Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Obama Hands Victory to Russia, Iran

Barack Obama’s on-the-job leadership training isn’t going so well. And now the more seasoned, wily Russian leadership of Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin are going to make us all pay for Obama’s inexperience and naïveté.

As he has done with other sworn enemies of democracy and human rights, Obama has reached out to the Russian autocrats with an offer of cooperation on European missile defense in exchange for reciprocal Russian help containing Iranian nukes.



Obama has set the starting point for negotiations at the center, the point where a fair resolution would be found. But anyone familiar with Russian negotiating tactics knows that the starting point is never the finishing point, and that the Russians will settle for nothing less than one-sided concessions in their favor. By starting in the middle, Obama has guaranteed that no fair outcome may result. Either the entire exercise will lead to acrimonious failure, or the U.S. will capitulate on missile defense in Eastern Europe in exchange for nothing substantive on the issue of Iranian nuclear development. Either way, it’s a major foreign policy defeat for this administration, the country, and humanity.

And that’s just going in.

What will happen a couple years down the road when Tehran has its nukes, Moscow is more firmly allied with the Islamic Republic, and Israel feels rightly threatened, and so launches strikes in Iran? Is the Obama administration ready to confront the real potential for war against Iran and Russia? Is this novice-in-chief prepared to stand up to a theocracy and a dictatorship with military force? And if he is, what of our allies in Eastern Europe who have made their beds next to ours? What will Obama do as Russian rockets destroy Warsaw and Kiev?

Thanks to this president’s weakness dealing with our enemies, and his total lack of loyalty to our friends, humanity now stands closer to world war than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Most of us just don’t know it yet.


At 11:18 AM, Blogger Ben said...

You have an interesting article. I agree that the content of the letter displayed some naïveté, but I disagree that it will result as a “major foreign policy defeat”. First, when you say that Russia will only “settle for nothing less than one-sided concessions in their favor”, this wasn’t the case when we initially started to put up the defense system. Secondly, I don’t see Russia aligning itself with Iran anytime soon, and if it does and that threatens Israel, than that would be even more of a deterrent for Israel to launch into Iran. I don’t see such a destabilization happening anytime soon. Check out the article that I wrote on Obama’s letter at http://benluongosblog.blogspot.com/

At 4:59 PM, Blogger John Martinez said...

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. On the issue of Russian negotiating tactics, I want to separate the American moves to install a missile defense system in Eastern Europe from the negotiating exchange. Our move is central to negotiations, of course, but was not itself taken within the context of a negotiation. It is one of the pre-negotiation issues likely to be discussed once actual negotiating commences.

My point is that once in the negotiation interaction, the Russians will be very tough customers. In past negotiations on everything from partitioning Korea and governing post-war Europe to the SALT, ABM and various other arms control treaties in the latter stages of the Cold War, the Russians employed delays, bluffs, outrageous demands and outright lies to push each negotiated outcome closer to their position than to the center. They’re infamous for low-balling, changing subjects, introducing new or irrelevant subjects and data, pressing ahead with multiple intimidating projects, storming out of the room, and other bad faith tactics that exploit what they perceive as Western negotiating weakness. And by failing to understand his Russian counterparts, Obama set the stage for diplomatic failure. Indeed, failure is now the pre-determined outcome.

In terms of Iran and Russia aligning, I’d say the proof is in the pudding. The Kremlin has been cozying up to the Islamic Republic since the late 1970s and has signed several defense and industrial pacts with Iran in the past few years – notably for a missile defense system around Tehran last year, and an ongoing nuclear deal that’s been in place since 2006. It’s interesting to note, too, that Russia’s population of over 140 million is 10-20 percent Muslim (the range is due to conflicting numbers from the Kremlin and various Islamic organizations in Russia). Meanwhile, white, non-Muslim Russians are not replacing themselves with offspring. Muslim Russians are replacing themselves, and then some. If this growing segment of Russian society exerts a correspondingly increased role in public life in the coming years, one would expect Moscow and Tehran to draw yet closer to one another.

Even today, though, there is much validity in the old axiom that “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Both Russia and Iran feel their vital interests are threatened by the American presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both bristle at Western (especially American) interference in their internal affairs in raising the issues of human rights, political liberty, etc. And these things push Russia and Iran toward strategic cooperation much as Red China and the U.S. worked actively together beginning in the 1970s to counter the Soviet Union, and as the mujahideen and CIA cooperated closely to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Strange bedfellows? Perhaps, but that doesn’t stop them from getting into bed together.

I read your article at:


I disagree with its basic premises. I don’t share your view that Russian moves are tit-for-tat responses to initial provocations by the U.S. Rather, I see an increasingly authoritarian executive in Russia as grasping for every opportunity to distract its own public from a public life characterized by evaporating political liberty, repression and economic chaos. I see a Kremlin mourning the loss of its satellites in Eastern Europe, and wanting to reassert its will there. I see intimidation and outright attacks against democratic forces in Ukraine, and an attempt at the seizure of monopolistic market power over gas and oil in Europe. And our friends in places like Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, etc., see things pretty much as I have laid out here, which is why they want a missile defense system in the first place.

Our own assertions that the system is intended to protect Europe from everyone except Russia is, of course, silly. And transparent. The missile defense system is and always has been primarily a response to the threat posed to our allies by Russia.

As to whether the system makes matters better or worse, I feel sure it could make matters better for the U.S. There’s a good exposition of the debate on how SDI may or may not have precipitated the end of the Cold War at…


Again, though, thanks for reading and commenting, and providing me a stimulating conversation.


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