Monday, March 06, 2006

U.S.-Russia Relations Deteriorate - Mar 6

Hello everyone,
I've got two links and an article from stratfor.com.

(From the CBC) South Dakota lawmakers have thrown down the gauntlet in support of the rights of the unborn. Expect a whirlwind of court challenges and lots of talking lawyers (Yikes!).

(From euobserver.com) Merkel and Chirac are once again flogging a dead horse in an attempt to revive the EU constitution to the French and Dutch voters.

As Always,

The Man in Black

U.S.-Russian Relations: Strange Bedfellows on the CFR Report
Mar 06, 2006

Summary


A major U.S. think tank has released a report on the sorry state of American-Russian relations. The study is not important so much for what it says, but for who says it.

Analysis

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) released the initial draft of a report March 6 on the status of the U.S.-Russian relationship. Titled "Russia's Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do," the report warns that U.S.-Russian relations are worsening and are likely to break apart further in the years to come.

The CFR is a bipartisan institution that commands considerable respect in Washington. This report caught our eye, not necessarily due to the content, but because of the names attached to it. The task force that issued it is chaired by none other than Republican Jack Kemp and Democrat John Edwards.

Considering the rather vitriolic nature of U.S. politics, it is rather odd to have two charismatic ideologues from opposite sides of the aisle agree on anything. The short version of the 94-page report is this: Russia's efforts to democratize are failing, and between that and a U.S. policy that seeks to engage Moscow only on specific issues, the two countries' interests are steadily taking different paths.

This is not exactly news. Even the most optimistic supporters of a U.S.-Russian partnership are quick to point out that Washington's and Moscow's interests will always be difficult to reconcile (having pointed some 20,000 nuclear warheads at each other makes it hard to see eye-to-eye). As such, U.S. and Russian policies toward one another have been steadily slipping, over the past three years, from a guarded optimism to a cold distrust.

Although the CFR report does offer some recommendations in the hope of warming the relationship, it nonetheless serves as a critical signpost as to the status of the relationship: It vividly, if unintentionally, re-establishes a bipartisan ideology for confrontation with Moscow.

This is not unexpected.

Most U.S. foreign policy involves a large degree of debate over both goals and means, but Russia is unique in the U.S. experience in that ideological confrontation has always come naturally.

Compare that to U.S. policy toward China. Although most Americans view China as the biggest threat to U.S. power in the long run, U.S. policy toward China is broadly accommodative. This is because U.S.-Chinese economic links moved long ago beyond the ethnic Chinese community in the United States, and in 2005 totaled some $210 billion in bilateral trade. Those links contribute to exorbitantly complex relations. Declaring the Chinese to be foes, then, would require dancing around loads of pre-existing connections.

In contrast, declaring the same of the Russians is child's play simply because the links do not exist. There is no sizable Russian population in the United States and trade between the two powers remains nearly as thin now as it was during the height of the Cold War. Russia may be more integrated into the international system than was the Soviet Union, but those links are to Europe, not North America.

Ultimately, the conclusion of this report is no shocker: U.S.-Russian relations are indeed on a downward slide. What is surprising is that Kemp, a former Republican presidential candidate, and Edwards, the Democratic candidate for vice president in 2004, have just inadvertently laid the ideological groundwork for a far more adversarial foreign policy.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

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