Friday, January 11, 2008
In a move that raised some eyebrows yesterday, Vladimir Putin appointed a nationalist hardliner, Dmitry Rogozin, as Russia's permanent envoy to NATO. Rogozin wasted no time making his voice heard, warning the alliance not to increase its own security at the expense of others, and emphasizing the political dossiers he would be handling -- including the CFE treaty, Kosovo and Iran -- as opposed to his diplomatic function. On a more reassuring note, he referred to the CFE as a matter of trust, observing that "No sane person, even in his worst nightmare, can imagine us waging war against Europe."
2008 is shaping up to be a pretty significant year for American-Russian bi-lateral relations, as well as for NATO/EU-Russian relations. The crises that Rogozin mentioned will all have significant impact down the road, and the lameduck Bush administration is not in a position, either internationally or domestically, to seriously address them. And while I think there's a tendency to exagerrate Russia's strategic position -- one that I'm probably guilty of to a certain extent -- the risk isn't a direct confrontation with Russia, but rather Russia's ability to comfort our enemies.