Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sarkozy Comes to Obama's Rescue

Nicholas Sarkozy, Diplomatic Rock Star, has made an appearance to reduce Mr. Obama's list of foreign policy challenges by at least one--to great effect.

Hours after McCain conceded the American Presidential election to Obama, Russian President Medvedev announced that Russia, in response to US anti-missile shields in Poland , would be building offensive missile capabilities right outside of Poland.

Allow me to first digress into how silly this is as a foreign policy scheme. "If you install anti-missile technology in Poland, we will install offensive missiles next to Poland!" seems unnecessarily bellicose. Of course Russia can overwhelm almost any missile shield with sheer volume--which means it's rather unlikely the missile shield was meant to defend against Russia, rather than Iran. But anyway.

Sarkozy led an EU-Russia meeting that caused the Russians to agree to back off of the claims--giving Obama some much-needed pressure relief. The Russians are asking Mr. Obama to attend an EU-Russia security meeting in the summer, but it may be a largely face-saving measure on their part--the longer that these missile shields are the norm, the tougher it will be for the Russians to overturn their existence (even though they are not yet installed).

Sarkozy's meeting and convincing has helped Obama avoid an early bout of brinksmanship, in which he would have to act in a way that might either be perceived as aggressive on one hand or weak on the other. This double-bind was probably the intent of Mr. Medvedev, who would benefit from either. Mr. Sarkozy has bought Mr. Obama some much-needed time to make a consistent foreign policy materialize before he faces any serious great power challenges. The Americans owe the French some thanks on this one.
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