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Right Turn
Posted at 09:30 AM ET, 03/31/2011

If Georgia can negotiate with Russia, why can’t the U.S.?

Yesterday Josh Rogin reported:

The nation of Georgia is in a position to block Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), a top goal of the U.S.-Russia reset policy. The Georgians say that they are willing to strike a deal with Russia but only if Moscow abides by WTO rules on trade and customs policy, [a] position that would require Russian concessions in its conflict over the occupied territories, according [to] the president of Georgia.

We’ve let our democratic ally know that, guys, you’re on your own in trying to wrest a deal with the Russians:

Obama administration officials have made it clear that Washington won’t become involved in WTO negotiations between Russia and Georgia.

Not surprisingly, Russia isn’t being very “constructive” in its talks. And why should it? The United States isn’t making any demands and has not conditioned WTO admission on leaving the 20 percent of Georgia that Russian troops occupy. Meanwhile, the United States is not rushing forth to provide defensive weapons to Georgia:

“It’s not in our interest to leave a stalwart partner, a NATO-aspirant country, without the needs to properly defend itself,” [John] McCain said at Tuesday’s SASC hearing.

[Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili said he takes the administration at its word that there is no ban on weapons sales to Georgia and that some sales of small arms are “in the pipeline.” But he added that Georgia really needs heavier weapons that could be used to defend the country in the case of another conflict with Russia.

This brings us back to a central question about “Russian reset”: What are WE getting out of this? Critics of President Obama’s Russia policy point out that U.S. policy has been turned upside-down in an effort to placate the Russians. We offer no arms to Georgia, which actually has troops deployed in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. But we give a free pass to Russia, which occupies its neighbor in violation of the 2008 cease-fire. And, oh by the way, Russia’s human rights behavior is as bad or worse than ever.

As with START, the administration is so eager to tout an “accomplishment” — Russia’s admittance to the WTO — that we don’t stop to acknowledge that this is an accomplishment for Russia, not for the United States. That’s a telling message not only to Russia but also to Iran, China and the Middle East. To be blunt, the United States doesn’t treat its friends very well.

By  |  09:30 AM ET, 03/31/2011

 
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