Saturday, March 10

Russia steps up to the plate in Iran negotiations

David Ignatius reported in last week's Washington Post:

"Affter a slow start, the Russians are indeed becoming a reliable partner on Iran. They informed State Department officials this week that they will support a quick new U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Iran. And they have even voiced a willigness to halt work on the nuclear reactor they're building for the Iranians at Bushehr."

Now just see what a little diplomacy can accomplish. On Monday the International Herald Tribune reported:

"The Bush administration has decided to reach out more often and more intensively to Russia at a time when the leadership in Moscow is harshly criticizing American policy, and some scholars say the United States has not aggressively tended to an important relationship.

"American plans to base elements of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, as well Washington's support for expanding NATO, have compounded a sense of resentment within a Russian leadership that now feels emboldened by a flood of petrodollars.

"Senior administration officials said their new initiative of diplomatic outreach calls for engaging Russian leaders in private discussions that will illustrate that the United States is putting extra effort into nurturing the bilateral relationship, and that Russia deserves a more thorough dialogue on American foreign policy and national security plans."(1)

After jumping up and down for more than two years on this blog about bad US policy on Russia, Pundita hopes the new diplomatic initiative gets off the ground. The shift in diplomacy is a crucial move for the US war effort and dealings with the 'axis' powers of Iran and Syria. If Russia stands firmly apart from China on the issue, Beijing will give some ground at the security council.

It's not only Russia's leaders who are bent out of shape about the way their government has been treated by Washington. The Russians, including the traditionally pro-American middle class, have been angry and confused by the harsh anti-Russia tone, which has had almost the whole of the US media on board the Bash Russia bandwagon. If the mainstream media had been even a fraction as understanding about Russia's situation as with China's, the US govenment could have re-thought Russia relations much earlier.

Adding to problems with the US-Russia relationship is that Condoleezza Rice and her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, reportedly can't stand each other.

Another problem with Rice in her dealings with Russia is that her Russian is crummy -- a fact that came out in embarrassing fashion when Rice tried to practice her Russian in public while she was in Russia. She's supposed to be a Russia expert. However, in America, being a Russia expert at the government level has long equated to being an expert at bashing the Soviets.

The White House needs to scare up someone who is truly fluent in Russian and well informed on modern-day Russia matters, then throw together a special envoy post for the person, who should have a direct line to the US President via the National Security Council. I nominate Russia expert Steve Cohen for the post.


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