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President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, so far, has been a mixed bag.
His chat with Russia’s President Dmitriy Medvedev, at the beginning of the month was positive. President Obama has been criticized for proposing a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia and the critics are partially right. A few nuclear weapons in North Korean or Iranian hands are far more of a threat than a few thousand in Russian hands. Those countries have rulers who are crazy enough to actually use them. Russia, on the other hand, is no more likely to nuke somebody than we are. A new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia won’t make the world safer.
President Obama will also need to be careful as he negotiates this treaty. He will have to make sure that the treaty doesn’t end up with terms that will become a serious problem for us. It also needs to be a bilateral treaty between the U. S. and Russia that does not include U. N.
The idea of engaging Russia in this sort of negotiation, however, is a good idea because it shows we take the country seriously. Our relations with Russia under Bush the Elder, Bill Clinton and Bush the Younger have been characterized by a total lack of respect on our part. Our foreign policy often snubbed the Russians and most of the frostiness in U. S./Russian relations is the result of angry Russian nationalism growing out of wounded national pride.
Right now, Russia is suffering worse than we are from the global recession. The price of oil, Russia’s main moneymaker, has consistently stayed below $50 a barrel since oil prices fell following the collapse of a speculative bubble last year. This hit at the same time that some rather stupid actions by Russia’s government spooked foreign investors.
This won’t last forever. Most economists expect the recession in the U. S. to end in September. There are also signs, such as increased auto sales in China, that indicate that the global economy should bottom out before the end of the year. Although the majority of economists expect the climb out of the pit to be a slow one, a recovering economy in China, the U. S. and Europe will boost demand for oil and, in turn, cause oil prices to rise, although not to the towering peak that commodities speculation drove it last year.
Foreign investors will also come back, unless the Russian government manages to do something else stupid to spook them again. After sliding sharply in value, the ruble has been stable for some time now. After a virtual free fall, Russian stock indices have also shown modest gains this month.
Russia will make a comeback during the Obama administration and making a serious effort to press the reset button in our relationship with that country, now, is a good idea.
President Obama’s approach to the Somali pirates, that were holding the American captain of a U. S. flagged ship captive, was good. You can’t, and shouldn’t, negotiate with pirates.
This, by the way, is something he should keep in mind as he tries to negotiate with Iran. Iran’s leaders, so far, have rebuffed his overtures. All President Obama’s effort to diplomatically engage Iran will do is give the mullahs more time to work on a nuclear weapon along with the missile systems to deliver it. President Obama’s faith in diplomacy as a panacea is clearly misplaced.
President Obama’s apparent faith in international institutions is also misplaced, as illustrated by the United Nations’ action that followed North Korea’s missile launch. The United Nations’ action didn’t go much beyond telling Kim Jong-Il that he is a naughty boy for ignoring a previous U. N. resolution barring North Korea from test launching missiles.
Hopefully, what we are seeing is an inexperienced new president’s learning curve. Hopefully, he won’t paint us into a corner before his on-the-job training is complete.