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Dial M For Moscow

Putin's speech compelled many European politicians to analyze more attentively Washington's recent steps in Europe, particularly, the idea of creating a high-tech ABM shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. They were concerned that the appearance of American lightweight forward-based forces in Bulgaria and Romania, and the deployment of the elements of the U.S. ABM system in the Aleutian Islands (pictured), and, possibly, the British Isles looked like an obvious attempt to provoke Russia into action. It could reciprocate by fanning up the arms race and denouncing the Treaty on the Elimination of Medium and Smaller Range Missiles. In other words, this would be a remake of the Cold War. As a result, Europe is squeezed in this sandwich of U.S.- Russian confrontation, waiting for who will bite first.
by Vladimir Simonov
RIA Novosti political commentator
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Mar 23, 2007
The U.S. Administration has launched a new diplomatic initiative. It wants to intensify consultations with Russia in order to dispel its discontent with American foreign policy. But Moscow suspects that this initiative is primarily oriented toward an external, European audience, and may become a unilateral instrument of notifying Russia on what the U.S. has decided or already done.

An unnamed high-ranking official from President George W. Bush's team has informed several influential Western media about the new diplomatic initiative. It follows from what he said that the U.S. Administration has taken seriously the Western criticism that it does not put enough effort into its relations with its major ally, Russia.

Some politicians and scholars maintain that as a result of such actions as deployment of anti-ballistic missile elements in Eastern Europe, or support of NATO's expansion meet with a lack of understanding and instinctive rejection from Russian leaders. In order to curb this negative trend, Washington intends to engage Moscow in dialog more often, primarily on such vital issues as U.S. international policy or plans to ensure national security.

Moreover, the same source made it clear that the new diplomatic initiative is already being implemented. For example, the meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Berlin on Feb. 21-22, where the secretary of state tried to find out Moscow's position on the second resolution of the UN Security Council on Iran, was an illustration of the project at work. During his visit to Russia the same week, U.S. Presidential National Security Adviser Steve Hadley was also guided by the new initiative.

Although the dates for his trip had been fixed long ago, he would not have talked to the Russian leaders in such a confidential tone if he had not been encouraged by it.

Obviously, Russian President Vladimir Putin's Feb. 10 speech at the memorable security conference in Munich eventually reached the U.S. press. The Russian president had accused the United States of abuse of force in international affairs, and of attempts to press its will and its vision of good and evil on other nations across the board - in economics, politics and the humanitarian sphere.

But to be precise, this criticism was initially heard only by Europe and later communicated to the United States.

Putin's speech compelled many European politicians to analyze more attentively Washington's recent steps in Europe, particularly, the idea of creating a high-tech ABM shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. They were concerned that the appearance of American lightweight forward-based forces in Bulgaria and Romania, and the deployment of the elements of the U.S. ABM system in the Aleutian Islands, and, possibly, the British Isles looked like an obvious attempt to provoke Russia into action.

It could reciprocate by fanning up the arms race and denouncing the Treaty on the Elimination of Medium and Smaller Range Missiles. In other words, this would be a remake of the Cold War. As a result, Europe is squeezed in this sandwich of U.S.- Russian confrontation, waiting for who will bite first.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was among those who conveyed these European concerns, if not fears most recently. The former German chancellor called these American plans extremely dangerous. He warned that the absurd policy of encircling Russia was by no means in European interests. His criticism is consonant with recent statements by current German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Washington should have discussed its intentions with Russia beforehand.

The European discontent with the American idea of making Europe an ABM buffer, and, hence, a target, has compelled even Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to voice his apprehensions on this score.

The pro-American NATO secretary-general told the Financial Times that a proposed U.S. missile defense system risks splitting the alliance between those the program would protect and those it would not. For some reason, Scheffer did not elaborate on this idea. The deployment of this strange ABM system that cannot cope with a massive missile attack may pursue exactly this purpose -- to split Europe and put it at loggerheads with Russia.

Be as it may, but the European worries have compelled the U.S. administration to come up with this initiative of frequent and intensive consultations with Moscow. Its aim was to reassure the allies with what seems to be more of a formal procedure than meaningful dialogue with Russia.

The same source from the U.S. administration made it clear that consultations a priori rule out any major concessions to Russia. No matter what arguments Moscow quotes at these more regular meetings, Washington will not stop implementing its plan to deploy ABM components in Europe or slow down NATO's expansion.

In these circumstances, the constructive idea of equitable bilateral consultations can quickly turn into an instrument for Russia's unilateral notification of what the United States has already done or will do. Russia is grateful but this is not enough.

(Vladimir Simonov is a political commentator for RIA Novosti. Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti.)

Source: RIA Novosti

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