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HuffPo Columnist Laments: Why Do We Dislike the Russians?

1:46 PM, Oct 20, 2009 • By JOHN NOONAN
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A knotty question. I'd point to their continued support of the Iranian regime's nuclear program, their use of energy reserves to blackmail democratic Eastern Europe, their aggressive export of high-tech weapons to thuggish regimes, disconcerting upgrades to their nuclear forces, chest-thumping assertions of their right to pre-emptively nuke potential adversaries, and -- the icing on the cake -- their surprise invasion of Georgia.

So why, wonders The Huffington Post, do we continue to "poke Russia in the eye" with such appalling behavior as siding with our Georgian ally during the invasion and supporting the fledgling Eastern European democracies?

Here's the bizarre rational: Missile Defense is obstructing Russian support for meaningful UN sanctions on Iran. NATO expansion is betraying our shared interests in stopping the flow of al Qaeda into southern Russian. And supporting Georgia is costing us meaningful Russian cooperation on non-proliferation initiatives. The list of grievances isn't necessarily in that order, but underlined in red is that the current sad state of US-Russian affairs is totally our bad. So much for the reset button.

So in what appears to be an ongoing trend with the online journal, HuffPo allows itself to ignore inconvenient realities: we pulled missile defense unilaterally and received a strong "no" on Iranian sanctions. NATO expansion has largely cooled, not that Russia would ever consider an alliance to jointly combat al Qaeda anyway. They do share intelligence on terrorist targets from time to time, but that has everything to do with their common interest in killing extremists and precisely zero to do with missile defense, NATO expansion, or Georgia. Same goes for non-proliferation initiatives -- they help when it's helpful to them.

This is the same toxic mentality that has polluted this administration's foreign policy from Day 1. If only we concede enough, if only we find the right appeasement calculation, the US and Russia will finally -- after decades of hostility -- become BFFs. It'd be nice if such lofty thinking was grounded, but -- as they say -- reality sucks. Moscow steadily responds to our generous -- if not a bit naive -- goodwill with smug lectures and perfidious lip service to our "common interests." This has been the case since the early days of the Cold War and is unlikely to change. So instead of finding innovative new ways to keel over, the administration should consider a new vector: ditch the reset button. Be strong, purposeful, and -- at times -- hardheaded. It's a proven formula that's worked for every US president (except Carter) since the Truman administration. It'll work for Obama too.

Aside: The author is Gary Hart, who apparently knows as much about the Russians as running a presidential campaign.