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Getting What They Asked For

putin111008.jpgDmitry Medvedev’s bid to be the first to threaten Barack Obama is generating plenty of reaction, which is exactly what Moscow seems to have wanted. But the move has also been quite successful so far in disaggregating the president-elect’s vague foreign policy consensus while sowing disagreement and confusion from people who obviously know nothing about the issue. The Boston Globe editorial board, for example, appears to have been very, very frightened by this big scary Russian threat, and urgently suggests that Obama dismantle any plans that might upset Moscow, and in exchange hope that they will work with the United States to fight terrorism and stop protecting Iran from UN diplomacy.

Few doubt that the Obama threat was mostly meant for the domestic audience, and that though it was spoken by the president, it carried the signature of his predecessor. Andrei Piontkovsky has said Putin’s “economic magic has ended. So he wants to leave the post of prime minister and concentrate on fighting American imperialism.“But the decision to threaten a new president and squander a clean slate is absurd on so many levels, not least because the only conceivable reason to build the ABM sites is because of Russia’s interference on Iran, but furthermore because Medvedev and Putin just made it much more politically difficult for Obama to make the issue go away without losing face. I highly doubt that anyone wants to start their presidency by caving to the first threat that comes their way. They must have known this, and decided they don’t care. For this brand of authoritarians, confrontation with Washington is not a means, but an end.Photo: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reacts as he walks to listen to President Medvedev’s annual state of the nation speech in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008. AP Photo by Ivan Sekretarev