hollow.
Which brings up the relevant question for Americans: why should we care?
First, while Obama officials boast about promoting the rule of law, they coddle oligarchs who are responsible for the worst corruption. Which encourages more corruption. The selective use of “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” is one reason why Americans are furious at the Washington establishment, and explains the rise of both Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Progressives see budget deal getting close after Biden meeting MORE.
Second, that money lining the pockets of some Eastern European political figures came in part from our pockets as American taxpayers. That’s because we generously help fund the IMF. And the IMF not only gave Moldova massive loans to keep the country afloat as three major banks went under, it is prepared to give another $179 million despite the banking fraud and abuse.
Third, we need to keep a better eye on the IMF itself. The White House and Congress need to pay closer attention to where they’re distributing funds. Free money to replace stolen money should never be tolerated.
So what is the solution?
In this specific case, U.S. investigators should work with European partners to probe Plahotniuc’s role in Moldova’s bank meltdown, and hold him and his cronies accountable. One of them, former business partner Veaceslav Platon is now sitting in a Ukrainian jail awaiting extradition to Moldova where he may be silenced. We ought to use our diplomatic leverage to ensure he is not extradited to Moldova where his life would be in danger. Ukrainian high level corruption, noted this month by Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE, has not helped either.
Big picture wise, our elected leaders ought to practice what they preach and universally insist upon the rule of law. Either that, or stop lecturing us about what a great job the Obama Administration is doing around the globe. Frankly, the record speaks otherwise.
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy Commander and former Pentagon spokesman who served from 2005-2009. He has also served as a Senior National Security & Foreign Policy Advisor to Republican Presidential Candidates Donald Trump, Gov. Mike Huckabee and Herman Cain.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.