Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

President Obama’s sudden decision to suspend deployment of an anti-ballistic missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic may be a response to Israeli-Russian diplomacy, I am told by often-reliable sources. Russian-Israeli relations have been improving at an “extroardinary” pace since Russia agreed last April to buy Israeli drone aircraft, the first time in history that Russia sourced weapons from the Jewish state. Russia has been selling advanced aircraft systems to the Iranians and Syrians, to be sure, but everything is negotiable. “Maybe something isn’t calibrate perfectly, maybe there’s misprint in the manual,” an analyst familiar with Russian weapons systems told me. “In any case, the Russians will never sell anything to Iran without knowing exactly what countermeasures will neutralize it.”

No doubt the current Israeli discussion with Russia is a complex negotiation, but it seems as if Israel is acting not as an American client state but as an independent power. That speaks volumes about the evolution of Israel as a pocket superpower with important technological capabilities of its own, as well as the collapse of American influence through an utterly fanciful foreign policy. The prospect of Russian-Israeli collaboration may have given the  Pentagon a wake-up call .

For the record, I have never quite had the antipathy to the present Russian regime that bothers American conservatives. In fact, last year I suggested drafting him as a candidate for the American presidency here and here. As an advisor (briefly) to former Russian president Yeltsin’s finance ministry in 1992-1993, I observed a degree of fecklessness and corruption that boggles the imagination under the supposed democratic regime that preceded Putin. Nasty a piece of work as Putin might be, his government was an improvement.

Just why the Bush administration thought that running pipelines around Russia’s border would provide greater energy security to the West than buying energy directly from Russia never was clear to me. The rationale for American support for Georgia in its Chihuahua vs. Rottweiler dispute with Russia was that energy pipelines could be run through Georgia. But the Russians have many means in their “near abroad” to disrupt pipelines should they so desire. As for the inclusion of Eastern Europe in NATO: the Ukraine is a dying country, probably the first European nation to collapse internally through depopulation. It’s simply not worth fighting over.

The one side of Obama’s foreign policy that made sense from the outset was to trade items that Russia considers of fundamental interest, e.g., its influence in former Soviet republics, for Russian cooperation in suppressing nuclear weapons development in Iran. That may be the positive outcome of the present switch in American policy on anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe. The Israeli spook site Debka reports today that “Barack Obama’s decision prompted Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s surprise comment Monday, Sept. 14, that his government no longer rules out further sanctions against Iran - although the Kremlin has always denied its cooperation with the US on the Iranian nuclear issue was contingent on the removal of the US missile shield plan.”

The reflex reaction among American conservatives is to denounce Obama for selling out American interests to the Russians. That seems misguided to me. There are cases where appeasement is precisely the right policy, and it may be that Obama will obtain something of great value to the US — Russian cooperation in containing Iran — by forfeiting something of little value. I’ll do that trade all day.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles