Thursday, October 11, 2007
Is the U.S. Being Set Up to Fail?
Rice and Gates will arrive in the aftermath of what appears to be a successful visit--from Putin's point of view--from Nicolas Sarkozy. It was, after all, a surprisingly restrained Sarkozy, given some of the rhetoric he had unleashed on the campaign trail about talking tougher with the Krmelin. Indeed, the theme of their talks was about how the two could talk honestly and try to reach common ground on issues that divide Russia from the West.
Then the Americans will arrive. They won't be able to offer anything that resembles a compromise on issues like Kosovo and missile defense--it will be largely a restatement of established U.S. positions with standard Russian objections being voiced. I don't expect any breakthroughs. And how much longer can we continue to deflect having to turn Moscow's proposals down by saying that they are interesting and worthy of further study? Time is not on our side here.
Then Putin heads out to Wiesbaden to see Merkel. What's he going to say? Probably something along the lines of, I tried to come halfway, I was prepared to bargain, I wanted to find solutions.
Whether Merkel buys it or not is less important, though, in terms of how public opinion in Europe will assess his claims. Russia in the last several months, in Europe--not in the U.S., of course--has done a lot to repair the image that it is, to use Sarkozy's own comments, not acting as a facilitator to solve problems.
Politically it makes it harder for Merkel to endorse the missile defense system or to undercut EU Kosovo negotiatior Ischinger's efforts to find compromises. I don't expect to see Sarkozy move to endorse the U.S. position either.
It is really surprising--prior to the G-8 summit Russia seemed much more isolated and on the defensive against what appeared to be a return to a series of U.S.-European agreements. What has changed?
And so it goes.
I read in Reuters that the preliminary UN report on the incident of Georgian forces gunning down two Russian officers in September shows that the incident took place 300m inside Abkhazia, and that the firing was at point blank range. When are we gonna drop that hateful dictator Saakashvili as a client?