Thursday, September 17, 2009

…And the Beat Goes On…

The Cold War has just never ended for some. If Russia says something and if the United States then does anything that relates to Russia’s stated preferences, it is a sign of weakness. Not manliness. Giving in.

Just like President Medvedev’s recent submission to Joe Biden’s criticisms. Except that this confluence of events wasn’t seen that way. Rightly.

Countries take action for a variety of reasons. Those with experience in international affairs recognize this. They may try to spin events one way or another, but they recognize it’s not a simple tit-for-tat, even though they may occasionally play that game too.

So George Bush, urged on by the neoconservatives, offered antimissile installations to the Czech Republic and Poland. Russia didn’t like this. That was, of course, part of the neocons’ purpose, and possibly Bush’s. They played innocent: the installations were to protect the US “homeland” from Iran’s missiles.

So of course, we must expect concessions from Russia for the change in plans on those installations. Here’s a more convoluted example of that argument.


The negotiations were never with or against Russia, remember? Except for that neocon preference for Russia as enemy.

Diplomacy is hardly ever one simple thing in exchange for another. It’s sideways and developing an environment in which one might do business. It’s making decisions in one’s own national interest.

Which just might be the case here. Is it in our national interest to irritate Russia for a missile emplacement that is poorly suited to its ostensible job? Is it in our national interest to prolong the post-Soviet fears of some in the former satellites and republics? That is getting to be twenty years back, now.

Yes, Russia has been too aggressive toward its former sphere of influence. Maybe if they were less jittery because of perceived American aggression into that area, they would back off. But that’s not a simple calculation either.

There is a lot of truth in what Secretary Gates said this morning. The Polish and Czech installations were only marginally related to US national interests for a number of reasons.
A Pentagon spokesman, Geoff Morrell, described Obama's decision as a "major adjustment" that would better protect US forces and allies in Europe from Iranian missile attacks.

"We are adjusting our system to make sure our forces and our allies are protected from that changing and growing threat. Just as the threat has developed, so too has our technology. We believe we have a more flexible, capable system to deploy to protect our forces and friends in Europe," he said.

"This improvement to the system has nothing to do with Russia and everything to do with Iran." [from The Guardian]
But oooh! the optics! We’re giving in to Russia!

Well, those who write that way could just as easily spin it other ways. They are contributing to (providing?) the optics. They seem to have very little direct knowledge of what is in fact being said in those countries they claim are being “abandoned.”

Russia’s reaction has been very low-key. Even Pravda has restrained itself. But those bases aren’t primarily a Russia-America issue, remember.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s Secretary-General, will meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister next week. Russia would like better relations with NATO, and a better understanding between the two would go a long way toward setting some of Russia’s concerns.

Nothing in diplomacy is simple. It’s possible that there has been or will be some movement on Russia’s part that comes about because of improved relations now that they don’t have to worry about Cold War radar and missile emplacements in their former satellites. Maybe historians in thirty years will call that movement a concession.


Parvati said...

"It’s possible that there has been or will be some movement on Russia’s part that comes about because of improved relations now that they don’t have to worry about Cold War radar and missile emplacements in their former satellites."


For starters:

Russia drops Kaliningrad missile threat

Sept. 18 -- Russia on Friday dropped a threat to place missiles on the borders of the European Union, a military source said, easing tensions after the United States scrapped a controversial missile shield.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hailed the "correct and brave decision" by President Barack Obama to abandon the central Europe project and expressed hope that it would lead to further improvements in US-Russian ties. The move to halt the threatened deployment of short range Iskander missiles in Russia's territory of Kaliningrad, announced to Interfax news agency by the military source, was Moscow's first concrete response to Obama's decision. (...)



Cheryl Rofer said...

Not at all surprising. The Kaliningrad emplacement was a direct response to the Polish and Czech emplacements.

There seem to be a number of Russian responses to Obama's move. I suspect we haven't seen the most important yet.