The biggest news at the Canadian G-8 and G-20 summits was that the United States held to the position of the need for additional stimulus, while the other majors all had decided the time had come to tighten their belts. The Obama administration just doesn't get it. But we knew that beforehand, didn't we? What was important was what swirled around the event.
The arrest of the ten deep cover agents of Russia at the end of the G-8 and G-20 summits carries with it a significance far beyond the immediate fact of the counterintelligence action. The Obama administration had just wound up a lengthy and complicated courting of President Medvedev of Russia in conjunction with an aggressive effort along the same line as Germany.
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president and big time businessman, had arranged with Washington for a high profile visit to the U.S. with special attention to Silicon Valley. It had been all excellently staged if only the McChrystal affair hadn't stolen the spotlight. It had been planned for Obama and Medvedev to bask in what the White House adviser on Russian affairs, Michael McFaul, characterized as developing "…a multidimensional relationship with Russia."
In plain English this meant Medvedev wants American investment and technical assistance in modernizing Russian scientific and technological industries which includes, among other things, civilian nuclear cooperation. Most important to Medvedev, however, was a willingness of Obama to discuss measures to assist Moscow's efforts to gain membership in the World Trade Organization (WHO).
The context of the US/Russia discussions is considerably broader than immediately seen. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has encouraged investment negotiations at the highest Russo/German level on a new political economic security relationship. With Russia supplying about 40% of Germany's natural gas needs, this was an obvious next step.
The Germans are already heavily invested in Russia. Like their interest in the U.S. Silicon Valley, the Russians are increasingly involved in obtaining German technology and the assistance that goes along with it. Both Medvedev and Putin recently have emphasized the need for Russia to move out of the limitations placed on it by being primarily a commodities exporter. Angela Merkel has argued within the EU that movement toward integrating Russia into a broader European relationship through increased joint venturing with Germany creates a valuable security dynamic.
Here's where things get a bit sticky. Not only is there a growing potential economic relationship between Berlin and Moscow, but if such an entente is created, the unity of NATO is politically threatened. If Germany independently leans toward an economic balance with Russia, its pivotal role in the European Union will be put under considerable stress. While Merkel has emphasized that a security bond be forged between Russia and the EU rather than Germany alone, there clearly is unease among its traditional Western partners -- and serious upset in Poland.
It seemed that once again Moscow had become the darling of the class. The Americans seemed to be in the midst of another "slobbering love affair" (a hat tip to Bernie Goldberg). This time it was the Russians rather than the Chinese. President Hu Jintao had to be satisfied with an invitation for a state visit to the White House. Clearly this courtesy was to balance Obama's recent courting of Moscow. For some reason the Obama administration seems to think being liked by key opponents is more important than being respected. To that end Washington appears to be doing all it can to find political gifts with which to shower adversaries.
As President Medvedev was touring the United States, the State Department announced it would designate the Chechen leader, Doku Umarov, as a jihadi terrorist whose carefully orchestrated attacks on Russian targets "illustrate the global nature of the terrorist problem we fight today." The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by calling its American counterpart's action "an important acceptance of the indivisible and universal nature of international terrorist threats." Both sides now have the difficult task of handling the roll-up of the Russian net of agents-of-influence. It's as if the White House and State Department either ignored or had no knowledge of their own counterintelligence operation.
The saccharin sweet policy positioning would be acceptable if both sides benefited. But there appears no sign that's the case. By example, the Security Council's Iranian sanctions accord that Russia and China signed on for, and to which Brazil and Turkey did not, was so toothless that Tehran took it as a victory. The arrest of the ten Russian agents purportedly targeted at "influencing policy development" certainly should wake up the embarrassingly amateur Obama Administration. So much for their "new kind" of diplomacy.
President Obama enjoys summits. They give him a chance to posture on the international scene. Both the G-8 and G-20 have figured out that they don't have to do anything but let him preen. They then go about their own way without losing a step. The G-8 heaped praise on him for the tightening of American financial regulations, ignored everything else, and went home leaving the president of the United States thinking once again he was successful, even though every one of his policy recommendations was turned down.
There's a message in such international behavior, but will this American president ever really get it? Thanks to U.S. counterintelligence, the White House may no longer be able to avoid the obvious.