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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Mar 03rd
Who Needs Russia? PDF Print E-mail
Written by washingtonpost   
Saturday, 23 August 2008


The United States should make a clear-eyed assessment of the fruits of strategic cooperation.
Saturday, August 23, 2008; Page A14

ON THURSDAY, while overseeing his country's continuing occupation of neighboring Georgia, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev found time to meet with visiting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Assad, who is under suspicion of ordering the murder of political opponents in Lebanon, lavishly praised Russia's invasion of Georgia and asked for more Russian weapons. Mr. Medvedev acceded to this request, according to his foreign minister.

This was a small and unsurprising event in the annals of Russian diplomatic history. But it's worth noting as the United States and its European allies consider how to reshape relations with Russia in the wake of its Aug. 7 invasion of Georgia. A common theme of commentary since the war began has been that the United States is constrained in its condemnation of -- or sanctions against -- Russia because it needs Russia too much in areas ranging from counterterrorism to checking the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran. But you can't lose what you never had, and it's fair to question how much help Russia has been providing in any of those areas, even before Aug. 7.

Iran provides a useful example. Russia has participated, with Germany, France and Britain, in talks aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear program and even has gone along with some sanctions enacted by the U.N. Security Council. But Russia's principal contribution has been to slow the process and resist meaningful sanctions, stringing the Bush administration along just enough to convince it that truly effective measures -- sometime, somewhere down the road -- might be possible. Iran's nuclear program has proceeded without inhibition. Meanwhile, Russian experts help develop Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, and Russia sells Iran air-defense weapons it can use to protect its nuclear sites and anti-ship weapons it could use to menace Persian Gulf shipping traffic in the event of conflict. While the administration blames Iran and its proteges, including Hamas and Syria, for

destabilizing the Middle East, Russia sells arms to all of them, and to Venezuela and Sudan.

None of this means that the United States should seek or welcome a new cold war with Russia. Russia could make life far more difficult for many of America's friends if it chose to do so, just as it could, if it chose, help combat terrorism and nuclear proliferation. But President Bush's imagined partnership with president-turned-prime-minister Vladimir Putin has been pretty much an empty husk for a long time. We hope and believe that the West would not under any circumstance barter away the independence or territorial integrity of a small, free and helpless nation in exchange for a promise of big-power cooperation. But when that promise is an illusion, the calculation should become even easier.


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