Obama’s Total failure on Russia

In a must-read regarding the Iran sanctions deal, Foreign Policy reports:

Supporters of the Obama administration’s “reset” policy toward Russia tout the New START Treaty, Russian support for sanctions against Iran, transit for Afghanistan across Russian territory, and cooperation in dealing with North Korea and non-proliferation more broadly as the fruits of its success. National Security Advisor Jim Jones cites the reset as one of the main successes in the administration’s foreign policy (that, to some, says a lot about its overall foreign policy). There is no denying the vastly improved tone and rapport between the American and Russian presidents compared to the end of the Bush-Putin days. But before people get too carried away, let’s focus on two recent developments that remind us of the challenges we face in dealing with Russia.

On May 31, Russian authorities brutally broke up opposition protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg and arrested more than 100 people. A journalist participating in the protest suffered a severely broken arm at the hands of the police. The U.S. National Security Council spokesman issued a statement expressing “regret” at the detention of peaceful protestors (“condemn” would have been a more appropriate verb — we “regret,” for example, the recent death of Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky). While violent suppression of demonstrations is nothing new for Russian authorities, what makes this latest example noteworthy is that it happened just days after an American delegation went to Russia for the second round of the Civil Society Working Group co-chaired by NSC Senior Director Mike McFaul and Deputy Head of the Russian Presidential Administration Vladislav Surkov.

When this working group was first announced last July during President Obama’s visit to Moscow, Iargued that having Surkov as the chair was comparable to putting Chechnya’s brutal leader Ramzan Kadyrov in charge of a working group on stabilizing the North Caucasus. The choice of Surkov, the brains behind “sovereign democracy” (the concept that justifies the regime’s crackdown on political opponents) was widely condemned by Russian human rights activists who wrote to Medvedev urging that he be removed from this working group.  The U.S. side argued that it had no veto authority over the choice of Russian co-chairs of the various bilateral working groups, but in this case, it would have been better to have nixed the civil society working group than to have had Surkov leading it.

Late last month, in their second meeting with their Russian counterparts, the American side visited a prison in Vladimir, 100 miles east of Moscow. McFaul has a long and distinguished career devoted to promoting democracy and human rights and raised concerns beyond Russia’s prison system with his Russian counterparts. But according to TIME magazine, the Russians weren’t interested in a real dialogue on human rights issues.  The Kremlin’s human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, as quoted in TIME, said, “Haven’t you noticed? We’re gradually turning into allies. … Since there was no criticism towards us, we didn’t criticize them.” Days after the Americans left Russia having concluded the second meeting of the civil society working group, security goons cracked the heads of those protesting against the regime. As an editorial in today’s Washington Post noted, there are other reasons to be concerned about the internal situation in Russia as well.

The second development worth keeping an eye on is the Russia-Iran relationship. As Bob Kaganargued in the Washington Post two weeks ago, the administration has oversold Russia’s support for a very watered-down sanctions resolution against Iran. Three times before during the Bush administration, Russia supported equally feckless resolutions.  Meanwhile, just this week, Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s state nuclear entity, affirmed that the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear reactor will come on line this summer and will be run as a joint Russian-Iranian venture.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in Istanbul for a regional summit, reaffirmed the timetable for Bushehr and said before today’s vote at the U.N., “I hold the opinion that this resolution should not be excessive, should not put Iran’s leadership or the Iranian people in a tricky situation that creates barriers in the way of developing Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy.” And the resolution itself has a grandfather clause that would permit Russia’s transfer of advanced S-300 missiles to Iran, a deal the Russian government has refused to rule out but which could also start a war, as Israel may be tempted to attack Iran before those missiles would become operational. Putin also planned to meet with Iranian leader Ahmadinejad while in Istanbul.

Such language and action from Putin  — along with votes against the resolution in New York from Brazil and Turkey — undermine the united international position the Obama administration hoped to present Iran. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev will be in Washington in two weeks to meet with President Obama.  Growing concerns about these two issues — the deteriorating human rights situation inside Russia and Russia’s relationship with Iran — to say nothing of Russian arms sales to countries like Syria and Venezuela, should temper any celebratory mood during Medvedev’s visit.

8 responses to “Obama’s Total failure on Russia

  1. Voice siome Reason

    The problem with Obama is that, like many other Democrats, he doesn’t fully appreciate the wonders of war. He simply doesn’t get it that waging wars on foreigners is what makes America great:


    Bush: War Boosts The U.S. Economy (VIDEO)

    President George W. Bush argued in 2004 that the best way to grow the U.S. economy was by waging war, according to former Argentine Prime Minister Néstor Kirchner.

    Kirchner, in a meeting with Bush, suggested that the United States replicate the successful nation-building strategy it implemented at the end of World War II.

    “And he stood up from his chair and got angry. He told me, ‘A Marshall plan! No! That’s a crazy idea from the Democrats. What needs to be done here, and the best way to revitalize the economy is — the United States has grown based on wars,’ he told me.

    Bush added, said Kirchner, that “all the economic growth that the U.S. had had, had been based on the different wars it had waged.”

  2. Oh yeah the ‘peregrouzka’ thing was very telling. The Americans have taken up too much ‘grouz’ during the Bush years and had to let some off. I mean it seems literally impossible that they didn’t find anyone in the state department with substantial knowledge of Russian. Neither do I believe that there no Russian-English dictionaries in libraries in Washington D.C. :-)

    As you can see the current US government manages to talk to Russia without the unnecessary support for the utterly irrelevant liberasts and condemnations of North Caucasus policies. In fact Kadyrov is the best thing that occurred in the way of stabilizing the Caucasus since the Russian conquest of the region in nineteenth century. :-)

  3. Obama is unable to reason for the same reasons that the inmates in an asylum cannot reason. The brain malfunctions just like other vital organs.

    Notice that Obama is entirely unpredictable. He is also stupid. His grades or snap courses were Cs & Ds. He flunked out of tough courses (statistics) altogether inspite of his whining for affirmative action.

    We have an unpredictable jerk in the white house whose only value is in the destruction of the democratic party. His unpredictability helps keep our enemies a little off balance because Obama could favor war without giving the consequences a moments thought.

    • voce della ragione


      Obama is an uneducated man, Ron. His only degree is that of Doctor of Jurisprudence magna cum laude from some obscure little college called “Harvard University” in some little town of Cambridge, Mass. And instead of doing something intellelctual, like drinking beer Bush-style, all Obama could do is become the president of Harvard Law Review.

      What we need is a scholastic and intellectual giant like Sarah Palin, who finished third in the Miss Alaska pageant, playing flute in the talent portion of the contest!

      • Oh, why don’t we all just say loud and clear:

        man named Barack can not be a US president!

        It’s just not right, right? :)

      • And hey, Voice, the lady seen Russia every other sober weekend, and that means she’s really good at international politics!

        And then she must be Georgian too, so cute!

        Damn this Obama.

  4. The Washington Post:

    Russia’s ‘new’ stance remains anti-West

    Today at 11:01

    David J. Kramer writes:

    Ahead of Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Washington this week, a “leaked” Russian foreign policy document is causing some Russia watchers to wonder whether the Russian president is shifting his country toward a more positive, pro-Western stance. A careful read of the 18,000-word document does not support such wishful thinking. Read the story here.

    Read more: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/70510/#ixzz0rbjrteAS

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