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Russia Resets Relations… With Syria

Well, the Obama administration may still believe its reset policy has a chance with Russia. Indeed, during his swearing-in as the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul reiterated that the reset is not over. (Alas, as with Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, who stood down Syria during Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution, only to be ordered to fete Damascus by Secretary Clinton, it seems the Obama administration specializes in nominating great people and then giving them horrendous instructions).

While Washington grovels, Vladimir Putin, however, seems to have another reset in mind: with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A Russian cargo ship laden with arms has reportedly just docked in Syria in order to resupply Assad’s troops as they try to restore control after a popular uprising. The resupply effort comes after this weekend’s port call by a Russian aircraft carrier in Syria.

Putin’s embrace of Assad suggests the absurdity of trying to corral Russia into any international coalition against Iran and its nuclear program. Putin sees foreign relations as a zero-sum game with absolutely no room for morality. He is the Russian Stephen Walt, only with dictatorial power. Obama’s over-reliance on the United Nations Security Council under these circumstances is strategic malpractice of the worst kind. The only reset the State Department needs is to dispense with the assumption diplomacy will work with insincere partners.


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