July Deliveries

One of the remarkable features of the first personal meeting between presidents Obama and Medvedev was that it didn't turn personal.  Mindful of the "looking-in-the-eye-sensing-the-soul" trap, both leaders were all business.  If by any chance their conversation was held in Russian, they would have definitely addressed each other "на вы", rather than "на ты."  During their brief joint appearance before the media, no "Baracks" or "Dmitrys" were exchanged.  Instead, Obama was calling Medvedev "president Medvedev" (four times), whereas Medvedev was calling Obama "president Obama" (three times) or "president of the United States" (twice). 

But the maturity of the two young presidents — or savvy of their foreign policy advisers, for that matter — extended well beyond the communication styles.  It was reflected, first and foremost, in their ability to address the most crucial, fateful, and time-sensitive aspect of U.S.-Russia relations: the renewal of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), expiring on December 5.  Obama and Medvedev instructed their respective negotiation teams to get started immediately and to deliver a progress report by July, apparently concurrently with Obama's planned visit to Moscow.

The sense of urgency surrounding the issue was highlighted by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Lugar pointed out that for the Senate to ratify a new treaty before December 5, it should be submitted to Congress by early fall, to allow for hearings, debate and a floor vote.  But, Lugar cautions, to clear the necessary bureaucratic processing, the treaty itself will have to be signed no later than early August.  This is what Lugar calls "the real deadline."

(Following Lugar's logic, it would appear that should the START negotiations proceed without delays, the real purpose of Obama's visit to Moscow (presumably in late July) will be signing of the new treaty.)

Reminding that it took nine months for the 2003 Moscow Treaty— the last arms control agreement signed by Russia and the United States — to proceed from submission to ratification, Lugar urges president Obama to stay focused and not get distracted:

President Obama must carefully set priorities and pick a limited set of U.S. goals in the negotiations. The primary goal should be to solidify the START verification regime and to maintain legally binding commitments on both sides in the Moscow Treaty. To lead is to choose, and the president and Secretary of State Clinton must resist calls to load the negotiations agenda with objectives that, while desirable, would slow down the talks and threaten the tight timetable.

Some outsiders have urged the administration to aim high by seeking to negotiate even lower strategic-nuclear-weapons levels, to devise a structure to address tactical nuclear weapons, establish a framework of cooperation—rather than confrontation—over missile defense, and break the current stalemate over reductions in conventional forces in Europe. These are worthy goals, but first things first: let’s renew the central arms-control agreement between our two countries. Then we’ll be in a better position to tackle these more complicated issues.

Lugar's warning of "some outsiders" is right on target.  There are enough people in Washington opposing the "reset" in U.S.-Russia relations.  Reluctant to attack the popular START treaty head-on, they prefer to sink the agreement by attaching heavy baggage to it, Iran's nuclear program being the most frequently used dumbbell.  Already, the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl argues:

" As U.S. officials readily acknowledge, strategic arms control is of much greater interest to Russia — whose nuclear arsenal is rapidly deteriorating — than it is to the United States. From Washington's perspective, stopping Iran's nuclear program is far more urgent than agreeing on the next incremental reduction in Cold War warheads. Yet Obama essentially consented in his first summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to devote the next four months of U.S.-Russian relations to an intensive effort to complete a new START treaty. No such cooperation on Iran is on the horizon." 

In a castle of chimeras Diehl inhabits, non-existing Iranian missiles represent much larger threat to the American national security than thousands of real nuclear warheads in Russia!

Yet Diehl has a point by saying that the Russians are highly motivated to strike the START deal.  There are no major disagreements, among Russia's political elites, on the issue, and the conveniently compliant Duma will ratify, in a heartbeat, everything Medvedev will decide to sign.  

The U.S. Senate – stuffed with supersized egos and subject to diverse anti-Russian influence — is a completely different animal.  The question with respect to START therefore is (using the Post's vocabulary): will Obama be able "to deliver"?     

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to July Deliveries

  1. Alex says:

    Hi, Eugene. As usually – a well-written and precisely balanced piece of writing.
    What would you say if “translate” your message as “..Considering the vast US superiority in congenital warfare & alleged (or advertised) Pentagon’s capability to destroy all Russian SNM if not in silos then before they can reach the US, it is amazing that anyone in Washington can think of START, which reduces the number of potential Russian targets, as something which Russia really needs & wants to pay for – but not as something **the US must** buy” ? Cheers

  2. Alex says:

    Sorry for typos in the previous. Cheers, me

  3. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Igor privet and thanks for good words!
    No personal offense🙂 but your “translation” reads exactly like op-eds by my favorite Anne Applebaum and my favorite (now, I mean it) Bill Kristol in today’s WP. They, too, argue that there is no compelling reason to negotiate cutting “deteriorating” Russian nukes.
    I do believe that by and large, Russia will benefit more from Start — at least, economically speaking. Having said that, isn’t it remarkable that the most driven proponents of arms control talks with Russia have always been — even under Bush — Gates and Mullen? Is it conceivable that those folks know something we all, including Applebaum & Kristol, don’t?
    I’m admittedly not good at nukes, but I’m fine with simple math. Don’t you think there could be potentially a problem with “silencing” 5,200 Russian SNM with 4,700 American? Unless, of course, they’re “deteriorating” with the speed pleasing AA and BK.
    Best,
    Eugene

  4. ALex says:

    Hi, Eugene. As nowadays I read WP only through your blog :))(copyright?), I don’t know what AA or Kristol have to say(I remember the latter saying some sensible things in the past together with Kissinger et al, though). But your description sounds somewhat opposite to what I have said in the previous and which is, in fact, about the same as in *your* last paragraph above. I know of other estimates, which place Russia at even higher levels (not including NonStrategicNW or a ways of counting MRV). The delivery was a bit of a problem up until recently. During economic crisis it is a sensible thing for Russia to increase gov. sponsored high tech manufacturing – eg. military and as a bonus, restore at least part of the past bargaining power . In short, the US benefits, Russia exposes itself to the risk of being screwed up (again) by the other side (the US). Cheers

  5. ALex says:

    Hi, Eugene. As nowadays I read WP only through your blog :))(copyright?), I don’t know what AA or Kristol have to say(I remember the latter saying some sensible things in the past together with Kissinger et al, though). But your description sounds somewhat opposite to what I have said in the previous and which is, in fact, about the same as in *your* last paragraph above. I know of other estimates, which place Russia at even higher levels (not including NonStrategicNW or a ways of counting MRV). The delivery was a bit of a problem up until recently. During economic crisis it is a sensible thing for Russia to increase gov. sponsored high tech manufacturing – eg. military and as a bonus, restore at least part of the past bargaining power . In short, the US benefits, Russia exposes itself to the risk of being screwed up (again) by the other side (the US). Cheers

  6. ALex says:

    ..Just in case – it is necessary to clearly separate conventional army forces and strategic nuclear weapons. The first are for controlling oil & mineral resources, the second primarily for deterring those who want to control the resources (who would it be?:)) Russia does need a modern “normal” army, but only to prevent Georgia-like proxy wars. Otherwise Russia owns the resources (still)and only needs to protect them. So in my first message “considering..the US ..superiority..” means exactly that – the US has much bigger “aggressive” military, Russia needs to make sure it is not used. Cheers

  7. ALex says:

    ..Just in case – it is necessary to clearly separate conventional army forces and strategic nuclear weapons. The first are for controlling oil & mineral resources, the second primarily for deterring those who want to control the resources (who would it be?:)) Russia does need a modern “normal” army, but only to prevent Georgia-like proxy wars. Otherwise Russia owns the resources (still)and only needs to protect them. So in my first message “considering..the US ..superiority..” means exactly that – the US has much bigger “aggressive” military, Russia needs to make sure it is not used. Cheers

  8. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Igor,
    Sorry if I’ve misinterpreted your position.
    I have to admit not being an expert in military issues. So let me try it again.
    In a sense, the old-time concept of MAD is still in operation, and ~5,000 nukes on each side is apparently quite enough for one country not to want messing with the other. Apparently, 1,700-2,200 (as stipulated by the Moscow Treaty) is still enough, and, perhaps, 1,000 — what Obama reportedly wants — will still be enough, however, here it seems that some military folks in Russia begin having their concernes — given the U.S. obvious superiority in conventional forces.
    The point here is that cutting nukes makes sense to both sides, but, the argument goes, “economically” speaking, more to Russia than to the U.S.
    That’s exactly the point folks around the WP are making. They believe that any talks toward missile cuts are “gift” to Russia (why to cut if Russian nukes will soon “deteriorate” by themselves?). They want something else — like Iran — “in return.”
    This is an emerging pattern that I see and am going to write about: not to attack START talks head-on, but to torpedo the deal by attaching some other stuff to it. Essentially, this is what Lugar said.
    Best,
    Eugene

  9. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Igor,
    Sorry if I’ve misinterpreted your position.
    I have to admit not being an expert in military issues. So let me try it again.
    In a sense, the old-time concept of MAD is still in operation, and ~5,000 nukes on each side is apparently quite enough for one country not to want messing with the other. Apparently, 1,700-2,200 (as stipulated by the Moscow Treaty) is still enough, and, perhaps, 1,000 — what Obama reportedly wants — will still be enough, however, here it seems that some military folks in Russia begin having their concernes — given the U.S. obvious superiority in conventional forces.
    The point here is that cutting nukes makes sense to both sides, but, the argument goes, “economically” speaking, more to Russia than to the U.S.
    That’s exactly the point folks around the WP are making. They believe that any talks toward missile cuts are “gift” to Russia (why to cut if Russian nukes will soon “deteriorate” by themselves?). They want something else — like Iran — “in return.”
    This is an emerging pattern that I see and am going to write about: not to attack START talks head-on, but to torpedo the deal by attaching some other stuff to it. Essentially, this is what Lugar said.
    Best,
    Eugene

  10. Alex says:

    Hi, Eugene
    I think now we understand each other :))(and btw – I don’t know what an “expert” in this area means – reading some analyses one may start to wonder ..). I am puzzled why in negotiations one side should attempt to weight in the *relative* merits of the outcome for *another side*… How can they possibly know & how to measure it – in GDP savings per capita per missile taken with country-specific missile-ammortization and measured in unskilled labor wage index? (I understand that it is not your approach, but of some brilliant think tanks in Wash.). From my also non-expert pw, what Russians are (rightfully)concerned about is that it is one thing to belive that one can kill 100% of ~7,000 missiles, and another 100% of – 1,000. What matters is that some military heads in Wash. may decide that it is possible to do so…
    Anyway, moving ahead – there was an interview with your favourite :)) Russian FA http://www.isria.info/en/7_April_2009_89.html – not the best translation (eg. “treaty incompentence” does not compute) but interesting content..Maybe better in the original. Cheers

  11. Alex says:

    Hi, Eugene
    I think now we understand each other :))(and btw – I don’t know what an “expert” in this area means – reading some analyses one may start to wonder ..). I am puzzled why in negotiations one side should attempt to weight in the *relative* merits of the outcome for *another side*… How can they possibly know & how to measure it – in GDP savings per capita per missile taken with country-specific missile-ammortization and measured in unskilled labor wage index? (I understand that it is not your approach, but of some brilliant think tanks in Wash.). From my also non-expert pw, what Russians are (rightfully)concerned about is that it is one thing to belive that one can kill 100% of ~7,000 missiles, and another 100% of – 1,000. What matters is that some military heads in Wash. may decide that it is possible to do so…
    Anyway, moving ahead – there was an interview with your favourite :)) Russian FA http://www.isria.info/en/7_April_2009_89.html – not the best translation (eg. “treaty incompentence” does not compute) but interesting content..Maybe better in the original. Cheers

  12. Alex says:

    A correction – the link with Lavrov’s interview finishes with “htm” , not “html”.
    me

  13. Alex says:

    A correction – the link with Lavrov’s interview finishes with “htm” , not “html”.
    me

  14. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks for the link. I agree: a clear case of “translation incompetence.”

  15. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks for the link. I agree: a clear case of “translation incompetence.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s