Last week, Eli Lake reported on a very specific allegation by a senior Georgian official that the Russian GRU was behind a series of bombings in that country, including the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi. The charge was so detailed that it even included the name of the Russian officer who had coordinated the attack, and his last known whereabouts in the Russian occupied Georgian province of Abkhazia.
But this allegation, coming as it did from a U.S. ally, was immediately dismissed by those on the far right and far left in Washington (who oddly share a mutual affinity for Vladimir Putin's thugocracy, or maybe just an affinity for the Obama administration's great power politics which subordinates human rights and democracy to the national interest). Joshua Foust, writing at the Atlantic, accused the Georgian government of "intentionally misleading journalists," because why would those nice Russians bomb a U.S. embassy? Daniel Larison, writing at the American Conservative, said that Lake just reports "whatever the Georgian government tells him," and that his "story reads like one designed to stoke anti-Russian sentiment in the U.S."
Well, surprise! Lake reports today that U.S. intelligence confirms the Georgian government's conclusions. The Russians did bomb an American embassy last fall:
US intelligence agencies concluded in a classified report late last year that Russia’s military intelligence was responsible for a bomb blast that occurred at an exterior wall of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, in September.
The highly classified report about the Sept. 22 incident was described to The Washington Times by two U.S. officials who have read it. They said the report supports the findings of the Georgian Interior Ministry, which traced the bombing to a Russian military intelligence officer.
“It is written without hedges, and it confirms the Georgian account,” said one U.S. official familiar with the U.S. intelligence report.
So what has been the Obama administration's response to this attack?“Those events — the embassy bombing and other alleged bombings — have been raised with the Russians at a high level and they have been raised with the Georgians at a high level,” an administration official tells Lake on background. “It’s not necessarily pointing a finger, but part of a dialogue expressing our deep concerns.”
A dialogue expressing our deep concerns? That's the response to an attack on U.S. territory? At some point ‘reset’ becomes little more than appeasement, and another story out today suggests we're already there. As bipartisan legislation targeting Russian officials complicit in human rights abuses moves through the U.S. Senate, the Russian government has delivered an ultimatum. Josh Rogin reports at the Cable:
"Senior Russian government officials have warned us that they will respond asymmetrically if legislation passes," the document stated. "Their argument is that we cannot expect them to be our partner in supporting sanctions against countries like Iran, North Korea, and Libya, and sanction them at the same time. Russian officials have said that other areas of bilateral cooperation, including on transit Afghanistan, could be jeopardized if this legislation passes."
This, as Rogin points out, is‘reset’—some limited cooperation on sanctions on Iran, and some limited logistical support for the shipment of U.S. and NATO materiel into Afghanistan. And the administration, on behalf of Vladimir Putin, is informing the U.S. Senate that any action to deny visas to those complicit in the torture and murder of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, the political prosecution and incarceration of oil magnates turned dissidents Mikheil Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, the murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskya, and many other crimes by the regime against its own people, will derail the ‘reset.’
The ‘reset’ was not supposed to be transactional; it was supposed to be a realignment of a policy to match what the Obama administration believed were "mutual interests" between the U.S. and Russia. But it turns out we don't have mutual interests. Russia has an interest in a cold war between Iran and the West, leaving Russia as the sole supplier of gas to Europe. Russia has an interest in destabilizing Georgia and any other recalcitrant state on its periphery, with the aim of installing more malleable regimes throughout its near abroad. Russia has an interest in killing journalists who speak out against the government's abuses, and in silencing those like Magnitsky who expose such abuses, or Khodorkovsky who funded the political opposition. The Obama administration may have an interest in looking the other way on all of this—even the bombing of a U.S. embassy—but they aren't acting in the interests of the United States when they do so. It has been, as Ben Smith says, "a bad week for the reset."
And as a short postscript, Larison, to his credit, has conceded that his skepticism about Lake’s initial reporting was "misplaced." Joshua Foust, on the other hand, seems to have lost interest in the story.