There is little question any longer that we are trying the appeasement approach with Russia. Reassuring another nation that we have absolutely no intention of doing something that might conceivably be in our interest? That’s what appeasement is. When the assurances relate to rumors that have no apparent basis in reality — when we are earnestly promising not to do things we have merely been accused of, as opposed to renouncing those we actually planned — there is an additional aspect of manipulated abjectness that can be considered, shall we say, troubling.
Russian media outlets, citing a Georgian news item, have been advancing the theory that the U.S. plans to establish military bases in Georgia. This theory does not appear to have any basis in fact. Yet a seemingly stray comment from a retired Russian general, cited in an AP report today, picks up the Georgia theme:
Russian retired Gen. Viktor Yesin, the former chief of staff of the Russian military’s Strategic Missile Forces, said Russia’s reaction to [Obama’s] new missile-defense plan will likely be calm unless the U.S. takes what he called provocative moves.
He said Moscow would certainly be angered if the U.S. were to send navy ships with interceptor missiles to the Black Sea or put a missile-defense radar in Georgia.
Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow, visiting Georgia yesterday, was at pains to put these fears to rest. The U.S., he says, is not looking at any non-NATO nations for missile-defense installations — is in fact in consultations with Russia on missile defense — and has no plans for military bases in Georgia.
Diplomacy 101 would tell us not to let the media themes of others maneuver us into giving categorical assurances. Handing such assurances out for free is reactionary and hazardous under almost any circumstances. Beyond what the map informs us about Georgia’s interesting location, which we now cannot leverage without exhibiting bad faith, Vershbow’s uncareful formulation sends random and prejudicial signals about our broader missile-defense policy, our concept of NATO defense, and our posture on the Caucasus and Georgia’s NATO aspirations.
However the Obama administration sees this, what the Russians see is that we would rather reassure them, on their terms, than retain the latitude to affirm U.S. and NATO interests on our terms. Regardless of motive, that posture is one of appeasement. It is past time for the Obama administration to figure that out.