Sunday, December 16, 2007

3 Card Monte

One of my weekend treats is going over to Watching America to read other countries' press reports on the US. Some of the articles are from sources I've never heard of, so it's hard to be sure just how much of the criticism is accurate and how much is propaganda. Of course, for the past ten years or so, I've had similar problems with US news outlets as well, so I've had some practice in skeptical reading.

At any rate, I came across this article from a source called China Military Online. It has to do with the ongoing negotiations between the Unite States and Russia over the missile defense system the US wants to install on Russia's doorstep, which apparently are still not going well if this article is to be believed.

Back in October, the Secretaries of Defense and State met with their Russian counterparts in Moscow to discuss Russia's unhappiness with the US plans. At those meetings, the US delegation representatives indicated a willingness to compromise on a number of factors which rankled the Russian leadership. However, the latest proposal submitted to Moscow somehow omitted at least five of those proposed compromises.

The United States has deleted five compromise proposals in a document received by Russia in November on the U.S. missile defense plans in East Europe, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

One of the concessions the United States showed willingness to make at October's talks but did not mention in the Nov. 21 document, was that it not activate interceptor missiles before there was authentic evidence of existence of ballistic missiles threatening Europe, the Russian ministry said.

Others were that American interceptors would not be placed in silos; that they would be dismantled if a missile threat were eliminated; that the United States would join forces with Russia in checking whether any missiles had been launched in the Middle East or western Asia ...; and that Washington and Moscow would make joint decisions on how to react to missile threats, one of them being that U.S. officers be stationed at Russian missile defense facilities, the ministry said.

Now it is entirely possible that when Secretaries Rice and Gates returned to Washington other administration officials decided that the proposed compromises involved giving up too much. If that's the case, however, why weren't our delegates given clearer instructions before they made the trip to Moscow? Are our foreign policy people that inept?

While diplomacy has never been this administration's long suit, this kind of behavior seems to me to be even too stupid for BushCo. I think a more likely scenario involves a kind of bait-and-switch tactic. The US, after all, would like Russia's cooperation in turning the screws on Iran as a possible run-up to a war, so it was important in October to soothe the Russian's ruffled feathers somewhat, even if only temporarily.

Whatever the actual situation, at this point the Russian feathers have to be in full ruffle because they've been treated as if they were too stupid to notice. The proposed missile defense system in Europe was a questionable idea to begin with. Now, it's getting to be the kind of idea which could easily be the cause for a new military build-up contest between the US and Russia, and nobody wins in that kind of contest.

What might be equally as damaging, however, is that we have just given further evidence that as a nation, our word cannot be trusted on this or anything else. And that is going to haunt us for years to come.

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