Missiles and Loopholes

S300052410.jpgFor the past couple of days, the conservative media has really sinking its teeth into the latest draft U.N. resolution on Iran sanctions, which apparently contains a loophole allowing for the sale of S-300 missiles by Moscow to Tehran.  The Washington Times pointed out that in the draft section discussing which missiles to be banned, there was a provision allowing for ground-to-air missiles to be provided, but that member nations only need to show “vigilance and restraint” with regard to weapons delivery to Iran.  Mikhail Margelov and others in the Duma seemed pleased that sanctions wouldn’t affect Russian business with Iran.  Later on a Fox blogger went to bat, followed by a posting from Heritage.org which carried the very detailed headline “If the S-300 Sale is Allowed, Obama’s “Reset” Policy Has Failed.

Though the news is entirely coincidental and bears no relationship tothis criticism of Obama’s flower power with Russia, it is interestingtiming to see today’sannouncement of the arrival of a battery of Patriot missiles and150 U.S. troops to northern Poland near the border of Kaliningrad fortraining exercises.  The deployment has been plannedsince last January, and is completely separate from the Bush proposalfor anti-ballistic missile silos of much longer range, but the Patriotbatteries have nevertheless irked Russian security officials, who see itas their own “loophole” in the reset policy.

There’s no reasonfor everyone to be so narrow minded here – there’s lots ofdifferent ways the reset policy can fail, completely independent of whatRussia does or doesn’t do with Iran.  Besides, there are many reasonsto believe that Russia isn’t about to move ahead with the S-300delivery, primarily because there has never been anything stopping themfrom complying with their contractual commitment to supply the missilesup until now, in addition to heavy lobbying from Israel and the need tohold this important card for a big concession.  Additionally, one would think that Moscow isgetting quite impatient with Tehran after they went for theBrazil-Turkey deal, which seemed to be a carbon copy of the Russia planto swap refinement duties and ensure Iran was only using civiliannuclear energy.  Why does Turkey get to be the hero and hold such influence over the process?  Evidently Tehran was tired of Russia’s lack of commitment on Bushehr, the S-300, and its perceived ties with the Americans.

It’s very disappointing that the U.S.-Russia relationship has become sounidimensional and focused on this one preferred output for thisadministration (which, by the way, would likely not do anything to bringabout positive change in Iran … I think Fidel Castro proved a longtime ago that sanctions are a dictator’s best friend).  One wonders ifthe value of this project with the Russians is based more uponestablishing an improved environment for dealmaking than on the actualresults it achieves in the short term.  Either way, it’s going to behard to sell the benefits in political terms for each respectivegovernment.