To What End?

Matthew Dunn, ex of Great Britain’s MI6, had some thoughts, in a recent Fox News op-ed, concerning President Barack Obama’s decision not to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin one-on-one at the upcoming G-20 conference.  Naturally, I have some thoughts on Dunn’s thoughts.  Here they are, in no particular order.

My take on the man is that he is a measured, calm, cerebral, individual who—despite recent evidence to the contrary—doesn’t like a fight.  I could imagine him picking up the phone to Khrushchev, speaking privately to him without the pressure of media scrutiny, and averting a crisis.

Actually, as Obama demonstrated in a private conversation with a later Russian leader concerning a much more minor missile crisis, Obama would have surrendered to Khrushchev’s bullying and allowed the offensive nuclear missiles to stay in Cuba.  After all, Obama did surrender to Putin concerning defensive, non-nuclear missiles to which Putin objected and agreed to not deploy the systems in Poland and the Czech Republic—without so much as a fare-thee-well to the Poles or Czechs before he acceded to Putin’s demands.  After having committed this, Obama then made offer of further acquiescences with his “reminder” to then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that Obama would have more “flexibility” for then-Prime Minister Putin after the then-upcoming election.

The Syrian disasters getting worse—more people have died there than during the entire Bosnian War—and we need Putin fully at the Security Council negotiating table given that his support of President Assad is perpetuating the problem.

We may not like Putin’s stance on Syria, but distancing him from our thus far fruitless attempts to resolve the situation will only produce one outcome: further massacres.

This is nonsense.  The Security Council is one of Putin’s favored arenas for actively opposing us concerning Syria.  Putin already is as distant from us as he can get on this, among other matters.  He’s stonewalled and explicitly blocked every effort we’ve made at the UN and on the international scene, generally.  Based on what, exactly, does Dunn expect to change here?

Putin hasn’t only opposed us on Syria.  He’s set himself against our efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program, he actively obstructed NATO’s and our efforts in supporting the Libyan people in getting rid of Gadhafi, and he’s joined the People’s Republic of China (otherwise a foe of Russia) to obstruct our efforts to bring northern Korea’s nuclear weapons program to heel.

With particular regard to Iran, Putin has gone further, actively helping the régime with its nuclear weapons program, with the latest aid coming in the form of assistance in building a nuclear reactor capable of producing plutonium for bombs.

US attempts to adopt a moral high ground over human rights abuses in Russia [are] pointless and some might say even hypocritical given allegations of human rights abuse during the American War on Terror and more recently the startling revelations about PRISM and its intrusion in the lives of law abiding US citizens.

Sure.  Because PRISM and the NSA, however reprehensible they may be—and that’s not a foregone conclusion—don’t kill anyone, while Russia (no mere allegations here) routinely murders newsmen who are critical of the Russian government, jail businessmen who get too uppity and independent of that government, lock up politicians who run too independently of that government, imprison entertainers who do satirical music criticizing that government….  Yeah, these are equivalent, all right.

Earlier this year, a CIA officer was caught in Moscow, publicly humiliated, and expelled.  For sure, Russia could have been handled the episode differently, but it’s not something we should get upset about.  We spy; they spy.  It’s what we’ve always done to each other.

Yes, Putin’s given [Edward Snowden] a visa to stay in Russia, but it’s only a 1-year visa.

The expulsion was simply an effort to embarrass the US, however trivially.  Moreover, the man had little of intelligence value-add for the Russians.  Snowden, on the other hand, as an NSA “official” has quite a bit.  Certainly, Putin’s condition that Snowden stop leaking to the public as a condition of asylum looks good in the Putin shower.  However, this just guarantees Russian exclusivity of access to the intelligence value-add that is Snowden.

And there’s the small matter of Dunn carefully eliding the fact that Russian one-year asylum visas are easily and routinely renewed.

In sum, Putin has no intention of cooperating with the United States, and he never has had.  Russia is our enemy, and Putin will do what he can to defeat his nation’s enemy, even if particular steps amount to little more than sticks in the eye.  Petulance, or legitimate diplomatic symbol, the refusal to meet will have no detrimental impact on relations with a nation or a man who has no interest in cooperation.

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