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McCain’s Doublespeak on Russia

Some bloggers are leaping all over John McCain for his comments this week about his aim to build a deepening alliance with Russia to prevent nuclear proliferation – not because he had the bravery to broach this urgent and difficult subject – but because his comments clashed so strongly with his Los Angeles World Affairs Council speech, which called for harsh rhetoric against Russia. Is it possible for the United States to have their cake and eat it too with Russia?

Kicking them out of the G8, cooling engagement, and otherwise playing hardball on the laundry list of issues does not seem like a reconcilable policy line to pursue alongside the nuclear proliferation platform, despite it being in both nations’ interests. Then again, if “engagement” with Russia is as unprincipled and empty as it has been during the Bush years (inspiring Brzezinski’s “peals of delirious laughter“), then perhaps it’s not so unreasonable to try something new. At any rate, it is commendable that nuclear proliferation is finally being discussed.The key question (for all candidates) is how to engage intelligently with Moscow, providing respect worthy of the country’s stature while at the same time bringing a more rigorous measurement of the objectives that Washington and Russia want to reach together. To be successful in fighting nuclear proliferation with Russia, Washington is going to have to ease back in some other areas … and it’s time for the candidates to start talking about what these areas could be.Read the text of McCain’s comments below to make up your own mind:

While we have serious differences, with the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States are no longer mortal enemies. As our two countries possess the overwhelming majority of the world’s nuclear weapons, we have a special responsibility to reduce their number. I believe we should reduce our nuclear forces to the lowest level we judge necessary, and we should be prepared to enter into a new arms control agreement with Russia reflecting the nuclear reductions I will seek. Further, we should be able to agree with Russia on binding verification measures based on those currently in effect under the START Agreement, to enhance confidence and transparency. In close consultation with our allies, I would also like to explore ways we and Russia can reduce – and hopefully eliminate – deployments of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. I also believe we should work with Russia to build confidence in our missile defense program, including through such initiatives as the sharing of early warning data and prior notification of missile launches.There are other areas in which we can work in partnership with Russia to strengthen protections against weapons of mass destruction. I would seriously consider Russia’s recent proposal to work together to globalize the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. I would also redouble our common efforts to reduce the risk that nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons may fall into the hands of terrorists or unfriendly governments.