The Realists Don’t Like Obama’s Realism with Russia

o_medved042910.jpgPoor Barack Obama, he just can’t make anybody happy with his reset policy toward Russia.  His opponents on the right argue that he’s selling the farm through weakness and undeserved concessions to an uncooperative, aggressive government.  Other critics – like us – bemoan the ill-considered bargain of Washington’s Iran obsession in exchange for the free pass given to the siloviki on values of human rights, rule of law, corruption, and democracy.

But I have to admit that I was a little confused by Dmitri K. Simes’s take down of Obama’s START replacement treaty with Russia, which he argues is much less substantive than the administration would like to claim.  Simes points out that the new treaty “doesn’t really require either side to eliminate weapons it wants to keep,” that the agreement is void if the U.S. ever builds another missile defense system, and lastly, that the Russians themselves were giddy with excitement about they worked over their naive counterparts and didn’t budge an inch.

Simes is a deeply knowledgeable observer on Russian affairs, and I wouldagree with most of his points made here on the shortcomings of thislatest treaty with Moscow – but I am surprised that this is what we arehearing from the realist camp.  The issue of realismas a foreign policy ideology and the incoherent application of U.S.partisan politics to the Russia debate has been aregular subject of discussion on this blog, and we had come toexpect a consistent line out of Simes, Nixon Center, and theconservative National Interest set.  These are the guys who have alwaysargued that the West is much too “hard” on Russia, that the West shouldrepent for not having helped the country more in the 1990s, that theleadership in Moscow must be “respected” at all costs, and so on.  Infact, it seems that much of what Dmitri Simes wasrecommending should be done in the relationship with Russia is nowoccurring, but now all of a sudden he is writing about how Russia beingsatisfied with a deal based on their own definition of rationalinterests is a negative sign?  After so much boosterism of the Russianperspective, now Simes criticizes the Obama administration’s “benign”view of Moscow’s position?

It looks like the realists only liketheir own realism, while the other regime sympathizers much furtherafield from these relatively centrist views are only comfortableoperating in the context of confrontation and permanent displeasure withwhoever is doing whatever in Washington.