May 20, 2012

The Reset of Relations with Russia: Only Russia Benefits

by Hal Gershowitz

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Once again we are playing cold war politics with the Russians.  Nothing seems to change when it comes to Russia and missiles. President Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s pushing the reset button hasn’t worked, and in fact, it was the wrong button.  It is the Russians who have their hands on the button–the missile button.  Now the Chief of the Russian General Staff, General Nikolai Makarov, says that a decision to use destructive force preemptively will be taken if the situation worsens.  He made this threat amid an apparent stalemate in talks between U.S. and Russian negotiators over the missile defense system, which is part of the Obama policy to improve relations with the Russians.  It is utterly remarkable that the Russians would make this kind of threat in a public forum.  Moreover, as The New York Times observed, the threat of a pre‑emptive attack is new.  One observer, a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center think tank said, “he must have been drunk.”  Calling the threat crazy he said, “I hope the Russian political leadership takes him to task for it.”

Don’t bet on it, the Russian Defense Minister has dismissed any missile defense talks as fruitless.  “We have not been able to find mutually acceptable solutions at this point, and the situation is politically at a dead end,” he said.  The U.S. has been saying repeatedly that a European missile defense system is designed to fend off an attack from Iran, but Russia has insisted that the system would blunt its own arsenal.  Instead Moscow proposes to jointly operate a missile shield.  The U.S. has made clear for many years that a U.S. built system is designed to shoot down only Iranian intermediate range missiles that could hit Europe, and would not be effective against Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In the initial stages, the system would use radar based in Turkey and ship based missiles.  In the later stages, new radar stations and ground based interceptors in Poland and Romania would be integrated.  The pending swearing in of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s former and now next President, in the somewhat phony election system that the Russian’s have only makes matters worse.  Mr. Putin is a blusterer, and he does whatever he can, as only Russians have been able to do for years, to act as a strongman who pays attention to no one else, not his Duma, and certainly not his people.  And talking about leaving allies in a lurch.  What about Poland?  What about Czechoslovakia?  They backed the American system fearing Iranian based missiles and now they have to look eastward again as they have consistently in the past at the large threat looming from the continuing Russian menace.  Excuse us for asking what kind of cooperation we have received from the Russians on the threat that Iran is building a nuclear bomb.  What about more than a feckless resolution from the U.N. on the Syrian issue?  The Russians even have had the audacity to suggest that our Ambassador was trying to foment a revolution in Russia.

In their recent meeting in Seoul, President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spoke, apparently carefully, about continuing discussions on the sensitive issues surrounding European missile defense.  But in an unscripted moment, Mr. Obama was more blunt.  “Let me get reelected first,” he said, “and then I will have a better chance of making something happen…It is important for him to give me space,” Mr. Obama could be heard telling Mr. Medvedev, apparently referring to the incoming Russian President.  “Yeah I understand,” Medvedev replies.  “I understand your message about space.  Space for you.”

“This is my last election,” Mr. Obama interrupted.  “After my election I have more flexibility.”  Mr. Medvedev promised to relay the message to Mr. Putin.

If anything else is clear from this exchange, it is that Mr. Obama is more comfortable conducting secret negotiations that the American people know nothing about, even though it is, arguably, our lives that are at stake.  He seems to believe that he is better off making secret deals.

Mr. Obama won a Nobel Peace prize shortly after he took office.  He apparently believes this confers upon him the wisdom to bring about world peace.  Forgive us for disagreeing.  Peace comes from strength.  Mr. Obama is decimating the U.S. armed forces.  Our navy is stretched so thin it will be hard pressed to be effective in stopping any future Chinese aggression against Taiwan.  The sequestration of defense funds that occurs if Congress cannot agree on a budget would be an utter disaster.  It is bad enough that the Republican leadership agreed to such a Faustian bargain, but it is all but incomprehensible that the Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces would have engineered such an agreement.

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2 responses to “The Reset of Relations with Russia: Only Russia Benefits”

  1. mark j levick says:

    Obama has an incredible ego which compensates for his having no foreign policy or business experience. His Secretary of State has received high marks for not making matters worse when, in fact, she has. Her reset with Russia has emboldened Putin, her support of the Turks’ conversion from a a secular to an Islamist government has left Israel isolated, her disregard of the growing anti American cabal stemming from our impotence in dealing with Chavez has made us a pariah in the Organization of American States, her inability to deal with the North Korean and Iranian threats have emboldened China to accelerate its military build up and her support of the Arab Spring has led to a hostile Islamist North Africa. Oh, she’s just “following orders”. That’s apparently ok as Obama is getting high marks for killing bin Laden and using drones to kill al Queda. Both were continuation of the Bush policies he and his Secretary of State never cease to attack. Leading from the rear works well when one pursues dismantling our military. Sadly, no one has answered that 3:00 AM call that concerned candidate Hillary Clinton. Perhaps, everyone was out campaigning for a better World free of American leadership and Exceptionalism. Seems to be working as the American public is focused on the fairness of class warfare while their elected representatives re-arrange the deck chairs on the floundering ship of State. Seems like all the adults have left the room.

  2. Dan Newell says:

    Makarov should be removed and hammered big time but behind the scenes away from world attention. At least for now. For national leaders of nuclear powers to speak the word “preemptive” in a threatening way is an ultimate irresponsibility. It makes “preemptive strike” sound like an acceptable rule of war. Imagine what the nut cases out there with even crude nuclear weapons can make of that idea. Hillary should muster all the pit bulls she can to blunt that kind of talk. btw, no missile defense system is airtight. Sure they can degrade an offense as the Russians claim – isn’t that the idea? Hopefully we won’t have to test such a system even against one missile from whomever.

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