• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home The Feuilleton of MilSan and MikWag Debugging US foreign policy
Debugging US Foreign Policy

This section began life as "Debugging US-Russia relations" and was about the never ending pas de deux--or perhaps grappling--of Obama and Putved.  But we seem to be mixing it up with everyone these days...

George Washington Speaks (about US foreign policy)

E-mail Print PDF

Words don't mean much, while America continues to plot selling

arms to Taiwan, and just this week President O met in the White House

with diehards sworn to bring down and abolish the form of

government authorized by the Chinese Constitution.

There is no question in any Chinese's mind that

America is still trying everything to subvert China.

Reader-commenter Zjubajie, Hong Kong,

responding to a New York Times story about

Secretary of State Clinton's address about China


It is a wrong policy not to contain China.

Reader-commenter Kodali, Virginia


Excerpts from George Washington's Farewell Address, 1796

"Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all...- It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? "

"In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated."

"The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible."

"Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance... Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?


Dear reader-commenter Zjubajie:  In 1944, my father flew more than 100 supply missions from India to China.  Many of his pilot-friends gave their lives to help China.


Debugging US-Russia Relations

E-mail Print PDF

July 6, 2009

Even on the eve of Obama’s departure for Russia, analysts continue to debate how Washington should calibrate its policy towards Moscow. Everyone is vying for Obama’s ear. But the challenges they see are more or less the same. The difference is the ranking within the priority lists they wish to advocate to the President.

Since March, when the leading analysts on Russia testified before the Senate Foreign Relationship Committee, the viewpoints on how Obama should deal with Put-vedev at the Moscow Summit have generally coalesced. The approved strategy is to “engage Russia in a constructive and comprehensive debate”[1] with “substance.”[2] Through deployment of this ‘sophisticated’ tool (which seems to be a panacea for every policy dilemma), the top political experts on Russia hope to solve the Russian puzzle and understand why “of all the world’s major powers Russia is the only one whose relations with the United States have deteriorated in the last five years.”[3]

Ironically, and despite the negative labeling of Russia as ‘mischievous, neo-imperialist and blithe,’ the top foreign policy experts give positive forecasts for the outcome of the Obama–Medvedev summit. Andrew Kuchins thinks that the Kremlin and the White House have reached their highest point of antagonism; thus, there is no room for relations to worsen. ‘Thawing’ is inevitable and “a walk in the woods” promises to have a therapeutic effect[4]. Stephen Sestanovich is hopeful on the grounds that common interests unite the two countries. He writes that the expiration of START, the economic crisis, Afghanistan and other security challenges of nuclear and terrorism proliferation are potential points for U.S.–Russia agreement. Ariel Cohen generally supports the view that the United States has leverage vis-à-vis Russia, but argues for more careful consideration of Moscow’s broader foreign policy doctrine. He cautions about Russia being in need of “an outside enemy” to satisfy its power ambitions, but defends the viewpoint that Obama is capable of thwarting these ambitions if he is assertive and not too naïve about what could be accomplished.

The U.S. policy community, despite its endearingly American optimism, does recognize that the Russian puzzle is indeed hard to solve. No amount of effort can force the pieces to fit. Perhaps it is time for Obama to realize that Russians not contort themselves into the framework recognized and devised by the West and to acknowledge that the White House’s understanding of Russia is inherently wrong.

A new policy towards Russia should start from the simple. The grand goal ‘to reset’ relations with the Kremlin requires a vision of a road of one hundred steps. To reach the end of the road, one has to take the first step. This first step should be small, humble, but impeccable. The first step of the new Administration was hasty, ambitious and slightly negligent. In Brussels, Hillary Clinton handed a ‘reset’ button to Foreign Minister Lavrov. The State Department translated the word ‘reset’ as ‘перегрузка’ (overload) instead of the intended ‘перезагрузка.’ This unfortunate mistake made the world wonder about the sincerity of Washington. Was it simply recognition that the relations were overloaded with misunderstanding and aggressiveness or was it truly a proposal to start anew? Was it a misprint or does the State Department lack professionals who are competent to speak the language of the hard-to-deal-with opponent?


Lessons of Poetry and Prose

E-mail Print PDF

Welcome to Renaissance или (or) Добро пожаловать в эпоху Возрождения

Lessons of Poetry and Prose: What’s working? What’s not Working in U.S. – Russian relations

Oct 13-14

Clinton’s in Moscow

While Putin’s away.

The top diplomat lady

Wants Bear for her prey

Button’s forgotten

And elbow is healed.

Whitman and Pushkin

serve as her shield

She sits with Dimitry.

She goes to Kazan.

But sanctions are stalled

and the winner’s Iran

The United States learned quickly from recent mistakes in its approach to Moscow.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived on October 14 in Russia. This time she did not attempt linguistic prowess. The role in Heartbreakers is not hers. She now knows that a bigwig is forgiven for mispronouncing Russian last names. It isn’t a big deal—in contrast to misspelling a label on a diplomatic prop.  If you don’t manage to say ‘POOSH-kin’ but rather ‘Push-kin” or ‘LavROV,’ the host country will resonate with empathy, not laughter. You were bold, showed a spark. Russians love that. It is humble and self-effacing.  Love that even more. She by now well knows the difference between quiet and clamor. That would be Lesson 1.


Eating freedom unpeeled

E-mail Print PDF

Nov. 21

My grandma did not know how to eat bananas. They didn’t have bananas in the Soviet Union, or if they did, bananas were a Politburo fruit impossible to get for a common Soviet citizen. Long queues. Scarcity of cash. One coat for ten winters. Boxes of spaghetti in the closet in case an unplanned deficit of grain strikes the planned economy again. My grandma was in her 50s when she ate her first banana. It was eaten unpeeled. She never touched bananas ever since.

The fall of 2009 marks the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was about the time when bananas together with freedom entered the markets of the Eastern block. Twenty years have passed since the Iron Curtain was peacefully smoked away with the voice of Winston from the grave. It was torn down. Destroyed by Archangel Michael, Michael Gorbachev that is.