Preventing the Cascade

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, prepare to meet in Geneva today, a Bush administration policy expert on Russia and Eastern Europe offers some advice on post-secret letter U.S./Russia relations in an editorial in The Washington Post. Writes David J. Kramer: “Any ‘grand bargain’ the United States makes with Russia would be viewed in Moscow as a sign of U.S. desperation. A major American shift in missile defense policy absent a real retreat by Iran would be seen as a sign of weakness and would undercut friendly governments in Warsaw and Prague.”

While there’s nothing remarkable about the statement, it suggests a certain kind of paralyzing psychology that dominates so much of our foreign policy chart with Russia these days: try, but don’t try too hard. It comes on the heels of a disturbing report issued by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy–itself a strange bipartisan hodgepodge home to ghosts of the Cold War like Alexander Haig and James Woolsey–that delineates recent Iranian nuclear progress and the growing possibility of a hostile Israeli response.

“Israeli leaders seem convinced that at least for now, they have a military option,” states the report, entitled ‘Preventing a Cascade of Instability: U.S. Engagement to Check Iranian Nuclear Progress.’ “However, Israelis see the option fading over the next one to two years, not only because of Iran’s nuclear progress and dispersion of its program but also because of improved Iranian air defenses, especially the expected delivery of the S-300…Israel therefore may feel compelled to act before the option disappears.”