Departing the land of democracy, arriving to Heiligendamm
Some collected opinions on the G-8 Summit in Germany, which looks like it is going to descend into a veritable fiasco. WSJ: The G-8’s Cognitive Dissonance
The original G-7 countries are straining to divine the motivations behind Moscow’s recently ratcheted-up nationalist bluster. Maybe Mr. Putin wants to shore up the Kremlin’s hold on Russia less than a year before hand-picking his successor. Or maybe he wants to intimidate the outside world into staying out of what he deems to be Russia’s internal affairs. Or perhaps he wants to split the Europeans and carve out space for Russia in the old Soviet sphere of influence. Or…
After what it sees as the humiliations of the 1990s, and ahead of an electoral season, Russia is in no mood to accept what it sees as a US foothold in Poland and the Czech Republic. Mr Putin’s lieutenants have brushed aside US offers to co-operate on missile defence. Instead Russia threatens to pull out of two landmark arms control treaties and has made ever more belligerent noises towards the west. Such a course of action is not just out of proportion and wrong; it is also counterproductive. Although Germany’s Social Democrats have criticised the US for its role in the dispute, the German electorate is showing signs of turning against Mr Putin’s bullying behaviour. And while public opinion in Poland and the Czech Republic is against the missile defence bases, largely because of fears provoked by Russia’s threats, the two countries are likely to become more, not less, anti-Russian in feeling.
Chicago Sun Times: Bush has chance to set wise policy on Russia
This threat is an amazing blend of chutzpah and boomerang. First the chutzpah: Putin is denouncing a system intended to defend Europe against nuclear missiles from Iran when he has been helping Iran to develop such a capability by assisting its nuclearization program. Second the boomerang: Putin’s direct threat to aim missiles at Europeans would now justify their building a defense against Russian missiles even though that was no part of their original purpose. He is almost challenging the West to unite around an anti-Soviet policy. Bush should take up his challenge. It gives him one last chance to save his own presidency by fashioning a stable long-term Western response to Russian state aggressiveness that will outlast him as the strategy of “containment” outlasted Truman. But it will work only if it has benefits for Russia too — even if those benefits are not immediate.
Guardian: Encircled and Humiliated
This is not to deny that Russia poses a potential threat to Europe, notably in terms of energy supplies, or that its political culture is prone to an arbitrary and authoritarian mentality. But Russia is not about to change, and we must find a modus vivendi that respects what it is and recognises its legitimate interests. The danger with the US attitude, and any new cold war spirit in Europe, is that it will drive Russia into a corner. The consequences are already apparent. As soon as Russia has felt a little stronger, largely as a result of rising oil and gas prices, it has been more assertive. But in global terms it remains weak and fundamentally incapable of aspiring again to superpower status. Mikhail Gorbachev was surely right when he pointed the finger of blame for the present mess at Washington.