Doyle McManus has an opinion piece in the LA Times arguing that Obamamania has come to end, citing the cold reception he got from Russian audiences. Good riddance, in our opinion, as the world could use a few less cults of personality, and a little more focus on the pragmatic and substantive issues. McManus grabs a good quote out of Sestanovich on the reset diplomacy, but there seems to be a misunderstanding on the Russia-Iran play. McManus speculates that Russia “may be right” that their differences with Washington over Iran may not be solvable. This overlooks two critical points, one being that Moscow is actively opposed to any change in the status quo on Iran (even Nicholas Gvosdev admits this), and secondly, whether or not the Kremlin even has any real influence on Tehran.
It is not hard to be right about predicting that you won’t do something.
“People have made too much of the ‘reset.’ They’ve talked about it as if it had magical properties or strategic content,” said Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations, a 25-year veteran of U.S.-Russia diplomacy. “But what happens when you reset a computer? You don’t change the content. All you do, if you’re lucky, is get the bugs out and start working again.”
Obama and his aides may succeed in building a less angry, more businesslike relationship with the Russians, but will that change Moscow’s views on Iran? Not likely. As Sestanovich puts it: “Russians don’t think the problem is solvable.”
Americans,of course, think every problem is solvable — a persistent differencebetween the Old World and the New. But judging from last week’sinconclusive diplomacy, the Russians may be right about this one.
TheUnited States and its allies want Iran to negotiate, but Iran’s Islamicleaders, facing challenges to their legitimacy at home, are digging intheir heels. The next step, probably in September, is a concertedWestern effort to step up economic sanctions against Tehran — but thatmay mean a confrontation with Russia and China, which don’t agree thatsanctions are necessary.
All of which left Obama sounding, atthe end of the week, as if he looked forward to getting back tosolvable problems — such as the economy and healthcare. “The one thingI will be looking forward to,” he said, “is fewer summit meetings.”