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May 27, 2008

McCain's Disjointed Russia Policy
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

OK, so John McCain is back to wishful thinking today laying out his bold new plan for stemming proliferation.  Obviously, reducing the stockpiles of nuclear weapons is critical to American and world security.  But his plan misses one slightly important detail.  The critical players in this field are obviously Russia and the United States – by far the two largest nuclear powers in the world.  McCain proposes a close working relationship with the Russians on these issues, and yet just two months ago in Los Angeles when he laid out his view of the world, he suggested tossing Russia out of the G8 – a needlessly provocative act that would essentially mark the start of a new Cold War in Europe.  On top of that he continues to support a regional missile defense system for Europe, which a crucial nuclear security concern for the Russians. Does he really think that he can alienate the Russians and at the same time get their cooperation on critical nuclear issues?  Is he that divorced from reality?  Or is he just ignoring what he said two months ago?  Either way, it doesn’t make much sense. 

Here is what he said two months ago at the Los Angeles Council on World Affairs:

We should start by ensuring that the G-8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia.  Rather than tolerate Russia’s nuclear blackmail or cyber attacks, Western nations should make clear that the solidarity of NATO, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, is indivisible and that the organization’s doors remain open to all democracies committed to the defense of freedom.

And here is what he is saying today:

As our two countries possess the overwhelming majority of the world’s nuclear weapons, we have a special responsibility to reduce their number. I believe we should reduce our nuclear forces to the lowest level we judge necessary, and we should be prepared to enter into a new arms control agreement with Russia reflecting the nuclear reductions I will seek. Further, we should be able to agree with Russia on binding verification measures based on those currently in effect under the START Agreement, to enhance confidence and transparency.

McCain’s basic plan is to slap the Russians smack across the face and then ask them for a favor.  Somehow I don’t think that will work.

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Comments

McCain comments about having an alliance with India against Russia, is idiotic. What McCain does not seem to to realize is that Russia and India have a very close military relationship with each other and are working jointly together on developing a new figher jet that will serve in the Indian air force. What McCain fails to realize is that India feels that it needs to work closely not only with Russia but also with Iran in case the situation in Pakistan explodes. McCain's positions on Iran and Russia could isolate the United States from the largest democracy in Asia.

All of the presidential candidates have outlined completely unrealistic foreign policies - nobody can have strict "engagement" vs. "zero tolerance" - but they are all afraid to qualify what they have said for the risk of earning the flip flop tag.

What is interesting about McCain's Russia policy is that one of his chief advisers, who is also the vice president of Ford, is very pro-Russia, and would like to see continued investment for his other employer. However on the other side of the coin you have Robert Kagan whispering in McCain's ear about crazy ideas of building an "alliance of democracies" to circumvent the UN ... an idea which is not being warmly received.

Get some more details about these guys at the Robert Amsterdam blog:

http://www.robertamsterdam.com/2008/04/getting_to_know_mccains_brain.htm

I think McCain means well but he is just not a big thinker. I think his plans are unrealistic, from Iraq and Iran to nuclear arms control he doesn't really grasp the subtleties of world politics. I don't mean to dwell on the past but as an ex USAF officer and Ivy League grad I am seriously concerned about a guy who graduated in the bottom 1% of his class at the academy. Consider tha fact that at the time both his father and grandfather were Admirals in the Navy and one can only imagine how badly he must have screwed up to barely graduate. In fact I suspect he wouldn't have graduated at all if he didn't have two Admirals in his family. Now of course McCain has lived a lot of years since that time and we should probably judge him on what he has done after Annapolis but it is still somewhat telling about who he is.

As some friends have said, I would be happy to watch a football game and drink beer with guys like Bush or McCain, but that doesn't qualify them for president.

I respond to your nonsense:

http://publiuspundit.com/2008/05/statesman_mccain.php

John McCain has openly declared his ignorance of economics and his disdain for domestic policy in general. The ex-military man and admiral's son apparantly aspires to become president only on the strength of his awesome mastery of US foreign policy.

But it is disconcerting indeed when a man running mainly on his alleged foreign policy credentials so frequently makes such fundamental and obvious mistakes as declaring that Sunni Al-Queda is in league with Shiite Iran (a remark that Sen. Joseph Lieverman--then standing by McCain's side--had to publicly correct).

McCain does not inspire confidence that his foreign policy credentials are so awe-inspiring that we should overlook his obvious shortcomings on domestic and economic policy. Rather McCain, the admiral's son who graduated Annapolis in the lowest 1% of his class, gives the impression of an ossified dinosaur who sleeps through Senate foreign policy hearings and is incompetent in everything (foreign policy as well as domestic policy).

If McCain is running chiefly on his alleged awesome foreign policy credentials, then it is not asking too much to expect the man to occasionally state a foreign policy fact correctly.

I wrote a piece on McCain's "change of heart" on my Russia blog, here:
http://mishasrussiablog.blogspot.com/2008/05/john-mccains.html

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