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Rice Mismanages Relationship with Russia

Despite Robert Gates’ protestation in Munich that “One cold war is quite enough,” we seem on the verge of a second one. Gates’ remarked were prompted by Putin’s speech in Munich, including statements such as, “Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.” And “We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law.”

So how did Condi Rice let us get into this mess? She made her career, academically and politically, as an expert on the Soviet Union. If there is one relationship she should be able to manage, it’s the one with Russia. Yet, we stay silent while Russia is straying far from the democratic ideals we once saw taking root there, and it wins international sympathy when it accuses the US of failing to respect international law. What’s wrong with this picture?

When Bush looked into Putin’s heart and saw a good man, did he consult Condi? I think Condi, based on her study of the old Soviet Union, looks at Putin and sees another Stalin or Brezhnev. These divergent view have produced stalemate, while the Pentagon coasting along on orders from its old boss, Rumsfeld, is planning anti-ballistic missile (ABM) sites in Poland and Czech. Interestingly, one of Bush’s first affronts to international law was his decision to unilaterally leave the ABM treaty. A better man would have proposed to renegotiate it, not just dump it. The ABM treaty was intended to avoid the very problems now straining the US-Russian relationship. Do something, Condi!

For a different take, but one which doesn’t really blame anybody much, see this Washington Post column by Fred Hiatt.

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