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  • A Hard Look at the Obama-Medvedev Summit

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will visit the United States from June 22 through 24 at the invitation of U.S. President Barack Obama.  Topping the agenda will be the New START Treaty between the two countries, a treaty that is likely to arouse controversy in the Senate. The visit occurs after the United States was able to secure a vote by Russia on the United Nations Security Council to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran. The Obama Administration hails its “reset button” policy with Russia as an unqualified success. However, all aspects of the Russo-American relationship deserve an unflinching examination.

    The New START treaty, signed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 8, clearly does not serve U.S. strategic interests. Problems include limitations on U.S. ballistic missile defense and conventionally armed ICBM capabilities, as well as ambiguities surrounding verification.  Key U.S. Senators and national security experts have shown reservations, citing the treaty’s potential to limit U.S. missile defense options.  According to several credible reports, the Obama Administration is involved in secret talks with the Russians to derail or limit deployment of a strategic missile defense.

    Furthermore, the price the United States paid Russia for the support of the UN Security Council’s efforts to censure Iran for its military-nuclear program is staggering. The United States was forced to make numerous and far reaching concessions in order to win Moscow’s vote in the Security Council, including a major loophole that allow Russia to sell its weapons systems to Iran, including sophisticated S-300 anti-ballistic missile defense system to Iran if and when it chooses to do so.  Sen. John Kerry was misleading when he said in his Politico op-ed that Russia “scrapped the sale” of this destabilizing weapon system to Teheran. Thus, the White House achieved nothing but a pyrrhic victory, as the strategic objective of the sanctions cannot be accomplished.

    In a rush to gain Russia’s goodwill, the Obama Administration has emasculated bipartisan policy of close engagement with post-Soviet states including Ukraine and Georgia, which had been in place throughout both the Clinton and Bush presidencies. In a series of steps, following the election of new president, Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine has distanced itself from the West and denounced prospects for NATO membership. It also agreed to host Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean base in Sevastopol till the year 2042.

    The Administration publicly announced that there’s nothing it can do to restore sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, violated by the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia is a staunch friend who sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan above and beyond its small population’s size. Today, the Obama Administration refuses to provide even defensive weapons to Georgia. It also snubbed an important friend, Azerbaijan, by not inviting its president, Ilham Aliev, to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Summit.

    The Obama Administration also handed over to the Russians the resolution of ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan, which had claimed 2,000 lives and rendered 250,000 homeless. Obama prefers cooperation with Russia in Kyrgyzstan to defending US interests. The Manas air base in the capital Bishkek plays a crucial role in supplying the troops in Afghanistan, but the Administration would rather have Russia partnering with us over Manas.

    Obama abandoned the freedom agenda – human rights, and the rule of law – to the Surkov/McFaul bilateral commission, which disregards the beatings of Russian demonstrators in the streets of Moscow; government control of TV channels; and abuse of the rule of law and corruption of the court system, including the kangaroo trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former owner of the YUKOS oil company.

    The Administration has clearly dispensed with the Freedom Agenda of the Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush years. This betrays our friends in Russia – and undermines American leadership around the world. Individual rights and civil society agenda has to remain part of the bilateral relationship.

    Finally, economic cooperation is also limping. Yes, the sale of 65 Boeing 737s to Russian Technologies, a state-owned conglomerate controlled by Putin’s personal friend General Sergey Chemezov, is a good thing for American economy. However, Russia has not done enough to join WTO, to open its state-dominated energy and natural  resources industries to US companies, and to eliminate corruption and bureaucratic extortion from the foreign investment sector.

    Working on improving relations with Russia while keeping US interests close to heart is good for America. Misleading the public about the success of the “reset button” policy which negates American security and abandons America’s friends is a different thing altogether.

    Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies at The Heritage Foundation’s Katherine and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Policy.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to A Hard Look at the Obama-Medvedev Summit

    1. Dennis Georgia says:

      What will it take before those in the liberal media and others realize that obama does no care about this country, about our people or security????? He has give away all just for the lust of power and controll, he is a huge mistake for this country and will be a pain for years to come.

    2. David Dzidzikashvili, Boston, MA says:

      Obama has betrayed and given up on many important US allies. The administration’s foreign policy is based on many delusions and false assumptions, that the Obama Administration can have a stable, working relationship with Russia, when for the Russian leadership this is just a strategic zero-sum game. Up to now the Obama administration has received nothing back and the only winner seems to be Russia. As for US allies such as Georgia and Azerbaijan, the administration has traded them with Russians in return for nothing… Just a wrong foreign policy, devised by the radical left promising to deliver the World Peace…

    3. Leopolis, Washington says:

      @Dr. Cohen: "Finally, economic cooperation is also limping."

      This is entirely untrue. The reset opened economic opportunities and you are brushing off the Boeing deal because it was a success of the reset. Both Obama and Medvedev are closer to WTO than ever before precisely because relations have improved. You also conveniently forgot that:

      Cisco will invest $1 billion in Russia over the next decade on innovation and business development, including building offices in the Skolkovo technology hub and increasing research. Other U.S. venture capitalists will invest millions in Skolkovo.

      Chevron has agreed to develop Black Sea resources with Rosneft.

      Russia has agreed to lift the January 2010 ban on U.S. chicken imports, which will allow U.S. poultry companies — a $800 million yearly export business.

      Funny that you mention our "friend" Aliyev, who is as much of a champion on democracy and human rights as Putin. Your message seems to be this: deals with Chemezov are "bad" but deals with petro-dictators are "good"; cooperation with Russia is wrong because they are not democratic, but cooperation with Azerbaijan needs to be improved, but ignore their democracy problem.

      @David Dzidzikashvili. "when for the Russian leadership this is just a strategic zero-sum game."

      It is very clear to me that there are many people in the U.S. who also view relations with Russia as a zero-sum game. They want to keep it that way.

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