Friday, July 27

China hawks, pick your fights with Russia wisely.

China hawks spend oceans of time discussing the need to offset China's rising influence. The consensus emerging from the discussion is that the US needs to make stronger alliances in China's region.

Sounds good on paper but if you want to go with this plan, you need to make up your mind about Russia. That's because you are dreaming if you think India will risk isolation in the region.

Pundita assures you there will be no Ganges Alliance with the United States of America. But if New Delhi sees Washington maintaining good relations with Moscow, this will go a long way toward help India stick out their neck when it comes to dealing with China.

So you have a choice: You can continue being the European Union's lackey when it comes to all European issues involving Russia. Or you can push the boundaries of the NATO alliance by making case-by-case decisions on when the US should sit back and let the EU fight their own battles with Moscow.

Your choice would be easier if you keep in mind that individual European governments don't hesitate to cut deals with Moscow when it suits them. When it doesn't suit them, they run to Washington and complain that Moscow is kicking sand in their face.

You might also want to consider that we wouldn't be having this discussion, if Russia did as much trade with the US as China. If that were the case, you would be willing to overlook many Russian failings. But you can't fashion a defense strategy for the United States out of balance of trade figures. You have to think first in terms of geography.

I note that Russia's President Vladimir Putin is enjoying a good month. First there was the success of the Lobster Summit; you wouldn't know it from the mainstream media's analyses, but the casualness of the setting tended to mask the crucial and historic US-Russia summit on nuclear issues.(1)

Then, last week, Putin got the Kosovo issue removed from the U.N. Security Council table after Russia threatened to veto any solution Serbia opposes. As Bloomberg News noted today:
Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Cyprus are among European countries leery of turning Kosovo into a nation without UN approval, out of concern that this would lead to agitation by minorities inside their own borders.
By using the veto threat, Putin has maneuvered the situation away from the United Nations venue.

Yesterday was the cherry on top of Putin's sundae:
George Bush's plans to establish a European missile defence system suffered a big setback yesterday when a Congressional committee slashed the funding. The House appropriations committee cut $139m (£69.5m) from the $310m the Bush administration wants for preparatory work on the missile project in Europe. It approved funds for a radar system in the Czech Republic but cut the $139m Mr Bush requested to establish a missile interception system in Poland, the most controversial part of the defence system.
That doesn't mean the project is dead but the setback encourages Putin to keep drumming up opposition to the system and gives him more time to push his own plan for a joint Russia-NATO missile interceptor system.

Even if Putin's plan of basing the interceptors in Russia doesn't work to stop missiles from Iran, the United States should agree to the system as an adjunct to the one now on the table. If Washington had done this at the beginning -- strongly encouraged Russia to participate in the interceptor plan instead of only informing Russia of what we had already decided -- we would have avoided an unnecessary confrontation.

And by considering that partition could be the only workable plan to solve the Kosovo problem, the US would have avoided another unnecessary confrontation with Russia at the United Nations.

Think. Don't let Brussels and the Wall Street Journal crowd run US defense policy, if you want better US policy on dealing with China's rising military influence.

1) This is the only informative analysis of the Lobster Summit I was able to find:
July 3, 2007 (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) -- There were smiles and sunshine and seacoast, but what exactly did the Bush-Putin summit succeed at, and fail at? RFE/RL correspondent Heather Maher asks James Collins -- the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 1997-2001, and now the director of the Russian and Eurasian program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington -- to tally the wins and losses.

RFE/RL: Many of the post-summit press reports said that Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin basically had a great time, and enjoyed good talks, but no major agreements were announced. Is that your impression?

James Collins: Well, I don't think that's quite correct. First of all, they completed negotiations and completed, or signed, depending on how you put it, a "Section 1-2-3 Agreement" on Friday [June 29]. Now, this is a big deal.

RFE/RL: How important is it?

Collins: The 1-2-3 Agreement is a framework agreement under which any U.S. cooperation on civilian nuclear matters takes place with another country. And to have this agreement means that we now have open the opportunity for our whole civilian nuclear communities in both countries to work together. And that has not been the case up till now.

There have been all kinds of restrictions and caveats and problems on information sharing, how information is handled, what can be disclosed, etc., etc., etc. And so what this means, it looks like we are really taking a major step ahead in the area of civilian nuclear cooperation.

RFE/RL: Can you put the significance of that "major step" into some kind of historical context?

Collins: My view of this is that it is the nuclear equivalent of what we did in space at the beginning of the '90s, when we broke down the barriers and got our two space communities into the same tent, and were able to produce the space station and a whole host of other things in civilian space cooperation.

It was very, very significant. And here's the context: there is going to come a large expansion of nuclear power generation, globally. If we don't have a new international framework for that, we're all going to have problems with proliferation, how do we manage the spent nuclear fuel, etc.

This is going to make it possible to get serious people to sit down and talk about how to deal with this. And that's going to be essential if you're going to have an international framework for the next generation of nuclear power.

Read more of the interview.

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