In a recent op-ed for the Moscow Times discussing the nomination of Michael McFaul as the USA’s next ambassador to Russia, Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Foundation’s Moscow Center listed a trio of gifts that McFaul should bring with him to Moscow: memberships in the World Trade Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the 1974 Trade Act.
Conspicuously absent from Trenin’s essay was the mention of one single specific tangible thing that America might expect to get in return for this largess.
Interestingly, Trenin served most of his life in the Russian army, so thinking of how best to reward America isn’t exactly his forte. In fact, one might reasonably ask whether, if this is what the Russian army wants, it isn’t the very last thing McFaul should actually give Russia.
Trenin does mention some supposed gifts that Russia has already given McFaul’s mentor Barack Obama: increased U.S military transit through Russia towards Afghanistan, canceling a missile deal with Iran, not blocking sanctions against it, and not vetoing the use of force against Libya.
But Russia has already been richly rewarded for these actions. The USA canceled its planned missile shield in Eastern Europe and it refused to provide defensive weapons to Georgia. It turned its back on Russia’s nascent democracy movement and did nothing as Mikhail Khodorkovsky was railroaded back into Siberian prison (and thence to a secret location).
Since Trenin cannot name anything new America can expect to get, it’s clear he’s urging McFaul to make unilateral concessions. He apparently believes he will get them. He is relying on the absurd notion that so rewarded, the Russians will magically come up with better behavior on their own, rather than simply reaching for more.
And what is the real value to the USA of Russia’s prior “concessions”? Virtually none.
How can Trenin possibly see imposing pressure for democracy on tiny Libya as a win for the U.S. when the cost is shamelessly permitting dictatorship in vast Russia?