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Administration Frustration: From Russia Without Love

Credit: x-ray delta one via flickr

Credit: x-ray delta one via flickr

Нет любви к России.  Russia has been a bastion of political change and upheaval for decades.  From the Bolshevik revolution, Lenin’s reign, and the overpowering iron fist of Stalin, to the era of uncertainty and the slow and bumpy road to some form of Capitalism through Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and most recently Putin.  Throughout the years and into the present day, the United States has had a difficult and rocky relationship with Russia.

Relations have certainly impoved since the days of the USSR.  The two countries are no longer on the brink of nuclear annhiliation, the hammer and sickle is more a symbol of history than a symbol of society, and the James Bond franchise has begun to distance itself away from the mantra that the Soviety Union/Russia is the evil neighbor next door (well, they have started to at least).

President Obama isn’t exactly the debonair 30-something Sean Connery sent to thwart the plan’s of a SPECTRE operation.  He doesn’t have to deal with a burly alpha-female with poison tipped shoes.  Instead, he has to deal with Vladimir Putin.  Or, as the Obama Administration recently decided, not deal with President Putin.

In a rare diplomatic rebuke, President Barack Obama on Wednesday canceled his Moscow summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The decision reflected both U.S. anger over Russia’s harboring of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and growing frustration within the Obama administration over what it sees as Moscow’s stubbornness on other key issues, including missile defense and human rights.

Source:  Huffington Post

By revealing sensitive classified information from the NSA, Edward Snowden sent a huge wrench into the greasy cogs that turn the Washington political machine.  Many politicians are puzzled as to how they should react.  Should they be mad?  Should they label Snowden a traitor?  The Obama Administration has not had this issue.  They have taken a hardline approach to dealing with the problem: Extradite, prosecute, and continue to keep government secrets away from the general public.  The administration got caught up on the first step of extaditing Snowden when Russia granted him temporary asylum.  If Obama were a bird, his feathers would be extremely ruffled by President Putin at this point.

But the Obama administration’s plan to solve this problem has thus far been to put off talking to Russia.

“We’ll still work with Russia on issues where we can find common ground, but it was the unanimous view of the president and his national security team that a summit did not make sense in the current environment,” Rhodes said.

If all diplomatic policies were centered on only talking about things that we agree about with other countries, U.S. relationships with the international community would go absolutely nowhere.  That’s the direction we seem to be going with Russia.  Not talking about issues that are pertinent and of concern to citizens of both countries only exacerbates the tensions between the the United States and Russia.

Maybe if the Obama Administration ignores the problem it will go away, but that is highly unlikely.  If diplomatic relations are as troublesome as the administration claims they are, cancelling talks with President Putin sends a the Russian government: The United States isn’t willing to work with them.  Obama’s cancelling of the meeting is a sign of frustration, and its hard to solve problems by acting on frustration.

Russia is a challenge, but maybe the Obama Administration should face this challenge head on.  Sean Connery might not be a diplomatic genius, but he got it right when he said this: “There is nothing like a challenge to bring out the best in a man.”

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