WASHINGTON, May 29 -- U.S. President Barack Obama's foreign policy speech Wednesday failed to address the two-ton elephant in the room the perception of U.S. weakness on foreign policy, experts said.
While the U.S. remains the word's biggest economy, boasts the world's most powerful armed forces and commands a navy that spans the entire globe, many perceive the U.S. as a declining power and view Obama as a lackluster global leader.
In his West Point commencement speech on Wednesday, Obama spelled out his foreign policy doctrine, but critics said the address contained nothing new and, disappointingly, failed to address perceptions that the U.S. president is something of a foreign policy paper tiger fond of tough rhetoric but failing to back up words with action.
"Obama's speech was a disappointment in that he broke no new ground and didn't really address the source of people's discontent with his foreign policy," Brookings Institution's senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
"He seemed to view this as a communications problem that he needed to explain as opposed to a substantive issue where he needs to make changes in how he thinks about foreign policy," West said.
Obama's speech is not likely to change much "and I would expect criticism of his foreign policy leadership to continue to grow," he said.
Indeed, Obama's foreign policy approval ratings stand at a mere 39 percent, and critics say the president's often-repeated "red line" remarks -- that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a line that could invite U.S. military intervention -- have caused countries worldwide to see him as a leader who fails to follow words with action.
"It's fair to say that Obama has been fairly weak on the foreign policy front and that his foreign policy has basically lacked energy and strategy," Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Xinhua.
In order to change that perception, the president would need to become more involved in the Middle East, Curtis said.
"I think he would really have to demonstrate that his administration is engaged particularly in the Middle East, that it 's not merely a bystander to all of the political changes that are happening in the Middle East," she said.
"So far, the administration has played a rather passive role with all the extraordinary changes happening in the Middle East," she said. "So that would really have to change for people to adjust their assessment of the Obama administration's foreign policy," she said.
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT MOCKS OBAMA
Indeed, critics billed Obama's Syrian "red line" statements as tantamount to giving Moscow a green light to deploy troops to the Crimea in recent months, although Russia said the move was intended simply to protect ethnic Russians there.
Some critics billed the U.S. response to Russian moves in the Crimea almost comical. After Obama lambasted Moscow for what he said was acting contrary to international law for deploying troops to the Crimea recently, he merely slapped travel bans on a handful of Russians, a move viewed as a lackluster response by those who advocated much harsher sanctions against Moscow.
Analysts said the U.S. stance has impacted Russian President Vladimir Putin's views of Obama, and on Friday Putin publicly mocked the U.S. president.
"Who is he to judge, seriously? If he wants to judge people, why doesn't he get a job in court somewhere?" Putin said in an interview with the CNBC in St. Petersburg, reflecting his view that the U.S. should not interfere with events in the Ukraine.
David Clark, chairman of the Russia Foundation, told Xinhua that while Russia views the U.S. as strong, policy makers there believe the U.S. is not as strong as it used to be and no longer focused on Europe as its main strategic priority following Obama's Asian pivot.
Moscow raised eyebrows in Washington last month when a Russian SU-24 fighter plane buzzed closely by the USS Donald Cook in the western Black Sea.
Analysts said the move was a message to the U.S. to keep out of Russia's sphere of influence, as well as a bid to gauge the U.S. response, but added that a full-on U.S. military clash with Russia is unlikely.
U.S. PULLOUT IN AFGHANISTAN
Meanwhile, experts, officials and analysts are wary of the U.S. exit strategy in Afghanistan after Obama laid out the plan's details in a White House speech on Tuesday.
The strategy will keep 9,800 troops in the war ravaged country beyond the end of combat operations this year, with all remaining troops to be pulled out by the end of 2016, after which security duties will be handed over to Afghan forces.
But many argue that the timetable is arbitrary and not based on events on the ground. Some pundits even say the deadline is a means by which Obama can promote his legacy and get credit for ending not only the war in Iraq but also the U.S. conflict in Afghanistan.
Moreover, many note that the Taliban still has the capability to launch strikes in Kabul, the nation's capital, and recent media reports point to a shadow al-Qaeda army lurking within the country' s borders.