Still Squaring the NATO-Russia Circle

There are a number of media outlets reporting on the most recent NATO-Russia foxtrot, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s call for an “open-minded and unprecedented dialogue” with Russia. Personally, I’d first rather just go straight to the source:

Listening carefully to Rasmussen’s remarks here, aside from his emphasis on common interests between NATO and Russia – namely, preventing terrorist attacks, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and establishing a stable Afghanistan – the idea that Rasmussen clearly wants us to take away here, repeating it no fewer than three times is, “We can do more.”

That may very well be the case, but the Secretary-General would be well-advised to consider Ariel Cohen’s observations on the example being set by the Obama Administration:

The Obama Administration did not receive any quid-pro-quo for significant concessions it provided to Russia as a part of its “reset button” policy.

All these concessions the Russians pocketed, smiled, and moved on to new demands: European security reconfiguration; additional global reserve currency which would weaken the dollar; and a strong push-back on sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program.

In meetings I attended, both Putin and Lavrov warned against any military strikes on Iranian nukes while refusing to support a gasoline sales embargo against the mullahs. “Russia has good relations with Iran; has very significant economic interests there. Iran never supported any Islamist terrorism [in North Caucasus], and Russia will be the last state Iran would target even if it gets nuclear weapons”, says a senior foreign policy expert who regularly advises Russian leadership.

When I asked, why President Obama needed to provide all these goodies while getting nothing in return, Lavrov and Putin said that they did not view US “reset” measures as concessions. “They corrected mistakes that the Bush Administration made”, said Lavrov.

Unilateral concessions by the Obama Administration are interpreted as a sign of weakness, from Moscow to Teheran to Caracas. Blaming the Bush Administration and making unrequited concessions is bad policy, especially when dealing with chess champions (the Russians), or those who invented chess – the Iranians.