Last Tango in Sochi

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Amir Arfa

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You could have chopped the chill as George and Vladimir emerged from their final round with differences as far apart as the White House and the Black Sea.

BBC could save a few pence and rerun its Oct 12, 07 headline, "US and Russia fail to bridge gap" followed by the same old lead paragraph:

"It is not unusual for senior diplomats to disagree. It is, however, extremely unusual to see them do so as obviously and as publicly as the Russians and the Americans have done…."

Except, this time around we are not talking Condi, Robert & Sergei missile-defense-shielding it out in Moscow; rather Masters Bush and his black-belt/Dan6 host sleeping on a stack of thorny issues in the latter's Sochi dacha hours after the battle of Bucharest.

Seven years after Bush famously sighted Putin's soul and just before both kiss presidency goodbye, (George next January and Vladimir coming May with the latter donning Prime Minister's hat) the two are yet to find the common ground they set sails for on November 13, 2001 and on May 24, 2002- dates as recalled in a freshly penned "strategic framework".

"Recalling our Joint Statement of November 13, 2001 on a New Relationship Between the United States and Russian and our Joint Declaration of May 24, 2002, we reaffirm that the era in which the United States and Russia considered one another an enemy or strategic threat has ended. We reject the zero-sum thinking of the Cold War when "what was good for Russia was bad for America" and vice versa. ", says the introductory paragraph.

The 3071-word "framework" starts with the epiphany that… the Cold War is over…

So, it contends let us move "the US-Russia relationship from one of strategic competition to strategic partnership" in which all Vladimir's Russia is required to do is what Rose did on the Titanic. Just close your eyes and trust Jack!

So, why did the two leaders look so dour when they had just inked such a landmark document, one that would define the future of Moscow-Washington relations?

The answer could be found at the sprawling junkyard of scrapped Russo-US treaties, statements, agreements and frameworks plus It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to do the math;
Fresh Presidents times (Joint Statement of November 13, 2001 + Joint Declaration of May 24, 2002) = The Status Quo
Lame Duck Presidents times (Strategic Framework of April 4) =
Another Piecrust promise penned by piecrust presidents

Issues outlined in the "Strategic Framework" run the following gamut;

Promoting Security, Post-START, Missile Defense, INF Treaty, Arms Sales, Defense, Technology Cooperation, Preventing the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, NPT, Declaration on Nuclear Energy and Nonproliferation, International Uranium Enrichment Center, Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, INPRO, Reliable Access to Nuclear Fuel, Reserve of low enriched uranium, Blending Down Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU), Iran, North Korea, Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy, Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, Nuclear Security, Proliferation Security Initiative, Combating Global Terrorism, Bilateral Cooperation, Multilateral Initiatives, Strategic Economic Cooperation, WTO, Economic Dialogue, Bilateral Investment Treaty, US-Russia Energy Dialogue and of course the Climate Change.

Putin has about a month as president and Bush less than 9 to solve all these problems most of which Bush's father and Putin's grand predecessor Mikhail Gorbachov promised to solve almost two decades ago.

Yet The former KGB agent's Judoka posture alongside a fluttering George suggested Vladimir had heard something about George's papa's promise made almost two decades ago to the father of perestroika and glasnost that Nato would not expand beyond East Germany, that... that…

With the Damocles sword of Ukraine and Georgia's full Nato membership hanging right over his head and the rainbow noose of US-backed revolutions tightening round his neck and a Nato-endorsed "missile defense shield" tying his arms (if not aimed at him), the American press could perhaps pardon the Tsar's Siberian chill.

When Bush described him as someone who "speaks his mind", Putin attested; "Our countries still have serious disagreements on certain problems," adding "Our fundamental attitude toward the American plan has not changed."


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