Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 14, 2007

See Ya, CFE

Today, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree suspending Russia’s participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, for reasons of “national security.” The 1990 pact limits the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, attack helicopters, and combat aircraft permitted in the theater between the Atlantic and the Urals. The immediate practical effect of Moscow’s move will be to end NATO’s onsite inspections of Russian forces (such inspections are part of the terms of the treaty). The suspension may also mean that the Kremlin will no longer respect limits on conventional weapons near its western borders. It appears that Putin signed this decree primarily to express his displeasure at Washington for its missile defense plans, although there have also been disagreements over the West’s failure to ratify a 1999 amendment to this treaty.

CFE has been called “an important cornerstone of European security,” but it is largely a symbolic one. The risk of another great war on the Continent is extremely low. No participant in the treaty is planning an attack, or even contemplating a real buildup of its conventional forces. Russia’s suspension of participation may be only a gesture. But it seems clearly meant to shape European politics more to Putin’s liking and to test Western unity.

Putin’s edict comes two weeks after his visit to the Bush family home in Kennebunkport. Now we have conclusive proof that Dubya’s brand of personal diplomacy has failed to moderate Russian behavior. It’s time for our President to give up the folksy approach and respond in kind to his friend Vladimir. Perhaps he can start by telling the dour autocrat that we will pull out of CFE if he does not suspend his suspension.

Today, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree suspending Russia’s participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, for reasons of “national security.” The 1990 pact limits the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, attack helicopters, and combat aircraft permitted in the theater between the Atlantic and the Urals. The immediate practical effect of Moscow’s move will be to end NATO’s onsite inspections of Russian forces (such inspections are part of the terms of the treaty). The suspension may also mean that the Kremlin will no longer respect limits on conventional weapons near its western borders. It appears that Putin signed this decree primarily to express his displeasure at Washington for its missile defense plans, although there have also been disagreements over the West’s failure to ratify a 1999 amendment to this treaty.

CFE has been called “an important cornerstone of European security,” but it is largely a symbolic one. The risk of another great war on the Continent is extremely low. No participant in the treaty is planning an attack, or even contemplating a real buildup of its conventional forces. Russia’s suspension of participation may be only a gesture. But it seems clearly meant to shape European politics more to Putin’s liking and to test Western unity.

Putin’s edict comes two weeks after his visit to the Bush family home in Kennebunkport. Now we have conclusive proof that Dubya’s brand of personal diplomacy has failed to moderate Russian behavior. It’s time for our President to give up the folksy approach and respond in kind to his friend Vladimir. Perhaps he can start by telling the dour autocrat that we will pull out of CFE if he does not suspend his suspension.

Read Less

Dubious Benchmarks

Back in May when Congress reluctantly passed a supplemental appropriation to fund American operations in Iraq one of the conditions attached to the bill was that the administration had to come back by July 15 with a report on whether the government of Iraq was making “satisfactory” progress on a list of 18 benchmarks. (Another report card is due in September.) The result was the much-ballyhooed Initial Benchmark Assessment Report released by the White House yesterday.

This led to predictable headlines about “mixed results” in Iraq, with some publications even counting up the number of “satisfactory” and “unsatisfactory” grades given to the Iraqis. (The total, in case you’re wondering: eight satisfactories, eight unsatisfactories, two mixed.)

Read More

Back in May when Congress reluctantly passed a supplemental appropriation to fund American operations in Iraq one of the conditions attached to the bill was that the administration had to come back by July 15 with a report on whether the government of Iraq was making “satisfactory” progress on a list of 18 benchmarks. (Another report card is due in September.) The result was the much-ballyhooed Initial Benchmark Assessment Report released by the White House yesterday.

This led to predictable headlines about “mixed results” in Iraq, with some publications even counting up the number of “satisfactory” and “unsatisfactory” grades given to the Iraqis. (The total, in case you’re wondering: eight satisfactories, eight unsatisfactories, two mixed.)

After reading the report, I can only conclude that the “unsatisfactory” grade must go to Congress for burdening the executive branch with meaningless paperwork. Many of the “benchmarks” measure such areas as “forming a constitutional review committee and then completing the constitutional review”; “enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions”; and “enacting and implementing legislation establishing a strong militia disarmament program.” And as the report notes:

Some of the benchmarks may be leading indicators, giving some sense of future trends; but many are more accurately characterized as lagging indicators, and will only be achieved after the strategy is fully underway and generates improved conditions on the ground.

What the Congress should have been asking is: Are American and Iraqi troops making progress in pacifying violent regions of Iraq? The answer, as the report notes, is a cautious yes. It notes a “decrease in May and June” in car bombs; “an overall decrease in sectarian violence” in Baghdad; and that “attack levels have reached a 2-year low” in Anbar Province. (For further indications of recent progress see my recent post on the subject.) Only if this progress continues will we be likely to see the kind of political reconciliation demanded in the congressional benchmarks.

But even without much evidence of a national coming-together, we are seeing some surprising grassroots political progress in provinces like Anbar and Diyala, where the tribes are deserting Al Qaeda and joining with American and Iraqi government forces. “[O]ur strategy,” the report notes, “envisions ‘bottom-up’ reconciliation to be as important, if not more important, than top-down reconciliation.” But that kind of “bottom up reconciliation” was not envisioned in the past and hence does not constitute one of the “benchmarks” demanded by Congress.

By the way, I haven’t seen any publications comment on what is the most newsy part of the report. To wit:

Expansion of the PRT [provincial reconstruction team] program is not yet complete, with only about half of the approximately 300 additional PRT personnel deployed to date. The full complement of ‘civilian surge’ personnel will be completed by December 2007.

This is a shameful admission that, four years into the war, the civilian side of government still is not carrying its fair share of the burden. The armed forces in the past few months have ponied up 30,000 more troops for Iraq, many on second or third deployments. The State Department (which oversees the PRT’s) can’t even pony up an additional 300 personnel.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.