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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mafia Foreign Policy

An letter to the Wall Street Journal from Garry Kasparov:

Without addressing Sen. Charles Schumer's central premise that sanctions would be effective against oil-rich Iran ("Russia Can Be Part of the Answer on Iran," op-ed, June 3), I would like to address what appears to be a dangerously myopic view of Russia and Russian foreign policy.

First, the senator's provocative decision to address the matter to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin instead of President Dmitry Medvedev requires extensive explanation where none was provided. The constitution of Russia makes very clear that the president is responsible for foreign policy. The prime minister serves at his discretion. It is well understood that Mr. Putin remains in the seat of power in Russia and that Mr. Medvedev was simply appointed to win a fraudulent election in March. But for an American senator to publicly take this state of affairs for granted is remarkable. Mr. Medvedev was not mentioned once in Sen. Schumer's editorial and I cannot believe this was accidental or the result of ignorance. Therefore, is Sen. Schumer implicitly acknowledging that Mr. Medvedev's election was a sham and that Russia is a dictatorship? Does this indicate a disagreement with the current U.S. policy of pretending Russia is a democracy? Would this be the senator's policy recommendation to his Senate colleague Barack Obama? Is it too much to ask that such an important, and commendable, stance be taken in less subtle fashion?

Second, Mr. Putin and his gang could not care less about nationalism (old or new), Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe, or NATO's antimissile system. They are interested only in money and how to maintain the flow into their bank accounts. Every decision they have made has this truth at its core. Mr. Putin's saber-rattling is theater designed to build up equity with the West that can later be traded away for guarantees that allow the looting of Russia to continue unabated -- for example, not responding to the crackdown on Russia's pro-democracy opposition and allowing Russia to stay in the G-8 and thereby avoid the fiscal scrutiny that would accompany less-favored status.

The Kremlin elite will join in sanctions against Iran when it is literally profitable for them to do so and not before. Sen. Schumer is speaking their language when he suggests bribing Russia into joining the boycott of Iran -- to the tune of $3 billion a year. This is the sort of mafia-style proposition they understand. I am sure they will be gratified to see a U.S. senator coming around to their way of doing business: Speak only to the big boss and offer cold, hard cash.

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