Medvedev is now on a four-nation Latin tour with stops in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela and Fidel Castro's Cuba. But this seems more like diplomatic tit-for-tat for high-profile U.S. visits to Tbilisi and other ex-Soviet republics than laying the groundwork for some anti-American alliance.
For, just as for Washington the relationship with Moscow is far more crucial than any tie to Tbilisi, so Moscow's tie to Washington is surely far more crucial to Russia than any tie to Caracas or Havana.
With these opening moves, how might Obama test the water for a better relationship with the Russia of Medvedev and Vladimir Putin?
First, Obama should restate his campaign position that no anti-missile system will be deployed in Poland until fully tested.
Second, he should declare that, as this system is designed to defend against an Iranian ICBM with a nuclear warhead, it will not be deployed until Iran has tested an ICBM and an atomic device.
So long as the Iranian threat remains potential, not actual, there is no need to deploy a U.S. missile defense in Poland against it.
Third, he should invite Medvedev to Camp David to discuss what more they might do together to ensure that no such Iranian threat, to either nation, ever materializes. For if Iran does not test an ICBM or atomic device, what is the need for a missile defense in East Europe?
Fourth, invoking the principle of self-determination, Obama might propose a plebiscite in Georgia and Abkhazia to determine if these people wish to return to Tbilisi's rule.
The second bone of contention between us is prospective NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine.
As NATO is a military alliance, at the heart of which is Article V, which obligates every ally to come to the defense of a member who is attacked, to bring Georgia in would be madness.
To cede to Saakashvili power to bring us into confrontation with Russia would be to rival British stupidity in giving Polish colonels power to drag the empire into war with Germany over Danzig, which is exactly what the Polish colonels proceeded to do in 1939.
Before the NATO summit next week, Obama should signal to NATO, and the Bush administration, that nothing irreversible should be done to put Ukraine or Georgia on a path to membership.
First, because the president-elect will decide himself about new war guarantees in Eastern Europe or the Caucasus. Second, because these are matters to be taken up at a Medvedev-Obama summit, not foreclosed for him by neocons now trooping home to their think tanks.
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