Rational Self-Interest

Joe Katzman applies some hard sense to the recent Russo-Iraqi friendship deal:

Russia is embarking on a major economic agreement with Iraq. It’s being touted as a setback for Bush et. al., but I don’t see it. Russia has a substantial commercial stake in Iraq, which they’ll want to protect under all eventualities. If Saddam remains, this agreement does that. If he goes, continued adherence to the terms of said agreements the price of their help or non-interference. Get in, negotiate while Iraq is desperate, then ensure that this is the new price for your support against Iraq. Hey, that’s pretty good!


It’s a signature Vladimir Putin move, is what it is.

Remember, kids — nation-states, even allied ones, do not behave like best friends. They look after their own interests. Always, every time. Putin knows it’s not in Russia’s interests to totally screw his new American friends — we’re the ones who print those dollars his nation so desperately needs. But Iraq was, is, and will be one of Russia’s better clients, in the cash-on-the-table sense.

So Putin put the screws to Iraq while it could, and gained a little extra leverage with the US, to boot. Is that the kind of behavior we want? No. But it is the kind we expect, accept, and (very quietly) approve of.

Only the most facile analysis — the kind you see on TV news, or read from Will Saleten — sees this deal as a Russian betrayal of America.


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