Romney and the Realists Split on the Reset

I have a persistent fascination with how U.S. domestic politics break down on the Russia debate, and seems now more clear than ever that there is no clear right-left split, for as much as many pundits wish to impose one.  The most vigorous pro-Putin arguments come from both the far right and left, while the center wobbles and swings.  After reading Mitt Romney’s flawed but revealing attack on the new START treaty in the Washington Post on July 6, I was curious how the realists on the right – for example the editorial staff of the National Interest  – would structure their disagreement on the foreign policy ideas of their own preferred candidate.  One strategy would be to claim the reset policy as your own:

Although no member of the Obama administration will mention it publicly, the change in Washington’s approach was made in the spirit of the recommendations contained in a report prepared by a group of experts at the Nixon Center under the leadership of former Senators Chuck Hagel and Gary Hart. The analysis concludes that every country has both “interests” and “vital interests.” In pursuing its “vital interests,” at a certain stage, a country sometimes has to either sacrifice or pay less attention to secondary interests. That is because quite often one set of interests contradicts the other.

But what was much more interesting that this article was authored by Andranik Migranyan, of the the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation – the fake New York-based NGO set up by the Kremlin to monitor U.S. democracy and governance. 

A tour through theirsparsely populated website makes for a very entertaining read. More power to ’em, I say, even if it is a top down effort by the Russiangovernment to create an illusion of active civil society … at leastin the US they are allowed to set up shop without being strangledby red tape.  Although the National Interest could be clearer thatthe article was written by a representative of the Russian government.

But whether it is Migranyan or other party members who jump out anddefend New START (such as Kyland Luger), what Romney hit on here is going to create some problems. The Washington Post article, regardless of its inaccuracies, representedan announcement that Obama’s Russia policy is now open game for theWal-Mart-and-pick-up-truck set of the Right.  It’s irrelevant if theactual wording in the treaty did or did not establish linkage between missile defenseand strategic arms reduction, what counts is that we can expect abruising effort to block the Senate vote to approve the treaty.

In order to get this thing passed and keep the reset together, more members on the red side of the aisle and their supporters are going to have to take the risk of appearing (gasp!) to agree with this one teency-weency aspect of the president’s foreign policy.  Keep an eye out for some awkward bedfellows in coming weeks.