Rice vs. Gates on the NATO Response to Russia

riceandgates092208.jpgThe Boston Globe appears to believe that the hard line being pushed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Russia is inappropriate and unnecessary, especially when compared to the realist assessment of Minister of Defense Robert Gates, who apparently believes that Russia poses no military threat…

Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered a more dispassionate view the same day, noting that there is no real military threat from Russia. NATO countries should seek a prudent “middle ground” in responding to the war in Georgia, Gates said, and they should avoid sending provocative signals to Moscow. Rice may be the Russia expert, but American policy would be better shaped by Gates’s unflustered view of Russia.

I’m not sure what’s more strange about this op/ed: the portrayal of Gates as the dovish peacenik despite his clear awareness of Russia’s energy assault on Europe, or the assumption that treating Russia as exceptional case and responding softly would actually produce the future policy outcomes the West is looking for. Having internal competition between the State and Defense Departments over Russia policy is an ideal goal for the Kremlin to pursue.