As we all know, the rich world has a debt problem. It's been living beyond its means for some time now, a situation exposed in so many ways by the 2008 financial crisis. Governmment finances in particular are in disarray, as they have been forced to bail out their banks, are receiving less in tax and paying more in benefits. Without drastic action, government blance sheets can only deteriorate further as demographic change (primarily aging populations).
Monday, August 15, 2011
There's been quite a lot of comment in the international press recently about the efficacy or otherwise of the Obama administration's "reset" of relations with Russia.
All that notwithstanding, there is a major problem with how the reset has unfolded. It is that the US has been comprehensively out-negotiated by Russia.
Fans of the reset claim the following gains for the US:
1. A Russian abstention from a UN security council resolution authorising sanctions against Iran for continuing its nuclear weapons program.
2. The right of passage through Russia for NATO personnel & equipment headed for Afghanistan.
3. A treaty reducing the number of nuclear weapons held by the two countries.
Let's take each of these in turn.
1. The sanctions on Iran have proved to be ineffective and the nuclear weapons programme is proceeding unabated. Russia continues to support the Iranians to the fullest extent it can. No gain to the US.
2. NATO success in Afghanistan is as important to Russia as it is to the US. Afghanistan is a major source of drugs flowing into Russia and its fall to the Taliban would generate Muslim insurgencies in Central Asia and in possibly Russia itself. It's in Russia's interests to cooperate and this should not be seen as a "win" for the US.
3. Russia needed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons it was maintaining, as many of them were old, insecure and would have required a substantial investment to upgrade. Furthermore, by moving down to equal numbers of weapons on bothe sides, Russia will gain in a relative sense, as the US currently has superiority. No US win here either.
In summary, US gains form the reset are, well, zero.
Russian gains, on the other hand, are substantial:
A. The US has turned a blind eye to Russia's gross abuses in Georgia. These are too numerous to go into here.
B. The US has imposed an informal arms embargo on Georgia.
C. NATO has backtracked on membership plans for Georgia and Ukraine.
D. The US is championing Russia's entry into the World Trade Organisation
E. The Administration is attempting to thwart the passage of the Magnitsky Act.
F. The achievement of parity in nuclear weapons capabilities, as noted above.
Now don't get me wrong; there are some good things about the reset. It's a good thing for nations to talk with, rather than yell at, each other. The concept of trying to make progress on issues where progress is possible is useful, as is, in some cases, the idea of de-linking certain topics from others.
Posted by Zimbru at 9:53 PM