Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Russians Are Coming

Vladimir Putin is at it again. Challenging the American hegemony in Western (and Eastern) Europe.

Putin's remarks preceding the summit regarding missile defense deployment made for some rather uncomfortable delegation members, including U.S. Secretary of State Rice. After postponing his appearance for some forty minutes President Putin appeared before the gathered press and made light of the defenses that the U.S. hopes to install along Russia's border.

All this leading to the summation by Defense Secretary Gates that Russia is saying, "We are back."

Had they ever really left? Well, throughout the 1990s there was a hiatus, but the nuclear arsenal never disappeared.

What Russia is doing does not occur in a vacuum. There are reasons aplenty why Putin has dared insult the United States in the manner that he has done. An ever-increasing NATO bloc that serves little in the way of United States security interests, a bold (and rather hamstrung)
missile defense system, and the addition of instability in the Middle East which includes vital partners to Russia; why wouldn't this be a foreign policy concern of Putin?

In the past seven years of the Bush Administration, there have been many mis-fires on the diplomatic front. As Jonathan Landay of McClatchy reports:
"Bush's strategy on Russia assumed that Russian President Vladimir Putin embraced democracy, wanted integration with the West and sought a "strategic partnership" in which Moscow would acquiesce to U.S. policies such as NATO expansion. Feuds could be resolved through the close personal relationship that Bush believed he had with his Russian counterpart.

Instead, fueled by record oil and natural gas prices and resentment of what he lambasted in February as Bush's "almost uncontained hyper use of force," Putin has led global opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq, hosted Palestinians on the U.S. list of terrorist groups, sold anti-aircraft missiles and other arms to Iran and stymied Bush's drive to tighten U.N. sanctions on the Islamic republic for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment."

Fortunately for America, there can only be one more year and a few months of fouled political decisions from Washington when it comes to relations with the Russian state. However, that is plenty of time to further deteriorate the strained connection, especially if any militaristic action is taken with Iran.