An Offer We Can’t Refuse
The USA is ready to slow down the Missile Defense System in Europe in exchange for Russia’s help in the Iranian question.
On Tuesday, in the New York Times, an article stated that the president of the U.S. Barack Obama sent his Russian colleague Dimitri Medvedev a secret letter with a offer on foreign policy. The American leader allegedly suggested Moscow to press on Tehran (so they would say no or at least halt their nuclear program), and in result promised to cede in the issue of the missile defence systems (MDS) in Central Europe (more information about it can be found here). The publication led to comments from both Medvedev and Obama, and an enormous public discussion about the future of Russo-American relationships developed.
According to the article in the New York Times, the letter written by then not inaugurated Obama was given to Dimitri Medvedev about 3 months ago by the representatives of Washington. The members of the administration, that shared the content of the document with Peter Baker (the author of the article), obviously preferred to remain anonymous . According to them, Obama didn’t offer any direct deal, but made it quite clear that either Iran will stop their nuclear program and long-distance missiles, or the development of the MDS in Europe will continue. On a side note, it is true that Tehran is developing and at every opportunity bragging about their rockets, but still stubbornly is calling its nuclear program “peaceful”.
Of course, the U.S. and their allies don’t believe in the peacefulness of the Iranian atom, and use the “potential” nuclear threat to motivate the construction of an “umbrella” over Europe, that is so unpleasant to Moscow. February 19, the International Agency of Nuclear Energy (IANE) stated that Iran has enough uranium for the creation of one bomb, and last Sunday Mikael Mallen , stated the same. The admiral agreed with the estimation of the IANE, and stressed that the armament of Iran with nuclear weapons would “give a very, very bad result”.
The first comment to the New York Times publication was the Russian side. First the press-secretary of Medvedev, Natalia Timakova said that the president liked the positive tone of Obama’s letter, and that Moscow is pleased by the open tone of Washington, yet there was no proposal about any possible common initiatives. Later, the head of the Russia stated the same. “Yes, we do correspond. But If you are talking about some exchanges of favors, I say that the questions weren’t put that way”, Medvedev stated. He specially remarked Washington’s readiness to discuss the MDS issue, that seemed very utopian during the Bush administration. “If the new administration of USA will use common sense here and will offer some new construction, that would satisfy all Europeans, and the USA, and would be acceptable to our country, we are ready to discuss it. But it has to be normal, complete, if you want – global construction, but not just one single fragment, that is placed near the Russian borders”, he concluded.
Obama gave his explanations on Tuesday. As well as Medvedev, he insisted on the fact that no offers of the type “service for service” were made in the letter. According to Obama, the MDS are directed towards Iran, not Russia. “In my letter it said that if we decrease Iran’s desire to get nuclear weapons, it would obviously decrease the need of MDS”, he explained. So it turns out that the initial information about the “secret” letter was near the truth, and the transaction about Iran vs. MDS was only hinted to Medvedev . Obama, that isn’t too enthusiastic about the development of the MDS, can easily make it into an exchange card. Even if for example, Robert Gates looks at the case from a different perspective. The head of the Pentagon believes that the U.S. government is trying to make Russia into a “full partner” in the MDS, because the Iranian rockets are a possible threat not only to the allies of the U.S. in Europe, but could also reach most of Russia’s territory as well.
In any case, the Obama administration is making revisions of the relations with Russia. The Washington Post was told by sources from the White House that a whole packet of initiatives for development of partnerships is being created for the first meeting of Obama and Medvedev , that will take place in April. Some examples are the revival of the half-dead NATO-Russia Council and negotiations about the control over strategic armaments, and finally the settlement around the MDS issue. The idea of “starting from scratch” in Russo-American relations and the U.S. foreign policy in general is actively discussed after Obama’s victory in the presidential elections. While Moscow and Washington are sharing with each other hopes for beneficial changes, each side is waiting for the other to make the first resolute step.
Besides Moscow, Tehran is also waiting with impatience for the promised by the American leader “new approaches”. During the pre-election race, Obama (in comparison to his opponent John McCain) argued for a dialogue with Iran. And in February, the unappeasable president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, stated that is ready for negotiations with his American colleague. It is understandable that the embodiment of reformist rhetoric into reality is a hard task, and that life makes some corrections to Obama’s plans. For example, Hillary Clinton made a significant statement while visiting Egypt on Tuesday . As it turned out, the former first lady has great doubts that using only diplomacy, that Obama is hoping on, it would be possible to make Iran say no to their nuclear program. In this case, the help of Moscow becomes more wanted, and soon Clinton will be able to discuss the problems about Iran and MDS with the minister of foreign policies of Russia – Sergei Lavrov – their meet will occur on Friday in Geneva.
So even if a complete “reload” of the Russo-American relations or the creation of a “new global construction” are still too far away to talk about, their realizations aren’t completely unreachable.