Vladimir “Pooty Poot” Putin, with the opportunity to either back the words of Russia’s president that sometimes sanctions are just necessary or the Foreign Minister’s words of yesterday, chose to back the FM’s:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned major powers on Wednesday against intimidating Iran and said talk of sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear programme was “premature”.
Putin, who many diplomats, analysts, and Russian citizens believe is still Russia’s paramount leader despite stepping down as president last year, was speaking after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Moscow for two days of talks.
“There is no need to frighten the Iranians,” Putin told reporters in Beijing after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
“We need to look for a compromise. If a compromise is not found, and the discussions end in a fiasco, then we will see.”
“And if now, before making any steps (towards holding talks) we start announcing some sanctions, then we won’t be creating favourable conditions for them (talks) to end positively. This is why it is premature to talk about this now.”
There’s more afoot here than just stiffing the US, although that seems to have become a bit of a game for the Russians lately. Iran is very important in the Russian scheme to have hegemony over its “near abroad”. It is interested in Iran, not because of its oil, but mostly because of its natural gas. Russia is the major supplier of NG to Europe. Iran is another potential source. Russia sees an advantage in exercising nominal control over Iran’s supply of NG by maintaining friendly relations. That control allows them to use the supply of NG as leverage. Power and money talk – “reset” buttons don’t.
Another little change in Russia’s approach to the world today is their possible change in their nuclear arms strategy:
Russia is weighing changes to its military doctrine that would allow for a “preventive” nuclear strike against its enemies — even those armed only with conventional weapons. The news comes just as American diplomats are trying to get Russia to cut down its nuclear stockpile, and put the squeeze on Iran’s suspect nuclear program.
Not exactly the position you’d like to see them take if you have a goal of reducing nuclear stockpiles. And note that Russia not only reserves the right to make a preemptive nuclear strike, but reserves that right to use nuclear weapons against a foe that is armed with conventional weapons only.
As for those talks, this seems to be the Russian negotiating position:
In the interview, he takes a swipe at the United States and NATO, saying that the alliance “continues to press for the admission of new members to NATO, the military activities of the bloc are intensifying, and U.S. strategic forces are conducting intensive exercises to improve the management of strategic nuclear weapons.”
In other words, Moscow is holding to a hard line, precisely at a time when Washington is trying to play nice. The administration wants the Kremlin’s help — to pressure Iran, to revive the arms-control process — but the bear still needs to brandish nukes.
Cutting through the clutter, it seems their initial demands will have little to do with nukes and everything to do with what they deem encroachments into their sphere of influence. That may lead to some talks about nuke stockpiles, but it appears those may end up aimed mostly at US reductions and not so much those of the Russians (who may claim to have unilaterally gotten rid of many nukes because they couldn’t afford to keep them up during the transition from the USSR to its present state).
In the meantime, it is reported that the US will allow Russian inspectors on US sites – apparently granted with absolutely nothing in return. Again.
If you have the feeling we’re going to get rolled in any future nuclear arms talks, join the club.
Via The Corner, Charles Krauthammer on Fox’s News Hour with Brett Bair. First he talks about the pre-negotiated reduction of nuclear arms between Russia and the US:
That was the deal that Obama really was lusting after as a way to come home and to wave a diplomatic success.
The problem is that any deal on offensive nuclear weaponry is either useless or a detriment to the United States.
Useless because it makes no difference above a certain level how many warheads you have. We could suspend our negotiations today and say to the Russians: You can construct as many warheads as you want and spend yourselves into penury, as the Soviets did, to make weapons that are redundant, that will do nothing more than make the rubble bounce, as Churchill once said memorably.
It could be a detriment because the Russians have insisted on linkage between offensive and defensive weaponry. The reason it’s a detriment is because we have a huge technological advantage on defensive weaponry. We can shoot down a missile. The Russians can’t.
For 25 years, the Russians have attempted to get a curb on American defensive weaponry, starting at Reykjavik, where Gorbachev attempted to swindle Reagan out of our strategic defenses. Reagan said no. Bush 1 said no. Clinton said no. And Bush 2 said no.
Obama is wavering on this, and I think it could be a real catastrophe if he concedes. He already is wavering on the missile shield in Eastern Europe. Medvedev said we [he and Obama] agreed on linkage, and Obama himself had said it would be the subject of extensive negotiations.
Why negotiations with the Russians over a shield in the Czech Republic and Poland?
If he gives away the missile shield then he’s essentially given the Russian the advantage of not having to worry about losing any warheads to anti-missile defenses, thereby making any cuts, even by a third, painless. And, of course, he’s already ceded ground by agreeing to linkage and subjecting such a defense to “extensive negotiations”.
Reducing nuclear weapons is a laudable accomplishment. But weakening our defenses against such weapons as the price isn’t.
If she thinks that this decision is a way to advance her political career, she is delusional. She could survive this. It’s possible. It may not be a fatal decision, but it’s not an advancement.
It is a quitting, and I think it’s largely a personal decision, a reasonable one. There was a lot of heat, a lot of attacks, and she wanted out, and that’s OK.
If there was a political calculation, it would have to be—if it were rational—that after the age of Obama, you know, way down the road, there are second acts in American politics. Reagan returned. Nixon returned. Clinton returned. It’s possible.
But she has to make herself serious. If she imagined she is going to be a Reagan-in-the-wilderness in the ’70′s and lead a movement, she has to be like Reagan, who was a serious man with serious ideas, who studied, who wrote, who thought, and made himself a major figure. If she doesn’t do that, she’s toast.
As much as I like Sarah Palin as a personality, I think Krauthammer has put his finger on her problem – she isn’t a Reagan or a Thatcher, or even a Nixon or Clinton. And as I’ve implied in some commentary to another blog post, with this highly partisan and poisonous political atmophere which gets 24/7 coverage, second acts are very, very hard to come by. And, as Krauthammer notes, when it’s “quitting” that defines your departure, a second act may be impossible.