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  • A Year of Living Dangerously: Obama’s Disappointing “Russian Year”

    When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Munich in March she presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a gift intended to symbolize the Obama administration’s desire to “push the reset button” on U.S. relations with Moscow. Problem is, the lettering on the little red button said “overload” (peregruzka), not “reset” (perezagruzka). This high level gaffe is just about the perfect symbol for how Obama’s Russian relation relaunch has gone.

    White House wordsmiths seem to also have forgotten that if you push the reset button, old software bugs get reloaded. When it comes to Russia’s visceral suspicion of America, that’s exactly what happened.

    President Obama biggest non-symbolic mistake came when sacrificed his ace card, the Bush era missile defense plan against Iran, which was supposed to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic. Warsaw and Prague are still fuming about Washington’s lack of reliability, but in the new Obama foreign policy era, adversaries often get kid glove treatment while allies are taken for granted.

    In the meantime, the Kremlin pocketed the concessions and asked for more. While Obama expected the Russians to reciprocate by getting on board the US Iran policy bandwagon, Russia’s leaders, from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin down, reiterated that they will not support robust sanctions against Teheran. Without strong sanctions, such as cutting off the gasoline supply, the mullahs will continue playing for time, a game-changing nuclear missile being their desired goal.

    Russia can now just sit and wait until Iran intimidates and cows the US allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Importantly, Russia has never recognized Iranian proxies, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, as terrorist organizations. More tensions in the Middle East are better for business: Russia is a high cost producer, and as the largest oil and gas exporter and producer in the world, it benefits from high energy prices.

    The Obama Administration also rushed into START treaty negotiations, which it is trying to sign before the treaty’s December 5 expiration date. The Administration should not pursue an overambitious arms control strategy and deadlines, but instead negotiate a verification and transparency protocol under an existing treaty.

    Other issues on the bilateral agenda are even more difficult. Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Ukraine and Georgia two weeks after Obama’s trip to Moscow did little to reassure these two nations of America’s support of their NATO aspirations. Russia in the meantime is building five military bases in occupied Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the White House remains mum.

    To be fair, the Administration also has had some achievements. It secured transit arrangements to ship supplies to our troops in Afghanistan via Russia and Central Asia, and managed to keep an air force resupply base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, in the heart of Central Asia. Yet, one should remember that the defeat of the Taliban is in Russia’s strategic interests, and similar arrangements took place even in World War II when the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was in charge.

    Let’s hope that in the second year the Administration’s Russia apprenticeship will be over and US-Russian relations will bring more tangible results for the American people.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to A Year of Living Dangerously: Obama’s Disappointing “Russian Year”

    1. Leon, Durango, CO says:

      Sure, that all makes sense. The Democrats stop American Oil from holding down the Oil Market, the Soviet Union benefits as "prices necessarily skyrocket." Gosh, isn't it wonderful to have a Communist president? Peace with the Russians … blah blah blah.

      It actually means something to work in the Foreign Interest, you half vast Democrats! You do things like destroy the American economy while you prop up the Russians. Cap and Trade is serving the Soviet interest not American.

    2. Freedom of Speech, T says:

      Yes, let's hope…

    3. Roger S., Ma. says:

      Sure, let's hope! — Short riddle:

      How do you tell the difference between a Progressive and a Conservative? ::: Conservatives don't need retraining after the coffee break. Been that way since Woodrow Wilson.

      Let's hope a lot. We need all the hope we can get!

    4. Chris, New York says:

      Was this written at 4:59pm on a Friday? Over-generalizations, assumptions and half truths are always fun. This simplistic tit for tat interpretation of events, with the apparent conclusion that if the Russians don't respond immediately how we like then it is a failure, is also funny. If you are going to be this lazy then just come out and say that whatever the Democrats do is wrong. At least have the decency to wait until the actual end of the year before summarizing it with this junk. I find it endlessly astonishing how the failures in the policies you endorse are overlooked. For example, Bush did a far better job of showing Georgia how little we are willing to do for them. His idiotic foreign policy allowed the Georgians to walk right into a giant Russian trap. Also, the Europeans got the Russians to stop the war. Not Bush. And if you have a better way to get the nuclear-armed Russians from building these bases there, maybe you should share that with us instead of simply complaining about it. I mean you seem to know already what everyone thinks. It should be pretty easy. What a lazy hatchet job.

    5. VIctor Gonzales, Ari says:

      BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA I still can't sto plaughing when somebody brings up the easy button, I mean "reset " button. If you can't figure out a plan just infringe on a staples commercial theme. My god this administration is a joke.

    6. Freedom of Speech TX says:

      Chris of New York,

      I don't know if you were old enough to remember what transpired during 8 years of the Clinton Administration. And, I realize that former Senator Clinton is one of yours, however, President Bush could have spent 8 years trashing Clinton for the rise of Al Queda and the subsequent World Trade Towers bombing. He did not.

      As for a "hatchet job" – you cannot be serious. Have you been following what Obama and his closest advisors have been doing since Jan. 20? I almost feel sorry for Joseph Gibbs in his daily press conference, but not THAT sorry.

      I do not blame ALL the democrats. I only blame the radical socialist left wingers who want to "re-invent" America and abuse the Constitution. If you want to vote for these people go ahead. I'm sure the jobs and taxes in NY are just great.

      Hatchet Job? Be real.

    7. YYZ, Nizhny Novgorod says:

      Article's authors incorrect in details -misterious gasoline from/to Iran, comparision of modern talibs with English-Soviet occupation of Iran in Stalin times.

      In general I'm sure Russia and the USA did some preliminary negotiations a year ago: 1)antirussian missile defense in Europe traded for stopping shipment of russian S-300 missiles to Iran

      2)no NATO in Georgia in exchange for NATO Central Asia bases

      3)equal START treaty

    8. Freedom of Speech TX says:

      YYZ, Nizhny Russia,

      American and Russian Citizens are probably not all that much different in what they want in life.

      Peace, security, prosperity, freedom, something better for the kids and grandkids, etc.

      BUT this is a dangerous game being played with Iran. It is not worth the economic gains to put a nuc in the hands of Islamic Zealots who hate non-believers. Surely you would agree on that?

      One launch from Iran and God knows where it will lead. This should CONCERN everyone so what's going on with Russian leaders and the sanctions, etc?

    9. Gus (Klamath Falls, says:

      The author mentions "… Russia’s visceral suspicion of America…". In fact, there is a long-time *mutual* suspicion between the two nations. The author needs some perspective. American actions toward Russia are just as twitchy and reactive as the Russian actions.

      In the third paragraph, the author slips the word "adversary" to describe Russia. This is very telling. There simply cannot be a real improvement in relations between our nation and Russia as long as at least one side sticks to such hostile mentality. I wish both sides would take a chance and reach out to one another. Because not just the Russians need our help — we both need each other.

      The fifth paragraph references some kind of "intimidation" of neighbors on the part of Iran. Is the author living on the same planet as the rest of us? Iran hasn't engaged in offensive action in the last three hundred years. In fact, it is Israel who acts belligerently and with impunity toward its neighbors. Why the double standard? Besides, it would be against Russian interests to see Israel in danger. Russia has very good relations with Israel: visa-free travel, major defense contracts, and more than a fifth of all Israeli citizens are of Russian descent.

      Like the author, I am also totally against nuclear proliferation. But the IAEA and the rest of the civilized world understands that Iran is not capable of making a nuclear weapon in the near future. The IAEA has concluded that Iran never even had ambitions for nuclear potential. Why the dogmatic insistence on the opposite, when all facts show that Iran is not any kind of threat to anyone?

    10. Gus (Klamath Falls, says:

      Freedom of Speech TX, I'm surprised that you mention Bill Clinton as a catalyst in the rise of Al-Qaida. The sad truth is that Ronald Reagan's administration is solely responsible for Al-Qaida and the Taliban. The fact that George Bush didn't try to blame Clinton for 9/11, by extension, demonstrates Bush's understanding of who was actually guilty here (his own party).

    11. Sergei, Russai says:

      > In the meantime, the Kremlin pocketed the concessions

      Are you laughing? What “concessions”? «Bush era missile defense plan in Poland and the Czech Republic» – is “concessions”. Are you serious???!!!

      > More tensions in the Middle East are better for business

      Yes. Better for USA’s business.

      Who get oil in Iraq? Russia? NO! USA!

      And now USA wants Iran’s Oil? Of course it’s against of Russia’s strategic interests.

      > Yet, one should remember that the defeat of the Taliban is in Russia’s strategic interests,

      What made you think so? Taliban kill people who grow poppy. Why Russia must help you destroy Taliban?

      Russia’s strategic interests is destroy USA’s field of poppy in Afghanistan.

      > Let’s hope ……. US-Russian relations will bring more tangible results for the American people.

      WOW!! Us usual!

      How about more tangible results for the Russian people?

    12. Pavel, Moscow says:

      That for delirium carries the author about occupation. Georgia has made the genocide for nearby folk. All already understand what Georgia is bought with entrails ;)

    13. Marin UK says:

      WOW there are still people talking about the USSR-guys it is gone for more than 18 years… still this is very telling about the USA mentality..by the way if you read some of Weber's works you'll see that an enemy is always useful for any given state. In this case the enemy is the Russian Federation. Well it is not quite surprising. I am inclined to believe that the USA intentionally tries to prevent any progress in the bilateral talks for obvious reasons. Truth is the USA is declining as a superpower (high time having in mind the stretched army and the almost bankrupt financial system) and that makes US politicians do things otherwise they will not do. Now that the Russian economy is gaining strength and rearmament is on way they are scared for it has become much harder for them to do the same with the ongoing wars (disasters). Hence all the talk and the maneuvers. Let's sit back and watch the show.

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