Whatever the cause of the incident, the Kohver case represents a violent, armed incursion by a hostile power into the territory of a NATO ally. The American response has been muted, to say the least. If Obama’s Tallinn speech issued a promise whose validity remains uncertain, Perry’s Warsaw address administered a polite reminder and reproach:
The most obvious test [to the NATO alliance] comes in challenges we have seen to the integrity of borders—borders long recognized and affirmed by treaties.
[Poland] understands as well as any other all the grief that follows when borders and national sovereignty are treated as nothing.
In both the London and Warsaw speeches, Perry vigorously expounded his core strategic idea: that North America had the potential to replace Russia as a reliable and price-competitive energy supplier, particularly of natural gas, delivered in liquid form. “When Europe’s energy sources are more diverse, the nations of Europe will be more secure,” he said in London. “When its economies are more integrated, Europe will be more competitive, resilient, and prosperous.”
This is a position that would be broadly endorsed by any of the Republican candidates for president. But the minute the foreign-policy conversation shifts from treaties and weapons systems to energy resources and transportation systems, the resume of a governor rather than a senator shifts from a handicap to a qualification.
Until 2012, Rick Perry had never lost an election. His defeat that year, and especially the way in which it occurred, had to be an anguishing and agonizing experience. But in the time since, he’s apparently recovered his bearings and confidence. Hours before Perry’s London speech, I was able to see him in a more informal setting during an off-the-record briefing at the British think tank Policy Exchange. (Call it disclosure if you wish or #humblebrag if you prefer: I chair PX’s board of trustees.) Perry showed none of the fumbling uncertainty visible during the presidential debates in 2012. His questions were incisive, and his knowledge of British history, politics, and culture—gained from his Air Force service in the U.K. in the mid-1970s—impressive.
The list of Republican candidates for 2016 is long. Still, a Texas governor always belongs near the top of that list given the state’s lode of electoral votes and deep-pocketed donors. In this cycle, there are four candidates who can trace their roots to Texas: not only Perry and Cruz, but also Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, each of whom has his own family connection to the state. The battle for Texas’s campaign donations may shape the first round of the upcoming GOP nomination fight.
Yet Texas could well play an even larger role in 2016. In recent months, the state has unexpectedly found itself on the frontline of international stories: first the surge across the border of unaccompanied Central American minors hoping to gain residency in the United States, then the spread of Ebola to the United States by a would-be Liberian immigrant. When he ran for president in 1999-2000, Texas Governor George W. Bush was often challenged to explain how he, a mere governor, could claim foreign-policy credentials. But as the world grows smaller, governors loom larger. The crisis that called Rick Perry home from Warsaw to Dallas last week was in every sense a global one.