How the Russians Roll Us
John Bolton has a characteristically clear-minded op-ed just out in the Wall Street Journal about Russia’s antagonistic position vis-a-vis our interests in Syria. Quoth the former UN Ambassador:
Since Syria’s civil war began, Mr. Obama has insisted, contrary to fact, that the U.S. and Russia have a common interest in resolving the crisis and stabilizing the Middle East. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent efforts to secure Russian co-sponsorship of a peace conference, at which Washington will push for Assad’s ouster, reflect Mr. Obama’s illusion.
The objective evidence consistently demonstrates that Russia has no interest whatever in eliminating its only remaining Arab ally. Moscow’s military and financial assistance to Damascus continues undiminished, along with its hold on the Cold War-era Tartus naval base, strategically positioned on Syria’s Mediterranean coast—but now facing only a phantom U.S. Sixth Fleet. Despite the hoopla surrounding the announcement of the proposed peace talks, their starting date, attendees, agenda and prospects all remain uncertain.
Most dramatically, Russia last month reaffirmed its commitment to deliver sophisticated S-300 air-defense missile systems to Assad. Although Israeli leaders have played down the sale’s significance, this combination of advanced radars and missiles, which can defeat any non-stealthy aircraft (and Israel does not now have stealth planes), could change the strategic balance in Syria as well as in Lebanon and Iran—to Israel’s detriment and ours.
These are not, needless to say the actions of a friend.
Scratch the surface a bit and you’ll see the folly not only of the Obama Administration’s Russian “reset” policy, but also of every one of our “peace through vacuous niceties” diplomatic endeavors, whether in the former Soviet Union, China, or the Muslim world.
Our differences are not the product of misunderstandings. All international conflict does not stem from a global game of telephone gone horribly wrong. States and certain non-state actors (such as terrorists) rationally pursue their interests, which are defined both in material terms (economic advantage, balance of power considerations) and ideological ones. If those interests are fundamentally incompatible, no measure of sweet reason will make them otherwise. In the case of Russia, which defines one of its imperatives as checking American power wherever it can, that is precisely the case.