In line with White House diplomacy on China and Iran, the question with the much vaunted US/Russian “reset” is whether it merely failed or whether it actually moved us backwards on security. It definitely at least failed miserably, though that may have been helped along by the State Department constantly screwing up the little things that build relationships. From being too inept to spell “reset” in Russian to being too inept to use fax machines correctly, our diplomatic outreach has not been marked by a glowing aura of competence and concern. That said, it was the height of self-centered pseudo-sophistication to think that the Russians would stop pursuing their national interest by pushing us out of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. So while State did find every way to screw up, at least the White House’s naive outreach would never have worked anyway.
On Iran, the Russians insisted on multilateral sanctions, then they softened those sanctions by severely limiting their scope and filling them with loopholes on military tech. They duly took advantage of those loopholes to supply Tehran with military and nuclear technology, very likely pushing those genocidal lunatics past the point of no return. In their own backyard they’ve continued to erode the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our Georgian allies. In South America they’re flirting with giving the anti-American Chavez regime everything from nuclear tech to those S-300′s that Iran so badly craves. And in the Middle East they’re undermining Israeli security by selling cutting edge weapons and air defense systems – and potentially a full-blown nuclear program – to the Syrians.
Obama has reacted to getting pushed around by declaring that Russia’s Middle East influence is “helpful” and that a Russian-backed Venezuelan nuclear program would be totally legitimate. Some might suggest that these are pathetic rationalizations meant to distract from the spectacle of the US being outmaneuvered again and again, but I kind of think that he believes them. International cooperation and all that.
Anyway: mere failure or actively moving us backwards?
Obviously there’s the example of multilateral Iranian sanctions, which Russia forced us to water down to uselessness and then ignored. Various foreign policy minds have pushed back by insisting that an international sanctions regime was never supposed to have bite, but was just supposed to pave the way for Russian and Chinese acquiescence to much harsher unilateral US sanctions. Since Russia failed to acquiesce to much harsher unilateral US sanctions – more the exact opposite – I’m not sure why that’s considered a good argument (“we totally over-thought this, concluded that we were super-clever, and failed!”)
And then there’s the example of Obama caving on Eastern European missile defense, abandoning what used to be called national honor by betraying steadfast political and diplomatic allies, all in a desperate and ultimately futile attempt to suck up to Russia. Turns out that’s still paying dividends. Not only did we hang our Eastern European allies out to dry – which we did, having promised to back them in the face of Russian retribution if they took risks for us – but it also left us beholden to Turkey as our only alternative. And that’s going exactly how you’d expect:
Bush… had planned to station it in Eastern Europe. But due to Russia’s vehement opposition… Obama decided to relocate it to Turkey. Ankara… said it would agree only if four conditions were met. One, Turkish sources told Haaretz, was that “information gathered by the system not be given to any non-NATO member, and especially not to Israel.”… Washington has agreed to this demand…. The real reason, as the Turkish sources noted, is most likely that Washington had little choice: without Turkey’s consent, the project couldn’t go forward, and Ankara threatened a veto if its conditions weren’t met. But Ankara posed another condition that may be even more worrying, given its coziness with Tehran: “direct Turkish access to any information gathered by the system.”
We traded away Eastern Europe for nothing. Now we’re stuck with wobbly increasingly-Islamist allies who exploit our missteps to erode our allies’ security and potentially boost our enemies. Smart power!
* Russian media teases Clinton over ‘reset’ button [Breitbart]
* U.S. blames fax for diplomatic gaffe over Russian [Reuters]
* US softens Iran sanctions plan to win support: report [AFP]
* Russia pushing back on tougher sanctions against Iran [LAT]
* U.N. sanctions loophole: Russia can send missiles to Iran [WashTimes]
* Russia won’t cease military-tech cooperation with Iran [Xinhua]
* Russia Sets Date for Crucial Step in Iranian Nuclear Start-Up [NYT]
* John Bolton: Russia’s Loading of Nuke Fuel Into Iran Plant Means Aug. 21 Deadline for Israeli Attack [Newsmax]
* Russia deploys missiles to protect Georgia rebels [Reuters]
* Chavez in Iran for talks to expand oil, gas cooperation [JPost]
* Russia may sell S-300 missiles to Venezuela, instead of Iran – analyst [RIA Novosti]
* Russia to sell Syria warplanes, air defence systems [Reuters]
* Russia says may build nuclear power plant in Syria [Reuters]
* Obama Administration Embraces Russia As “Helpful”; Moscow Stabs U.S. in Back [Rubin / GLORIA]
* Obama backs Venezuela’s right to nuclear energy [AFP]
* Russia warns U.S. against unilateral Iran sanctions [Reuters]
* Detente In Our Time – Obama Prepares To Sell Out Poland In The Face Of Russian Aggression. Again. (Plus: By The Way, Missile Defense Works) [Mere Rhetoric]
* Turkey Co-opts NATO Missile-Defense System to Hurt Israel and Help Iran [Gordon / Commentary Contentions]