WASHINGTON -- You don't often hear an American president secretly (he thinks) assuring foreign leaders that concessions are coming their way, but they must wait because he's seeking re-election and he dare not tell his own people.
Not at all, spun a White House aide in major gaffe-control mode. The president was merely explaining that arms control is too complicated to be dealt with in a year in which both Russia and the U.S. hold presidential elections.
Rubbish. First of all, to speak of Russian elections in the same breath as ours is a travesty. Theirs was a rigged, predetermined farce. Putin ruled before. Putin rules after.
Obama spoke of the difficulties of the Russian presidential "transition." What transition? It's a joke. It had no effect on Putin's ability to negotiate anything.
As for the U.S. election, the problem is not that the issue is too complicated but that if people knew Obama's intentions of "flexibly" caving on missile defenses, they might think twice about giving him a second term.
After all, what is Obama doing negotiating on missile defense in the first place? We have no obligation to do so. The ABM Treaty, a relic of the Cold War, died in 2002.
We have an unmatched technological lead in this area. It's a priceless strategic advantage that for three decades Russia has been trying to get us to yield. Why give any of it away? In order to placate Putin, Obama had already in 2009 abruptly canceled the missile-defense system the Poles and Czechs had agreed to host in defiance of Russian threats. Why give away more?
It's unfathomable. In trying to clean up the gaffe, Obama emphasized how intent he is to "reduce nuclear stockpiles" and "reduce reliance on nuclear weapons." In which case, he should want to augment missile defenses, not weaken, dismantle or bargain them away. The fewer nukes you have for deterrence, the more you need nuclear defenses. If your professed goal is nuclear disarmament, as is Obamas, eliminating defenses is completely illogical.
Nonetheless, Obama is telling the Russians not to worry, that once past "my last election" and no longer subject to any electoral accountability, he'll show "more flexibility" on missile defense. Its yet another accommodation to advance his cherished Russia "reset" policy.
Why? Hasn't reset been failure enough?
Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group