Obama Barters with Putin

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/03/03/russia.letter.nuclear.iran/index.html

Barack Obama last month sent a letter to Russian President Dmitiri Medvedev (Vladimir Putin’s puppet) basically willing to give up the missile defense system if Russia would aid the U.S. in halting the Iranian nuclear program.

“It’s almost saying to them, put up or shut up,” said a senior administration official. “It’s not that the Russians get to say, ‘We’ll try and therefore you have to suspend.’ It says the threat has to go away.”

Attending a NATO meeting in Krakow, Poland, on Feb. 20, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said, “I told the Russians a year ago that if there were no Iranian missile program, there would be no need for the missile sites.” Mr. Obama’s inauguration, he added, offered the chance for a fresh start. “My hope is that now, with the new administration, the prospects for that kind of cooperation might have improved,” he said.

The Russian Foreign ministry responded that there was no quid quo pro in the letter.  Medvedev’s spokeswoman Nataliya Timakova said,”Obama’s letter contained various proposals and assessments of the current situation.  But the message did not contain any specific proposals or mutually binding initiatives.”

It is amazing how conveniently they have forgotten about the one threat that we KNOW has nuclear weapons, North Korea.

I understand the strategy here.  Obama intends to totally restart relations with Russia on a new footing.  But Obama misses a major point with Russia.  They don’t want to be seen as an U.S. surrogate.  They want to be viewed as a power in their own right.  The missile defense system is in some ways a proxy for what Russia views as a greater goal:  there re-emergence as one of the great world powers.  Right now, they are using missile defense as the key sticking point; if it were not, it would be something else.

Additionally, Russia needs something more than the missile defense system to go away.  They need cash.  With oil now below $40 a barrel, their monetary reserves are plummeting.  And who is among Russia’s largest source of foreign monetary reserves?   That’s right, Iran.

As for Homeland Security, first of all lets admit that the missile defense system is still in its infancy.  It could be effective in protecting the homeland, but we honestly don’t know.  But more importantly, if you believe in the system, at the current time the biggest threat is NOT Iran, but North Korea.  Their exalted leader is ill, and who knows what crazy fool could take over in case of his death.  And unlike Iran, North Korea already has nuclear weapons, and they have missiles that can reach U.S. soil, unlike Iran.

So, it is an interesting strategy that won’t work.  All Putin really cares about in the short term is money, and the U.S. doesn’t supply enough of that to Russia to matter.  Second, even if they were successful, Russia would turn its eyes elsewhere; possibly putting more pressure on U.S. allies in the region like the Ukraine, Georgia, and Poland.  Putin views a greater sphere of influence for Russia, and Obama, unlike Bush, must recognize that reality.

UPDATE:   In no surprise, Russian President Medvedev basically rejected any quid pro quo regarding Iran, say it was unproductive.  Again, Iran has more political capital with Russia than we do.  Obama slightly miscalculated on this maneuver.