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Right Turn
Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 06/03/2011

Has Russia ‘reset’ its behavior?

Last December I reported on a foiled terrorism plot in the former Soviet state of Georgia that was linked to Russia. In that plot the U.S. embassy was targeted as well. The Russians, it seems, are at it again. On Thursday another bomb plot orchestrated by Russia was uncovered by Georgian authorities.

While President Obama was visiting the Group of Eight last week, he met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. According to a source with knowledge of the discussion, the president “firmly raised” the issue of Russian threats to Georgian territory. However, in an extensive briefing on the meeting, Mike McFaul, director for Russian and Eurasian affairs, and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes did not mention the issue. (They did describe discussions on Russian efforts to enter the World Trade Organization and Georgian objections thereto.) National Security Council spokesman Thomas Vietor told me Thursday night that it was “not accurate” that the topic of Russian threats was raised but that “but Russia/Georgia relations were a major topic.”

Whether the particular issue was unaddressed or whether it was mentioned but any U.S. admonitions were ignored, it appears anti-Georgian terrorism is still the order of the day:

Georgia said Thursday that it had arrested two suspects who were planning to detonate bombs under orders from arch-foe Russia. Police arrested a man and a woman in possession of explosives in the western part of the country, the interior ministry said.

“They have confessed that they were ordered by Russian officers to set off explosions on Georgian territory,” ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told AFP.

In recent months, Georgian police have detained a series of suspects for allegedly setting off bombs or planning attacks on behalf of the Russian military intelligence.

Three men were accused of trying to blow up state buildings in Georgia’s second-largest city of Kutaisi in March, while several more suspects were held on suspicion of staging blasts last year near targets, including the US embassy in Tbilisi.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) as well as other lawmakers and outside foreign policy experts have complained that the administration’s “reset” policy toward Russia consists largely of acceding to Russian demands with no corresponding progress in Russian human rights or conduct toward its neighbors.

In the case of Georgia (whose requests for defensive weapons have been rebuffed by the United States) the imbalance has a particularly perverse result. Russia continues to occupy Georgia, promote violence and disregard admonitions about its human rights abuses at home. Meanwhile, Georgia just sent an additional 625 troops to supplement U.S. Marines fighting in Helmand province, making Georgia the largest non-NATO troop contributor to the mission in Afghanistan. It certainly seems that our democratic ally is getting the worse end of the deal here. (The disregard of the interests of democratic allies in pursuit of better relations with thugocracies is not an infrequent feature of this administration.)

McFaul has been nominated as ambassador to Russia. His hearings might be an excellent time to explore whether Russia “reset” is all give and no get for the United States and the West.

By  |  12:00 PM ET, 06/03/2011

Categories:  foreign policy

 
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