Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another Obummer Lapse in Foreign Policy: EU & Russia Cozy Up to Each Other Because of US Disinterest

My Death Panels Will Get Y'all Soon Enough!

BHusseinO can't seem to buy a break nowadays. A recent German/French/Russian "Summit" was held in Deauville to begin to orchestrate the EU's relaxation of its NATO ties and construction of a new "security relationship" with Russia.
...there are obvious factors explaining the French and German initiatives. A major one is President Barack Obama’s perceived lack of interest and engagement in Europe. His failure to attend a Berlin ceremony commemorating the end of the Cold War and his cancellation of a meeting involving the E.U.’s new president has had symbolic weight. At the same time, the U.S. reset with Russia and the administration’s willingness to treat President Dmitri A. Medvedev as a potential Western-oriented partner has given the Germans and French the sense they were free to act on the basis of their own interpretations of the changes in Moscow. In this European view, the United States has become significantly dependent on Russia through its maintenance of military supply routes to Afghanistan and its heightened pressure, albeit in wavering measure, on Iran. Because the reset is portrayed by the administration to be a U.S. foreign policy success, criticism from Washington of Russia is at a minimum.

And Obummer has given the Russians a whole series of passes in other areas, why get so excited about the EU? Including the fact that the EU has no strategic partnership with NATO? Obummer is nothing if not asleep at the switch as the US train barrels down a tunnel to nowhere, which is his apparent foreign policy goal.
Ten days ago, when Mr. Medvedev offered Hugo Chávez of Venezuela help to build the country’s first nuclear power station, the State Department expressed concern about technology migrating to “countries that should not have that technology” — but added (bafflingly), that the relationship between Venezuela and Russia (for years Iran’s supplier of nuclear wherewithal) “is not of concern to us.”

Last week, more of the same. When Mr. Medvedev bestowed Russia’s highest honors at a Kremlin ceremony on a group of sleeper spies who were expelled from the United States last July, a State Department spokesman turned away a reporter’s question with a “no comment.” Washington chooses not to say anything either about Mr. Medvedev’s support, repeated in Deauville, for Mr. Sarkozy’s plan, as next year’s president of the G-20 consultative grouping, to focus its attention on limiting the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency.

In the Deauville aftermath, the Americans have preferred applauding Mr. Medvedev’s decision to come to a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon next month, following U.S. congressional elections. He is not expected to announce Russian participation in or endorsement of a U.S.-initiated antimissile shield for Europe — the United States’ notionally organic bond in strengthening the alliance’s trans-Atlantic future — yet the Russian president’s appearance as a guest on NATO’s turf could be seen as an important gesture of real cooperation.

Still, for all the Americans’ concern about Europe dealing with Russia on its own, there hardly has been a corresponding public statement from the administration that’s a call for caution about Moscow’s interest in setting up rivalries between NATO and the E.U. For David J. Kramer, a former senior State Department official with responsibility for Russia, the new circumstances show “the Russians now have far more leverage in the U.S. relationship than they should.”

But World Politics Review has a less Manichaen point of view on the zero-sum game that used to be called the Great Game which consisted in keeping Russia within its Soviet boundaries:
Finally, as Vinocur points out by citing a French source at Elysée Palace, it's premature to assess whether Russia's Western turn represents a permanent, or even a durable strategic shift. If you take the 2008 Russia-Georgia War as the highwater mark of Russian belligerence toward the U.S. and NATO, certainly the past year points in that direction.

But it bears noting that in the intervening two years, Russia has essentially accomplished all of the foreign policy objectives previously driving that belligerence. NATO's eastward expansion is off the table. The U.S. European-based missile defense system has been modified and multilateralized (although as Richard Weitz's WPR column today makes clear, it remains problematic). And Russian dominance in Central Asia is re-established.

In light of that, Russia's concerns have now begun to resemble more closely those of Europe and the U.S. -- namely, China's expanding influence, both globally and in Central Asia, as well as regional stability in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

That raises the question that poses the biggest problem to this sort of Russia fearmongering: Assuming the very unlikely emergence of an alignment between Europe and Russia that did replace the trans-Atlantic relationship, in what policy and regional areas would that threaten U.S. interests? Central Asia is a contested space mainly to assure European energy security, which such an alignment would logically moot. Interests in Afghanistan overlap entirely, with differences mainly concerning method (counternarcotics policy, in particular). On Iran, Europe is very closely aligned with the U.S. view, and would more likely exercise a moderating influence on Russia than the reverse. And in terms of balancing against China, Russia's Far East territory would provide a very useful northwestern frontier to preoccupy Chinese strategists. As for counterterrorism, counterproliferation and anti-piracy, Russia has been relatively cooperative, even at the height of its belligerent period.

A lot of the anxiety these kinds of summits provoke can be traced to a lingering distrust of European diplomacy, which is seen by most Americans as not Manichean enough. But the flipside of Europe's pragmatism is that it is driven by self-interest. And it will be quite a while before it is in Europe's interest to abandon the trans-Atlantic relationship. In the meantime, a more closely harmonized relationship with Moscow not only resembles the current U.S. policy toward Russia, but is in everyone's interest
Let's hope that after the mid-term elections chastise Obama into a saner look at things, he can get a grip on the foreign policy levers of strategy instead of trying to punish the Brits for being imperialists back a century ago and to soothe the undying hatred that vicious radical criminals like Ortega and Chavez nurture towards the USA.

Unless he's lost all contact with the world as it is.

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