It is with profound sadness that we read that President George W. Bush is spending valuable political chips to curry favor with President Putin on Iran. In the eyes of an average, well informed Russian, the credibility of the United States is taking a big hit. For on the street in Moscow, it is well understood that Russia is the party that is benefiting from the isolation of Iran, because it is to Russia that Iran poses the real threat. Russia is not nearly as concerned about ideology or democracy in Iran, it is chiefly concerned with its potential to become a true alternative to European gas security if relations were normalized. Going to Mr. Putin and demonstrating this lack of understanding over what issues truly matter to Russia harms America in the long term, and buttresses the power of the siloviki in the eyes of critical Russian elites. The fact that the United States has squandered one of its most important leverage points by backing Russia’s WTO bid without achieving anything in return represents a further further confirmation that it will take more than James Baker to assist this White House in crafting an effective foreign policy in the near term. From Stratfor:
Moscow’s strategic interest is to act against the aims of U.S. policy on Iran and other issues, attracting Washington’s attention away from Russia. Thus, it becomes involved in the Middle East, instigating or perpetuating conflicts that take up the already-limited U.S. bandwidth. Russia likes to present itself as having influence over the Islamic republic, but in reality, Tehran is hardly driven by its relations with Moscow and has no reason to rely on the Russians in its policy decisions.