Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is The U.S. Playing Too Nicely With Russia?

Great post by Seth Weinberger at Security Dillemmas over the U.S.'s seeming inability to obtain a pledge from Russia to support sanctions against Iran regarding their possible nuclear ambitions.  He argues that Obama missed a golden opportunity to trade the decision to dismantle the anti-ballistic missile system (ABM) that was planned for installation in Poland and the Czech Republic, for guaranteed support from Russia regarding Iran.  Considering how much the possibility of ABM deployment in their neighborhood angered the Russians, it is strange that the U.S. did not seize upon this opportunity.

In addition, Secretary of State Clinton announced yesterday during her trip there, that the White House would no longer critisize Russia on their human rights record in order to improve relations.  Considering the rollback in democracy under Putin, this is very surprising, disturbing and again puzzleing...what is the U.S. getting in return? Still not a concrete plege - Prime Minister Putin announced today it is "premature to discuss sanctions against Iran".  Not what Hillary was hoping for one could guess.

Could there be any consequences to all of this soft peddling?  Weinberger argues that a weakened commitment to Eastern European NATO countries could embolden Russia to take advantage, leading to future scenarios similar to its invasion of Georgia.  Eastern European nations are not blind to this fact - they are already concerned with how the ABM situation panned out and are now aware that the U.S. may look away from human rights abuses such as those that took place in Chechnya in the 90's during their wars with Russia. Also, I would add to his argument, the concern that Russia is planning a new pipeline that would run along the bed of the Baltic Sea.  This new "Nord Stream" pipeline would allow natural gas to travel directly to Germany and Western Europe, eliminating the current need to pipe it through Eastern Europe. A NY Times article writes,
Officials in Central and Eastern Europe fear that while profits from the pipeline, a joint venture between Gazprom and a trio of German and Dutch companies, will flow to Russian suppliers and German utilities, the long trod-upon countries once under the Soviet umbrella will become more vulnerable to energy blackmail.  Such tactics are hardly without precedent. A Swedish Defense Ministry-affiliated research organization has identified 55 politically linked disruptions in the energy supply of Eastern Europe since the breakup of the Soviet Union. 
For Eastern Europeans, the pipeline issue evokes deep memories of a darker era of occupation and collaboration, and has become a proxy debate over Russia’s intentions toward the lands it ruled from the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall.  In an open letter to President Obama last spring, 23 former Central European heads of state and intellectuals, including a former Czech president, Vaclav Havel, and a former Polish president, Lech Walesa, pointed out that after the war in Georgia last year Russia declared a “sphere of privileged interests” that could include their countries.  With the control of gas pipelines, they wrote, “Russia is back as a revisionist power pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics.”
Hopefully, there will be positive results from this recent visit to Russia, as well as improved relations and relationships.  Hopefully, Russia will slowly come around on the Iranian issue. Hopefully, Russia will not abuse its strengthened position in the region and bother its neighbors.  Fingers crossed...


  1. Putin’s bluffing, re Iranian nukes- he doesn’t want a nuclear ME any more than we do.

    But, Vlad’s wisely working the Boy Wonder like a poker player. He knows the Israelis will bomb Iran back to the Stone Age… so the Kremilin is just milking all sides for all they can get before leaving Tehran to fend for themselves-

    And he’ll be wringing Obama for plenty more concessions along the way… these KGB guys know a mark when they see one.

    God Help Us until 2012…

  2. Interesting point. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Hi Samus, i just replied to your questions. Please see it here