What was the bottom line of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov? America’s punting on a request for sanctions on Iran, as the Washington Post reported (and Jennifer discussed)? Or was it instead a case of “Russia Resists U.S. on Iran Sanctions,” as the Associated Press reported? Of course, both amount to the same thing. Clinton’s statement that it wasn’t yet time for sanctions on Iran to pressure it to stop its nuclear program is merely an admission that the administration’s plan to gain international support for restraining Iran is dead in the water. Russia may not be entirely pleased with the notion of a nuclear Iran, but its main foreign-policy goal since Vladimir Putin took power has been to thwart the United States and inflate Russia’s importance on the world stage. Because Iran’s nukes threaten America’s allies in the region, such as Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and the destabilization of the Middle East undermines American interests, stopping Tehran does not interest Moscow.
Of course, Russia’s indifference to the threat of a nuclear Iran is not news. The Russians have been making it clear for years that neither they nor their allies-of-convenience on this issue in Beijing will allow the West to use the UN to orchestrate the sort of “crippling sanctions” that have a chance to bring the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime to heel. Our Nobel-laureate president and his secretary of state have made diplomacy and “engagement” with Iran the centerpiece of their foreign policy, but they have also maintained that such a stance will serve American interests because, by eschewing the “cowboy diplomacy” of the Bush administration (an ironic accusation, since W. outsourced diplomacy on Iran to the French and Germans with predictable results), they will be able to pursue a multilateral approach to all the world’s problems.
This charade may have earned Obama a great deal of applause as well as a certain peace prize. But the Russian refusal to play along has painted the administration into a corner. Though the United States has already betrayed its Eastern European allies by unilaterally abandoning strategic missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic at Russia’s behest, Hillary’s meeting with Lavrov confirms that Iran will be allowed to continue to prevaricate while its nuclear program progresses with no real threat of international punishment. Though the administration continues to speak of deadlines — albeit constantly shifting them — for Tehran today’s comedy skit in Moscow illustrates just how empty America’s demands are. The only winners in this exchange are Russia and Iran. Israelis and others who rightly fear the consequences of an America content to let the Iranian nuclear program proceed while they talk about talking can only regard these latest developments with horror.