Friday, June 15, 2007
Logan takes on McCain
In today's Financial Times, he writes:
John McCain suggests a host of issues on which we must "be firm" with Russia ("Why we must be firm with Moscow", June 13). Nuclear targeting. Kosovo. The Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. The extradition of Andrei Lugovoi to Britain. The mysterious deaths of journalists in Russia. State-owned media. State seizure of assets. Moscow's response to Talinn's treatment of a Soviet war memorial. Russia's handling of energy resources. Russian policy in Ukraine, Georgia, Iran and Sudan.
What Senator McCain fails to describe is an overarching strategy for dealing with Russia. He offers not a policy, but rather a laundry list of demands that is unlikely to be met with anything other than intransigence from Moscow. By failing to prioritise his goals (might we not be willing to be less "firm" on Kosovo in exchange for enhanced Russian co-operation on Iran?), he threatens to undermine them all.
The democratic depredations in Russia are real and troubling, but they would be best dealt with in a framework where Russia feels its geopolitical concerns count for something in Washington. Moscow is increasingly convinced that they do not, and Senator McCain's essay could serve as Exhibit A for this belief.
One problem with this list is that it combines criticism of Russia's internal and international policies. McCain probably doesn't see much of a difference, which in essence feeds Moscow's idea of 'souvereign democracy'
The other problem is that short descriptions of goals create black and white images and hamper the search for compromise:
Nuclear targetting is a formality. The difference between preset targets and locking in a new target is a matter of minutes. Putin's remark was made to show European citizens the placement of missiles is more than some ink on paper. They're real. It's obvious that McCain will use VVP's remark as proof of a belligerent attitude. Both are mere words. In reality little has changed.
Kosovo: The West's rigid stance for full souvereinty could very well end up as a missed opportunity for a peaceful compromise of limited autonomy. Why is it necessary to get it all, alienating the Serbs, so creating the pretext for another conflict?
CFE treaty in present day is little more than a symbol of peace. It does not correspond to reality. Again, anger over Russia's strong request to review the treaty is either retoric or lazyness.
Lugovoi. According to its constitution Russia may not exdradite him. Period. This is not a question of political will. Interestingly the russian magazine Ekspert discovered flaws in the english-russian translation of the extradition treaty. In Russian it reads 'cannot' in English 'may not'.
Mysterious deaths of journalists in Russia: During Putin's presidency murders of journalists have dropped from an avarage 15 a year between 1995 and 2004, to 6 in 2005 and 9 in 2006. Every case is one to many, but it will serve truth to note slight improvements.
State-owned media: My impression is that the quality of journalism is improving as a result of predominant state ownership. There is increasingly more effort made in reporting rather than inter clan warfare.
State seizure of assets: Enforcement of legal rules is indeed often arbitrary, but it is enforcement of the rule of law. Who needs to protest when criminals and/or bad managers are deprived of their assets and the end result benefits the russian people? The people who once formally owned these assets.
Talinns Bronze soldier: Mc Cain has to realise Russia has a civil society. Not all anger directed at Estonia comes from the towers of the Kremlin. The Estonian accusation of the Kremlin hacking its state websites is pure nonsense.
Russia's handling of energy resources: What is the problem? Raising prices to market levels? The world should be happy Russia is liberating its former satalites from political leverage by means of subsidised energy. Not to speak of creating incentives for more durable forms of industry.
Ukraine, Georgia: I guess McCain means interference in domestic affairs. Well he who fits the shoe, put it on.
Iran: Moscow's sugestion for using the Azerbeidian radar is a step towards acknowledging a threat coming from Iran. Many in the world however have different ideas for dealing with that threat than Mr. McCain.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
What is the substance behind this antagonistic approach to Russia?
What is the point?
What is less clear is what they can do about it. Putin has systematically destroyed the leverage the West has on Russia, so there is nothing we can credibly threaten them with.
And from their experiences of the 1990s, the Russians know better than to expect us to actually help them with anything.
So the Russian government dosen't fear our sticks, and knows that the only carrots we will give them are the ones with poison in them. What does that mean? It means we have no way to get Russia to do what we want. And our foreigh policy elite hates Putin for that!
McCain cannot get "tough" with India, Israel, China, or Saudi Arabia because of well-developed domestic lobbies. Russia is the default target. Criticize China too much on human rights, your local Chamber of Commerce will protest. Criticize Russia--no problem.
Same situation obtains for Iran; "dosen't fear our sticks, and knows that the only carrots we will give them are the ones with poison in them".