Rice slams ‘paranoid,’ ‘isolated’ Russia

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images I finally had the chance to read U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s big speech on Russia (thanks, Jeff). And it’s pretty good. If you can, read the whole thing and not just the press accounts, because it contains more nuance than the reporting would suggest. (And do also check out Defense ...

592489_080919_Rice5.jpg
592489_080919_Rice5.jpg

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

I finally had the chance to read U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's big speech on Russia (thanks, Jeff).

And it's pretty good. If you can, read the whole thing and not just the press accounts, because it contains more nuance than the reporting would suggest. (And do also check out Defense Secretary Robert Gates's call for "caution" among NATO states along Russia's periphery.)

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

I finally had the chance to read U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s big speech on Russia (thanks, Jeff).

And it’s pretty good. If you can, read the whole thing and not just the press accounts, because it contains more nuance than the reporting would suggest. (And do also check out Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s call for “caution” among NATO states along Russia’s periphery.)

Yes, Condi did say Russia’s leaders had a “paranoid, aggressive impulse” to control their neighbors. And yes, she made clear that the United States would seek to deny Russia its strategic goals and exclude it from international institutions such as the WTO and the OECD. “Russia’s international standing is worse now that at any time since 1991,” she claimed, pointing out that Russia has found scant support for its actions in Georgia. “A pat on the back from Daniel Ortega and Hamas is not a diplomatic triumph,” she pointed out. Zing!

Still, Rice acknowledged the Russian view of the situation, saying she remembered Russian friends describing the “humiliating sense that nothing Russian was good enough anymore” during the 1990s, though she didn’t mention that many if not most Russians blame the West for this state of affairs.

I’m not yet convinced, however, that bringing Georgia (and for that matter, Ukraine) into NATO is a smart move. Think back to that disastrous Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson. When the vice presidential nominee said that “perhaps” the United States might have to go to war with Russia, a nuclear power, to meet its Article Five obligations, she was being clumsy where a more seasoned politician might decline to be so explicit or dismiss the question as hypothetical.

But, technically speaking, she was right on the merits. War with Russia may be inconceivable, but putting Georgia in NATO means that protecting that country is a collective obligation of the trans-Atlantic alliance. U.S. leaders should think long and hard about whether they would really send Americans to die so that Mikheil Saakashvili can regain control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Because Vladimir Putin is betting that they wouldn’t.

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